Lynchburg, VA- The importance of higher education is undeniable these days. But there's been some recent discussion over the best way to go about it.
Recent studies show a two year Associate degree, in some cases, may be better than a four-year Bachelor degree, because you finish school with less debt, and you could start out making more money.
Not only do you finish your education with a practical, ready to use degree, for students with associate degrees, the job market is rich with opportunities.
According to the Department of Labor Statistics, last fall's employment numbers tell the whole story.
"Jobs for individuals who have an Associate degree, increased 578,000 jobs. For individuals with a Bachelor degree, those jobs were 314,000," said Judy Graves, Dean of Student Services for Central Virginia Community College.
In Virginia, on average, a graduate with an Associate degree gets paid $40,000 their first year out of college. That's about $2,500 more than a graduate with a Bachelor degree. Those who go to four-year schools do tend to catch up eventually, but there's another factor.
"Many community college graduates have very little debt, if any at all," said Graves.
The average cost for a community college student in Virginia is $6,500. The average for a four-year student is more than double that, around $14,500. That's a real selling point for schools like CVCC.
"It's the choice for a lot of people, the way to go because of the economy and because of financial reasons," said Graves.
And having an Associate degree is almost a way of having job assurance.
"Individuals with two years degree have specific, practical training."
Training that can be applied to STEM jobs in technology and healthcare.
"Healthcare workers are always going to be needed, so we have a very popular radiology, respiratory therapy, medical lab, paramedic programs. Those all pay well," said Graves.
It depends on the job you've chosen, but throughout the average person's career, someone with a Bachelor degree does end up making around $500,000 more than a person with an Associate degree.
But on the down side, many with Bachelor degrees end up working in fields that have nothing to do with their majors.