Cost – Time and Money
Tuition costs are increasing constantly. From $8,438 in 1981-82, college costs for all educational institutes have gone up to $19,339, an increase of over a hundred percent, within a period of 20 years. Interesting to note is the difference in the cost increase for bachelor degrees as compared to associate degrees. According to data provided by the National Center for Educational Statistics, the cost for all 4-year institutions has gone up by a staggering 141% whereas the cost for 2-year associate degree institutions has gone up by nearly 55.5% only, during the same 20 years.
These increasing higher education costs can be attributed to the decrease in the amount of funding received by colleges. Subsequently, the burden of maintaining quality standards shifts on to the students, in terms of higher tuition fees. In addition to raising tuition fees, colleges try to balance out the cost increase over various expenses for the students. These include room and board, books, society fees, lab fees etc. With these efforts they fetch up to thousands of dollars, all at the expense of their student body.
The cost of college education going up would not have had such a huge affect if the median household incomes would have increased by the same proportion. The situation is worsened as the gap between annual household income and the college cost continues to widen. In the years from 1973 to 2008, the tuition per student had increased by 350%, whereas the income of the median household deviated slightly around its original value. Only the top 1% of US households have been somewhat able to keep up with the rising costs of education.
With tough economic conditions, increasing costs of higher education can be hard on the pocket of the average American. Due to this reason, many people are either not sending their children to college altogether, or are choosing other, relatively cheaper options for undergraduate studies. This is where there is value for an associate degree.
Cost is not only measured in terms of the money spent on the education itself. It should also be accounted for in terms of money not earned by virtue of being enrolled in a program that takes more time than an associate degree: in simple words, opportunity cost. Time is money. A bachelor’s degree takes four years, whereas an associate degree takes around two years. The time-saving factor is also a major concern when it comes to determining value.
Salary potential increases with the educational qualification. That’s a no brainer. But here’s what not so obvious. The amount of money you are capable of making is dependent on a lot of other factors as well, such as skills learned during your degree, particular courses studied and personality traits.
High Paying Careers with an Associate Degree
With an associate degree, you can work in a vast variety of fields, including medicine, engineering, computer science, electronics, nuclear technology and marketing sales. Below are the top five highest paying careers that you can go for with an associate degree in the relevant field. (Ranking is based on the data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012)
1-Air Traffic Controller
Median Annual Wage 2012: $122,530
Projected Job Openings (through 2022): 11,400
Description: These professionals are responsible for monitoring and directing air traffic. They issue landing and takeoff instructions to pilots using radar, computers or visual references.
Median Annual Wage (2012): $77,560
Projected Job Openings (through 2022): 8,400
Description: Radiation therapists check equipment, and supervise patients, log patient reactions to treatments, explain treatment plans to the patients, examine machines to ensure they are working properly and keep detailed records of treatments.
Median Annual Wage (2012): $70,210
Projected Job Openings (through 2022): 113,500
Description: Dental hygienists’ duties revolve around cleaning teeth, examining patients for symptoms and provide overall preventive dental care.
4-Nuclear Medicine Technologists
Median Annual Wage (2012): $70,180
Projected Job Openings (through 2022): 7,200
Description: Nuclear medicine technologists create images of various areas of a patient’s body using a scanner. They are responsible for preparing radioactive drugs and administering them to patients undergoing scans.
5-First-line Supervisors of non-retail sales workers
Median annual wage (2012): $70,060
Projected Job Openings (through 2022): 50,300
Description: These individuals perform a supervisory role in a non-retail setting.
High Paying Careers with a Bachelor’s Degree
With a bachelor’s degree, you can enter into practically any field. Most entry level jobs require a bachelor’s degree in their minimum qualification criteria. You can pursue different careers including architecture, marketing, finance, engineering, sales, medicine, construction, biomedical sciences and so on. Below is a list of the top five highest paying careers with a bachelor’s degree as per data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012:
Median annual wage: $168,140
Projected Job Openings (through 2022): 87,800
Description: These are high level management positions in different corporations. They are in charge of the overall health of an organization. These executives ensure that the organization meets its goals and objectives by planning, directing and coordinating operational activities of companies and organizations.
Median annual wage: $130,280
Projected Job Openings (through 2022): 19,600
Description: Petroleum engineers are in-charge of designing and developing methods for extracting oil and gas from deposits beneath the earth’s surface.
3-Architectural and Engineering managers
Median annual wage: $124,870
Projected Job Openings (through 2022): 60,600
Description: These professionals are responsible for planning, coordinating and directing activities in architectural engineering companies.
4-Computer and Information Systems Managers
Median Annual Wage: $120,950
Projected Job Openings (through 2022): 97,100
Description: Often referred to as information system managers, these professionals plan, coordinate and direct all computer-related activities in an organization. They help determine the technology related needs of the organization and strategize the best possible way to fulfill them.
Median Annual Wage: $119,480
Projected Job Openings (through 2022): 61,700
Description: As the name suggests, these managers are responsible for advertising, promoting and marketing products in ways that generate sufficient public interest. Their work requires them to coordinate with art directors, financial staff members and sales agents.
How to Choose between a Bachelors and an Associate Degree?
That’s a tough question! Ultimately, the decision to pursue an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree depends on not only the cost, but also the requirements of the desired career pathways and the amount of time you are willing to invest in your education.
Looking at the BLS data, it is evident that a bachelor’s degree creates greater earning potential and offers a better return money wise. However, cost and benefit tied up to an educational qualification are correlated to a lot of constantly varying aspects, other than earning potential, such as economic conditions, affordability factor, income groups of applicants, conditions of the job market, requirements of the career field, actual learning derived from the degree and opportunity cost. The value of a degree will vary according to the requirements of each prospective student, thus making this decision a unique one for every individual.