Is an Associate's Degree Worth it? 5 Facts that May Surprise You

It’s Monday morning and you’re once again dreading the week ahead of you at a job that isn’t allowing you live up to your full potential. You’re stuck in a rut. It’s time for a career change—and you’re starting to think that a formal education is the key to opening those new doors.

You know one thing for sure – you’d rather not spend four years in school before launching your new career. Spending two years or less earning an associate’s degree seems a little more manageable.

But is an associate’s degree really worth it? Or are you better off continuing to try your luck applying for jobs without one?

Pursuing a degree is a big decision. There’s a lot of examination that needs to be done, but where do you even start? To help you in your research, we discovered five facts about associate’s degrees that may surprise you. Read on to learn why an associate’s degree may be the perfect educational option for your career goals.

An associate’s degree is worth it because ...

1. You’ll be eligible for more jobs

Sure, there are several jobs available to you with your high school diploma. But we used real-time job analysis software to examine millions of job postings from the past year.1 And the numbers don’t lie: there were 4.7 million total jobs available to high school diploma holders in the United States. Compare that to the more than 6.3 million jobs available to those with an associate’s degree!

This means that by earning an associate’s degree, you’re increasing the number of total jobs available to you by 34 percent. The unemployment rate also drops from 5.4 percent to 3.8 percent for associate’s degree holders, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

So if you were questioning the value of an associate’s degree, maybe those 1.6 million more potential jobs will change your mind!

2. You could have higher earning potential

We all have that friend or relative who got a less-than-useful degree and is stuck working a low-paying job. But that’s not the case for many associate’s degree holders. The BLS reports that median earnings in 2015 increased by $120 per week for those with an associate’s degree compared to those with a high school diploma.2

This additional $120 may seem miniscule on the surface, but those numbers add up fast. Those extra earnings mean an associate’s degree could increase your annual income by $6,240! Employers recognize the value an associate’s degree brings to their company, and the numbers prove that they’re willing to pay for it.

3. You can finish in two years or less

Earning your associate’s degree can make a significant impact on your life, but it doesn’t have to take a significant amount of time. Most associate’s degree programs can be completed in two years or less.3 This option has the ability to save you time and money compared to a four-year bachelor’s program.

Associate’s degree programs also offer plenty of flexible learning options so you can continue working your current job while fitting courses into your busy schedule. Some schools offer online courses or self-directed formats that could allow you to accelerate your education and graduate faster.

4. You have options

You don’t want to leave one dead-end job only to find yourself stuck in another one. You need options if you want to get on a career path that’s going places. Many associate’s degrees can open a variety of doors to new career opportunities. More options means you’ll have a better chance of finding a career that’s a great fit for you.

Need some examples? These are just a handful of job titles you could be eligible for with the right associate degree:

Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN)

  • Registered nurse
  • Travel nurse
  • Intensive care unit (ICU) nurse

Associate's degree in business management

  • Administrative assistant
  • Store manager
  • Office manager

Associate's degree in health information technology

  • Quality improvement analyst
  • EHR implementation specialist
  • Health data analyst

Associate's degree in web design

  • Web developer
  • Graphic designer
  • Animator

Associate's degree in early childhood education

  • Preschool teacher
  • Childcare worker
  • Assistant teacher

Associate's degree in information technology

  • Technical support specialist
  • Network administrator
  • Help desk technician

5. You can discover what you want from your career

Maybe you’ve held off on pursuing a degree because you’re not exactly sure where you want your career path to lead in the future. The courses you’ll encounter in an associate’s program will introduce you to a range of topics within your industry of choice. These courses can help you narrow down which topics you truly love and want to pursue in your field, such as marketing or finance in the business field, or coding or design in web development.

Not only can your associate’s degree introduce you to your true career interests, it can also pave the way for further education down the road. If you ever choose to earn a bachelor’s degree later, many schools will wave credits for prior education or offer other opportunities to build upon your previous degree.

A degree that’s worth your time

So, is an associate’s degree worth it? The five facts above suggest the answer is “yes!” If you’re looking for an opportunity to increase your job opportunities and earning potential without investing an excessive amount of time and money, this could be the perfect balance for you!

Now that you know the value of earning an associate’s degree, you may have some doubts that you really have what it takes. Let us bust your biggest excuses for putting off a degree in our article: I Want to Go Back to School But [Insert Excuse Here]


1Source: (analysis of job postings based on education level, Sep. 01, 2015 – Aug. 31, 2016)
2Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.
3Completion time is dependent on transfer credits accepted and courses completed each term.

About the author

Ashley Brooks

Ashley is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen University. She believes in the power of words and knowledge and enjoys using both to encourage others on their learning journeys

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