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Studies confirm associate's degree key to future earning power

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According to, getting an associate’s degree or beginning post-secondary education at a community college means that a good-paying job could be waiting for you.

Studies have shown that high school graduates had a nationwide unemployment rate of 4.6 percent. That rate plummets to 3.9 percent for associate degree holders. There’s also a strong correlation between more education and lower unemployment, according to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Investing in higher education can also have a strong impact on salary. High school graduates with no post-secondary schooling earn an average weekly salary of $583, according to Current Population Survey data. That figure rises by nearly 15 percent to $670 for an associate’s degree holder.

About 44 percent of all students say they enroll at two-year colleges for their cheaper costs, according to the College Board. It also estimates this year’s average public two-year college tuition will be $2,191 while public four-year schools charge nearly $5,500 for tuition and private four-year universities more than $21,200.

According to the BLS, these are the highest-paying jobs for people with associate’s degrees: 1) Computer specialist ($59,480); 2) Nuclear technician ($59,200); 3) Dental hygienist ($58,350); 4) Radiation therapist ($57,700); 5) Nuclear medicine technologist ($55,840); 6) Fashion designer ($55,840); 7) Aerospace engineering and operations technician ($52,500); 8) Diagnostic medical sonographer ($52,490); 9) Registered nurse ($52,330); 10) Engineering technician ($49,440).

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »


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