Associate Degrees Are in Demand

Associate Degrees Are in Higher Demand, as Employer Awareness of Degree Inflation Increases.

As the student loan debt issue grows, more attention is being paid to degree inflation in the job market. Pragmatically, as unemployment rises, employers need to screen out thousands of applicants. Degree-level is an easy screen, so it is widely used. A January 2021 article from the BBC states that many students who have gone back to school or are in school now “could graduate into a different recruitment environment because, while degree inflation is a problem decades in the making, the pandemic may have opened the door to big changes.”  A widely-published 2017 study by the Harvard Business School found that “employers were increasingly inflating the educational requirements for jobs usually held by high school grads. We also found that automated hiring tools excluded applicants with relevant experience simply because they lacked a college degree. In many cases, qualified candidates never even got the chance to apply for a position.” 

This time it may be different.

First, more students are turning to associate degree programs, which can offer them the opportunity to earn a degree more quickly and with less debt. Surprisingly, despite the COVID recession, recent data suggests that associate degrees are becoming more attractive to employers who are becoming aware of degree inflation. Even companies such as Apple are considering applicants without bachelor’s degrees. Here’s a look at Gray’s data on job postings that require associate degrees.

Job Postings by Educational Qualification

While there is variation from month to month, jobs for candidates with associate degrees are on the rise. Postings from December 2019 to January 2021 are up by 11,760, a 211% increase.

Occupations seeing the most job postings for associate-prepared candidates include occupational therapy assistants, respiratory therapists, web developers, diagnostic medical sonographers, dental hygienists, MRI technicians, and more.

Job Postings with Associate’s Degree by SOC Title

Job postings with Associates Degree                                                                        1The chart above excludes job postings for nurses, which remain consistently high.

Associate degree-prepared technicians in healthcare and technology are highly sought after by employers.

For community colleges, programs such as these are attractive to students and can increase enrollment and employment after graduation.

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Gray Associates, Inc. is a software and services firm focused on higher education. We help education clients develop fact-based institutional and marketing strategies that maximize outcomes for students, the school, and its constituencies.

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