The Good News about Associate Degrees

There is good news if you are seeking an Associate degree.  There are jobs for you.

Higher ed news has released worrisome reports about declining community college enrollment. While these statistics are concerning, they eclipse the good news that individuals with various Associate degrees and certificates have increasing employment opportunities in well-paying fields.

Gray looked at program completions and employment data to assess national community college health.

2020 completions

Liberal Arts and General Studies programs had the highest completions in 2020, indicating a large transfer pool.  Programs that prepare students to go directly into the workforce had high completions, many of them in health care, and training for trades. 

Overall, Associate and certificate programs completion volumes did go down in 2020, but that may be attributed to a pandemic slump. 

Completions Associates and below

The fastest-growing program completions in 2020 show a wide variety of student interest, everything from Avionics Tech to Animal Husbandry to Jewish Studies.  Management leads the pack in growth, and Criminal Justice dwarfs other programs in overall completions.

Do the fastest-growing programs link to lucrative careers?  In some cases, yes.

Gray looked at the most recent employment data to see the highest job posting volumes in February 2022.

February 2020 job postings

The good news is that almost all of the top in-demand jobs are linked to degrees earned at community colleges.  The one exception is the engineering field. 

Gray also looked at the fastest-growing job postings for Associate and below degree holders. These include opportunities in health care, technical fields, accounting, and administration.

Job opportunities are growing for Associate and certificate degree-holders, but are there enough openings per graduate? If too many graduates compete for these jobs, the market is saturated.  Gray looked at saturation metrics and the salaries associated with the least saturated occupations. The news is good.

job postings per graduate

Opportunities for graduates in computer science, technical fields, health care, and communication top the list, with solid mean wages. There are also jobs for graduates in areas like physical therapy assistance, medium/heavy truck tech, hospitality, electrician, and gunsmithing, also with decent wages.

Mary Ann Romans

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Gray Associates, Inc. is a strategy consulting 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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