Posted at 4 p.m. March 6, 2017

Associate degree benefits job search

While navigating the job market, students might wonder if they should pursue an associate degree after obtaining a high school diploma.

What is the difference between the two, and how will the associate degree help land a job over a diploma?

“What’s happening nationwide is there’s been a great push to have high school students do both college as well as high school at the same time, so they’re getting high school credit and college credit,” Rakhshi Hamid, director of the Center for Secondary Students, said. “They’re combining those two efforts to get those degrees.”

High schools nationwide have been offering high school students college credit since the 1990s. Depending on the career, having an associate degree and not just a high school diploma can catch an employer’s eye.

“The associate degree is helpful because that employer knows the individual has the hands-on skills that they need in the workplace,” Hamid said.

Employers are glad to see that associate degree because it shows the employee that they’ve hired for an entry-level position has a higher level of thinking.

Right now there’s a strong demand among employers for people with some higher education.

“Whether it is a certification, an associate degree, bachelor’s, master’s, or higher, having a higher level of education makes it easier to find a career,” Hamid said. “Right now, in this state, it’s hard to find a career that only requires a high school diploma,” Hamid said.

The level of education students need will depend on what they choose for their career. For example, welding requires technical education. Even though this career requires a lot of on-the-job training, LCCC offers a welding associate degree. This degree could help a graduate get the job. Students who graduate for that associate degree will still need to go to the employer to get certified.

“When students graduate from Laramie County Community College, they have that associate degree which tells the employer, ‘yes, this person is trainable, this person has the skills I need,” Hamid said. “The student still needs to go through a certification process to get that welding certificate.”

The standards for hiring have changed over time. It all depends on the employer’s job requirements.

“It is so much easier if you have some sort of post-secondary education,” Hamid said. “Whether it be through military, job-site training, or community college,” Hamid said. “High school diplomas only let you earn so much, and they’re basic entry level. Even fast food restaurants will take an associate degree over a high school diploma.”

If students want to make themselves marketable, it is in their best interest as an employee to take some higher-level classes, Hamid said.

“It’s not necessary, but students can still find a job with a high school diploma,” Hamid said.

The associate degree adds to what students already learned in high school, just as it builds on what students do in junior high, Hamid said.


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