For some, the decision about their future is clear. Many students - no matter the age - want to go to a four-year university to get a bachelor's degree. They may take a few years to figure out what they want to do in life. Other students, however, may be looking for the most efficient way to set themselves apart from other job seekers in certain professions. That's where an associate's degree from a community college or technical school can come into play.
There's no right answer as to which of those paths is better. It all depends on the individual student. On the other hand, there are some clear-cut pros and cons of each path.
Less time: One of the biggest advantages of an associate's degree is the time requirement. Most associate degree programs take two years to complete, compared to four years for a bachelor's degree. In addition, most community colleges and technical schools cater to non-traditional students and people who already work full-time, so more classes are available on nights and weekends.
Less money: As you'd probably expect, associate degree programs also cost much less than a four year degree. Every school is different, but a typical associate degree program costs $6,000-$10,000 to complete.
More specific: Many students use an associate's degree program like a trade school. For instance, many of the jobs offered by staffing agencies around the country - professionals like welding, air conditioning, auto repair and nursing - are all incredibly popular programs at community colleges and technical schools.
More opportunities: To be frank, many jobs require a bachelor's degree to even be considered as an applicant - particularly white-collar positions. Take the television news industry, for example. If you want to be a photographer or studio assistant, an associate's degree will work. If you want to be a reporter or producer (higher-paying positions with more responsibilities), you will need a degree.
Well-rounded education: Obtaining a bachelor's degree will expose you to more core classes like history, English and math. In addition, you will likely be exposed to new subjects you would never think of taking in the first place.
More choices: Whereas associate degrees may make sense for someone who already has a particular trade in mind, a bachelor's degree typically affords students more choices. There are simply more majors, more fields of study and more possible paths at four-year institutions. This degree plan also gives a student more time to make a decision on his or her particular major.
As you can see, there are advantages whether you pick a four-year institution or a community college. It really depends on your own desires and goals. Education is the first step, followed by job experience. Do your research, compare costs and map out a plan.