How Employers View an Associate Degree

Some employers still see a community college degree as inferior to a bachelor’s in fields where both are accepted. Article written by Briana Boyington from US News.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE CAN be a cheaper and less time-consuming way for students to earn a degree. But in a competitive job market, cheaper isn’t necessarily better.

 

Recruitment managers say it’s imperative for students to follow and understand the trends and requirements of their desired career field to determine if their job will require a higher level of certification.

 

Nursing is a well-known example of how the degree requirements for certain fields can shift. Historically, an associate degree had been accepted as sufficient for many nursing jobs. But now an increasing number of hospitals are employing nurses with at least a four-year degree to maintain magnet status, a designation used to indicate quality service, from the American Nurses Association, job recruiters say. That can make it more difficult for nurses with only an associate degree to find employment or advance in their field.

 

Community college graduates also have to deal with the perceptions of hiring managers. Most people in leadership positions have at least a traditional bachelor’s degree and seek out candidates for full-time positions with a similar and familiar experience, says Robert Jordan, IT executive recruiting manager​ at the Intersect Group, a national technology, finance and accounting staffing and recruitment firm. ​

 

Hiring managers may also look at education to judge work ethic and capability to determine if a candidate will be a good fit for the company culture.

“​They’re looking to maximize and optimize the caliber and what we love to call the pedigree of their teams, and so they look to that educational component as a reference point or indicator,” Jordan says.

This means that employers may feel more comfortable hiring full-time employees that come from well-known institutions, even when other candidates may have sufficient work experience. But that depends on the type of position that you’re seeking and possibly the age of the hiring manager.

 

“It’s sort of a more Old World​ way of thinking than a modern-day​ one,” says Matt Brosseau, director of information technology ​at Instant Technology, a hiring and recruitment firm​. “Typically younger managers, you know your Gen Xers, ​the few millennials​ that have made their way up into the management field tend to focus on portfolios, capabilities, ​skill sets than college background.”

There are still plenty of fields where​ an associate degree can be sufficient. ​Students ​in extremely specialized fields or those learning a specific trade may find more opportunities than their counterparts who go into common jobs that draw a lot of applicants.

Deanna Harper, 41, earned ​more than $100,000 last year working as an ​oil refinery operator manning coker machines for Shell, after earning an associate degree in process technology in 2012 from San Jacinto Community College in Texas. ​

 

Harper​ says that she faced some opposition in the job market as a woman in such a physical and labor-intensive ​field, but her degree helped her land a job without the five years of experience that she would have needed otherwise. She was hired by Shell after working there​ as an intern while in school.

Technology is another field where a specialized skill set can overshadow a degree. As technology and trends ​continue to change, students who have the capability to develop new and uncommon products have an advantage.

 

For example, in technology, baseline jobs like a .NET application developer at a large  company​ would likely require a bachelor’s in computer science or related field, Brosseau says. But candidates applying to smaller organizations with skills that may not be taught in courses, such as mobile application development skills, can likely find jobs without a four-year degree.

 

“When you’re competing in a very saturated​ market place, like some of the more common developmental languages​, having a bachelor’s degree is important and arguably even necessary. Whereas when you start specializing in some of the more unique or niche capabilities, less so,” he says.

Getting a job is only one problem. Employees also need to consider career advancement. ​“Students who do have an associate degree can benefit from companies who work directly with community colleges to hire, or companies that provide tuition assistance,” says Jay Titus, director of academic services EdAssist​, a company that helps fortune 1000 companies and health care systems maximize their tuition assistance programs.

 

Titus encourages employees to take advantage of whatever educational opportunities a company provides, to help them advance in their career.

That can include the opportunity to take certification classes or go back to school.

An associate degree can provide students with a lot of opportunities, but community college graduates should still be aware that perceptions about the quality of an associate degree still exist. “That’s just a truth to the world that we live in,” Instant Technology’s Brosseau says. ​ “There will be people who look at your lack of a bachelor’s as a shortcoming​,” he says.

View the original article here: https://brookhaven.straighterline.com/academics/benefits-of-associates-degree/