More Associate Degree Holders Say They Have Their Ideal Job in Recent Gallup Survey

Posted By Donna Fuscaldo on June 8, 2016 at 9:12 am
More Associate Degree Holders Say They Have Their Ideal Job in Recent Gallup Survey

When it comes to buyer regret, associate degree holders have something over their bachelor degree counterparts: less of it.

At a time when a debate is raging over the value of a four-year degree, a new survey by polling company Gallup and USA Funds, the non-profit focused on making college more successful, found an associate degree can be just as valuable or even more so when it comes to learning and obtaining a full-time job upon graduation. That flies in the face of conventional wisdom that says that in order to get a well-paying, full-time job, you need a bachelor’s degree at the very least.

More associate degree holders have their ideal job

“There are all these stereotypes around the difference between bachelor’s and associates degrees,” says Brandon Busteed, executive director of education and workforce development at Gallup, in an interview with GoodCall. In the Gallup survey, the real difference between associate and bachelor’s degree holders is when graduates are asked whether they have the ideal job for them. On this question, associate degree holders are a couple of percentage points higher than bachelor degree holders, says Busteed. “What it says is that people are getting jobs that are relevant to their education experience at the associate degree level.”

Community colleges have long played a role in educating and steering the nation’s college students on the right path when it comes to choosing a profession. And while many question how much an associate degree holder is going to earn compared to a bachelor degree holder, the number of associates degrees being awarded in the past decade alone has surged and for good reason. Consider this: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs requiring an associate degree from 2010 to 2020 will be higher than for those with a bachelor’s degree.

That’s not to say all community colleges are doing a great job preparing students for the eventual increase in associate degree jobs. After all, according to a Harvard University study only 29 percent of students who attend a two-year school earn their degrees within three years.

“Depending on the degree, associate degree holders exceed the salaries of bachelor’s and post-graduate degree holders,” says Carol D’Amico, USA Funds executive vice president, National Engagement and Philanthropy. “Community colleges need to focus on those programs that do see financial gains upon graduation.”

Lots of associate degree holders land full-time jobs

Gallup and USA Funds Associate Degree Graduates report used the Gallup-Purdue Index to analyze the differences between associate degree and bachelor degree holders and found 46 percent of associate degree holders strongly agree the cost of their degree was worth it – a percentage point higher than bachelor degree holders, with 49 percent of associate’s degree holders currently working full-time for an employer. That compares to 56 percent of bachelor degrees holders who are working full-time. Their lack of buyer regret could partially be due to the fact that a community college is going to cost less compared to a four-year institution, but it also points to the fact that with an associate degree, graduates are employable despite old views on the subject.

While employability is a big part of overall satisfaction, associate degree holders also seem to have a better experience during their college years. According to the report, 30 percent of associate degree holders said their professors cared about them as people compared to 26 percent of people with bachelor degrees. Associate degree holders are also equally as likely to strongly agree they had a mentor during school that helped them achieve their goals. But the differences don’t end there. According to the report, Gallup and USA Funds found associate degree holders who hold full-time jobs are slightly more likely than those with bachelor’s degrees to be very interested in the job they do and feel it is the ideal job for them.

“One takeaway from this report is that community colleges advise students, making sure students  find their passion and purpose,” says D’Amico. “Associate degrees tend to be much more purposeful according to student interest and giving students a pathway to that one job.”

College is a means to a good job for many

Rewind a couple of decades and associate degree holders wouldn’t fair as well compared to bachelor degree holders, but with the nation’s four-year colleges and universities doing a questionable job preparing their students for the rigors of real-world work, community colleges are stepping up, at least according to the Gallup/USA Funds report. And while countless presidents of four-year schools will say students shouldn’t go to school just to get a good job, that thinking fails to take into the account the reality for so many people: a good paying job is what will sustain them for the years to come.

“If people don’t get a good job it’s a horrible outcome,” says Busteed at Gallup. “Lifelong learning and creating enlightened thinkers are certainly outcomes but (four-year schools) can lose track of the fact that the number one reason people go to college is to get a good job.”

Donna Fuscaldo
Donna Fuscaldo is a freelance journalist hailing out of Long Island, New York. She has also written for,,,, Business Insider, Dow Jones Newswires and the Wall Street Journal.

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