Competitive Advantage

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Competitive Advantage

Delivering Tips, Insights and Resources for Success

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Debunked: 5 Myths About Associate Degrees


Associate degrees can feel like “entry level” college degrees. They’re overshadowed by bachelor’s degrees, so many people believe some BIG MYTHS about associate degrees.

It’s time to debunk the myths! Even though they require HALF of the credits of a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree can be like a master key. This “key” can throw open new doors to a more satisfying career and opportunities.

Do you believe any of these common misconceptions?

Myth: Associate degrees aren’t “worth anything.”

Truth: Associate degree holders DO earn more money and have more job opportunities available to them than people without a degree.

Georgetown University in Washington DC completed a new study in 2021 called “The College Payoff.” The data examines the earnings for people across education levels. (You can also segment the data by age, gender, race, etc.). The numbers are based on the median (middle) income expectations for people with different levels of education.

Thanks to this new study, we know that Mississippians with associate degrees earn around $2 million dollars in their careers. The income for those with just a high school diploma is just $1.6 million. This means that people with associate degrees can expect to earn $10,000 more per year than high school grads.

Additionally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate is significantly lower for those with an associate degree. Right now it seems easy to find “any old job,” but those with an associate degree may find it even easier to find a job that results in a better life.

If you’re currently without any degree, earning an associate degree could help you get a job that would result in hundreds of dollars of extra income for you and your family.

This can make a big impact… having this extra income could mean the difference between renting an apartment or saving a down payment for a house. It could mean that you can pay for professional tutoring or cheerleading camp for your kids. And hey, you can buy a lot of Starbucks caramel brulée lattes with that extra cash! Your associate degree could definitely be “worth it.”

Myth: Associate degrees are very general and won’t help with your eventual career

Truth: Many community colleges DO offer more specialized academic pathways that can give you opportunities in specific fields.

Associate degrees can be more general, and these non-specific degrees can still help you snag better job opportunities. However, if you dream of working (or studying) in a certain field eventually, you may be able to tailor your associate degree for this path.

Mississippi community colleges offer diverse associate programs with concentrations in subjects like accounting, nursing, anthropology, teaching, veterinary, and many more!

Need proof? Just check out the list from ONE of our 15 MS community colleges (click on the “Find a Program button).

Myth: If I already have credits from a university, I can’t earn an associate degree

Truth: In MS, you have options to “reverse transfer” credits back to community colleges so you can apply those credits toward an associate degree.

Reverse transfer means that many credits you’ve earned at any community college and/or university can “transfer back” to a community college. You may be able to combine credits earned from different institutions to put them toward an associate degree.

Credit transfers can be realllllly confusing. That’s one of the reasons the state of MS offers the free Complete 2 Compete (C2C) program. The C2C program provides resources like grant money and college “coaches” who guide students through college options.

C2C Coaches can help people like you to discover which credits are transferrable. Students starting the C2C program have different experiences when it comes to their college paths:

  • Students in the C2C program have been able to use the reverse transfer opportunity to apply credits toward an associate degree so they can finish faster.
  • Many are able to FINISH their associate degree by taking just a few classes.
  • Some students even discover that they already have ALL the credits they need and graduate with an associate degree without any additional classes!

To find out if the C2C program could help you earn a degree faster and less expensively, simply complete this simple survey. You’ll be connected with a C2C representative.

This is a free state program available to Mississippi adults, so it doesn’t hurt to answer the quick questions to find out if you could get help with your degree.

Myth: Associate degrees are for people who are right out of high school

Truth: Associate degrees can be beneficial for people of any age and stage!

In fact, according to the Georgetown University study, as associate degree holders grow older, their income tends to increase at a faster rate than of those who have just a high school diploma.

Dylan Tackett is one student who stopped college after he had earned his first few credits. “I didn’t have my priorities right in the beginning,” Dylan explained. “I was young and eager to get out and see what the world was about.” He returned several years later, and thanks to his C2C Coach, he discovered that he was much closer to an associate degree than he thought. He only needed 4 more courses to graduate! After earning that credential, he started to work toward his bachelor’s degree. You can read more about his experiences here.

Myth: Having an associate degree from a community college limits the colleges you can attend for your bachelor’s degree

Truth: If you do want to get a bachelor’s degree, your associate degree will NOT limit your options.

Many students do want to get a bachelor’s degree, since this is what we usually think of when we use the term “college graduate.” However, it may benefit you to have an associate degree that you can use as a credential in the meantime.

So how does it work to earn a bachelor’s degree if you already have an associate?

In MS most all community colleges and public universities have “Articulation Agreements” which means that the credits you earn at any MS public institution should be widely accepted at MS community colleges and public universities.

In fact, you can benefit in two ways!

  • Use the Reverse Transfer option to earn your associate degree, so you can benefit from the extra credential. It looks great on résumés to say that you have an associate degree, even if you are still working toward your bachelor’s.
  • Maximize the “articulation agreement” options to work on your bachelor’s degree which can open additional career choices and other opportunities. Having an associate degree already means that you’ve already earned about half of the credits you need for a bachelor’s. Additionally, many C2C students discover that they are already much closer to a degree than they imagined!

Why wait?

You don’t have to wait for your bachelor’s to gain the benefit of a college degree.

An associate degree can be like a key that opens new doors for you. Having this credential could lead to more satisfaction at your job, higher pay, and more opportunities.

Don’t waste your time trying to figure out all the options. The C2C representatives and coaches can help you. Just complete a few questions and they will guide you through the process. Click here to get started on your path to an associate degree.


C2C is a state program that helps Mississippi adults who previously attended college earn a degree and create a brighter future.