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Getting a college degree can be expensive. However, those who have degrees generally get paid more than those who don’t.

Recent research indicates that the average cost for a year of room and board at an in-state public higher education institution for the 2013-2014 school year was $22,826. It was nearly double that – $44,750 – for a private school.

On top of that, more than half of students who graduated from a four-year college did so with more than $20,000 of debt. Everyone’s finances are different, and studies have shown that there’s not much of a difference between the salaries of those with bachelor’s degrees compared to those with associate’s degrees.

It might be time to consider the latter.

Is an Associate’s Degree Right for You?

If you’re interested in protecting your future finances, getting an associate’s degree can be one way to do it. After all, leaving school with a significant amount of debt can be crippling to the point where you might not be able to find your financial footing following graduation.

By getting a two-year associate’s degree, you can find jobs that will pay you more — and then use that salary to offset some of your future tuition. In fact, recent research indicates that two states – Texas and California – have the most community colleges that produce graduates who end up in the highest tier of wage earners.

In other words, you can get a two-year associate’s degree and bring home a substantial salary – without having to stomach considerable student loans.

Higher Salaries, Higher Employment

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Those who get associate’s degrees are more likely to be employed than their counterparts with high school diplomas. They also earn higher incomes.

By getting an associate’s degree, you are proving to your employers that education is important to you. Your degree turns into a marketable credential that you can add to your resume to attract additional interest from prospective employers. Plus, studies have shown that those who get their associate’s degrees are more likely to finish their bachelor’s degrees as well.

Now might not be the time for you to attend a four-year college for a variety of reasons. But don’t push your education to the back burner.

If you’re looking to continue your education but aren’t ready for a bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree might be a smart choice for you.

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