With the price of college increasing, individuals who want to enroll in postsecondary education need information about employment opportunities after graduation. While the literature on bachelor’s degree wage outcomes is vast, the research on associate degrees is small. In addition, most research that includes associate degrees does not distinguish between Associate of Applied Science (AAS) and transfer associate degrees.
Different types of associate degrees are available depending on the student's desired outcome after receiving their degree. AAS degrees are for individuals who want to start a career after receiving their diploma; transfer associate degrees are for individuals who plan to continue their education and earn another degree, typically bachelor’s degrees. Transfer associate degrees include degrees such as Associate of Science and Associate of Arts. Given the differences in the degree types, it is likely that the wages they receive will be different, so any analysis that does not make distinctions between them will not capture the differences in workforce outcomes.
Using data from the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) and the Department of Workforce Service’s (DWS) Unemployment Insurance (UI) data, we matched individuals who graduated from a USHE institution in the 2014 cohort with their UI wages before and after receiving their degrees. This study focuses on the difference in wages between Associate of Applied Science (AAS), transfer associate (AS/AA), and bachelor’s degree recipients. The analyses include bachelor's degree wages as a reference point.
Summary of Findings:
Initially, after graduating, Associate of Applied Science (AAS) recipients had higher quarterly wages than bachelor’s and transfer associate degree recipients.
Non-white associate degree recipients usually earned less than their white counterparts.
Between the first and fifth year after graduating, transfer associate and bachelor’s degree recipients had higher wage growth than AAS graduates.
Those who earned an associate degree in a Health field earned significantly less than other common fields of study (CIPs).