Why is a post-secondary degree important?

The average annual income based on education attainment levels
No High School Diploma: $17,299
High School Diploma: $26,933
Associate Degree: $36,645
Bachelor’s Degree: $52,671
(U.S Bureau of the Census, 2006)
Investing in a good education for all of America’s students benefits both individuals and the nation as a whole. Some advantages are immediate; others pay off over the longer term.

What is a post-secondary degree? 

What is a post-secondary degree?
An academic degree can be earned at many levels, including the associate’s (two years); bachelor’s (four years); master’s (two years beyond a bachelor’s degree); and doctoral (several years beyond a master’s degree). A degree program differs from certificates and diploma programs in that it often requires the student to take general education courses to support a more rounded education.
For instance, at many universities earning a bachelor’s degree requires courses in English, math, science, philosophy and history, regardless of the specific major field of study. Earning a degree also opens up more potential doors to the student than would a certificate or diploma. Many careers require that the applicant has earned at least a bachelor’s degree; several career options require more than this.

Technical Certificate

A certificate is earned by a student after taking a series of courses in a particular subject. Students often earn certificates to get a step ahead in the professional field of their interest, and certificates may be offered in similar programs leading to degrees. The proof of attainment comes in the form of a certificate earned by passing an exam that is accredited by an organization or association that monitors and upholds prescribed standards for the particular industry involved.

In some programs, the student may use his or her electives to fulfill a certificate in order to make him or herself more desirable to a potential employer. Certificate programs taken alone are similar to associate’s degree programs. However, they take less time because general education courses are not required.

Local Certificate Programs
• New Horizon
• Southwest Community College
• Moore Tech
• Belhaven
• Arkansas Mid-South Community College


Associates Degree

This two-year degree is an Associate of Arts (A.A.) or Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.). Some students who earn an associate’s degree transfer to a four-year program to complete a bachelor’s degree. Others complete associate degrees to prepare to go straight to work. Community colleges, career colleges and some four-year colleges offer these degrees.

Many people decide to earn an associate degree while maintaining a career and later choose to continue their education in a bachelor-level program. This level of degree is dedicated to vocationally-specific skills and knowledge. An associate’s is considered the first stage of post-secondary education.
An articulation agreement is the bridge between an associate’s and a bachelor’s degree. Many four-year institutions offer articulation agreements to community college and online college students, outlining the pathway for transferring from one institution to another

Bachelor’s Degree  

A bachelor’s degree is a four-year degree. It typically takes four years of full-time study to earn a bachelor’s degree. In these four years, you will complete 120 semester credits or about 40 college courses.

A bachelor’s degree is a post-secondary undergraduate degree. Historically, the term “college degree” meant a bachelor’s or traditional four-year degree. Bachelor degrees are also sometimes called baccalaureate degrees. Regionally accredited liberal arts colleges award most of the bachelor degrees in the United States.

Type of Degree Credits Required to Obtain *How Long to Complete?
Technical Certificate 30 1 Year
Associate Degree 60 2 Years
Bachelor’s Degree 120 4 Years
Graduate and Professional Degrees Bachelor’s degree plus additional courses – check each program
*Based on taking 15 credit hours per semester and no summer classes; some programs require more credits for graduation than listed