With an associate's or bachelor's degree there are many career options that can be considered. It's possible to become a dental hygienist, a teacher's assistant, preschool teacher or an HVAC technician with an associate's degree. Facilities managers usually need to complete a bachelor's degree to prepare for their careers.
At the undergraduate level, students can earn 2-year associate's degrees or 4-year bachelor's degrees. Students enrolled in either type of program can select a subject area or trade on which to focus their studies. Associate's degree programs tend to teach practical skills required for entry-level positions, while bachelor's degree programs generally incorporate research and theoretical knowledge.
|Career||Dental Hygienist||Teacher's Assistants||Facilities Management|
|Education Requirements||Associate's Degree||Associate's Degree||Bachelor's Degree|
|Other Requirements||State License||Other requirements vary by school district||Study property development, building systems and space planning|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||19%||6%||8%|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$72,330||$24,900||$86,110|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
There are several career options available at both the associate's degree level and the bachelor's degree level. Earning a degree can greatly increase the odds of employment as well as earning potential. Continue reading to learn about different career options available at the undergraduate level.
Career Options for Human and Animal Healthcare
Dental hygienists care for their patient by cleaning teeth, conducting exams, performing x-rays and educating them on oral hygiene practices. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), dental hygienists usually need to complete at least an accredited associate's degree program. Certificate, bachelor's and master's degree programs are also available. Programs consist of theoretical and laboratory courses, including anatomy and physiology, periodontics, radiology, anesthesia and pharmacology. Certificate and associate's degree programs cover basic procedures, while bachelor's and master's degree programs give students more in-depth, theoretical knowledge.
Licensure is necessary to work as a dental hygienist in all states. To become licensed, graduates of a dental hygiene program need to pass a state or regional hygienist exam and/or complete the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination. The BLS estimates a 19% increase in dental hygienist employment between 2014 and 2024. As of May 2015, hygienists earned a median salary of $72,330.
Veterinary Technicians and Technologists
Veterinary technicians and technologists help veterinarians provide healthcare to animals. Veterinary technicians typically hold an associate's degree and perform practical work, while technologists usually have a bachelor's degree and are more qualified to work in research positions. While enrolled in a veterinary sciences program, aspiring vet techs have the opportunity to develop skills in medication administration, radiology, anesthesia and nursing.
Most states require that vet techs obtain a credential or register through their state. To become licensed or certified, professionals generally need a degree from an accredited program and a passing score on either a state or national exam. In addition to passing a written examination, most states mandate oral and practical exams administered by the State Board of Veterinary examiners. Employment for vet techs was expected to increase 19% between 2014 and 2024. The median salary for veterinary technicians and technologists was $31,800 in 2015.
Career Options for Educators
Education paraprofessionals, also known as teacher's assistants, help classroom teachers with paperwork, teaching and classroom management. Qualifications to become an educational paraprofessional vary by jurisdiction, but many require the completion of an associate's degree program. Coursework in these programs can include educational psychology, children's literature, music and paraprofessional theory. Some schools offer transfer options to a bachelor's degree program that could help to qualify an assistant to become a teacher. Additionally, individuals seeking to work in schools with a high percentage of low-income students might have to meet additional educational requirements.
The BLS expected average employment growth of 6% between 2014 and 2024 for educational paraprofessionals. Teacher's assistants earned a median annual salary of $24,900 as of May 2015.
Preschool teachers provide supervision, care and instruction to young children who are usually under the age of five. While a degree is not always necessary for employment in a preschool, those who have an undergraduate or graduate degree in child development or early childhood education could have better employment opportunities. Despite the lack of formal educational requirements to teach at most preschools, the BLS reported that federal law requires teachers in Head Start preschools to hold an associate's degree. Students enrolled in an associate's degree program might take coursework in early childhood education, family studies and child development.
Job prospects were expected to be good for preschool teachers between 2014 and 2024 with an employment increase of 7%. The reason for the growth was due to increasing demand for education for preschool children. The median salary for these professionals as of May 2015 was $28,570.
Career Options for Technical Positions
HVAC technicians install, maintain and repair heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. While employment in this trade doesn't require an undergraduate degree, both 2-year community colleges and 4-year schools offer certificates, associate's and bachelor's degrees in the trade. A certificate program could provide a strong foundation in the basic knowledge and skills of the trade, while an associate's degree program could offer additional hands-on training. A bachelor's degree program could offer advancement qualifications with courses in efficiency evaluations, equipment operation and balancing equipment.
The BLS expected HVAC jobs to increase by 14% between 2014 and 2024. The median salary for HVAC technicians was $45,110 in 2015.
Facilities managers take responsibility for the upkeep and appropriate use of buildings and grounds by hiring contractors or managing employees who provide maintenance and repairs for commercial properties. The BLS indicated that facilities managers usually have at least a bachelor's degree, and some professionals hold master's degrees in facilities management, architecture, engineering or business administration. Individuals enrolled in a bachelor's degree program in facilities management can take courses in property development, building systems, facilities management, space planning and applied management. Master's degree programs in facilities management culminate in a final project or thesis and include in-depth coursework in facilities management, organizational leadership, facilities maintenance, engineering systems management and contract management.
According to the BLS, job prospects for administrative services managers - a category that includes facilities managers - were predicted to increase by 8% between 2014 and 2024. This was largely due to commercial property owners' interest in protecting their investments with effective property management strategies. Median annual salaries for administrative services managers were $86,110 as of May 2015.
Teacher's assistants, veterinary technicians and technologists, facility managers, HVAC technicians, preschool teachers, and dental hygienists are all professionals who can prepare for their careers by completing undergraduate degrees. Some of these careers require two years of study to complete an associate's degree, while others require a four-year bachelor's degree to be considered for employment.