Need Cash Fast? Go To Community College in Florida

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A career-specific associate's degree pays off, at first.

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Because at first, you’ll earn more getting an associate’s degree from one rather than a bachelor’s from a state university. About $11,000 more.

According to a story in The Miami Herald, recent graduates with a career-focused associate’s degree or postsecondary certificate from a Florida community college earned more on average than a bachelor’s degree at a state university. A recent grad with an associate’s in science earned an average of $47,708 in 2009, compared with $36,552 for a graduate with a bachelor’s degree in a state university. Even the community-college bachelor’s degree was worth about $11,000 more than one from the state university.

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But education officials say that the salary is only higher initially. The ceiling, of course, is much higher for those who earn higher degrees like a bachelor’s and a master’s. But even President Obama is pushing for more students to graduate from community colleges.

(Read about a community college in Michigan promising students their money back if they don’t get a job within a year.)

Why the initial difference in salaries? The best explanation is that universities still pride themselves on being havens for knowledge of all kinds, places that still hold subjects like philosophy or anthropology in high regard even if those sorts of fields yield little room for employment later on. Community colleges, however, are often job-specific, offering courses in more practical skills so graduates can hopefully be hired immediately. But for the short-term, it appears that if you want to study less, pay less, and initially earn more, go for the associate’s.