Associate Degree, Certificate Pathways Lead to 4-Year Degrees

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has released a report titled "Certificate and Associate Degree Pathways" in which the Center breaks down the various kinds of degrees that students received in the 2009-2010 academic year.

The report finds that of all the associate degrees award that academic year, 536,351 were earned by students with no previous degrees or certificates. Within the next six academic years, over 64% of these students enrolled at a four-year institution, and 41% of such students successfully earned a bachelor's degree.

The associate-to-bachelor's pathway was most frequently completed by students in the 20 and under age group, with nearly 61% earning a bachelor's degree within six years. By comparison, only 31% of students students over 24-years-old received a bachelor's degree within six years of competing their associate. Additionally, women and men completed the associate-to-bachelor's transition at roughly equal levels, 41%.

Of the degree earners who went on to complete a bachelor's degree after receiving an associate degree, two-thirds (36.9%) did so within three years of earning an associate degree. The average number of years from associate to bachelor's degree completion was 2.8 years. Only about 5% of students took longer than five years to complete the associate to bachelor's degree transition, while around 4% of students did it less than one year.

The report also finds that of all certificates awarded in the 2009-2010 academic year, 231,029 were earned by students with no previous degrees or certificates. Within the next six academic years, over 64% of these students enrolled in additional college courses, and 26% of them earned an associate degree, a bachelor's degree, or both. About 32% of certificate earners in the 20 and under cohort went on to earn an associate or bachelor's degree, the highest percentage of any age group. Interestingly, 29% of women who earned a certificate went on to earn an associate or bachelor's compared to 23% of men.

Of all the certificate earners, 78% earned an associate degree within three years after completing their certificate. The average number of years from certificate to associate degree completion is two. For those certificate earners who later received a bachelor's degree, about 69% did so within four years of earning their certificate.

The average certificate-to-bachelor's degree path is 3 years. Still, many students (38%) received their associate degree only one year after completing their certificate program, and another 6% even received their bachelor's degree within a year after their certificate. These numbers show that after a certificate or an associate degree, rapid degree attainment is possible

The analyses generated by the National Student Clearinghouse are based on information the Clearinghouse archives from an advanced data service. Reportedly, the data accounts for 79% of all educational certificates awarded by U.S. degree-granting institutions, 85% of associate degrees, and 95% of bachelor's degrees. It should be noted that many certificates are awarded by institutions classified as non-degree-granting, so these institutions did not participate in the Clearinghouse's services.

For interested readers, the full report is available online.

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