(BPT) - Amidst dramatic shifts in the national workforce and ever-changing job market, those in or entering their careers without formal education face an uphill challenge.
In a recent survey, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that nearly half of the more than 800 occupations they analyze annually require a college degree. Those occupations at the bachelor's or master's degree level are now netting graduates about $36,000 more in median annual salary than those at an associate's level or less - and this trend is likely to continue increasing.
With such a wide wage gap, it's clear that undergraduate and graduate degrees are profitable investments for employees looking to upskill or change careers and first-year students alike. However, the cost of these degrees and the time needed to complete them can still be a barrier. While taking additional courses in high school or transferring credits from prior collegiate experiences can help, not everyone can take advantage of these opportunities.
Fortunately, innovative universities now offer an alternative: earn both degrees in less time.
Arizona State University is leading the way by creating affordable 4+1 degree programs, allowing students to concurrently complete an undergraduate and graduate degree. The ASU Online 4+1 programs include degrees for in-demand fields such as information technology and health care. Students in any of these online programs are able to fast-track their degrees and accelerate their career potential by saving up to a year of master's coursework and tuition.
Is an accelerated degree program the next step in your career path? When evaluating your options, consider how much time these programs take to complete, the total cost and how they may affect your career outcomes.
Generally, it takes a minimum of four years to attain a bachelor's degree and an additional two years to graduate with a master's. An accelerated program allows learners to shorten the time it takes to attain either of these degrees. ASU Online, for instance, combines undergraduate and graduate coursework during senior year for dual credit, so a student receives both degrees in five years.
This process isn't exclusive to first-time-in-college students. Transfer students can also benefit from an accelerated degree program. They can complete these degrees even faster by working with their academic counselor to chart a plan for which courses they need to take to be on track with an accelerated program.
What's more, the pace and structure of online programs allow learners to maintain employment while they get their degree. Earning while learning is especially advantageous to master's degree students who are less likely to receive grant aid, fellowships or tuition waivers than undergraduates and doctoral students.
Looking to the future, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects to add the most jobs in 2020-2030 in industries where careers typically require an advanced degree.
While some individuals may have a defined passion and clear career path, others may not know what credentials are necessary to pursue a position in their desired industry. Conducting research on what occupations are growing and what knowledge can help you enter those fields can yield beneficial results.
When considering employment trends for 2020-2030, the bureau projects health care and social assistance will add the most jobs of all industries, with an estimated 3.3 million jobs.
Technological advancements will also increase the long-term demand for computer-related occupations, especially with the rise of teleworking, which has expanded the need for computing infrastructure and IT security.
ASU Online, aiming to make education accessible for students across the country, currently offers more than 30 accelerated 4+1 degree programs. Several programs can lead to careers in these rising industries, nursing, biological sciences, information technology, internet and web development, and global cybersecurity.
No matter the career, the path to attaining necessary knowledge and experience can be rewarding. Research universities that offer the degree or certification program you're looking for online, and that are specifically designed and have dedicated resources to work with online learners.
To learn about ASU Online's accelerated and traditional degree programs, visit ASUOnline.asu.edu.