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The Financial Impact of Stacking Degrees

The Financial Impact of Stacking Degrees


degree-stacking-pros-consBy Ryan Laspina
Senior Specialist, Red Flags and External Reviews at APUS

As we move to an ever-specialized job market, the importance of getting a college degree is dramatically increasing every day. At some point in the future, will an associate or bachelor’s degree not be enough? That answer may be determined by what field you wish to pursue. Many students are now electing to “stack” degrees. Stacking degrees refers to the process of transitioning from an associate to a bachelor’s, a bachelor’s to a master’s, and so on down the line. The decision to stack degrees will have a financial impact on you, and it can be both positive and negative.

Pros of Degree Stacking

  • On average, advanced degrees will increase your lifetime earnings. The average lifetime earnings of someone with an associate degree is lower than the average lifetime earnings of someone with a doctorate. Having an advanced degree gives applicants a better chance at obtaining a high-paying job. Please visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics website to view figures.
  • Advanced degrees offer more flexibility. For example, many colleges will allow you to teach adjunct teaching with a master’s degree. This is a great way to earn some extra income on the side.
  • Many positions, especially those within the government, use pay scales that are typically determined by the applicants education and experience. Starting salaries are usually higher for those applicants that have advanced degrees.

Cons of Degree Stacking

  • The tuition and fees for advanced degrees are typically two or three times higher than tuition and fees for undergraduate degrees. If you are not going into a lucrative field, it can be very hard to recoup the money spent on obtaining an advanced degree.
  • There are not as many financial aid options for graduate degrees as there are for undergraduate degrees. For example, those students pursuing graduate degrees cannot receive the Pell Grant. There are also not nearly as many scholarships available for graduate students.

As with any major life decision, it is ultimately up to you to decide how much education is right for you. There are some fields that do not even require any college education, and there are other fields that require a doctorate. In general, the more degrees you obtain, the more money you are going to spend obtaining them. On the flipside, the more degrees you have, the more lucrative job opportunities are available to you. It may be hard to balance these financial decisions before making a decision, but being aware of the above pros and cons can help you with that decision.