By Jasmine Westerdahl

Curiosity has been piqued and attention has been drawn towards Pacific Union College’s associate degree programs as the updated ranking on Payscale.com revealed PUC as second in the nation for highest paid alumni with two-year degrees.] Many are curious in regards to the two-year degrees available at PUC such and wonder how they would benefit from less years in school. Academic Dean and Vice President for Academic Administration, Dr. Nancy Lecourt, was able to shed some light on this topic.

PUC offers ten Associate of Science (A.S.) degrees in various fields: Aviation, Engineering, Music, Film and Television, Graphic Design, Photography, Early Childhood Development, Emergency Services, Health Sciences and Nursing.

According to Lecourt, the graduating class of 2017 consisted of 393 graduates, and of these individuals, 143 received an associate degree. Eighty-one students earned an A.S. in Nursing, making this PUC’s most popular two-year degree. Fifty graduated with an A.S. in Health Sciences, and the remaining 12 students received degrees scattered amongst the other departments

Lecourt states, “We have found, in recent years, that in some areas, A.S. degrees were useful.” Many of the associate degrees at PUC were created and made available due to practicality and market demand. Examples of these degrees are in Emergency Services, Nursing and Health Sciences.

The A.S. in Emergency Services has a practical and vocational emphasis. “Students can take that A.S. degree and go immediately out and start working in the field, especially given the fact that here [in Angwin] they work at the fire department and ambulance and they get a lot of real experience,” remarks Lecourt.

An A.S. in Nursing is also advantageous, as it allows for individuals to work while still in school to receive their B.S.N. (Bachelor of Science in Nursing), a “distance program” that does not require the student to be on campus all year, but rather only during core weeks.

Lecourt believes that the A.S. in Health Sciences is beneficial in career development for students because of the classes required. Introduction to Allied Health is one such class that exposes individuals to different career opportunities within the diverse field of Allied Health that one may have never known existed.

She also thinks that this degree is beneficial towards creating a more structured system when it comes to academic advising.

“The health sciences degree is a way for pre-packaging many of the pre-professional programs. It’s not really a conventional A.S. degree, but a way to give students a home who are doing pre-professional programs,” Lecourt states. She goes on to explain how, before the creation of the A.S. in health sciences, academic advisors were not under one department, but rather spread out everywhere, and there was no umbrella term for the pre-professional health science programs.

With practicality in mind, Lecourt saysw, “I see A.S. degrees as a bench to sit on halfway through a bachelor’s degree.” This allows more flexibility for students, especially as they attempt to work out what they want to do in life and how far they would like to go in their schooling.

Some students begin college still unsure whether they want to complete a full four years of education. Having an A.S. degree as a halfway point is ideal because, from there, they can choose whether or not to continue two additional years and complete the requirements for a bachelor’s degree. If they choose the two-year option, they always have the opportunity of returning to college later to obtain a bachelor’s degree.

Other students start college, though later drop out, accumulating debt without a degree. Having the associate degree available allows them to at least try to acquire a two-year degree.

Associate degrees can be a beneficial component to one’s education and career making process and decision. Unfortunately, PUC doesn’t have many options when it comes to these degrees, yet they are always open to the idea of making more available.

The future of PUC and two-year degree opportunities sound hopeful as Lecourt concludes, “It’s possible that we may add some A.S. degrees in the future if we could see that there is a need for them. We have seen how they’ve worked for us in the past and been beneficial for both students and faculty.” Whether as a stepping stone to a bachelor’s degree and beyond, or the end of your educational road, obtaining an A.S. is a smart educational and occupational move in the right direction.