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March 11, 2014 at 2:45 PM

Guest: Applied bachelor’s degrees help local employers fill skills gap

Marty Brown

Marty Brown

Consider this scenario: A radiology technician with an associate degree does top-notch work, but can’t get promoted without a bachelor’s degree. Starting over at a four-year institution doesn’t make sense. She’s working at a hospital, has practical experience, and can’t start over as a traditional four-year college student. The hospital, meanwhile, is eager to hire a manager with a bachelor’s degree. The employee faces a glass ceiling; the employer faces a void.

This scenario plays out across Washington in high-demand fields with a shortage of bachelor’s degree graduates. And it is the very reason community and technical colleges offer bachelor of applied science degrees.

Applied bachelor’s degrees are practical, career-oriented degrees that meet employers’ needs in high-demand fields. They add junior and senior levels to two-year professional-technical degrees that would otherwise not transfer and count toward bachelor’s degrees at universities. The degrees vary from a two-year management track on top of a two-year technical education, or a continuation of a technical degree.

These degrees offer the best of both worlds: hands-on training in a career embedded within a four-year degree. Employers seek graduates because they have technical expertise combined with communication, computation, critical thinking, and people-management skills. A report from the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges found 82 percent of applied bachelor’s graduates in 2010 and 2011 were employed seven quarters after graduating. Students’ earnings increased by an average of 26 percent after graduation.

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Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: applied bachelor's, Community colleges, guest opinion