According to a recent CNN Money article, almost 30 percent of Americans with an associate's degree make more than those with a bachelor's degree.
"We are not surprised by earnings reports like this because Chattanooga State has always worked closely with area business[es] and industr[ies] to prepare our graduates according to the needs in the community," Eva Lewis with Chattanooga State Community College said via email.
Business associate's degree graduates can start out making $35,000.
Those in Allied Health can make about $45,000.
Students of the Volkswagen Academy range from $37,000 to $47,000.
Vet technicians start out making $25,000 to 30,000.
Source: Eva Lewis with Chattanooga State Community College
But, although students who graduate with an associate's degree may earn more initially, they often need a higher degree to move up in management and make more money long term, officials at UTC said.
And 43 percent of Chattanooga State associate's degree graduates go on to pursue other degrees, Lewis said.
"Somewhere along the line, if those people want to move up into management, usually the bachelor's degree is the ticket to moving up," Jean Dake, director of placement and student employment at UTC, said. "That's been consistent over time."
Officials at both colleges said that there are pros and cons with both two-year and four-year degrees, and the choice is very subjective.
Generally, community colleges, such as Chattanooga State, are less expensive than UTC.
The 2012-2013 per credit hour fee at Chattanooga State, based on a 12-hour schedule, is $148 per credit hour for in-state tuition, Lewis said.
That doesn't cover books or cost-of-living expenses.
At UTC, it is $428 per credit hour for full-time, in-state students, according to a financial aid representative at the school. That's based on 12 credit hours per semester.
And community colleges are generally smaller, so there may be more attention for students, officials said.
But there is a stigma attached to community colleges, Lewis said.
"The entire country, as well as our state, has emphasized getting a college education as a four-year baccalaureate degree," she said. "So yes, there has been bias toward the university degree as opposed to the associate degree; however, we believe it is unwarranted. People have different interests and learning needs, and, therefore, one method should not be prescribed as the only way to obtain a college education."