Bachelor's degree of doubt: An associate's is plenty to start a career

Bachelor's degrees are overpriced and undervalued – so many are opting for nontraditional routes. Though he thinks he'll need a bachelor's someday, Josephus Tudtud will be able to get a job right away in the media business with his associate's degree.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
A bachelor's degree might come someday, but Josephus Tudtud doesn't need that traditional college degree to get a good job right now. The former marine's associate's degree, earned this month, in applied science from Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, N.Y. will be enough.

Josephus Tudtud had already served two years in the Marines. But before deploying to Iraq in time to witness the Fallujah offensive of 2004 from his guard tower, he filmed his baby daughter.

"It sounds cheesy," he says, "but if I got killed, she'd have some footage of me being a father to her."

That impetus introduced him to video, and six years later – thanks to the GI Bill – he enrolled in the communications department of Brooklyn's Kinsgborough Community College.

Related: Are you helicopter-parenting a college grad? Take our quiz!

At a campus jobs fair recently, Mr. Tudtud sought out Sharon Jarrett, production and internship coordinator for Black Entertainment. He clutched a portfolio with freelance projects and a short film he made while interning with NYC Media, part of the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment.

"I look into their eyes," Ms. Jarrett says afterward. "Some are really hungry and want to learn." That and experience, to Jarrett, are what's important. She spotted those qualities in Tudtud and encouraged him to apply. Broadcasting companies rely a lot on freelancers and, "in that world," Jarrett explains, "you can't say whether degrees hurt or help because they're looking at your body of work."

Still, as Tudtud graduates this month with an associate's degree in media technology and management, the 30-year-old leaves wanting more.

"I'm afraid there's someone out there like me," he says, "so I have to stay ahead."

He aims to grow his freelance business, then, someday, pursue a bachelor's.

"My uncle worked at a hospital," he says, "and every year all these new guys [with college degrees] would come in and get paid triple or double his salary, even though he knew a lot more than they did."

Related: Are you helicopter-parenting a college grad? Take our quiz!

But the hospital refused his uncle a raise because he lacked a bachelor's degree.

"Right then and there," says Tudtud, "I decided I don't want to be in that position."

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