Integrated Studies graduate Richard Michalka
Richard Michalka graduated from CU Denver with an Integrated Studies degree while working as the CTO of Indigo Education Company.

Finish Your Degree with CU Denver’s Integrated Studies Program

June 28, 2023

At CU Denver—the No. 1 university in Colorado for social mobility—we understand that every student’s academic journey is different, which is why our Integrated Studies degree-completion program is so popular. This program is designed to help you use credits you’ve already earned toward a degree and give you a personalized and streamlined path to a diploma. 

Reaching your goal of earning a college degree—on your terms—is important, but there are many more reasons why earning a diploma may be right for you. In today’s competitive and ever-changing job market, a university degree can be a crucial tool in building your career and a smart investment in your future.  

[Integrated Studies] is great for students who’ve not had the opportunity to complete their degree, getting sidetracked in career goals or life events, to find an efficient way to complete their path.

Brandon Mills, Undergraduate Advisor of Individually Structured Majors, Associate Professor CTT 

Value of a College Degree 

A recent Georgetown research study showed that a bachelors degree can be worth $2.8 million in earnings over the course of your lifetime. And, in Colorado, the unemployment rate for college graduates is half that of those who lack a college diploma. Finishing your degree, online or otherwise, provides long-term benefits, including access to more careers, higher salaries, and even a longer life. Here’s a breakdown of some of the advantages of earning a higher education degree.  

  1. Higher Employment Rates 

Research shows a positive correlation between higher education and employment rates. Those with a bachelor’s degree or more had lower unemployment—just 2.2%—than other workers (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Feb. 2022). In comparison, high school graduates with no college experience had an unemployment rate of 4.5% during that same time period.  

In addition to job mobility, a degree widens access to a broader range of career opportunities. CU Denver’s Integrated Studies program allows you to bring together experience and passion for a unique specialization, such as a business degree augmented by classes in the humanities and STEM subjects. It can also make you more marketable to employers in competitive industries, including public health, sustainability, and information technology, by differentiating your experience from other candidates.  

  1. Increased Earning Potential 

Higher education is often associated with higher earning potential. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found that individuals with a bachelor’s degree earn 84% more over their lifetime, on average, compared to those with only a high school diploma. The Pew Research Center reported that college graduates between the ages of 25 and 32 earn an annual median income of $56,000 and high school graduates in the same age range earn $36,000. CU Denver alums with a bachelor’s degree earn nearly $70,000 annually, on average.  

  1. Career Advancement Opportunities 

A higher education degree can contribute to career advancement and professional development because many management and leadership positions require a minimum level of education. The Lumina Foundation reports that 75% of senior-level employees in Fortune 500 companies hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. A degree at CU Denver can provide you with the skills and qualifications to excel at any level.  

  1. Job Stability and Security 

During economic uncertainty, individuals with higher education degrees can have greater job stability and security. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that individuals with higher levels of education have lower unemployment rates during economic downturns. Additionally, degree-holders are more likely to have benefits, including health insurance, retirement plans, and job-related training programs that can enhance financial security. 

  1. Professional Networking and Connections 

Obtaining a higher education degree offers invaluable networking opportunities. College and university campuses are hubs for connecting with professors, industry professionals, and fellow students—who can all become valuable contacts throughout your career. A study by LinkedIn found that 85% of job positions are filled through networking.  

Building relationships during your higher education experience at CU Denver can lead to mentorship opportunities, job referrals, and access to hidden job markets. CU Denver offers a range of support services, events, and other opportunities to grow your network. The Career Center at LynxConnect helps students build work experience and relationships.  

You Can Finish Your Degree Online at CU Denver 

There are many benefits to completing your college degree—and CU Denver makes that process easier with the Integrated Studies program. Part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), Integrated Studies is a customizable degree-completion program that allows students to combine passions, complete a degree, and launch a meaningful career. In this program, students can earn their diploma while balancing work, family, and other responsibilities. 

If students have existing credits from more than one major in the past but didn’t earn a degree, those credits can be used for an Integrated Studies degree. Commonly referred to as interdisciplinary studies at other universities, Integrated Studies allows students to become qualified candidates for any career they aspire to. 

I’ve got a major where I can really control my life. I love it and think other students should do it.

Karmin Chan, Integrated Studies BA Major, Communication & Organizational Leadership 

Students can choose several specializations that can help them stand out in the job market or gain an edge in graduate programs. For example:

  • The Human-Centered Design & Equitable Social Change specialization explores design thinking, problem-solving, and social justice.
  • The International Studies & Managerial Economics specialization provides an understanding of global business and economic issues. 
  • Interested in environmental issues? An Environmental Science & Public Health specialization teaches sustainability and public health.
  • For those curious about communication and psychology, the Communication & Psychology specialization can prepare for a career in marketing, public relations, or human resources. 

Meet An Integrated Studies Alum

Alum Richard Michalka returned to CU Denver a decade after he first began classes to finish his degree. In the meantime, he had worked in a variety of fields to find his calling. Those experiences led him to the tech industry and work as a software developer.  

But he had unfinished business. He wanted to finish his degree, so he re-enrolled at CU Denver and pursued an Integrated Studies degree. Using credits he’s previously earned and taking new classes, his studies included courses in computer science, human-centered design and innovation, and anthropology. He earned his BA in May 2023 and is the Chief Technology Officer at Indigo Education Company, a Longmont, Colorado-based social enterprise. 

The value of higher education remains unmistakable. A degree through Integrated Studies at CU Denver provides affordable access to customizable degree specialties, on a personalized schedule—ideal for those returning to finish what they started.