Here's a bit of good news for college students nearing graduation...

An annual survey predicts employers will increase hiring of new 4-year college graduates about 5 percent in the coming year.

And in a trend that seems to be growing, the demand for graduates with associate's degrees is expected to increase by about 30 percent compared to last year's survey. Students earning a masters degree will likely see a decline in job offers.

The survey was conducted by Michigan State University's College Employment Research Institute. More than 2,000 U.S. employers were surveyed.

While higher degrees generally translate into higher earnings, there are wide variations across fields of study and careers, and students have to factor debt into the equation if they need to borrow for tuition.

According to Georgetown University researchers, about 30 percent of associate's degree recipients earn more than people with bachelor's degrees. Those with only certificates in engineering earn about 20 percent more than the average generic bachelor's degree recipient.

Those numbers support institutions such as Ivy Tech Community College that offers many programs tailored to employer needs.

Still, most experts insist that while a bachelor's degree doesn't necessarily pay off with a first job, it eventually more than does so, in hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional lifetime earnings.

The numbers demonstrate that for those 25 and older, the unemployment rate for those with a college degree is now just 3.8 percent. For those with some college or an associate's degree it's 6.9 percent, and for those with just a high school diploma it's 8.4 percent.

The lesson to be learned: The reward might not be immediate, but the more education one acquires, the better chance he or she will have of staying employed and earning a good living.