Choosing between an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree can be difficult. Although both are higher education degrees that can be helpful on the job market, they have some important differences that can lead to confusion. For instance, there is a misconception that two associate degrees can equal one bachelor’s degree.
Because of some of these misconceptions, some people one of these undergraduate degrees without understanding the major differences between the two. To decide which degree to pursue, ensure that it fits into your career goals. This article will help you learn about the difference between an associate degree vs bachelor’s degree.
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What Is an Associate Degree?
An associate degree program is an undergraduate program that teaches students the basic technical and academic knowledge of a specific field. Associate degrees are mostly offered in the US. Associate degree programs are commonly found at many types of higher education institutions, including community colleges, technical colleges, and junior colleges.
An associate degree program usually lasts two years. After graduating from high school, some students enroll in an associate degree program to prepare to transfer to a bachelor’s degree program. But it is also possible to pursue an associate degree without any plan to proceed to a bachelor’s degree program.
Types of Associate Degrees
- Associate of Applied Science (AAS)
- Associate of Science (AS)
- Associate of Applied Arts (AAA)
- Associate of Arts (AA)
What is a Bachelor’s Degree?
A bachelor’s degree is earned by completing a four-year undergraduate program at a college or university. A bachelor’s degree exposes you to new ideas and has the potential to provide more job opportunities.
Traditionally, students earn bachelor’s degrees by attending classes in person on a college campus. More recently, online bachelor’s programs have become common. Some students prefer on-campus learning because of the advantages of campus life, while other students appreciate the flexibility offered by online learning.
Types of Bachelor’s Degrees
- Bachelor of Science (BS)
- Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)
- Bachelor of Arts (BA)
Is an Associate Degree Faster Than a Bachelor’s Degree?
Yes, earning an associate degree is faster than earning a bachelor’s degree. Associate degrees generally require two years of study. Meanwhile, the time it takes to earn most bachelor’s degrees is four years.
Is an Associate Degree Easier Than a Bachelor’s Degree?
Yes, earning an associate degree is easier than earning a bachelor’s degree, but only because an associate degree has fewer educational requirements and can be completed in roughly half the time. A single course in an associate degree program can be just as difficult as one in a bachelor’s degree program.
Is an Associate Degree Better Than a Bachelor’s Degree?
No, an associate degree is not better than a bachelor’s degree. Because they are more intensive, bachelor’s degree programs provide a greater depth of knowledge than associate degrees. A bachelor’s degree will also offer more career opportunities than an associate degree.
5 Key Differences Between an Associate Degree and a Bachelor’s Degree
1. Duration of Program
One of the biggest differences between the two types of degrees is duration. For a full-time student, an associate degree program will take two years. Conversely, a bachelor’s degree program typically takes at least four years.
2. Potential Future Earnings
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, students who complete bachelor’s degree programs are likely to earn more. The median weekly earnings for a bachelor’s degree holder is $1,305. By comparison, the median weekly earnings for an associate degree holder is $938. Aside from that, the unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree holders is 5.5 percent compared to 7.1 percent for associate degree graduates.
Generally, tuition and fees for bachelor’s degree programs are higher than those of associate degree programs. Besides, associate degree programs are often offered by community colleges. Usually, these schools receive grants and offer significant financial aid to their students. Therefore, associate degree costs are less than the average cost of a four-year degree.
Because a bachelor’s degree takes four years, it provides the graduate with more in-depth knowledge of the field of study. However, after a two-year associate degree program, many students choose to transfer their community college credits to a four-year university and complete a bachelor’s degree.
5. Career Path
Students’ career goals should help determine whether they should pursue an associate or bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree is suitable for careers in medicine, law, and engineering, to mention a few. However, if a student is aiming for a job that requires only an associate degree, a two-year program can save time and money.
Jobs That Require Associate Degree
- Dental Hygienist. An Associate Degree in Dental Hygiene is suitable for starting a career as a dental hygienist. Primarily, dental hygienists examine the oral health of patients, provide preventive care, and look for signs of oral diseases. They also remove tartar, stains, and plaque from teeth.
- Radiation Therapist. Radiation therapists administer treatments to patients who have cancer and other diseases that may require radiation therapy. In addition, they take steps to minimize patients’ exposure to radiation.
- Air Traffic Controller. The movements of aircraft at the airport are coordinated by air traffic controllers. They ensure that the aircraft at the airport maintain a safe distance from each other.
Jobs That Require Bachelor’s Degree
- Human Resources Managers. Human resources managers are important people in any business. They are responsible for companies’ employment processes and employee benefits. For most companies, the education requirements for a human resources manager position are a Bachelor’s Degree in Management, Human Resources, Business, or a related field.
- Airline and Commercial Pilots. Although flight certification is required from the Federal Aviation Administration, most commercial airlines prefer pilots with a bachelor’s degree too.
- Sales Managers. Sales managers are responsible for the sale of companies’ products and services. Aside from that, sales managers set sales targets and organize training programs for other sales personnel in the company. A Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, Marketing, or a related field can earn you a position as a sales manager.
Should You Get an Associate Degree or a Bachelor’s Degree?
To decide whether to get an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree, you should consider your financial situation, professional goals, and other factors. Are you trying to land a job that requires a bachelor’s degree? Can you commit to a four-year program? Whatever you choose, you can supplement your education and learn new technical skills by attending a coding bootcamp.
Associate Degree vs Bachelor’s Degree FAQ
No, you should not get an associate degree before a bachelor’s degree. You can skip the associate degree and go straight for a four-year degree. An associate degree is not a prerequisite for a bachelor’s degree, however, it can reduce the costs and time it takes to receive a bachelor’s degree.
Generally, an associate degree takes two years for a full-time student to obtain. It can take longer if you study on a part-time basis.
No, two associate degrees do not equal one bachelor’s degree. However, after earning an associate degree, you can transfer to a four-year college for a bachelor’s degree. The advantage is that you will have to spend just two more years on your bachelor’s degree program. That said, keep in mind that transfer requirements differ at various colleges.
Yes, it is worthwhile to pursue associate programs for many career paths, especially if you are choosing between an associate degree and no college education at all. Associate degrees are also cheaper than bachelor’s degrees. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of tuition and fees in the 2019-2020 school year was $3,800 at a public two-year college versus $9,400 at a public four-year college.
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