An associate degree is a type of undergraduate degree that usually takes two to three years to complete. Most people work toward this at community colleges or vocational schools. If you want to know more about what an associate degree is, this article goes into detail about the different types of associate degrees and the jobs available to associate degree graduates.
An associate degree is often used as a stepping stone to a bachelor’s degree. Many universities allow associate degree holders to transfer credits from an associate degree program to a bachelor’s program and graduate in an additional two years. Keep reading to find out more about transfer degrees, online associate degrees, and what an associate degree really is.
Associate Degree Meaning
An associate degree is a two-year program offered after high school. It is often considered the halfway point between a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree. It is usually offered by a community college or junior college, although some universities like Southern New Hampshire University also offer associate degrees.
Associate Degree Fast Facts
- Required Credits: 60
- Average Length: 2 years
- Average Cost: $6,754
How Many Credits Is an Associate Degree?
An associate degree is 60 credits. This is usually split up into 15 credits per semester for four semesters. Most courses are three credits, so students will take around 20 classes to get their associate degree. These education requirements will include general education courses, major-specific courses, and electives.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate Degree?
It takes two years to get an associate degree. If you are a part-time student, it will take you longer to complete this field of study, but you will have more flexibility. Alternatively, some schools offer accelerated associate degrees that take between 15 and 18 months to complete. Students in these programs take additional courses each semester or study in the summer semesters.
How Much Does an Associate Degree Cost?
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, an associate degree costs $6,754 on average. The NCES reports that it costs an average of $3,377 for one year of tuition and fees at a public two-year institution. Since associate degrees take two years to complete, it will cost around $6,754 to get an associate degree from a public college or community college.
Expenses like books, housing, and transportation can be expected to increase the price. The total cost will ultimately depend on the school you attend, whether you attend in-person or online, and if you are living on campus or have to pay rent. Advanced degrees at four-year colleges, in general, are more expensive than associate degrees.
Associate Degree Requirements: Admissions Criteria
Associate degree requirements for admission are minimal because associate degrees are meant to offer an accessible entry into higher education. The main associate degree admissions criterion is a high school diploma or a GED. SAT and ACT scores are often not required, and if there is a minimum GPA requirement, it is around 2.00.
Although admission requirements differ from school to school, prospective students have to submit an application through the school or the Common Application. There are occasionally other admission criteria, such as letters of recommendation or a portfolio, but this will depend on the program and school.
Associate Degree Admissions Requirements
- High school diploma or GED
- High school GPA between 2.00 and 3.00
- Online application
- Official high school transcripts
What Comes After an Associate Degree?
A bachelor’s degree usually comes after an associate degree. Most universities accept transfer credits from associate degree programs and allow students to begin with third-year bachelor’s degree classes. Many people start with an associate degree and transfer to a bachelor’s degree because associate degrees have a lower barrier to entry.
Community colleges have minimal admissions requirements, which makes it easy for students with GEDs or low GPAs to begin their higher education. Associate degree programs are often offered by community colleges, and the tuition is relatively cheap compared to university tuition for two-year associate degrees.
What Associate Degree Should I Get? Types of Associate Degrees
The type of associate degree you should get depends on the field you’re interested in studying and the skills you hope to learn. There are seven types of degrees, although not all of the degrees are offered by every two-year institution. Find out more about the different types of associate degrees below.
Top Benefits of an Associate Degree
The top benefit of an associate degree is that it allows you to pursue a bachelor’s degree or enter the job market and earn more than you would with just a high school diploma. Associate degrees also take less time to complete than bachelor’s degrees and are generally more affordable. Find out more about the top associate degree benefits below.
Continuing Education Options
Many people use an associate degree as a stepping stone to a bachelor’s degree. Admission requirements for associate degrees are less strict, and those with a GED or low GPA can begin their higher education with an associate program. After completing the program, they can transfer credits to a four-year university and pursue a bachelor’s degree.
Associate degree programs are most often provided by community colleges and public colleges. These institutions have low tuition rates, especially for students living in the district or state where the school is located. This is why it’s smart to get a two-year degree for transfer, where you can move your associate degree credits to a bachelor’s degree.
An associate degree holder has more job opportunities than someone with a high school diploma. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for people with a high school diploma is 6.2 percent vs 4.6 percent for those with an associate degree. There are many high-paying jobs available to associate degree holders.
Less Time to Graduate
Associate degree programs usually take two years to complete. An associate degree provides a foundation of knowledge in a specific field, which allows graduates to quickly move on to higher degrees or entry-level jobs.
Best Associate Degrees
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Associate Degree vs Bachelor’s Degree
One of the main differences between an associate degree vs a bachelor’s degree is the time commitment. An associate degree usually takes two to three years to complete, and a bachelor’s degree is a four-year program. An associate degree will take around 60 credits to complete, and a bachelor’s degree will take 120 credit hours.
Because bachelor’s degree programs are longer, they cover a wider and deeper area of knowledge. Associate degrees introduce students to core concepts, but bachelor’s degrees teach more advanced skills and concepts in a specific field.
Other key differences are that cost is lower and entry requirements are often more relaxed for associate degree programs. There usually isn’t a lengthy application process involving essays and references. Prerequisites at this degree level also don’t require students to have received good grades in high school or high standardized test scores.
Bachelor’s Degree vs Associate Degree: Key Differences
- Cost. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of one year of tuition and fees at a two-year institution is $3,377, and the average tuition and fees for one year at a four-year school are $16,647. This means the average cost of tuition and fees is $6,754 for an associate degree and $66,588 for a bachelor’s degree.
- Credits. A bachelor’s degree takes an average of 120 credits to complete. An associate degree takes an average of 60 credits to complete. This means you can get an associate degree in half of the time it takes to get a bachelor’s degree.
- Admission requirements. Most universities have stricter admission requirements for their bachelor’s degree programs, such as providing SAT/ACT scores, personal essays, a minimum GPA, and letters of recommendation. Many community colleges only require a high school diploma or GED and an online application.
- Depth of knowledge. Associate degrees are meant to either teach students the skills needed for a specific career or cover the same knowledge as the first two years of a four-year degree. Bachelor’s degrees are longer and therefore can dedicate more time to advanced topics and skills in a specific subject.
- Salary potential after graduation. Bachelor’s degree holders generally earn more than associate degree graduates. According to PayScale, professionals with bachelor’s degrees earn an average of $67,000 per year, while associate degree holders have an average salary of $57,000.
Can You Transfer Your Associate Degree to a Bachelor’s Degree?
Yes, you can transfer your associate degree to a bachelor’s degree. However, you will need to make sure that the university you applied to for your bachelor’s degree will accept the credits from your previous school. Many schools have specific bachelor’s degree completion programs for associate degree holders.
Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees
Best Bachelor’s Degrees
Most Popular Associate Degrees
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the three most popular fields for associate degree students are liberal arts and sciences, health professions, and business. Engineering and computer and information science are two other popular fields of study for college degrees. Listed below are some of the top programs related to these fields.
How to Get an Associate Degree Online
Community colleges and universities have developed the option to earn associate degrees through completely online programs. Online associate degrees are usually more flexible and can be pursued through full-time or part-time schedule options. Most online programs offer some courses asynchronously, so students can watch lectures when it’s most convenient for them.
Associate degrees are perfect stepping stones for those who want to achieve their bachelor’s, master’s, and even doctoral degrees. If you choose to pursue an associate degree online, consider if your online credits will transfer to a bachelor’s degree program, what the student support services are for online students, and if the skills you’ll learn align with your career goals.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate Degree Online?
It takes two years to get an associate degree online. Online associate degrees take around 60 credits to complete. Online degrees are often more flexible than in-person programs, so students can choose to study part-time and graduate in three years. Some schools also offer accelerated associate degrees that allow students to graduate in less than two years.
How Much Does an Online Associate Degree Cost?
An online associate degree costs between $100 and $450 per credit, based on the online associate degree programs listed below. Most associate degree programs take 60 credits to complete, so an associate degree will cost between $6,000 and $27,000.
Best Online Associate Degrees
What Is the Easiest Online Associate Degree to Get?
The easiest online associate degree to get is one that is offered completely online through an asynchronous format. This allows students to watch lectures at any time but assignments are still due on a set schedule. The online associate degrees listed below are all offered by schools that have platforms dedicated exclusively to online learning.
Easiest Online Associate Degrees
- Online Associate of Applied Science in Legal Support. This degree will prepare students for careers as paralegals. The program is offered by Purdue University Global, a branch of Purdue University dedicated to online education. There are support services for remote students to make studying online easier.
- Online Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts. This is a general liberal arts degree offered by the Florida Institute of Technology. Courses cover basic skills in writing, public speaking, and communication. It prepares students to transfer to a bachelor’s degree in any liberal arts subject.
- Online Associate of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies. Similar to a liberal arts degree, this is a degree that covers a range of general knowledge. The program is flexible and students take courses in general studies, math, and science. It’s offered 100 percent online by Cameron University.
Best Online Associate Degrees
The best online associate degrees prepare students for careers in a specific field or bachelor’s degrees at four-year universities. These degrees should offer student support and interactive learning opportunities, even if they are taught completely online. You can find everything from an Associate of Arts Degree to an Associate of Applied Science Degree.
What Can You Do With an Associate Degree?
With an associate degree, you can either transfer your credits to a bachelor’s degree program or enter the workforce immediately after graduating. There are tons of careers that only require an associate degree, and many Associate of Applied Science programs are considered terminal degrees that prepare students for a specific career.
Professionals with an associate degree can expect to earn significantly more than those who only have a high school diploma. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, associate degree holders earn $154 more per week than high school graduates.
Highest-Paying Associate Degree Jobs
|Associate Degree Job||Associate Degree Program||Average Salary|
|Air Traffic Controller||Associate Degree in Air Traffic (additional certifications required)||$129,570|
|Radiation Therapist||Associate of Degree in Radiation Therapy||$82,790|
|Dental Hygienist||Associate of Degree in Dental Hygiene||$77,810|
|Web Developer||Associate Degree in Web Development||$77,200|
|Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technician||Associate Degree in Electrical or Electronic Engineering Technology||$63,640|
|Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologist||Associate of Degree in Biology, Chemistry, or another healthcare and science-related field||$61,980|
|Respiratory Therapist||Associate Degree in Respiratory Therapy||$61,830|
|Occupational Therapy Assistant||Associate Degree in Occupational Therapy||$61,520|
|Funeral Service Manager||Associate Degree in Funeral Service or Mortuary Science||$58,900|
|Bookkeeping Clerk||Associate Degree in Accounting, Business, or Mathematics||$45,560|
Best-Paying Associate Degree Jobs: What Job Can I Get With an Associate Degree?
You can get many technical jobs with an associate degree, including respiratory therapist, bookkeeping clerk, and air traffic controller. There are many other entry-level jobs available to associate degree holders not included on this list, but the highest-paying associate degree jobs are usually available to those who have a relevant applied associate degree.
How to List an Associate Degree on Your Resume
You should list an associate degree on your resume in a section dedicated to your education. You only need to include the name of your degree, the school you attended, and the dates you were in college. You can also use this section of your resume to list any additional certificate or certification programs you’ve pursued after graduating.
Is an Associate Degree Worth It?
Yes, an associate degree is worth it, especially for those who are hesitant about taking the plunge into a traditional four-year program. You can graduate with an associate degree and pursue many fruitful careers in fields like data science, accounting, or software engineering. Many associate degree career paths have the potential to become high-earning positions.
Best College Certificate Programs
Associate Degree FAQ
An Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education is often considered one of the easiest associate degrees to get. The programs are usually project-based and focused on basic general education courses. Plus, if you’re someone who aspires to become a teacher, you may find the program easy to complete because of your dedication to your career path.
No, an associate degree is not equal to a bachelor’s degree. Associate degrees are lower-level degrees that can be completed in just two years. Bachelor’s degrees are four-year degrees that are more involved and cover more advanced subjects.
Two-year degrees are called associate degrees. Associate degrees are 60-credit programs offered at community colleges, junior colleges, and some universities. These two-year degrees may be used to transfer to a bachelor’s degree program at another school.
Yes, an associate degree is a real degree. As long as you are studying at an accredited school, the degree you receive is legitimate. Although an associate degree is not as advanced as a bachelor’s degree, it is still a real degree.
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