There are lots of possible reasons to choose an associate’s degree. You may want to enter the workplace more quickly and cost effectively. Or you may want to study a full bachelor’s degree but not have strong enough grades, or simply like the idea of paying lower tuition fees for a few years before transferring.
An Associate’s degree is often the perfect choice for those international students who are unsure or uncertain about certain aspects of their chosen career or educational future. An Associate’s degree often takes one or two years of study, which can be expanded to three or four years by transferring to a bachelor’s degree if this is available at your chosen institution.
What is an Associate Degree?
An associate’s degree is an academic program taken at the undergraduate level (the first stage after secondary school). It aims to give students the basic technical and academic knowledge and transferable skills they need to go on to employment or further study in their chosen field.
Associate’s degrees are most commonly offered in the US, but you’ll also find them in some parts of Canada, Hong Kong, Australia and the Netherlands. Other countries have similar programs but under a different name, such as foundation degrees in the UK.
Why should I opt for an Associate Degree?
There are many reasons why an associate’s degree can be a very beneficial degree to have. It’s also a great stepping stone to getting your four-year bachelor’s degree, and going on to further more intensive studies. It’s especially helpful to someone who doesn’t necessarily want to commit to spending the money it takes to attend a traditional four-year college, or for those who don’t know what they want to major in. Trying to get a two-year degree doesn’t require much of a time commitment, but you can always apply your two-year courses to most major universities if you decide you want to go that route later on, and get your bachelor’s degree.
For some students, an associate’s degree provides preparation for a bachelor’s degree, while for others it’s a qualification in its own right, helping to improve employment prospects compared to only having completed a secondary-level education.
You take all of your basic “core” courses like English and some Math, but then you move on to a more specific list of classes directly related to your degree. So if you are the type of student who is easily bored by the “core” classes that everyone has to take, you’ll get to the more interesting classes related to your career sooner. For someone who doesn’t want to commit to a four-year college, an associate’s degree might be a smart choice. Two years is pretty quick, and you’ll have a valuable degree in your field in no time flat. You just have to decide what’s right for you time-wise.You can also take into consideration that the average cost of a two-year degree is much less than a four-year degree. So not only is it more cost-effective, but it will take less time if you are a full-time student. Factor in living costs, books each semester, and other incidental expenses while you attend school, and it just keeps adding up, so it does save you a whole bunch of money to be done in only two year’s time.
The Difference Between an Associate’s and a Bachelor’s
The main difference between an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree is that an associate’s degree is what you receive after completing 60 credit hours of college, whereas a bachelor’s degree is what you receive after completing 120 credit hours of college. Both can be completed at your own pace, but in general, a bachelor’s degree credit hours are higher and take two more years to earn than an associate’s degree.
There’s no doubt that while you can certainly get a decent job with an associate’s degree (an associate’s degree may actually be better aligned to your career path), that a bachelor’s degree usually leads to higher-paying jobs and more opportunities. Also, some students prefer the experience that comes with attending a four-year school versus the experience that comes with attending a two-year school. Though, sometimes, people like the flexibility that comes with attending a community college. It all depends on what kind of student you’re, what type of college experience you want to have, what your career goals are and how much money you’re looking to spend on your education overall.
How Long Does it Take to Get an Associate’s Degree?
In general, an associate’s degree only takes two years if you’re attending school full-time. However, in many cases, students that are attending community college are also working a part-time or full-time job on the side, so they may choose to pursue their associate’s degree only part-time, which will, of course, take a little bit longer. Sometimes, it can even take up to four years. Additionally, some students who do attend a four-year college may have the option of getting both their associate’s and their bachelor’s during their time at school. Once they get their associate’s, they can usually start working somewhere related to their field, which is a great way to get a foot in the door in the meantime.
What Courses are Required for an Associate’s?
In general, an associate’s degree is earned after taking a certain number of courses in different areas. That being said, depending on what field you’re focused on and which degree you’re trying to earn (for example, an Associate’s in Arts, Associate’s in Science, Associate’s in Applied Science), your courses may vary a little bit. The objective of an associate’s degree is to provide the student with the basic knowledge and technical skills that they can transfer to employment or use to continue on with their education, and typically, these are referred to as “general education” or “gen-ed” courses.
The main focus of your associate’s program will be courses in the core areas: communication, social sciences, humanities and natural sciences and mathematics. Some students, such as those who are pursuing an associate’s degree in applied sciences, will sometimes take a fewer number of credits in the core areas and more credits in a technical area. If you pursue a bachelor’s degree, you’ll have to take these gen-eds at some point as well.
Where to Get an Associate Degree
Today, there are many places to enroll in a program to obtain your associate’s degree. Community colleges, technical schools, junior colleges, affiliated branches of colleges and universities and even some four-year institutions offer associate degree programs. Of course, you can also get an associate’s degree online, as many colleges offer distance learning programs. Or you can do a mix of on-site and distance learning classes.
How to Transfer from an Associate’s to Bachelor’s
Perhaps after attending a two-year school and getting your associate’s, you’re interested in switching over to a four-year school and getting your bachelor’s degree. People do this all the time, and it’s a rather common practice. In order to do this, you’ll just need to make sure that your 60 credit hours earned in your associate program can be transferred over to the four-year university that you want to attend.
If this is something you have in mind before even getting your associate’s, then you should make sure that you take courses in something that’s relevant to your prospective bachelor’s program. This is because when it’s time to declare your major, many four-year colleges will want to see that you already have some background in the field of study you’re interested in pursuing. If you don’t have the specific course background required, then you may need to take additional classes before applying again, or once you get accepted.
Potential Associate’s Degree Jobs
An associate’s degree is still an amazing achievement and can certainly help you out job-wise, even if you never continue with your education thereafter. There are many different industries that are eager to hire someone with an associate’s degree:
- Construction management
- Dental hygienist
- Air traffic controller
- Administrative assistant
- Legal assistant
- Human services
- Web Design
- Paraprofessional/Teacher’s aide
- Accounting and auditing clerk
- Sales manager
Though every hiring manager is different, it’s likely that your chances of getting one of these jobs after obtaining an associate’s degree are much higher than without one. That being said, you’ll still likely need to go through a series of training courses before starting the associate degree jobs.
What to Consider Before Enrolling in an Associate’s Program
Before enrolling in an associate program (especially if you’re considering it over a bachelor’s program), there are several things you should consider. First and foremost, pursuing a degree of any kind, including an associate’s degree, takes a lot of time an effort. Even if you can take your time getting through the program, you should keep in mind the hard work that goes into obtaining the degree. It doesn’t come easily, and if there’s even a slight chance you may go on to a bachelor’s program afterwards, you must do your best to get the highest grades that you can. Additionally, it’s important to remember that an associate’s degree, while certainly cheaper than a bachelor’s, still costs money. It’s necessary to look into all the expenses associated with getting your associate’s degree before enrolling at a community college.