What is an Associate Degree?

When you think about college degrees, you probably think of bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Even though about 1.2 million people in the United States have associate degrees, the option of getting one may not automatically come to mind. Here’s your go-to guide for everything you need to know about associate degrees. 

What is an associate degree?

An associate degree is a two-year degree at the undergraduate level. It can be obtained through online colleges, community colleges, and junior colleges. Think of an associate degree as the in-between of a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree. After obtaining an associate degree, some students go on to earn their bachelor’s degree, but a lot choose not to. There are many reasons students may choose to earn an associate degree instead of earning a bachelor’s degree, such as:

  • Cost: It is generally less expensive in terms of tuition to earn an associate degree. According to the College Board, it costs, on average, $7,600 to earn an associate degree. That can be fairly affordable compared to the average price of tuition for a bachelor’s degree, which is $102,828.
  • Time: Completing course requirements to earn an associate degree takes two years. A bachelor’s degree, on the other hand, takes about four years to complete. This is appealing to many students, especially those who are working or are only part-time students.

What are the different types of associate degrees?

Similar to bachelor’s degrees, there are a few different types of associate degrees that you can earn.

  • Associate of Arts (AA): This type of associate degree is focused on programs such as humanities, arts, history, and social and behavioral sciences. Jobs you can get with this type of degree include art director, graphic designer, web developer, and production manager.
  • Associate of Science (AS): An associate of science degree is typically focused on math, technology, business, and engineering. Jobs you can get with this type of degree include cardiovascular technologist, architectural drafter, and occupational therapy assistant.
  • Associate of Applied Science (AS): Programs in applied science include hospitality management, paralegal studies, and law enforcement. Jobs you can get with this type of degree include veterinary technologist, radiologic technologist, and medical sonographer.

What can you do with an associate degree?

When you complete an associate degree, you have two options. You may choose to further your education by getting a bachelor degree, or you may choose to enter the workforce. 

Earn your bachelor degree

Many students choose to further their education and earn their bachelors at a four-year university. This is a great option for students who want to pursue a career that requires a bachelor’s degree. Of course, it will cost more for you to earn your bachelor’s degree, but if it is required for your future career, it is worth it. In fact, there are many reasons to earn a bachelor’s degree, such as:

  • More job opportunities
  • Make more money
  • Pursue your passion
  • Learn your skills
  • Personal growth

If any of these benefits sound more aligned with your career goals, then you may want to consider furthering your education.

Pursue your career

After getting an associate degree, many graduates choose to enter the workforce. There are many job opportunities you can pursue with your associate degree. Depending on the type of associate degree you earn, here are a few jobs you may be qualified for:

  • Dental technician
  • Paralegal
  • Court reporter
  • Ultrasound technician
  • Web developer
  • Real estate agent
  • Registered nurse

Many jobs that require an associate degree have a median salary of at least $40,000 and are expected to grow at an average rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What’s the right degree for me?

It’s important to assess your goals when determining what kind of degree you should pursue. As a student, you should always do your due diligence so you can create an academic plan tailored to your goals. Getting a degree–no matter what kind–is a big decision. It’s always a good idea to talk to your academic advisor to know what options are best for you. You can also call one of Operation Graduate’s Graduation Specialists to learn more about all your different options when it comes to schools, academic programs, and degree options.