Thinking of Getting an Associate’s Degree? Here’s What You Need to Know

Thinking of Getting an Associate’s Degree? Here’s What You Need to Know

Furthering your education can provide you with a more significant amount of job opportunities and financial security, and help you get into an industry you love. An associate’s degree is a post-secondary education degree that can be completed faster and for less money than a bachelor’s or master’s degree. These degrees can be earned through technical colleges, community colleges, and vocational schools.

For many adults, an associate’s degree is the first step toward furthering education and, ultimately, a career path. After you get an associate degree, you may consider continuing your education and using your degree towards a bachelor’s.

The Benefits of an Associate’s Degree

Getting an associate’s degree provides a variety of benefits, including:

  • Increased access to job opportunities. Earning a degree will increase the number of jobs that you qualify for. Many industries and career paths require at least an associate’s degree.
  • Reduced unemployment rate. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, adults who have completed a degree program have a lower unemployment rate than adults who haven’t.
  • Increased earning potential. Average earnings for holders of an associate’s degree are higher than those who only have some college education (but no degree) or none at all.

Types of Associate’s Degrees

There are many types of associate’s degrees, including:

  • Associate of Science (AS)
  • Associate of Arts (AA)
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS)
  • Associate of Applied Business (AAB)
  • Associate of Applied Technology (AAT)
  • Associate of Electronics (AE)
  • Associate of Electrical Engineering Technology (AEET)
  • Associate of General Studies (AGS)
  • Associate of Industrial Technology (AIT)
  • Associate of Nursing (AN)
  • Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN)
  • Associate of Science in Computer Assisted Design (AS-CAD)
  • Associate of Technology (AT)

The type of degree that is best for you will depend on your career goals. If you intend to pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree program, typically, an AS or AA may be the best option. These degree options focus more on the general curriculum included in a bachelor’s degree program, making it easier to transfer credits to a four-year university or college where you can pursue the bachelor’s.

Other common degrees, including various forms of the IT associate’s degree, focus more on coursework directly related to a desired career field. In many cases, they better prepare students for employment immediately after graduation rather than putting them on a path toward a bachelor’s or master’s degree program.

Learn About Associate Degrees That Pay Well

There are several associate degrees that pay well, in the sense that you can get high-paying jobs where only an associate’s degree is required. Some of the highest-paying careers that require an associate’s degree are as follows:

  • Radiation therapy
  • Software engineering
  • Project management
  • Applied computer science
  • Network engineering
  • Occupational health and safety
  • Nuclear medicine
  • Electrical and computer engineering
  • Physician assistant studies

How long does it take to get an associate’s degree?

Regarding associate degree years for completion, it generally takes around two years of study. In most cases, these degree programs require you to complete 60 semester credit hours. This is generally about 20 college classes. However, the number of credit hours you need can vary by the degree program you pursue.

Within these required credit hours, you must complete courses related to:

  • General education
  • Major of study-specific curriculum 
  • Electives

General education courses include subjects like math, science, and language, and electives are topics that you choose to take because they interest you. Classes that are related to your major vary depending on what your major of study is. You will need to complete a specified amount of credit hours in each of these categories to earn your degree.

How long it takes to get an associate’s degree will depend on how quickly you complete the required credit hours. Some students can earn their degree more quickly by taking on more classes each semester, while others may take longer than the two-year average by attending school part-time. In some cases, you may be able to “CLEP (College Level Examination Preparation) out” of some of the required courses, earning credit hours without having to complete the associated class if you pass a specific exam.

How much does it cost to get an associate’s degree?

When considering whether or not to get an associate’s degree, the cost is often a driving factor. The cost of education has increased tremendously over the years. On average as of 2018, two-year institutions cost students around $10,704, and four-year institutions cost about $27,357. These numbers are seen as going up, though.

However, costs can vary widely between institutions. Therefore, it’s essential that you learn more about the cost of education for any college, university, community college, or other educational institution that you are considering before you enroll.

Can you earn an associate’s degree online?

Earning an associate’s degree online has become more popular in recent years. Accredited online degree programs are a great way to complete a degree from the comfort of your own home. Online degree programs offer many benefits, including:

  • Greater flexibility,
  • The ability to attend classes through a college that is out of state, and
  • Some programs offer accelerated courses to help you earn a degree faster. 

Can you use an associate’s degree to earn a bachelor’s degree?

Depending on the associate’s degree you earn, you may be able to transfer your approved credits towards a bachelor’s degree program at a four-year university or college. It’s important to consider whether you intend to earn a bachelor’s degree when choosing your associate’s degree program.

Getting an associate’s degree before pursuing a bachelor’s degree program may save you money on the cost of education, especially if you earn your initial degree from a community college, which is often a cheaper option.

How to Receive an Associate’s Degree & Graduate

To receive an associate’s degree, you will first need to be accepted into an educational institution and complete the coursework required for your degree. You can work with a guidance counselor at your school to make sure that you know the necessary courses to complete to earn your degree.

Once you have completed your courses, you must apply for a degree through your school. The ways that you can apply vary by the educational institution. Some degree programs will also require you to complete a final project or portfolio in addition to the required curriculum. This project or portfolio must be completed on time for you to graduate on time.