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Education

What Can You Do With An Associate’s Degree

By David Krug 11 minute read

The quickest and least expensive route to a degree is through an associate’s program. It’s possible to earn a bachelor’s degree in just two years and get a job right away. The financial burden of obtaining a bachelor’s degree may be too much for you to bear. 

To complete your bachelor’s degree, you may first acquire an associate’s degree from a small but reasonably priced college and then transfer your credits to a larger but more well-known institution. In the face of such conditions, many students choose associate’s degrees.

Since 1898, associate’s degrees have become a popular option in the United States. An astounding 6% of Americans, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, have at least an associate’s degree.

That’s the same number of people who have earned a master’s degree! Some 24 percent of American adults have bachelor’s degrees or above, while many started with an associate’s degree before moving on to a bachelor’s or higher.

What’s the allure here? Earning an associate’s degree is doable. They typically take two years to complete and can be achieved at community colleges, vocational institutions, and even online.

As a result, many associate’s degree programs are tailored to the needs of working people looking for an affordable and time-saving alternative to four-year bachelor’s degrees.

The benefits of completing an associate’s degree are substantial for those who do so. According to the most current survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, associate’s degree jobs paid an average pay of $58,240 in 2013.

Construction managers, for example, get an average salary of $83,860 a year, while radiation therapists make $74,980 on the annual salary scale. And the advantages don’t end there. 

Having a college degree has been shown to improve one’s health, happiness, and civic participation. Students are more likely to purchase a home, join a union, and make contributions to a 401(k) plan (k). Students who complete an associate’s degree will be able to take advantage of these numerous advantages.

What Does an Associate Degree Entail?

In the United States, associate’s degrees are awarded to students who have completed two years of college. An associate’s degree program can be pursued by anybody who has earned a GED or a high school diploma.

60 college credits, or around 20 classes, are required in order to graduate from college. Nursing, design, or business administration are examples of fields of study where an associate’s degree can be obtained.

Occupational specialization or transfer specialization are two options for associate’s degrees. Those looking to jumpstart their careers without investing a lot of time and money in their education might benefit from an occupationally oriented degree.

They’re designed to help people learn the abilities they’ll need to get a job at the entry-level of a certain profession. Those who plan to transfer to a four-year university and pursue a bachelor’s degree do so through a transfer program.

These two-year associate’s degrees can be used as the first two years of a four-year bachelor’s degree program, thus they have some worth on their own in the workforce.

A bachelor’s degree can be achieved by completing two more years of education at a four-year institution or university after graduating from an associate’s degree program with a transfer focus typically at a community college. They will be able to enter the workforce with a better beginning wage and job title if they have a bachelor’s degree.

The majority of associate’s degree majors allow students to fulfill many of the humanities requirements such as writing, literature, and sociology for a conventional bachelor’s degree program.

As a result, they are able to concentrate on their bachelor’s degree requirements in their last two years of college. Students that pursue this route often major in Liberal Arts or General Studies at the two-year college level.

These are some of the most popular associate degree programs. Registered nursing, business, and criminal justice are additional well-paying and in-demand majors that are also popular.

Types of Associate Degree

Since every student has different interests, there are a variety of ways to earn an associate’s degree. An associate’s degree can be obtained in a variety of ways, including through a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or a doctoral degree (A.A.S.).

Degrees of the Associate of Arts (A.A.)

Humanities, arts, and social science majors are the most likely to get this form of associate’s degree. 

The following are some examples of students that are majoring in AA:

  • General Studies
  • Psychology
  • Graphic Design
  • English

People who want to go on to acquire a bachelor’s degree in the same field typically seek an Associate of Arts degree at a two-year institution.

Most bachelor’s degree program consists of liberal arts courses, which generally account for 45 of the 60 credits needed to graduate from liberal arts courses.

A.S. (Associate of Science) Degrees

Associate’s degrees in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) are the most frequent. 

AS majors include, among others:

  • Nursing
  • Criminal Justice
  • Business Administration
  • Computer Science

To pursue a bachelor’s degree in a related STEM field, some students take an AS in that field. Many technical vocations, such as Medical Records Technology, Administrative Assistants, and Nursing, require only an Associate of Science (AS) degree to get started.

Degrees in the Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.)

Vocational degrees are the most frequent sort of associate’s degree. A sampling of AS majors is as follows:

  • Web Design
  • Paralegal Studies
  • Dental Hygiene
  • Veterinary Technology

This form of associate’s degree, in contrast to an A.A. or A.S., is not intended for students who want to transfer to a four-year institution in the future. As a result, an AAS is designed to teach students the abilities they need to succeed in their chosen field following graduation. 

A.A.S. programs tend to be hands-on and teach the specific up-to-date technological abilities that companies are searching for.

How Long Does It Take to Receive an Associate Degree?

On a full-time basis, earning an associate’s degree typically takes two years. It is, in reality, a two-year degree. Because of the speed of coursework, many students require three or more years to acquire a degree.

It’s not uncommon for students to take a break from school to take care of family or employment obligations, then resume their studies at a more convenient time when they are ready. Full-time and part-time enrolment is also widespread, and it has even been linked to improved outcomes in the long run.

A recent study indicated that adult students returning to school were more likely to complete their associate’s degree if they moved between full-time and part-time sessions, probably because this flexible strategy allowed them to continue in school without stopping entirely.

An associate’s degree is desirable in part because it allows students to enter the job with a degree that is relevant to their field of study in only a few years. For students who want to get their foot in the door quickly, certain colleges offer accelerated associate’s degree programs. 

Faster than two years, an accelerated associate degree program features a more rigorous course load that can be completed in as little as 18 months under certain circumstances.

Where Can I Earn an Associate of Arts?

At community colleges, vocational schools, technical colleges, and some colleges and universities, associate degrees are given. At least some of the funding for community colleges comes from local governments, as they are junior colleges.

Commuters can save money by attending community institutions, which are non-residential and allow students to live off-campus while attending school. There are several articulation agreements between two-year and four-year colleges and universities.

Students can easily transfer their credits toward a bachelor’s degree in the same major without having to go through a complicated process including transcripts and verifying course equivalencies under these official arrangements.

Many individuals prefer to acquire an associate’s degree online as an alternative to going to school. More and more students, particularly non-traditional students, are choosing this route to higher education.

Students used to go straight to college after high school and work full-time to pay their way through the education they received there. 

Today’s college students, on the other hand, appear to be rather different. 40 percent of the population is at least 25 years old, 51 percent are working, and 15 percent are even single parents. As many as 37 percent of students take part-time sessions, and the majority prefer the most flexible and convenient option. 

If you’re a working adult, you’ll appreciate the convenience of online classes since they allow you to access course materials and assignments whenever and wherever you choose, from the comfort of your own home.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that more students enrolled in online seminars were seeking associate’s degrees than any other degree level. An online associate’s degree from a recognized school has the same value as a traditional brick-and-mortar one.

In addition, many online colleges have articulation agreements with four-year universities, so you may easily transfer credits from an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree at a participating school.

Regardless of where you decide to go to school, make sure that the institution is accredited. Basically, accreditation is an impartial evaluation of a school’s teaching, curriculum, class numbers, and other metrics against a set of quality criteria that might be undertaken regionally or nationally. 

As a result of the arduous procedure involved in earning accreditation, recognized schools’ associate’s degrees are held in higher regard by employers than degrees obtained from unaccredited schools.

How Much Does an Associate’s Degree Cost to Earn?

An associate’s degree is the most affordable college degree since it is the shortest degree available. As you might expect, the price of an associate’s degree varies greatly from one institution to the next.

Many students pursuing an associate degree are enrolled at community institutions. One year’s worth of schooling at a two-year college or university costs, on average, about $11,432 according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. 

Costs for two-year public and private schools range from $9,939 to $24,367. It’s not just about where you are. Many people seeking an associate’s degree opt to attend a local community college in order to save money on their education.

The cost of in-state tuition at a community college is roughly $5,500, with an additional $1,500 expected for transportation, books, and fees.

If you wish to go on to earn a bachelor’s degree, your community college probably has an articulation agreement with a state university, which means you may take advantage of substantially lower in-state tuition.

Aside from the savings on tuition and fees, several online colleges provide free e-textbooks, lowering the overall cost of attendance. Additionally, several online associate’s degree programs provide flat-rate tuition.

Instead of paying per class, students pay a flat fee every semester, regardless of how many classes they enroll in or finish. By completing more classes in a shorter period of time, students may save money and time.

What are Credentials That Can Be Stackable?

As a first step toward a bachelor’s degree, many students pursue an associate’s degree. There are several advantages to this method.

Having an associate’s degree helps individuals to get a better job while completing their bachelor’s degree part-time, transfer from a 2-year to a 4-year institution, or go back to school for another degree later on say after their children are in school.

In an associate’s degree program with Stackable Credentials, the same methodology and advantages may be seen. To acquire an associate’s degree under the stacking credentials model, students first complete a technical diploma or certificate. 

Students benefit from gaining a meaningful certificate fast, which can be used in the industry and provides them with the drive to continue their studies.

It was discovered in a controlled experiment that students in an A.A.S. program who also received an embedded technical diploma were more likely to complete their associate’s degree.

Are Prior Credits Acceptable Towards an Associate’s Degree?

You’re not the only one with college credits but no diploma. One in every fourteen Americans, according to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2000, has taken at least one year of college coursework but has no college diploma.

Another 7% have attended college courses, but have less than a year under their belt. According to a Forbes poll, the most common reason individuals drop out of college is because of the expense. It’s also typical to be pushed to the limit by job and family commitments.

The average wage for positions needing “some college but no degree,” according to the BLS’s 2013 study, was $29,100.

Comparing the average salary for occupations needing an associate’s degree with college experience and a college degree, it’s evident that the gap is significant. There are many students who, for various reasons, cannot finish their degrees and return to school to complete them.

If you’re thinking about returning to school to finish your associate’s degree, check out the transfer policies at your desired institution.

Ensure that the credits you’ve spent time and money on will be accepted at your new school and match the requirements for your major. 

Transfer credits aren’t automatically counted merely because a class at one institution bears a similar name to a class at another. Check if the prerequisites for an associate’s degree haven’t changed if you’re going back to the same institution where you started your degree.

Colleges frequently alter or add prerequisites for their programs. Special attention should be paid to the skills taught in technical programs, which must keep pace with industry demands.

How Much Can I Earn with an Associate’s Degree?

When it comes to the median wage for employees needing an associate’s degree, the BLS determined that it was $58,240 in 2013.

For a 40-year career, that works out to a total of $2,329,600 Earnings for someone with only high school graduation might be as low as $35,580 per year. It would cost you $1,423,200 over the course of 40 years in the workforce.

In fact, that number does not convey the full picture. BLS data from 2013 shows that an associate’s degree leads to a median annual salary of $68,190 for those who pursue a bachelor’s degree. Having an associate’s degree can help you make more money if you go on to get a bachelor’s degree.

Another component of the puzzle is your academic discipline. In high-growth technical industries like healthcare, energy, and IT, associate’s degree majors tend to have the best return on investment (ROI).

When it comes to these kinds of positions, having an appropriate skill set is critical. More on-the-job training is common in these types of positions, and you may want to consider getting additional certifications in the future to boost your marketability even further.

An associate’s degree may land you a job as an air traffic controller, a general/operations manager, or a construction manager, according to BLS statistics.

Air traffic controllers make $108,040 per year. Six out of the ten highest-paying occupations for those with an associate’s degree are in the healthcare sector, making this a lucrative industry to enter with only an associate’s degree.

What are the career prospects for an Associate’s degree holder?

As of 2013, 4.3 percent of employment in the United States needed an associate’s degree, resulting in 5,719,860 job openings.

A bachelor’s degree is required for most employment in Massachusetts, Vermont, South Dakota, and West Virginia, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Additionally, the unemployment rate for people with an associate’s degree is lower than the national average, at 3.8 percent.

Jobs in technology and healthcare are now experiencing the greatest growth. People with an associate’s degree, especially those who completed an occupational-focused program, will be pleased to hear this news.

An associate’s degree program that focuses on a certain industry will help you land some of the most sought-after positions in these sectors. It’s not required to have a bachelor’s degree in critical thinking and liberal arts in this industry. 

High-growth, high-paying, and well-respected occupations like that of a phlebotomist, turbine service technician, and X-ray technician may be obtained with an associate’s degree.

As reported by the BLS, professions such as diagnostic medical sonographer, paralegal, and radiation therapist are among the most rapidly expanding for persons with an associate’s degree with a growth rate of 13 percent.

In order to recruit and keep talented employees in these fast-growing sectors, firms are willing to pay a premium for these positions.

David Krug

Author