There are many reasons why you might pursue an associate’s degree. For one, it can be a great stepping stone to getting your four-year bachelor’s degree and going on to further, more intensive studies.
It’s also much more affordable than a four-year college. Plus, for high school students who don’t know what they want to major in, an associate degree can provide time to explore potential career paths. You can usually apply your two-year associate’s degree courses to major universities if you decide you want to go that route later on.
Whether you want to get your bachelor’s degree someday but aren’t yet ready, or your career goals only require an associate’s degree, here’s an overview of this degree and how it can help you.
What Is an Associate Degree?
A typical associate’s degree only takes about two years to obtain if you are a full-time student. For some people already in the workforce, trying to get an associate’s degree might take a little longer as a part-time student. Regardless, you’ll need a high school diploma to apply (or the equivalent).
Either way, it’s usually about 90 credit hours in total. You take all of your core courses like English and math but then you move on to a more specific list of classes directly related to your degree.
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.
Associate Degree vs. Bachelor’s Degree
For someone who doesn’t want to commit to a four-year college, an associate degree might be a smart choice.
Two years is pretty quick, and you’ll have a valuable degree in your field in no time. 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. Tuition rates for associate degrees are often much lower than those for bachelor’s degrees, especially when they’re online. You can still get financial aid for your associate degree — simply fill out the FAFSA form by the deadline.
The typical cost of getting a bachelor’s degree per year is $9,000 for a state school and $30,000 for a private school. Associate degrees cost a fraction of that to complete, with an average cost of $3,570 per year at a state school and $14,587 at a private school. 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 years’ time.
Where To Get An Associates Degree
Associate degree programs are usually offered by community colleges, online schools, and technical colleges. Four-year universities will sometimes offer an associate degree path but not all of them do.
Today, many associate programs are offered online, making it easy to get your two-year degree from the comfort of your own space and at the convenience of your own schedule.
For parents of small children, online associate degree programs might be a good option because it allows you to do some work at home. Online students may have more flexibility around when they take courses for their two-year program, whether that’s in the evening or on the weekends.
It’s always a bit of a juggling act trying to raise a family and get your degree at the same time, but there are ways to do it. Online colleges are realizing this, and taking the steps to help students complete their degrees part-time when they can.
For example, many online schools have expanded options for how students can engage with material, when they take courses, and how long they can continue studying.
Types of Associate Degree Programs
An associate program typically offers degrees in these programs:
- Liberal arts
- Business management
- Computer sciences
- Culinary arts
- Paralegal studies
- Trade skills
- Healthcare and health sciences
- Information technology (IT)
There are many more to choose from, so it’s important to explore all coursework and degrees available to you. What fields do you find interesting? Asking this question will help you find a career that’s rewarding to work in.
Associate Degree Career Paths
It’s a myth that you can’t make a great living just having an associate degree. There are many lucrative careers that you can choose from with your two-year degree. And while a potential salary shouldn’t be the only thing you consider when choosing a career, it’s still important to consider future earnings when picking a major.
Bachelor’s degrees can even add up to over $100,000 of debt! That’s pretty scary, so not only is it more financially feasible to get a two-year degree, but you might make more money after.
For example, if you want to be in the healthcare field, two of your many choices are to be a nurse or dental hygienist.
An Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in nursing can make you upwards of $62,000 on average each year. A dental hygienist with an Associate of Science degree makes a similar salary.
What about some of the trade jobs like construction management? You make $75,000 a year on average. Computer engineers are also high on the list with earnings around $78,000.
If you’re interested in an Associate of Arts (AA) degree, you can earn a decent living in science, business, and humanities. For example, someone with an AA degree can become a wind turbine technician and make a median salary of $48,000 per year. An Associate of Arts degree can also help you pursue a career as a preschool teacher, graphic designer, executive assistant, or criminal justice expert.
Whether you pursue social sciences or the arts, it’s possible to make a substantial living with an associate degree.
Here’s a list of other possible careers that you can pursue with an associate degree from a community college:
- Massage therapist
- Business administration specialist
- Human resource manager
- Court reporter
- Computer programmer
- Early childhood educator
- Web developer
- Air traffic controller
- Emergency medical technician
- Landscape designer
- Medical assistant
- Veterinary technician
That’s just a small sampling of possible jobs to obtain with just a two-year degree. If you’re not sure exactly what you want to pursue, you can always take general education classes at first. Then, you can apply these general studies classes to transfer credits at a bachelor’s degree program later on.
Get Your College Degree in Two Years
An associate degree can afford you the opportunity to get a well-paying job in a shorter amount of time. Associate degree holders have the opportunity to pursue a range of higher education opportunities after graduation, including a bachelor’s and a master’s degree.
If an associate degree feels right for you, call your local community college, state university, or vocational school to find out how you can get started on your road to job success. Check out this list of some of the highest paying college majors to help you decide what to major in.