While most people have heard of bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and Ph.D.s, associates can be a little confusing. Many people ask themselves “what is an associates degree?”
Fear not, as there is nothing complicated about the concept. In this guide we will explain what you need to know in the following lines.
Associates degree definition
An associate degree is an undergraduate program available at colleges and universities over a two-year period. It aims to provide students with skills applicable in the work field or help them get prepared for further higher education.
A little information
Associate degrees are most often encountered in the US (one of the reasons some people have little knowledge of them), but there are other countries applying the same concept, sometimes under a different name.
In the US, associate degrees can be usually earned at community colleges, technical colleges, vocational schools, and colleges. Sometimes, these are a complete qualification that will allow those graduating to begin working in their field, while other times it allows them to prepare for a bachelor’s degree that takes in consideration their previous credits.
What is an AA degree? What about an AS one?
An AA is an Associate of Arts degree. As the name suggests, it is aimed at students of liberal arts. It generally prepares for a four-year program at college or university - this degree’s primary goal is to provide students with a foundational education that they can later expand on. Subjects covered can be humanities, social sciences, history, and mathematics, to name a few. While associates in arts can provide students with skills applicable when employed, it should be generally thought of as a transitional step into a bachelor’s.
An AS, on the other hand, is Associate of Science degree. It is aimed at those preparing to follow a four-year Science program at a college or university. The AS degree will not have a specific major and will simply be considered a degree in Science. Some examples of subjects covered are engineering, biology, and chemistry, among others.
Differences between bachelor’s and associate’s degrees
While both bachelor’s and associate’s degrees are considered undergraduate degrees, there are some significant differences, some of which we already mentioned. Here are a few of them according to the detailed reviews.
As previously stated, the duration is one of the first differences that you will notice. Most associate’s degrees take two years to complete, while bachelor’s vary from 3 to 7 years (depending on the institution and academic discipline chosen). On average, the bachelor’s duration is four years, taking twice as much as your regular associate’s.
Associate’s degrees, however, can have relevant course credits transferred towards bachelor, helping shorten the latter’s duration. Many universities offer the possibility of starting the bachelor’s program at its half point (2 years), provided that there are enough courses in the associate’s degree that will cover what the bachelor’s aims for in its first years. In this case, you can get both degrees in 4 years.
As it would be expected, associate’s degrees are significantly cheaper, making it some of the most affordable choices when it comes to higher education. Costs vary with each institution and program followed, but you can expect to pay two or three times less than for a bachelor’s degree. Seeing how its duration is shorter, and the difficulty is lower, it generally provides a good start for graduates of secondary education.
Both entry and following requirements are much lower for associate’s than for bachelor’s degrees. This is because the associate’s programs aim to establish a foundation containing essential knowledge, while further studies move on to more advanced skills. Associate’s programs are very useful as a starting point for those who didn’t manage to get grades that will qualify them directly for a bachelor’s but don’t want to give up on that chance.
Why aim for an associate’s degree?
An associate’s degree is a sound choice for many reasons. It can allow students to join the workforce faster and for lower costs. It can help those who didn’t qualify through grades earn a second chance at a bachelor’s degree.
Since there are jobs that only require an associate’s degree (you need to do specific research for your area and educational background), this type of program is quite a safe choice. It opens doors in both your professional and academic life.