What is an Associate’s Degree? Associate’s Degree Definition


What is an Associate’s Degree? Definition…

 An associate’s degree is an undergraduate level course of study, normally taken following the completion of secondary schooling.

Above Associate’s Degree definition makes it clear that the aim of an associate’s degree is to provide students with basic technical and academic knowledge skills that are necessary to go on to direct employment or further studies in a particular field.

These degrees are commonly available in the US, but can also be found in other countries, including Canada, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Australia.  In the UK these courses are known as foundation degrees.

In the US, various institutions offer associate’s degrees, including community, junior and technical colleges, as well as colleges affiliated with universities.  Most associate’s degrees will take two years full-time to complete.

An associate’s degree prepares some students for a bachelor’s degree, and for others it will assist with their prospects of employment, rather than only completing secondary schooling. From the above explanation, you should understand what is an Associate’s Degree.  Now let’s see Bachelor Degree vs Associate Degree.

Bachelor Degree vs Associate Degree

 Both are considered to be undergraduate degrees, so both are available for students after they have completed their secondary education.  Postgraduate degrees are only available to students who have completed a bachelor’s degree.

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Which is the right one for you?

There are three major differences.

  1. Time – for both an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree there are a specific number of hours of study, or course credits required. This will depend on the institution. In the US an associate’s degree requires 60 credit hours, while a bachelor’s degree will take 120 credit hours which equates to about 4 years of full-time study.

Students choosing an associate’s degree can study part-time, taking a longer time to complete the requirements.  However, it is also possible to ‘fast-track’ this degree, working at a faster pace and studying through vacation time as well.

Some course credits from an associate’s degree can count towards a subsequent bachelor’s degree, meaning it will take a shorter amount of time to complete.

  1. Costs – the fees for an associate’s degree are generally lower, as the course takes less time to complete. It depends on the institution, but in most cases, it will be two or three times less than a bachelor’s degree. Other costs, such as accommodation will be less because of the shorter studying time required.
  2. Entry Requirements – these are generally less competitive for an associate’s degree and deadlines for admission are often later. An associate’s degree is a good alternative for students who are not eligible for entry into a bachelor’s degree.

Types of Associate’s Degrees

 Associate’s degrees include AA (Associate of Arts), AS (Associate of Science), AAA (Associate of Applied Arts) and AAS (Associate of Applied Science).  ‘Applied’ courses tend to focus on preparation for a particular career, and focus on more practical vocational skills, but the others are more for students who are moving onto a bachelor’s degree, with a focus on preparation for further academic studies.

Associate Degrees and Careers

 Careers will depend on the type of associate’s degree and the subject that is the major.  There are, however, relatively high-paying and highly skilled jobs that only require an associate’s degree.  These include air traffic controller, construction management, dental hygienist, various technicians, physical therapists and legal assistants.

A bachelor’s degree will probably open up more professional pathways.  It is worth checking to see if you do need a bachelor’s degree for your career of choice, particularly if high fees are involved.

It might surprise you to find how many skilled positions require only an associate’s degree.  In many cases, bachelor degrees are more academic than vocational degrees, and graduates may need additional professional training before starting in their chosen career.

Moving from an Associate’s Degree to a Bachelor’s Degree

 This move can be quite simple.  If your course credits are relevant and acceptable to the university’s bachelor’s degree you can transfer and join the bachelor’s degree with half completed. This is known as the 2 +2 format.

Before you start, research the institutions and their requirements carefully so you take the right classes and/or credit hours.  This will ensure you are able to transfer to the bachelor’s degree.

When is an Associate’s Degree a Good Option?

 There are many reasons to choose an associate degree.  It is a pathway that is speedy and cost-effective.  If your grades are not good enough, an associate’s degree is a pathway to a bachelor’s degree.

Perhaps, the most important consideration is your career choice and selecting the most appropriate degree for your purposes.  Researching the qualifications and skills required for your career choice is essential.


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