An associate’s degree is a two-year post-secondary degree. Students who pursue this kind of degree full-time can complete a program in as little as two years— though many choose to go at their own pace. An associate degree translates into the first two years of a bachelor’s degree (freshman and sophomore years).

Associate’s degrees have been popular for the last twenty years. Increasingly, people are turning to associate’s as a quicker, less expensive route to career change than the traditional bachelor’s or four-year degree.

Some occupations require workers to have a least “some college” in their educational background, in which case, an associate degree is a perfect fit. Other employers simply require employees to have an associate degree and have it listed as an essential job qualification.

Associates Degree Overview

An associate degree takes half as long, and therefore generally costs half as much, as a traditional four-year bachelor degree. Many community colleges offer low-cost associate degree programs. Community college can be a cheaper, more flexible and less time-consuming way to pursue this kind of program. Other institutions that offer associate programs include: junior colleges, technical and vocational schools, affiliated colleges of universities and universities. 

However, it is important to note that there is a stigma attached to community college degrees. Many employers and hiring managers have earned bachelor-level degrees from traditional four-year colleges and, therefore, look for potential employees with similar educational backgrounds.

With that said, earning an associate’s can also convey that an individual can pursue continuing education while maintaining other responsibilities. This is important in the modern workforce considering the rapid evolution associated with technology and the changing ebb and flow of the work day. 

Of course, when considering a potential employee with a high school diploma vs. college degree, the individual with the most education is generally shown preference. Similarly, when comparing a potential employee with an associate vs. bachelor, the latter generally is preferred. 

Keeping up with trends and developments in your field via continuing education is a sure way to catch the attention of current and potential employers. 

Many people decide to earn an associate degree while maintaining a career and later choose to continue their education in a bachelor-level program. This level of degree is dedicated to vocationally-specific skills and knowledge. An associate’s is considered the first stage of post-secondary education. 

An articulation agreement is the bridge between an associate’s and a bachelor’s degree. Many four-year institutions offer articulation agreements to community college and online college students. 

The articulation agreement is a guarantee that a student will be able to complete their bachelor’s degree (at a later time) at a larger college or university, if they meet the stipulations and rules of the agreement. These stipulations generally concern course requirements. 

Articulation agreements are a great way for a person to earn their associate degree and start their career before committing to a bachelor’s program. Liberty University is one such university that offers many accredited online associate degree options that seamlessly transfer into their bachelor’s programs.

Types of Associate Degrees

When deciding what kind of degree you may need, there are many factors to consider. What kind of job are you looking for? What kind of degree requirements are needed for entry-level jobs in that field? Is it a job that requires more science and math-based skills and knowledge or more humanities-related qualifications?

There are three types of associate degrees:

  • Associate of Arts (AA)
  • Associate of Science (AS)
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS).

What’s the difference between an AA vs. AS vs. AAS? 

The main differences between these different kinds of associate’s degrees are the course requirements. An AS and AA degree prepare graduates for further educational pursuits at the bachelor’s level by focusing more on academic requirements and general education courses. An AAS has more “applied” course requirements, which means they are more practical in nature and are generally more focused on a specific career or vocational field.

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