What Can I Do With an Associate’s Degree?

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When many students think of earning a degree after their high school diploma, the bachelor’s degree is typically the degree level that comes to mind, or at least it used to be that way. Today more and more students are pursuing an associate’s degree because it’s a faster and less expensive way to attain their career goals than bachelor and master degree programs. Surprisingly an associate degree offers degree holders a unique versatility in comparison to other degree programs. The advantages this degree offers are numerous to those willing to dedicate themselves to their studies and work hard to attain their goals.

Approximately 32.9% of students who start a four-year degree program don’t finish. Many students decide that college isn’t the right choice for them, but others drop out because they can’t afford to continue. If students want to get a good job but don’t want to or can’t afford to go to college, an associate degree may be the right option.

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What can I do with an associate degree? That’s a common question. An associate degree is a two-year degree that can be earned at a community college or online. It offers many of the same benefits as a four-year degree, including better job prospects and higher earnings.

Overview of the Associate Degree

An associate degree is a degree that takes two years to complete and is found at community colleges, technical schools, and private career colleges. Most colleges require that the student complete at least 60 semester credits to earn the associate degree. Today many 4-year colleges are offering 2+2 programs that enable the student to earn an associate degree after completing the first two years of a bachelor degree program.

The three most common types of associate degrees are:

• Associate of Arts (AA) – The AA degree requires students to complete 60 hours of coursework, which includes major-related courses and general education courses. Approximately, seventy-five percent of the curriculum of AA programs is based on the liberal arts. Students who earn this degree usually plan to earn a bachelor’s degree.
• Associate of Science (AS) – The AS degree also requires 60 hours of coursework, which is both core courses and general education courses. Students in the AS program can focus on a specific area of specialization. This degree has few liberal arts courses and more courses geared towards the specialization or major.
• Associate of Applied Science (AAS) – The AAS degree is usually chosen by students who wish to pursue their chosen career immediately upon graduation. This degree has few liberal arts and general education courses and more courses that focus on a particular set of career-related skills.

What Careers Are Available with an Associate’s Degree?

One of the best features of the associate degree is the wide variety of career choices it offers. Regardless of what field a student may wish to enter, chances are there are positions requiring only an associate degree. Associate degrees can lead to careers in technology, healthcare, and skilled labor. Many of these career opportunities show high job growth, great earning potential, and further job opportunities in less time than a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Here is a list of some excellent associate degree jobs. Some of these jobs may even be later mentioned below in the best-paying jobs section.

• Air traffic controller
• Radiation therapist
• Dental hygienist
• Nuclear medicine technologist
• First-line supervisor of non-retail salespeople
• Nuclear technician
• Funeral service director
• Diagnostic medical sonographers
• Registered nurse
• Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologist
• Web developer
• Aerospace engineering and operations technician
• Engineering technician
• Computer network support specialist
• Electrical and electronics engineering technician
• Electrical and electronics drafters
• Avionics technician
• Radiologic technologist
• Occupational therapy assistants
• Geological and petroleum technician

Many of these jobs, like dental hygiene or MRI technologist, work in health care under a dentist or doctor. Others, like respiratory therapists or medical assistants, can go farther with credentials from a college degree.

Advantages of an Associate Degree

Earning an associate degree offers several advantages over bachelor and master degree programs or not earning a degree at all. Students only need to complete two years of college as opposed to four, six or eight years of school. Associate degree programs are generally offered at public community colleges and technical schools, which are much more affordable than universities.

According to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), students who have an associate degree generally earn at least twenty-three percent more than high school graduates without a degree. Associate degree holders who hold licenses or certifications can earn about twenty-seven percent more than an individual who holds just a bachelor degree.

The AACC also reported that 770,797 associate degrees were awarded in the 2011-2012 year. The other benefits of earning an associate degree at community colleges are location, flexibility, variety in programs, and excellent preparation for students who wish to advance their education at universities.

What Will They Learn in An Associate’s Degree?

An associate degree is an undergraduate degree awarded after successful completion of a two-year program at a community college, junior college, or technical school.

Generally, it takes two years to complete an associate’s degree, although some schools offer accelerated programs that can be completed in as little as 18 months. Upon graduation, students earn an Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS), or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree, depending on their major.

While the specific courses required for an associate degree vary by program and institution, most programs include a mix of general education and core coursework in the student’s chosen field of study. Common subjects studied in an associate degree program include English, math, science, and social sciences. Associate degree programs also typically include a capstone or internship experience to help students transition into the workforce.

Graduates of associate degree programs may find entry-level positions in their field of study, or they may choose to continue their education by pursuing a bachelor’s degree. For instance, legal assistants can learn from a paralegal studies program, but can go on to a bachelor’s, master’s or even go to law school. Some associate degree programs also offer the opportunity to earn credits that can be transferred to a four-year institution, allowing students to complete their bachelor’s degree in a shorter time frame.

What Are the Associate Degrees That Pay Well?

There are a number of associate degrees that can lead to high-paying jobs. Students don’t have to attend college for four or more years to have a lucrative career while working jobs they enjoy. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recognizes some of these as high-growth and pay. Below is a list of the ten best-paying jobs that require only an associate degree:

1. Accounting

If graduates have an associate degree in accounting, they could find a job as an accountant or bookkeeper. Accountants earn a median salary of $59,358 per year, and bookkeepers earn a median salary of $41,981 per year.

2. Business administration

With an associate degree in business administration, students could work as a human resources manager, marketing manager, or sales manager. Human resources managers earn a median salary of $106,910 per year, marketing managers earn a median salary of $142,170 per year, and sales managers earned a median salary of $132,290 per year in 2020.

3. Construction management

Construction managers earned a median salary of $98,890 in 2021, according to the BLS. With an associate degree in construction management, graduates can work as a construction managers, project engineers, or construction superintendents.

And, with experience, they could eventually become a general contractor. Having an associate degree in construction management can also lead to jobs in other industries, such as facilities management or real estate development.

4. Graphic design

The median annual salary for graphic designers is $47,851. Graphic designers use color, images, typography, and space to create visual compositions that convey messages or present information. They work in a variety of industries and may specialize in print, digital, or motion graphics design.

5. Liberal arts and sciences

Student often find that an associate degree in the liberal arts and sciences can open up a variety of opportunities. With this type of degree, they’ll be able to pursue a number of different careers, including teaching, social work, and even law.

In addition, if they decide to continue their education and earn a bachelor’s degree, they’ll find that they have a number of options open to them. The average salary for someone with an associate degree in the liberal arts and sciences is $53,267.

6. Nursing

If students wonder “what can I do with an associates degree in science?,”  they should first consider what subjects they’re interested in. An associate degree in nursing (ADN) is the most common type of nursing degree in science, and it can lead to a variety of high-paying jobs.

“What can I do with an associate of science degree in nursing?” Many students decide to pursue a higher degree, such as a bachelor’s or mater of nursing in their specializations.

7. Occupational therapy assistant

An occupational therapy assistant (OTA) works with patients who have physical, developmental, or mental disabilities. If they’re thinking “what can i do with a associate degree in science”—OTAs help patients in developing, recovering, and improving the skills needed for daily living and working. The median salary for an OTA is $86,398 per year. Most states require a license for OTAs, and practitioners often get their certifications. from the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.

8. Human resources management

With an associate degree in human resources management, graduates can work as a human resources manager. Human resources managers earned a median salary of $126,230 in 2021, according to the BLS. With an associate degree in human resources management, a student might also work as a training and development manager, labor relations specialist, or benefits manager.

9. Information technology

What can I do with an associates degree if I love computers? An associate degree in information technology can lead to a variety of high-paying jobs, including computer systems analyst, network administrator, and web developer. Computer systems analysts earn a median salary of $72,613 per year, network administrators earn a median salary of $71,528 per year, and web developers earned a median salary of $77,200 in 2020.

10. Marketing

With an associate degree in marketing, students can work as a marketing manager. Marketing managers earned a median salary of $142,170 in 2020. Their duties as marketing manager would include planning, directing, and coordinating marketing efforts. Students can also work as a market research analysts or advertising and promotions managers if they’re still asking themselves “what can I do with an AAS degree?”.

Final Thoughts

Now that students know what can u do with an associate’s degree, it’s no wonder an associate degree can lead to a variety of high-paying jobs. If they’re considering pursuing an associate degree, be sure to research the job outlook and salary potential for the careers that interest they.

For learners who want to know “what can i do with an associate’s degree,” the possibilities are endless! And if they’re not sure what they want to do with their life, an associate degree can also be a great way to explore their options and figure out what they’re passionate about. Lastly, if prospective students still ask themselves, “what can I do with an AA degree,” maybe a professional can help they out. Students can choose the right field of study for their two-year degree so they can find a career path or go on to graduate school.


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