What is an Associate’s Degree and How is it Different From A Bachelor’s?

  • Find a bachelor's degree

    Bachelors Degree Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

An associate’s degree is awarded, usually by a community college or a junior college, after a two-year course of study has been completed. In recent times, however, four-year colleges and universities have been offering the opportunity for students to earn this type of degree while pursuing and eventually attaining a bachelor’s degree.

An Overview of an Associate’s Degree

At many schools, if an individual has completed some college courses but does not have a formal degree, they may be able to consolidate these credits into an associate’s degree. The degree may be granted if the student’s total amount of credits adds up to 60 semester credits or 90 quarter credits. This is equivalent to the student taking approximately 20 classes in a designated curriculum drafted by the institution that is awarding the degree. These credits are earned during the freshman and sophomore years of college.

Featured Schools

Some of the job opportunities open to you with an associate degree include:

  • registered nurse
  • human resources manager
  • dental hygienist

Many students choose associate degree programs at their local community college after high school. The career path of associate degree holders don’t have to stop there, of course. The general studies coursework will often transfer to a four-year degree. You can use your credit hours and work experience eto meet the education requirements for enrollment at a four-year university. Bachelor’s degree holders see higher weekly earnings than those with a high school diploma or associate degree. The credential of a college education gives you a leg up on the job market, with higher earning potential and greater career opportunities.

You can earn your college degree full-time or part-time if you are also working toward your career goals.

What is the Difference Between an Associate’s and a Bachelor’s Degree?

A two-year undergraduate program, oftentimes referred to as a vocational associate’s degree, prepares students to go directly into the workforce for which they have been trained. Many well-paying technical jobs and trades will accept an associate’s degree as a minimum requirement for an entry-level position. Another type of associate’s degree, known as a transfer degree, prepares students to transfer into a university bachelor’s degree program for a more advanced study of a particular major. At some institutions, an associate’s degree is simply made up of the general education courses required to successfully complete a bachelor’s degree. This type of career pathway is known as a 2+2 program.

An A.A.S. or Associate’s of Applied Science, is usually granted to a graduate of a two-year vocational degree program. Degree level programs classified as A.A., A.S., and A.F.A. are transfer degrees entitled Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, and Associate of Fine Arts, respectively.

Fields of study for both an associate’s as well as a bachelor’s degree may be identical. However, it is the depth of concentration and advancement combined with the time it takes to complete a field of study that sets these types of degrees apart. Therefore, the amount of money it takes to earn an associate’s degree is usually half the cost of earning a bachelor’s degree in the same field.

Common bachelor degree designations include Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.), Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.), Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.), and Bachelor of Science (B.S.). A bachelor’s degree is awarded after the successful completion of 4 years of full-time study.

A Popular Educational Trend

Time conscience career-changers are increasingly pursuing associate’s degrees instead of the traditional 4-year bachelor’s as a catalyst to acquiring a well-paying job. In harmony with this time (and money) saving trend, countless online schools offer associate’s degrees. In the year 2009, it was estimated that about half of all online degree programs being offered were specifically for the purpose of earning an associate’s degree. That translates to hundreds of thousands of individuals of diverse backgrounds gaining the educational background and refined skills needed to launch or advance their careers while maintaining work and family commitments. The more recent technological advancements made in online education have enabled many students to achieve success in their preferred career fields.


Bachelor’s Degree vs Associate’s Degree: What’s Best For Nurses?

What Can I Do With an Associate’s Degree?