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What Is an Associate Degree?
Associate degrees open paths to new job opportunities and can be used to transfer into bachelor’s degree programs.
An associate degree is a two-year college degree that you can obtain from a community college, junior college, online university, or some four-year institutions in the US. In terms of education, an associate degree falls between a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree.
Students go on to do different things with their associate degree: some transfer into a bachelor’s degree program, while others choose to go directly into the workforce. You can also earn your associate degree after working for several years; it can be the first step to a new career or help you advance in your current one.
Read on to understand key facts about earning your associate degree, and the important factors—like educational and professional goals—you should consider as you decide whether it’s the right choice for your future.
Associate degrees: Key facts
Earning your associate degree is typically more affordable and takes less time than earning your bachelor’s degree. It can also help you forge new career paths in professional fields such as medicine, engineering, and computer science. Let’s review the basics of what it costs—and what it takes—to get an associate degree.
Admissions requirements vary from college to college, but you’ll generally need to meet the following conditions in order to gain entry to an associate degree program:
Be 18 years of age by the time you begin your first day of class
Have a high school diploma, or have passed a General Education Development test (GED) or an equivalent test
Meet GPA requirements established by some community college
Types of associate degrees
The most common types of associate degrees are:
Associate of Arts (AA): Associate programs focused on business, humanities, arts, or social sciences are often called Associate of Arts degrees. An AA may be a stepping stone to transfer to a bachelor’s degree.
Associate of Science (AS): Associate programs in a field related to science or math are often called Associate of Science degrees. Along with an AA, the AS is typically recommended by schools for students who want to transfer to four-year programs.
Associate of Applied Science (AAS): Associate programs that focus on technical and vocational skills are often called Associate of Applied Science programs. These programs are generally designed to prepare students for a specific occupation or work in a specific field after graduation. Fields can include computer science technology, hospitality management, paralegal studies, law enforcement, welding, among many others. Although it’s less common to use an AAS degree to transfer into a bachelor’s program, some four-year degree programs have begun accepting them for transfers.
What can you do with an associate degree?
Once you earn your associate degree, you have two options to consider. You can extend your education and apply to a bachelor’s degree program, or you can pursue jobs in the medical, engineering, computer science, or legal fields, among many others.