What Is An Associate Degree A Detailed Explanation

Many students hesitate to commit both time and money in a conventional bachelor’s program. For those students, opting for a full-time associate degree, which typically takes two years to complete, makes more sense. They can earn it from notable technical colleges, educational programs, and community colleges. More on what is an associate degree in the section below. Read closely!

An Associate Degree Acts As A Stepping Stone To Higher Education!

This degree is very different from a normal bachelor’s degree. They are also known as foundational degree simply because it serves as their stepping stone towards higher education. These degrees have been around for over two decades. And as time moves along, more candidates favor associate degrees as a quicker and cost-effective path to their desired career.

The courses which students get in an associate degree are very similar to introductory courses. It serves as the initial stage of post-secondary school education. And although these courses take 2-years to complete, some online programs offer flexible courses lasting 18-months. 

What Types Of Online Associate Degrees Are Available?

Now that you have a clear enough idea about what is an associate degree. It is time to dig deeper and explain the various types of associate degrees available for students.

1. (A. A Degrees) or Associate of Arts 

A. A-degrees or Associate of Arts is an undergraduate program helping and preparing students to get profitable careers. Students with an Associate of Arts degree will benefit from high salary jobs and many other job benefits. 

But to be eligible, students have to choose from these three main streams –Humanities, Business fields, Social sciences!

Career Opportunities include as follows –

  • Pre-school teacher
  • Human Resource Manager
  • Librarian
  • Photographers 
  • Teacher assistant
  • Social and human service assistants
  • Desktop publishers     
  • Engineering technician
  • Industrial designer
  • Administrative assistance 
  • Desk clerk

And many more!

The average annual salary for A.A. degree holders is $50,000 (give or take).

2. (A.S. Degrees) or Associate of Science 

A.S Degree or Associate of Science is a 2-year program that prepares students in general education and technical subjects. 

Students with interest will need to choose from these three streams. They include – Nursing, I.T. (Information Technology), And Engineering Technology.

Career Opportunities include as follows –

  • Engineering technicians
  • Radiation therapists
  • Information clerks 
  • Web Designer and developer
  • Paralegals
  • Bookkeepers
  • Dental hygienists
  • Nurses 

And several others!

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, candidates with this specific associate degree will find no shortages of high-paying job opportunities. However, the average salary will depend on the type of job you choose. 

3. (A.A.A. Degrees) Associate of Applied Arts

The A.A.A. degree or Associate of Applied Arts aims to present students with knowledge and skills to succeed in their chosen arts career. They will need to pick from these three streams – Music, Fine Arts, and Advertising arts

Career Opportunities include as follows –

  • Layout artist
  • Art instructor 
  • Music sales associate
  • Advertising layout artist
  • Private music teacher 
  • Liberal arts tutor

And many more!

The average annual salary for students with A.A.A. degrees is $47,000 (give or take).

4. (A.A.S. Degrees) Associate of Applied Science

A.A.S. degree or Associate of Applied Science emphasizes a specific profession. And accordingly, they get training and education on that particular career to achieve a high-paying job. 

Students showing interest in Associate of Applied Science can choose from these streams –Web Design, Criminal Justice, Business Administration, Accounting and Computer operations, and support!

Career Opportunities include as follows –

  • Certified nurse
  • Surgical technologist
  • Hairdresser
  • Construction equipment handler
  • Technical drafter 
  • Chemical technician
  • Architectural drafter 

And several others!

As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary is $56,000 (give or take). 

Interesting Facts as Per the B.L.S. for Associate Degree Students

After understanding what is an associate degree and the types of job opportunities available, here’s a peek into some interesting facts as per the B.L.S.

In sharp contrast to an orthodox bachelor’s degree, earning an associate degree offers students more earning potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics –

– Candidates with an associate degree make an average weekly income of $835, which sums up close to $48,100 each year. In comparison, students with a bachelor’s degree make $712 every week, which adds up to around $41,000 every year. 

– And for students opting for a high school diploma, they make a weekly income of $520, which sums up to $29, 920 each year.

Furthermore, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states –

“In the future, organizations will recruit more candidates with an associate degree in science and technology. And the reliance on candidates with a normal bachelor’s degree will slowly fade away.

A-List of Highest Paying Jobs for Associate Degree Students in 2020-21 (& Beyond)

In support of the above facts, here’s a list of those top-paying jobs for candidates with associate degrees.

  • Air Traffic Controllers with an average annual salary of $124,540
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists with an average annual salary of $71,670
  • Radiation Therapists with an average annual salary of $82,330
  • Funeral Service Managers with an average annual salary of $79,180
  • Nuclear Technicians with an average annual salary of $79,140
  • Nuclear Medicine Technologists with an average annual salary of $76,820
  • Dental Hygienists with an average annual salary of $74,820
  • Diagnostic Medical Sonographers with an average annual salary of $72,510
  • Web Developers with an average annual salary of $69,430
  • Aerospace Engineers And Technicians with an average annual salary of $67,010

What Requirements Entail For An Associate Degree?

As you are clear on what is an associate degree and some of its highest-paying jobs, it is time to focus on its requirements.

– Full-time candidates will need around 60 credits (or more) in their two-year courses.

– And those credits will regularly feature – Social sciences, Mathematics, English, General Education, and Natural Science.

– Candidates can also enroll in public speaking courses or take up specific computer training. Example – Accounting learners might require extra course knowledge in business law and federal taxation. As for educational candidates, they may need education on various literacy and child development.

– Apart from their regular examinations and assignments, programs are requiring some prior field experience or specific internships. 

This is more so for students showing interest in medical fields or nursing jobs. They may require prior field experience as medical assistance or a proper nursing course degree to be eligible.

– In the case of paralegal students, they too will need a proper internship. 

Easy Tips to Find the Perfect Associate Degree for Yourself

With so many Bachelor’s degrees available, it can be not easy to find the perfect one yourself. Also, there is no perfect formula for sorting out a degree that will work for you.

Still, these tips might prove useful when considering your options

Pick A Degree Which Best Reflects Your Career Interests And Personality

After all, there’s no point in choosing a career which you don’t like.

Base Your Choice As Per Your Strengths. 

If you are good at Math or Social Science, then go for an associate degree where you can use your strengths to your advantage.

Think About Your Schedule. 

Take time and think hard about which schedule and time work best for you. Ideally, it would help if you opted for flexible programs that allow you to meet your job/personal responsibilities. 

If you find that a particular associate degree is difficult to manage with your other tasks, don’t enroll forcefully. Instead, keep searching!

Also, Consider The Style Of Learning. 

Few students like the formal style of learning. At the same time, others prefer a more creative form of education! Whatever be your preferred style, be sure to pick a degree that meets your comfort. Not only will this ensure better learning, but it leads you to greater success in your respective career.

Opt For Accredited Associate Degree Programs. 

If you are going to invest your valuable time and money, you might as well pick an accredited regional program. Most top companies prefer their candidates from accredited programs. And so, keep this in mind when sorting out your options.

Associate Degree Vs. Bachelor’s Degree

There are a few basic differences between these two types of degrees. Before deciding a course, look at the differences.


The underlying discrepancy is how long it takes to graduate. A full-time student can earn an associate degree in two years or graduate in four years. Part-time students require longer to complete each degree; however, in general, the degree of an associate would be quicker than a bachelor’s degree.

Note: One can move the credits earned from an associate program to a Bachelor’s degree program. So, if you already have a college degree, review the credit transfer policy at school and see if you can easily track the Bachelor’s degree and complete it in just two years rather than four.

Tuition Cost

The exact cost per credit varies from school to school, but an associate degree is typically cheaper than a bachelor’s degree. The main reason is the short duration of the associate degree course.

Study Objective

There are two objectives of obtaining an associate degree. One perspective is a career-oriented course. Another approach is to pursue a general study that gives a chance to earn transfer credits and degrees. There is no major (specific focus field) of that sort of associate degree.

Many Bachelor’s degrees allow you to select a major project and complete it. You will need about two years of general education before you get to your class. 

One perspective is a career-oriented associate degree course. Another approach is to pursue a general study that gives a chance to earn transfer credits along with an associate degree.

Career Scope

If anybody wants to earn quickly, then an associate degree is the best option. This degree helps to start your career in the technical or skilled-labor industry. Although a bachelor’s degree requires more time to complete and start earning, the career development opportunity is more. Perusing a degree with a major gives an added advantage.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bachelor’s degree holders earn more than associate graduates and are likely to be unemployed

Wrapping Up

Procuring your first associate degree from a quality program will lead you to a highly satisfying and rewarding career path. So, think long and hard about which program you want to enroll.

Now that you know – what is an associate degree and its job opportunities, use the above tips to find a suitable program.

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