College Planning

What Is an Associate Degree?

Many students who are looking for additional education after high school only think about bachelor’s degrees. In this post, we examine another popular educational opportunity, the associate degree. 


What is an associate degree?

An associate degree is a postsecondary degree opportunity that students can take after high school, and are typically offered at community colleges or technical colleges.    


What are the admission requirements to get into a school and earn an associate degree?

The requirements for acceptance are different depending on the school you apply to. However, most schools require that a student: 

1.    Is 18 years or older by the time the academic semester starts.
2.    Has a high school diploma or passed the General Education Development test (GED) or similar high school equivalency test.  


How long does it take to earn an associate degree?

For many students, it typically takes two to three years to finish an associate degree. That is why some people refer to associate degrees as a “two-year degree.”


How many credits do you need to graduate with an associate degree?

Most schools require 60 semester credits to complete and earn an associate degree, but this is a general number. To learn more about how many credits are needed, visit your school’s website. 


Are there different types of associate degrees?

Yes, there are different types of associate degrees based on what students’ study and specialize in. The two most common types of associate degrees that students get are associate of arts (AA) and associate of science (AS).

Students who pursue an AS degree tend to focus on science and math-related careers. Students who are looking to graduate with an AA degree tend to take a broader range of courses and pursue roles in wide ranging fields including liberal arts, business administration, culinary arts, and criminal justice. 

Other types of associate degrees include: 

●    associate of applied arts (AAA)
●    associate of applied science (AAS)
●    associate of fine arts (AFA)
●    associate of forestry (AF)
●    associate of occupational studies (AOS)


What is the difference between an associate and a bachelor’s degree? 

Associate degrees typically take two years instead of four years to complete. The amount of credits needed to earn an associate degree is about half as many credits as needed for a bachelor’s degree.  

There are a few key differences between associate and bachelor’s degrees. You can find more detailed information on the differences between the two types of degrees in the article on Your College Degree Options


Can you transfer credits earned from an associate degree and apply them to a bachelor’s degree?

In many cases yes, as many students use credits from community colleges and other two-year colleges to apply towards gaining a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college or university. Make sure to check the credit transfer policy of any school you plan on transferring to with associate credits to make sure your credits are accepted. 

To learn more, visit this article on Tips on Transferring from a 2-Year to a 4-Year College


What kind of jobs can I get with an associate degree?

The majority of jobs require some form of education or training after high school, and an associate degree can definitely help you land a good job. To learn more about a specific career and its education requirements, visit BigFuture Career Search.