The Benefits of an Associates Degree: Get an Overview
Once you decide to continue your education in order to advance your career or switch to a new career, you have to decide what type of program to complete. You may consider an associate’s degree because it is faster to obtain than a bachelor’s degree, but what is an associate’s degree? You have to determine what an associate’s degree will mean for your life before you make a final decision.
What Does Associate’s Degree Mean?
Generally speaking, an associate’s degree is a degree of advanced education that requires two years of study to obtain. Every program determines which classes students must complete in order to graduate with the degree, but many programs require approximately 60 credit hours. Each program will require general education courses such as math and language arts in addition to courses related to the specific field of study.
Does It Always Take Two Years?
What does an associate’s degree mean for your long-term schedule? This depends on the program you select and your dedication to taking courses. Most programs are designed for completion in two years, but you can slow down the process if you have to retake courses or sign up as a part-time student.
You can speed up the program by completing a higher number of credit hours each semester or quarter. If your program allows you to take the summer quarter off, you may get ahead by taking courses all year round. Some online associate’s degree programs may also allow you to work through the courses at your own pace, lengthening or shortening your total study time according to your chosen pace.
Types of Associate Degrees
Associate degrees typically fall into one of these groups, depending on the discipline:
- Associate of Science
- Associate of Arts
- Associate of Applied Science
Associate of Science degrees offer study in fields such as engineering, computer science and business administration. Associate of Arts degrees offer study in fields such as psychology, economics and elementary education. Associate of Applied Science degrees are designed to prepare students for quick entry into specific career fields, such as medical assisting or food service management.
There are also some degrees that don’t always fall into the above listed categories, such as the Associate of Political Science (A.P.S.) degree and the Associate of Fine Arts (A.F.A.) degree.
Potential Career Paths
In many fields, an associate’s degree is enough to land an entry-level position. In many cases, you can use this degree to get in the door and use skills learned on the job to advance. If you need more advanced skills to move up in your chosen career or you face stiff competition from colleagues with more advanced degrees, you can often use your associate’s degree to transfer into a bachelor’s degree program. The credits you earned to obtain your associate’s degree will typically cancel out the first two years of a four-year program within the same discipline.
How to Get Started
The first step to earning your associate’s degree is to determine your ideal career path. What do you want to do with your life? Once this question is answered, you can identify all associate programs available within your desired career field. You can speak with an admissions officer to ask questions like, “How many years is an associate’s degree?” Make the final decision based on the program that fits your budget and your career plan.