What is an Associate Degree

Many people have been thinking what is the main different between Associate Degree and a Bachelor degree.

The degree program you choose should align with your personal, professional, and financial goals for the future.

Once you’ve started researching universities, colleges, and courses at degree level, you’ll probably find out that there are a lot of options out there.

This can feel both exciting and overwhelming.

As you’ll come to realize, there are several types of degrees and many acronyms used within higher education.

In this article, we are going to focus on Associate Degree and you’ll see why it’s different from other certificates.

What is Associate Degree?

Offered predominantly in the U.S. but also available in Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, and across parts of Europe.

An associate degree is an undergraduate degree awarded after a course of post-secondary study lasting two to three years.

It is a level of qualification between a high school diploma, GED, and a Bachelor’s degree.

The first associate degrees were awarded in the UK (where they are no longer awarded) in 1873 before spreading to the US in 1898.

However, in the United States, the associate degree may allow transfer into the third year of a bachelor’s degree.

Associate degrees have since been introduced in a small number of other countries.

Essentially, it is the equivalent of studying just the first and second year of a bachelor’s degree.

This type, of course, is best for students who either want to gain relevant skills and knowledge to prepare for a full bachelor’s degree.

Or for students who want to enter into a profession that only requires an associate degree.

Associate degrees are foundational degrees that can help students achieve academic and professional goals in less time than it takes to earn bachelor’s degrees.

An associate degree is often used as a building block toward a bachelor’s.

Transfer credits from a two-year associate program can count toward general education, core, and elective classes for the four-year degree.

Community colleges, which frequently charge lower tuition than four-year schools, may deliver these associate degrees online.

However, these programs can also qualify students for entry-level careers in fields like healthcare, education, and public service.

Preschool teachers, for instance, only need an associate degree.

In other fields, an associate degree can mean increased pay and career opportunities, even if the job does not require a degree.

Plumbers, for instance, do not need a degree, but companies may prefer applicants with an associate.

In 2018, associate graduates earned a median pay rate of $132 more per week than individuals with only a high school diploma.

Check Out: Difference Between Faculty and Department in University?

Types of Associate Degrees

There are few types of associate degree depending on the subject you choose.

Common associate degree titles include:

  • Associate of Applied Business (AAB)
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS)
  • Associate of Applied Technology (AAT)
  • Associate of Arts (AA)
  • Associate of Arts in Teaching (AAT)
  • Associate of Business Administration (ABA)
  • Associate of Electrical Engineering Technology (AEET)
  • Associate of Electronics (AE)
  • Associate of Engineering (AE/AEng)
  • Associate of Engineering Technology (AET/AEngT)
  • Associate of Forestry (AF)
  • Associate of General Studies (AGS)
  • Associate of Industrial Technology (AIT)
  • Associate of Nursing (AN)/Associate Degree Nurse/Nursing (ADN)
  • Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN)
  • Associate of Occupational Studies (AOS)
  • Associate of Science (AS)
  • Associate of Science in Computer Assisted Design (AS-CAD)
  • Associate of Technology (AT)

Online associate degrees are also becoming more popular, due to their flexibility and affordability, allowing individuals to work while they study, often for a reduced price.

Why study for an Associate Degree?

There are lots of possible reasons to choose an associate’s degree.

You may want to enter the workplace more quickly and cost-effectively.

Or you may want to study for a full bachelor’s degree but not have strong enough grades.

Here are a few reasons you should choose an associate degree:

  1. Time
  2. Cost
  3. Entry requirements

1. Time

In order to gain qualification, you’ll need to complete a specified number of study hours or course credits.

This may vary slightly depending on the institution and location.

However, an associate’s degree usually takes two years to complete full-time.

In the US this equates to 60 credit hours as opposed to the 120 hours required for a bachelor’s degree – which takes about four years to complete full time.

Many associate’s degree students choose to study part-time, which of course means the degree will take longer to complete.

On the other hand, it’s also possible to take a “fast-track” course, working at an accelerated pace and even studying during the vacations to complete the degree in a shorter time.

Students who’ve completed an associate’s degree may be able to transfer some relevant course credits to count towards a bachelor’s degree, shortening the time needed for the latter degree.

2. Cost

As an associate degree is shorter than a bachelor’s degree, tuition fees are comparably lower.

This is an attractive option to international students who want to study abroad but cannot afford to pay full fees.

The difference in costs will vary depending on the institution, but you can typically expect to pay around two to three times less for an associate’s degree.

And, as you’ll also spend less time studying, you’re likely to spend less on costs such as accommodation as well.

Of course, the cost of studying abroad will depend on the university and course, but here is an example of the difference in tuition fees between associate and bachelor’s courses:

Public two-year associate degree: USD 3,730 per year (USA).

Public four-year bachelor degree: USD 26,820 per year (USA).

3. Entry requirements

Admission into college associate degree programs requires a high school diploma or equivalent.

Colleges and universities may also expect learners to have a specific minimum GPA and to complete their state’s pre-college curriculum, which often includes English, math, and science courses.

Candidates without college credit may also need ACT or SAT scores.

Other admission materials can include personal statements, writing samples, and recommendation letters. Departments may also expect applicants to fill out the FAFSA.

Finally, entry requirements for associate’s degrees are typically much less competitive than for bachelor’s degrees, and admissions deadlines are usually later.

They can be an alternative for students who don’t meet the entry requirements for a bachelor’s degree, perhaps because they studied more vocational courses or didn’t quite get strong enough grades.

Career Prospect

Possible careers with an associate’s degree will vary in terms of the type of associate’s degree, and the subject you major in.

However, there are lots of relatively high-paying and highly skilled jobs that can be entered with an associate’s degree.

In addition, certain careers only require an associate’s degree, such as:

  • Police officer
  • Firefighter
  • Medical stenographer
  • Registered nurse
  • Dental hygienist
  • Radiation therapist
  • Fashion designer
  • Computer network specialist
  • Bank teller
  • Retail sales associate
  • Front-desk receptionist

Also Read: Top 10 Best Universities in Africa and Their School Fees

Online Associate Degree Programs

Some online associate degrees require general coursework that transfers into bachelor’s programs.

While others have focused curriculums that lead to immediate careers.

At most institutions, online and on-campus programs are taught by the same faculty, but virtual delivery allows students to complete assignments on their own schedules, without visiting campus.

This means that distance programs can offer flexibility without sacrificing quality.

Moreover, online programs may also cost less than in-person options, especially since degree-seekers do not have traveling costs.

How to Choose an Online Associate Degree

Aspirants  should consider time requirements when choosing associate degree programs. 

Those who want to earn their degrees quickly, for instance, should avoid programs with high credit requirements.

Countries that offer Associate Degree Programs?

Associate’s degrees are most commonly offered in the United States of America, but you’ll also find them in some parts of the Americas, Hong Kong, Australia, and the Netherlands.

However, other countries have similar programs but under a different name, such as the Foundation degree in the United Kingdom.

Where can I study an associate degree?

These are some places you can study and receive a verified Associate Degree:

Charles Darwin University (Australia)

Torrens University (Australia)

University of Cincinnati (USA)

Florida Institute of Technology (USA)

Hong Kong Baptist University (Hong Kong)

How do I transfer from an Associate Degree to a bachelor’s Degree?

Transferring from an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree is often very simple.

As long as your course credits are relevant and accepted by the university offering the bachelor’s degree, you can transfer them and join the bachelor’s program halfway through an option known as the 2 + 2 format.

If you do want to have this option, make sure you research your chosen institutions and their requirements.

As you may need to take specific classes/credit hours to ensure you’re fully prepared to transfer to the bachelor’s program.


If you are ready to apply for an Associate Degree based course, there are authentic places out there and online.

We may soon publish an article on that.

Hope we answered your question and as well cleared your doubt?

Please an honest feedback, questions or contributions in the comment box below.

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