What is an Associate Degree? A Complete Guide

You must be wondering what an Associate Degree is, in this article, we will elaborate on the associate degree meaning, types, degree requirements, and more.

TCM Staff

7th October 2020

You must be wondering what an Associate Degree is. The answer lies here. An Associate’s Degree is an undergraduate academic degree program and generally costs lesser than the other degrees. It is the first step towards developing techniques, knowledge, and skill required for getting employed in a particular field or choose a further field of study.

The degree has a shorter duration as compared to the Bachelor’s Degree and can be completed before the said time frame. The credits earned in an Associate’s Degree can be transferred to the Bachelor’s Degree if you wish to enroll in it in the future. However the transfer of credits depends on the school and the course, hence the eligibility must be checked. The degrees are offered both on-campus and online.

The Associate’s Degree online platform offers an updated curriculum and accredited degrees. We can define an Associate’s Degree as a practical, technical, and vocation based degree which takes less time to finish.

How many years is an Associate’s degree?

The degree offers 60 credits which can be completed in 2 years or less, depending on the type of course. If you enroll in an online associate degree course, you can complete it before 2 years of time, as many online colleges offer accelerated degrees. Also, another way to speed up the degree program is easy transferring te credits. 

How many credits is an associate’s degree?

The degree offers 60 credits which are transferable. You should check the eligibility for the transfer of credits.

The abbreviation for Associate’s Degree is AA for Associate’s of Arts, AS for Associate’s of Science, AAS for Associate’s of Applied Science to name a few. 

Features of an Associate’s Degree

  • The degree would prepare you to enter the workforce in the respective field you wish to enter in accordance with the subject you opted for in the degree program.

  • You would be provided with adequate skills and training in order to become a professional.

  • The time would be saved as the degree can be completed at a faster rate as compared to others.

  • Upon completion of the course, you can transfer your credits earned to a Bachelor’s Degree and directly enroll in the third year of the bachelor’s degree program.

  • The entry requirements for the program are less than that of a bachelor’s degree program.

  • The program is diverse and provides technical and vocational training.

  • You can get top-paying jobs with an associate’s degree.


Associate’s Degree requirements and eligibility

  • The student must hold a high school graduate degree or an equivalent degree.

  • The application form must be completed and the fee must be paid on time.

  • The minimum passing grades are required in all the subjects taken up in high school.

  • Minimum GPA requirements must be met.

  • The course must be completed with 60 credits.

  • An official GED certificate must be presented (if required).

  • You should apply for financial aids if required.

  • A minimum ACT or SAT scores are required

Types of Associate’s Degree

  • AA: The Associate of Arts Degree or AA Degree is offered by various institutions and the duration of the degree is for two years. The degree provides broad knowledge in the sphere of social sciences, humanities, or liberal arts. You can enroll in a Bachelor’s Degree with the specialty earned in an AA Degree.  A few Associate of Arts Degree jobs you can pursue after completing the degree are Bank teller, Sales Associate, Marketing Assistant, to name a few. The degree helps in improving critical thinking, evaluation, research, and analytical skills. It provides a curriculum in the global context and helps in understanding human minds, creativity, improve reading and writing skills, and many more.

  • AS: An Associate of Science Degree or AS Degree is a two-year undergraduate degree that consists of the subjects of liberal arts such as music, sociology, and English along with various science subjects such as mathematics, chemistry, and physics among many others. It provides a multi-disciplinary approach towards natural and applied sciences and offers a diverse range of career options along with different specializations. You can get entry-level jobs in various sectors after completing this degree. Some of the Associate of Science Degree jobs you can get after completing the course are Administrative Assistant, Registered Nurses, Realtors, IT system administrators, and many others.

  • AAS:   An Associate of Applied Science Degree (AAS) focuses mainly on the major courses with the few exceptions of liberal arts subjects. You cannot transfer the credits of this course to a Bachelor’s Degree or even enroll in the third year. It is a vocational degree and the duration of the degree is for two years. It would, however, provide great job/career opportunities for you. Some of the AAS Degree jobs which you may take up after completing the degree are Research Assistant, Chemical Technician, Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, Dental Hygienist, Radiologic Technologist, and many others.

  • AFA: An Associate of Fine Arts (AFA) provides a degree in fine art subjects. The subjects included in the degree are American Literature, Art Appreciation, Mathematics, Visual Arts, Information Literacy, Communication, and many others. You can transfer into the Bachelor’s Degree of Fine Arts after completing this course. The credits can be transferred as well. Some of the associates of fine arts jobs you would get after completing the degree are Business Development Associate, Arts Therapist, Art Teacher, Arts Administrator, and many others. The degree can be completed in two years or less.

  • AGS: An Associate of General Science (AGS) offers a customized degree for those who are not sure about what to pursue as their major or what career should they opt for. Hence the degree takes the subjects both from the AS and AA degrees. The degrees would be practical and can be completed in two years or less. It offers a wide range of elective courses; however, you may/may not be able to transfer the credits to a Bachelor’s Degree. Some of the subjects offered in the course are Applied Engineering, Computer Networking, English, Geography, Anthropology, and many others.

    Read more: Types of associate degree

Some examples of Associate’s Degree Programs

  • Associate’s Degree in Business: The degree provides knowledge in the streams such as accounting, economics, entrepreneurship, finance, and many others. It would help you to take up Account Manager, Human Resource Manager, Business Office Manager, and others as a profession.

  • Associate’s Degree in Nursing: The degree program teaches the students about healthcare practices and trains the students to become efficient nurses. It is a minimum degree required to become a registered nurse. It can provide you with job opportunities in Physician’s Office, Labour and Delivery, Oncology, Patient care, Medical Surgery, and many others.

  • Associate’s Degree in Computer Science- The program focuses on subjects such as computer applications, multimedia tools, web designing, hardware applications, and many other concepts as such. After completion of the course, you can become a computer programmer, coder, system analyst, and others.

  • Associate’s Degree in Accounting- You can learn topics such as Managerial Accounting, Statistics, Economics, and finance to name a few subjects. Some professions which you can take up are an accountant, Billing Clerk, Management Trainee, and Accounting Assistant.

  • Associate’s Degree in Psychology- The program would introduce you to topics such as Abnormal Psychology, Social Problems, Human Development, Child Psychology to name a few. It is the minimum degree required to enter the field of psychology. Few jobs offered after this degree is Youth Counsellor, Home Care Aide, Psychiatric Nurse, and many others.

  • Associate’s Degree in Air Traffic Controller- The program trains the students on how to monitor air traffic and work in different settings such as route centers, control towers, and others. Air traffic controller salary can be quite good if you have the required skills and air traffic controller jobs are available in an ample amount.

Universities/Colleges which offer Associate’s Degree 

Kaplan University

Bryant and Stratton College

Ashworth Colleges

Colorado Technical University

University of Michigan

Liberty University

University of Phoenix

Keiser University

Saint Leo University

Campbell University

Career options with Associate Degree

  • Air Traffic Controller

  • Allergy Technician

  • Registered Nurse

  • Architectural Technician

  • Biomedical Technician

  • CAD Technician

  • Chemical Technician

  • Desktop Publisher

  • Electrical Engineering Technician

  • Sales executive

How to get an Associate’s Degree?

  • If you’re a high school graduate, you can enroll in an Associate Degree program. If you’re looking for attaining the required skills in a shorter duration, you can enroll in an Associate’s Degree. Understand what an Associate Degree is. Since the degree can be completed just in two years, it requires less tuition fee. The purpose or motive of enrolling in the course must be decided. Once you’ve decided which course you’re interested in, you must research on it properly.

  • Check which course interests you since there are many types of Associate Degrees that focus on particular subjects or courses. For example, an Associate of Arts in Healthcare Administration Degree can be best suited for individuals interested in healthcare management practices.

  • Go through the curriculum and check whether the course interests you.

  • You must look for the course structure and how would it benefit you, what job opportunities would it provide after completing the degree, and many other such factors. If you’re looking for a particular profession, check its requirement in the market and what the employers are looking for, as in many cases you may require a Bachelor’s Degree.

  • Look for which career you would like to go for and communicate with the people/professionals in that sector as you may get a fair idea of the subject. An associate degree can be a great option if the career option you’re looking for does not require you to earn a Bachelor’s Degree and is more technical or vocational in nature.

  • After researching the course, you should look for universities or colleges which provide associate degrees. Find the right college is a necessary step towards earning an Associate’s Degree. For example, you can look for Liberty University online degrees for an Associate’s degree in various courses.

  • Make sure to read all the information about the school, the courses offered there, tuition fees, and financial assistance facilities if you need any.

  • Many universities offer professional degrees and offer distance education. Traditional colleges have also started providing online education. It is a great option as the universities are reputed.

Look at verified sources for the research on college

  • The degrees offered must be accredited. Research on the college, its infrastructure, facilities, and the credit system. Some colleges are accredited by fake organizations so you must be careful in selecting a college. You can see whether the institution is regionally or nationally accredited. For example, Ashford University accreditation by done by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

  • Once you’ve selected the course and the university, check for the application form and the application deadline for the particular year.

  • Check the requirements for filling the form and enrolling in the course. You can look for the graduation and acceptance rates of the college. For example, the University of Michigan's acceptance rate is 23%. The higher graduation rate is better.

  • Look at the fee structure of the college and if the fee structure is high, you can look for financial aids available to you.

  • Fill out the FAFSA form if applying for financial aids. Make sure you enter the federal school code correctly while filling the form.

  • The application form must be filled and payment of the fees must be done on time.

  • The college would notify you of the application status once you’ve applied for it. After getting into the school complete all the course requirements and acquire the required credits. This would help you earn an Associate’s Degree easily.

  • You should choose your classes carefully, devote your time for educational purposes, and plan your schedule ahead.

What does it take to complete an associate degree?

  • You need to earn 60-semester credits in total.

  • One can have a minimum score of 3.0 GPA overall for the associate degree course.

  • You should have good English language skills.

  • A student should be able to complete all the core majors.

  • All the elective cores should be done without an incomplete mark.

Why choose an Associate degree?

 One of the biggest reasons is associate degree equips you with basic knowledge of the chosen stream and on the basis of that, you can earn a Bachelors's Degree conveniently. By pursuing an associate degree, one can be able to figure out what should be the future perspectives in education. It will help you decide whether to continue your studies in the same discipline or to figure out whether it suits you. An associate degree is perfect for gaining the required skills and enter into the desired profession.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • 1.What is the difference between Associate of Arts and Associate of Science Degrees? 

    Associate of Science requires more semester credits in Natural sciences and mathematics and fewer credits in social sciences or behavioral science courses. The general elective and core courses are the same in both the degrees. 

  • 2.What can be done with an Associate's Degree?

    There are plenty of job opportunities after you complete the associate degree program. You will gain technical skills which are required for working professionals. After completing the associate's degree, you may enroll in a Bachelor's Degree course and continue your education. 

  • 3.Should I enroll in an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science Degree?

    It depends on your interest. If you want to be focused more towards math and science, you must go for an Associate of Arts degree, whereas if you want to concentrate more on social sciences or liberal arts, you must go for an Associate of Arts Degree. 

  • 4.How long does it take to complete the associate degree course?

    You can complete the course in four semesters (2 years or less depending on the course type). 

  • 5.What is an accelerated degree program?

    This type of program can be completed before the given time. The courses are offered in an accelerated format, which a student can pursue at his/her pace. It happens when the students are pursuing the degrees online. 

  • 6.Can I enroll in an Associate Degree if I have a GED?

    Yes. You're eligible to apply with a GED or high school diploma. 

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