A student fresh out of high school or an adult learner aspiring to earn a degree are often surprised to hear about the different types of associate’s degrees. There are many options when thinking about degrees; however, when many people are discussing degrees, what usually comes to mind are bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Those are not the only choices, however. Associate degrees are generally found at community colleges, vocational schools, and technical colleges as opposed to universities. Depending on the type of associate degree, they may be used as a foundation for a bachelor’s or master’s degree, or they may be obtained as a qualification for employment. In any case, for more of the scoop on today’s many kinds of associate’s degrees, read ahead.
Types of Associate Degrees
There are four categories of associate’s degrees, and each has their own purpose or goal.
- Associate of Science (A.S.)
- Associate of Arts (A.A.)
- Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.)
- Associate of Applied Business (A.A.B.)
The A.S. and the A.A. degree are generally used by students who plan to transfer to four-year colleges or universities and pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree. These two degrees do not usually include a minor of study. They do include courses that are equivalent to the first two years of a bachelor’s degree program.
The A.S. degree includes at least five or more credits of math/science courses and may be used for careers requiring many science courses, such as nursing or engineering. The A.A. degree is a much broader degree that includes at least five credits of social science and/or humanities courses. This degree prepares students for transfer into a wider variety of fields than the A.S. degree.
The A.A.S. and the A.A.B. degrees are considered career degree programs because they prepare students for immediate employment after graduation. Rather than include general education and college courses, their curriculum focus on major-related courses. Students with an A.A.S or A.A.B. degree may transfer to a university but will need to take additional required courses.
Why Pursue an Associate Degree?
Students choose to pursue an associate degree for many reasons. Many do it because it is the simplest way to earn a degree while others are aspiring to start a career in a certain field, and they want to do it quickly. Cost may also be a factor when choosing to pursue an associate’s degree.
Since tuition is generally charged on a per-credit basis, an associate’s degree will be half the cost of a bachelor’s degree. Cost and convenience are probably the two biggest reasons why students choose an associate’s degree. Most associate degree graduates state they chose that path because it allowed them to join the workforce and start earning money quicker.
Associate vs. Bachelor’s
As touched on above, the associate’s is the precursor to the bachelor’s degree and the subsequent accolades after that. This foundational level of degree provides a valuable entry into all kinds of disciplines but is only the beginning of what can potentially be a much larger educational journey. Because the bachelor’s is just next to the associate’s in the hierarchy of academia, one very common question is that of these two degrees differences. How does an associate’s compare to a bachelor’s degree?
In terms of complexity and difficulty, the bachelor’s builds off of what the associate’s taught the student beforehand and only stands to present more of a challenge than the associate’s. In terms of time, the bachelor’s also takes more time with it requiring an additional two years of schooling, on average, beyond the already-earned associate’s. Finally, in terms of the power of this degree, the bachelor’s proves a higher achievement of learning than the associate’s, so it will naturally command more professional respect and open far more occupational doors than the associate’s as well.
Careers with an Associate Degree
In addition to only taking only two years to complete, an associate’s degree can lead the way towards various careers in many different fields, including, healthcare, engineering, computer science and technology, among others. Here are some popular career choices for graduates of associate degree programs.
- Diagnostic medical sonographer
- Respiratory Therapist
- Computer programmer
- Registered nurse
- Veterinary technician
- Mechanical designer
- Dental hygienist
- Geologic and petroleum technicians
Hot Associate’s Degree Programs Today
While just about any associate’s degree can provide just the right accolades needed in order to gain a valuable foothold in a new career or job, there are a number of types of associate degree that are particularly popular among students today. For reasons of better money, job security, or even simple cultural fad and opinion, some associate’s are much more sought after than others. The following 10 types of associate’s degrees represent some of the most popular programs pursued right now.
- Business Administration/Management
This highly popular degree choice sets the earner on a path to become a master of managing all types of organizations and the many potential operations therein. A keen proficiency in math, leadership approaches, common business tactics and operations, and organizational division is stressed here. While most associate’s earners here do go on to higher degrees in the discipline, the associate’s here is, nonetheless, a highly popular and essential learning milestone in the business admin world.
- General Business
General business degrees teach students the overall lay of the land in organizational practice. While some leadership approach is also taught here, this program focuses more on the overall business practice than the singular concept of management like the above-mentioned business administration program. General business program grads typically have no problems finding plenty of opportunity in today’s demand-filled business world.
The associate’s in accounting is yet another very popular degree choice right now. This is much due to the greater demand of the business world for those who are inclined in matters of money, math, and the accounting of it all. Grads of this particular program can look forward to many opportunities in accounting in addition to many other kinds of business roles.
If you’ve graduated with an associate’s in nursing, you’ve certainly shown some great capability already for a wide array of jobs in the medical industry. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, those holding this degree can find themselves working as actual nurses or even working in a variety of other roles in or related to the medical world. This is also a very helpful discipline to be trained in for personal reasons and applicable utility outside of a workplace.
Unfortunately, unto itself, an associate’s in psychology doesn’t open an inexplicably large number of vocational doors. However, this necessary stepping stone in the pursuit of higher accolades in psychology makes it an incredibly popular career pursuit, year after year. Many earners of this one eventually go on to work as therapists, psychologists, school counselors, and more.
The applicability of skills in communication is virtually impossible to overstate. With a keen ability to both receive and interpret and craft and broadcast information perfectly designed for whatever the situation at hand may be, anyone can become a vital asset in virtually any component of the modern business operation. Some of the more popular jobs grads of this degree eventually fill include journalist, communications manager, teacher, and public relations specialist. These skills carry over into a number of fields and can give candidates an advantage when seeking employment.
An associate’s in marketing certifies the earner of having been well-trained in the wide world of marketing today. Marketing itself is the study and professional practice of advertisement. Graduates of this degree also hold some valuable cross-applicability in a number of other business roles.
- General Education
A general education degree is a great way to become a teacher. Aside from this more well-known fact, this degree also offers a valuable way into jobs in educational administration, consultation, and even lobbying and advocacy work. Those who have earned an associate’s in general education have come to understand the overall educational system in the US, its various components, legal and ethical parameters, and so on.
- Elementary Education
Elementary education majors learn much of the same material as do the general education majors discussed just above. However, in this degree program, a much greater emphasis is put on students learning the ins and outs of the elementary level of US school systems in particular. Elementary grades in the US are typically considered to be those between 1st and 6th grade.
- English Language
Finally, English Language is another of today’s most popular associate’s majors. In this direction of study, the learner can expect to become a growing expert in the whole of the English language. Elements to this extensive background of knowledge will include English history, modern English literature, English in world culture, and much more.
Earning an associate’s degree can be a great way to enhance earning potential. U.S. News & World Report states that individuals with an associate’s degree typically earn about $200,000 more over their lifetime than those without a degree. With so many different types of associate degree programs offered in so many fields, the career possibilities are almost endless.