Associate Degrees & Programs Online
Many students are opting to earn an associate degree rather than a traditional bachelor's degree, and they have great reasons to do so: Jobs that require associate degrees are in high demand, the time spent in college is typically much less and the potential income upon graduation can be quite enticing. Here's what prospective students need to know about earning the associate degree.
What is an associate degree?
An associate degree is awarded by community, technical or junior colleges, as well as some trade schools and universities. The degree usually consists of general education courses, core courses for the major chosen and a variety of electives, but it's often far less coursework than what bachelor's degree students encounter. The associate of arts or the associate of science can prepare students to either move into the workforce or pursue further education. The associate of applied sciences is more targeted, and prepares students to begin working in their chosen profession immediately.
What does it usually take to get one?
The associate degree typically takes two years to complete -- the equivalent of about 60 semester credit hours or 90 quarter credit hours. However, those who choose to attend college online might complete their associate degree in less time, depending on the degree in question and their other commitments. Students who have taken college credit courses in high school might also complete associate degree programs in less than the typical two years.
Many students who attend schools with associate degree programs might also become immersed in their chosen job well before graduation. For instance, students pursing the associate degree in nursing will experience hands-on training that helps them work to move seamlessly into nursing jobs after graduation.
Why do people typically pursue them?
There are numerous reasons to pursue this type of education. Many students choose to earn the associate degree in order to save money, as most associate degree programs cost markedly less than a bachelor's degree. The associate degree can serve as a stepping stone to the bachelor's degree, so students who do choose to go back to school and further their education can often already have the general requirements out of the way.
There is also the appeal of gaining the skills and knowledge necessary in order to move directly into the workforce as soon as possible, rather than waiting an additional two years to earn the bachelor's degree. Many associate degree programs are designed to prepare students to leap right into the workforce, with all the training they need to prosper in entry-level positions.
What jobs could you get with an associate degree?
Many industries look to hire those with an associate degree. According to Forbes, the 10 highest paying jobs for associate degree holders in 2012 included the following:
- Air traffic controllers
- Construction managers
- Radiation therapists
- Nuclear medicine technologists
- Dental hygienist
- Nuclear technicians
- Registered nurses
- Diagnostic medical sonographers
- Aerospace engineering and operation technicians
- Electrical and electronic engineering technicians
These jobs range across many industries and are just a sampling of the possibilities available to those who attend associate degree programs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many of the fastest-growing jobs between 2012 and 2022 will require an associate degree, not a bachelor's or master's. Based on the data, there is expected to be a wealth of opportunity for those who choose to pursue this educational path.
How do you begin pursuing one?
Begin the pursuit of higher education by researching schools with associate degree programs, then choose the one that suits your career goals. For further information on the associate degree programs available to you, including requirements and expectations, check with the admissions office at your school.
Fastest-Growing Occupations, 2012-22, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Dec. 19, 2013,
What Is an Associate Degree, City College of San Francisco,
"The 10 Best-Paying Jobs For Community College Grads," Jenna Goudreau, Forbes, Dec. 18, 2012,
"Get Your Associate Degree," Rob Jenkins, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Dec. 18, 2013,