Degrees Defined: Associate Degree Programs are a Quick, Effective Way to Prepare for Your Career

What Is an Associate Degree?

An online associate degree is a degree you earn after approximately two-years of full-time post-secondary study, which translates into about 60 college credits or 20 courses. There are two different types of associate degrees. First, there are associate degrees that prepare you for an occupation, such as a paralegal job or a nursing position. You can find these associate degree programs online or at local community colleges.

The second type of associate degree prepares you to transfer into a bachelor degree program. When enrolled in this type of associate degree program,  you typically complete all of the general education classes required for a bachelor degree before transferring into a 4-year program. This is particularly useful for either high school graduates who did not have the best GPA or test scores and thus couldn't get accepted to the school of their choice.  Going the associate to bachelor degree route is also helpful for those who are not yet sure which subject they want to study and don't want to pay high tuition costs while figuring it out.

Useful Associate Degree Programs

Some of the fastest growing jobs in the U.S. today only require an associate degree. These include:

  • Cardiovascular technologists and technicians
  • Computer support specialists
  • Dental hygienists
  • Paralegals, legal assistants, and legal secretaries
  • Physical therapist assistants
  • Registered nurses
  • Veterinary technologists and technicians

Why Get an Associate Degree?

While you can find some jobs without earning any degree, taking two years to earn an associate degree can increase both your chances of finding a job, your, your earning potential and your job security. Compared to high school graduates, who in 2008 had median weekly earnings of $591, those with an associate degree earned $736. In addition, high school graduates had an unemployment rate of 5.7 in 2008;  the unemployment rate for associate degree holders was lower, at only 3.7 percent.

Whether you want to start your career in just two years, or better prepare for entering a bachelor degree program, an online or traditional on-campus associate degree could be the perfect solution for you.