What Is an Associate Degree?

Five Careers that Only Require an Associate's Degree | Touro University

Online associate degree programs
Some online associate degrees require general courses that transfer into bachelor’s degree programs. Others have focused curricula that lead to immediate careers.

At most institutions, online and on-campus programs are taught by the same faculty, but virtual instruction allows students to complete their coursework at their own pace without visiting campus. This means that distance programs can offer flexibility without sacrificing quality. Online programs can also cost less than in-person options, especially since degree seekers don’t have travel expenses.

Thinking about an Associate Degree before a Bachelor Degree
Associate Degrees are foundational degrees that can help students achieve their academic and career goals in less time than it takes to earn a Bachelor’s degree. An Associate Degree is often used as a building block for a Bachelor’s degree. Credits transferred from a two-year associate program can be counted toward the general education, core, and electives of the four-year degree. Community colleges, which often have lower tuition than four-year institutions, can deliver these associate degrees online.

Associate programs can also qualify students for entry-level careers in fields such as health, education, and public service. Kindergarten teachers, for example, only need an associate degree. In other fields, an associate’s degree can mean increased pay and career opportunities, even if the job does not require a degree. Plumbers, for example, do not require a degree, but companies may prefer candidates with an associate’s degree. In 2018, associate’s graduates earned a median pay rate of $132 more per week than those with only a high school diploma.

How do you choose an online associate degree?
Students should consider time requirements when choosing associate degree programs. Learners who want to graduate quickly, for example, should avoid programs that require a high number of credits. In addition, degree seekers with busy schedules should choose asynchronous programs, as synchronous options require set attendance hours.

An online associate’s program should prepare for career goals, and all program costs should not exceed the student’s budget.

Whether students plan to transfer to a degree program or pursue an immediate career, they can benefit from an associate degree.

Bachelor’s Degrees Vs. Associate Degrees
An Associate Degree explores the most fundamental aspects of a subject over a two-year period. Bachelor’s degrees build on this knowledge and often last four years. For example, an associate degree may include a course in oral communication, while bachelor’s programs offer courses in intercultural and organizational communication.

Students can earn associate degrees at community colleges and, in some fields, find employment without additional training. For example, kindergarten teachers only need an associate’s degree. Other careers, however, require a degree from a four-year college or university, such as K-12 educators.

Both degrees include general education requirements and core courses. Financial aid is available for learners at both degree levels.

Types of Associate Degrees
Students can typically earn a certificate or degree in two years. Certificate programs often include only field-specific courses, while associate of arts (AA) and associate of science (AS) programs also require general education courses.

Learners can transfer associate degree courses into bachelor’s programs to earn a degree more quickly, especially if their associate degree school participates in transfer agreements with four-year institutions. Associate degrees can also prepare learners for certain professional roles, such as preschool teacher or law clerk, without the need for additional training.

Admission requirements
Admission to associate degree programs requires a high school diploma or its equivalent. Colleges and universities may also require learners to have a specific minimum grade point average and to complete their state’s pre-college curriculum, which often includes English, math and science courses.

Applicants who have not earned college credits may also need ACT or SAT scores. Other admission materials may include personal statements, writing samples, and letters of recommendation. Departments may also require applicants to complete the FAFSA.

Requirements for an Associate Degree
An Associate Degree requires approximately 60 credits, which full-time students can earn in two years. These credits often include general education courses in English, mathematics, social sciences and natural sciences.

Associate students may also take courses in public speaking and computer science, as well as courses specific to a concentration. For example, accounting majors may require courses in federal taxation and business law, and education majors may take courses in child development and literacy. Schools may also require introductory college courses, which familiarize students with higher education and help them develop study skills.

In addition to the usual assignments, exams, and projects, some programs require field experiences, clinical exams, labs, practicums, or internships. These requirements are particularly common in health programs, such as physician assistant or nursing degrees. Similarly, early childhood education programs may require internships in preschools or daycare centers, and paralegal students may need to complete an internship.

Departments often insist on a minimum GPA for graduation.

Are associate degrees hard to earn?
Associate Degrees introduce learners to fundamental concepts related to their disciplines, as well as general education topics. These courses are generally more challenging than high school courses, but not as in-depth as graduate or post-graduate programs.

How many credit hours does an associate degree entail?
The time frame and number of credits required vary, but degree candidates typically graduate in two years. Those who take AP courses in high school may graduate more quickly.

Is an associate degree worth it?
In some fields, an Associate Degree meets the requirements for certification, licensure, or entry into the workforce. Other professions require higher degrees, which students can pursue after earning an Associate Degree, although they can also enter a bachelor’s program directly.

Is an online associate degree worth it?
Virtual learning allows students to complete assignments at their own pace and eliminates travel time and expenses. These details allow learners to advance in their careers while managing their day-to-day responsibilities.

What can you do with an associate degree?
Associate Degrees can qualify individuals for many careers, including as dental hygienists, preschool teachers, legal assistants, MRI technologists and web developers. Graduates can also transfer into bachelor’s degree programs.

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