Two-Year Degree Can Lead to Career or Four-Year Degree

An associate's degree is a two-year degree earned after getting a high school diploma or GED. It is the equivalent of the first two years of a bachelor's degree. Associate's degrees have become more desirable over the past two decades since they are a less-expensive option to satisfy employers' requests for "some college."

Types of Associate's Degrees

  • An associate's degree in general studies gives students a base of knowledge and skills that can be taken into the workplace or in pursuit of a higher degree. Students typically study math, science, composition, literature and history. A general studies program allows students to explore various subject areas so they can decide what really interests them. The credits earned for a two-year degree in general studies typically transfer to four-year programs, meaning a student can save time and money working toward a bachelor's degree. 
  • Associate of Science (A.S.) and Associate of Arts (A.S.) degrees are meant to prepare students to transfer to a four-year institution for completion of the bachelor's degree. Students concentrate in either math and science or humanities to earn one of these degrees.
  • Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) prepares the student to take the National Council Licensure Exam-RN (NCLEX-RN)  and apply for licensure as a Registered Nurse.
  • Associate of Applied Business (A.A.B.) and Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) are meant to prepare students for the workplace after two years of study.

Associate's or Bachelor's Degree?

A four-year degree does not necessarily translate to a better job and higher pay. For many careers, an associate's degree provides sufficient preparation. When deciding which degree to pursue, you should look at your desired career path and determine how much education is required. An associate's degree is less expensive than a bachelor's and can be completed in half the time. If you decide you want a bachelor's degree, you do not have to earn an associate's degree first. You can go straight into a four-year program.

What is the Cost of an Associate's Degree?

Associate's degrees are generally offered at community colleges, so tuition and fees are lower when compared to most four-year institutions. The average cost for a public community college is $4,874 per year for in-state students and $8,628 for out-of-state students. At a private two-year college, the cost is nearly double at an average of $15,473 per year. That may still seem like a bargain when you consider the cost of attending a four-year institution. Public, in-state tuition averages $25,290 per year while private colleges and universities average $50,900 per year. If you plan to earn a bachelor's degree, it might make sense to attend a community college for the first two years.

Careers with an Associate's Degree

There are many jobs paying $45,000 per year and more that you can get with an associate's degree. They include registered (RN), dental hygienist, respiratory therapist, computer programmer, telecom installer, police officer, paralegal, HVAC mechanic and industrial engineering technician.

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