No two students need to take the same path through university or college. Some may go straight into their major from high school, but that’s not the only way to get your bachelor of arts degree. If you’ve completed an associate degree at a two-year or community college, you may be halfway to your B.A. already -- though different universities have different rules for getting your four-year degree.
Your Associate Degree
How much of your associate degree that you can put toward a B.A. depends on quite a few factors, including the college or university you're applying to, the courses you took for your associate degree and the college at which you received your associate degree. Some universities only recognize credits from particular colleges, though each university that accepts credits from an associate degree lists acceptable colleges and programs on its website. Check with the university you want to apply to to see how many of your credits would be accepted.
In some cases, associate degrees are referred to as “transfer degrees” that are used exclusively for bridging into a B.A. program. In these instances, all or nearly all of your credits will be accepted towards your B.A., which means that a four-year B.A. will be reduced to two years. You may want to check with the college from which you received your associate or transfer degree to see which programs and universities accept the transfer degree as-is.
If you want to take your associate degree to any university -- perhaps a university that doesn’t accept transfer degrees in their entirety -- you may not get full credit toward your B.A. Some of your earlier credits may not be recognized at your new university. Grambling State University, which deals regularly with associate degrees and offers a Transfer Degree Guarantee program, cautions that the courses you took for your associate degree may not meet all of the requirements for a major and recommends talking with an academic adviser on the specifics of your case.
Making Up Lost Credits
Most associate degrees look to provide you with half of the credits you’d need to fulfill the B.A. If the majority of those are accepted at your university, you’ll only have two more years of study to get your B.A., but you should prepare for the eventuality that not every credit is transferable. If four or five of the classes you took for your associate don’t work with your new major, your two-year B.A. may be extended by a semester or two. Prolonging your degree could have financial ramifications -- more tuition to pay, for example -- so, again, be sure to check with an academic adviser to see exactly what you’ll need to do for your B.A.