An associate degree is a college degree that is normally completed in two years, and which prepares students to begin a career or to continue onward to bachelor’s degree-level study. The benefits of having this degree are numerous, and tend to vary depending on whether the degree holder plans to begin working immediately or intends to pursue another degree. Those who wish to enter the workforce after earning an associate’s will typically find that they are more employable and earn higher pay than those without this degree. Individuals who want to continue their education usually find that an associate degree saves money and gives them a chance to adjust to college life.
Generally, an associate degree serves one of two purposes. It can prepare a student to enter a specific career field by providing him with in-depth training in that field. Alternatively, it may constitute the first leg of a bachelor’s degree for students who go on to transfer to a four-year program. Normally, an associate degree takes around two years to complete and involves approximately 20 classes. Depending on the program, students may attend classes on a traditional community college or university campus or may take Internet-based classes.
Those who intend to begin working immediately after finishing their associate degree will generally find that the degree has several benefits. First of all, according to the American Association of Community Colleges, holders of this type of degree can earn up to 23 percent more money than individuals who have not continued their education beyond high school. Further, completing an associate program may increase one’s employability, as it provides skills and knowledge relevant to one’s chosen career path. In fact, employers in many fields consider applications only from individuals who have a minimum of an associate qualification.
For those who will go on to transfer to a four-year bachelor’s degree program, an associate degree offers a different set of benefits. First of all, tuition fees for associate programs tend to be moderately to significantly cheaper than those assessed for four-year programs. Thus, students can save money by completing their general education and elective requirements as part of an associate program, and then going on to take classes in their chosen major once they have transferred to a bachelor’s program. Students who plan to transfer to a bachelor’s program should consult a school counselor to ensure that credits earned during their associate program are transferable.
Lastly, an associate program is often completed at a local community college, giving students the option of living at home while enrolled. Consequently, associate students can avoid the often-high costs of room and board. Further, an associate program allows students who are uncertain whether a bachelor’s degree is right for them to “test drive” the college experience without making a four-year commitment.