Even as you are working toward a Bachelor’s degree, you can aim to first obtain an Associate's degree. This degree is normally issued by community or junior colleges, though some colleges and universities award this academic degree when a student completes 60 undergraduate credits. Most full-time students can hope to get an Associate's degree after two years.
Once you have an Associate’s degree, you will find that many interesting career opportunities are now open for you. By opting to earn an associate’s degree, you choose flexibility and lower time to upgrade your educational qualifications significantly. This degree is apt for those who want to switch to a new career as well as those who want to move more rapidly up the career ladder.
An associate degree is awarded by a college once the student has completed 20 courses or worked for 60 credit hours. This degree normally takes two years to obtain. In many instances it trains the student for a specific career. One can also use the credits earned for completing the full four-year bachelor’s degree course. In the United States, about half a million associate degrees are obtained each year. Moreover, many students are now opting for the distance learning route to obtain these degrees.
Types of Associates Degrees
Associate degrees can either be occupational or transfer degrees.
Occupational degrees as the name suggests train students for work in specific fields on graduating. These include Associate degrees in Applied Science, Applied Arts, Applied Technology, and Occupational Studies.
While occupational degree courses usually require more hands-on practice than transfer degree courses or the more traditional four-year bachelor’s degree course, they still have general education classes covering subjects such as writing, mathematics, and communications. Even though students can start working as soon as they graduate, the credits earned for an occupational degree can also be transferred to shorten the study period for a bachelor’s degree.
By opting for a transfer degree, students can enroll for a bachelor’s degree course with almost half the credits required already completed. Such students normally take a general course that teaches them mathematics, science, writing, and literature. They can also study specific majors that interest them.
Advantages of an associate degree
- Greater Earning Potential: People with associate degrees earn $400,000 more on an average during their lifetimes than people with only a high school education. Moreover, with an associate degree you are more likely to command a higher starting salary than those who do not have a degree.
- Greater Employment Opportunities: People with associate degrees are more likely to be employed than those without a degree. Also, employment opportunities are growing in fields such as health care. These fields require at least an associate degree from workers. Therefore, the employment prospects of those with an associate degree are brighter.
- Associate Degree Course Costs: The fees paid toward tuition when obtaining an associate degree is normally substantially lower than those toward a bachelor’s degree, when you compare credit for credit. Additionally, as most students are based close to the campus or opt for online courses, the costs of commuting, room, and board when pursuing an associate degree course are minimal.
Ease of Associate Degree Courses: For the most part, associate degree courses offer more flexibility, as many classes are held in the evening hours-making it easy for students to continue working either full- or part-time.
- Cooperative and Internships Programs: A lot of associate degree courses offer great opportunities for students to work in internships or co-ops even as they study and receive credit.
- Certificate Programs: A few associate degree courses award certificates after a year or less of study. This allows students to gain advantages in the work place (and maybe earn more) even as they continue to work toward an associate degree.
Preparing for an associate degree
You can start preparing for an associate degree course, especially if you intend to get a transfer degree, in high school. You can opt for a college preparatory curriculum that includes mathematics, science, history, English, and social studies.
If you want to obtain an occupational degree, you need to take vocational courses and/or work experience in the subject of your choice.
Many schools have specific course or work experience requirements for students, so you need to check with each school you are considering for additional details.
Every associate degree course requires you to fill in an application and provide high school transcripts. A few also ask for a personal write-up detailing the reasons for choosing the institution. Yet others expect you to provide your Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or some other college entry test scores as well.
After you are accepted but before classes start, you will most likely to asked to take standard tests in basic subjects such as English and mathematics to assess your skill levels. This will enable administrators to place you in appropriate classes.