How Many Credits for an Associates Degree
Associate degrees are foundational degrees to help students to achieve academic and professional goals in less time than it takes to earn bachelor’s degrees.
The standard for most Associate degrees is 60 credits. Students enrolled full-time should complete this course load in two years. In addition to courses in their area of study, students will be required to take general education coursework in English, math, social sciences, and natural sciences. Associate learners may also take classes in public speaking and computers. Accounting programs may require classes in federal taxation and business law, while education students may take course work in child development and literacy. Some schools may require an introduction to college or remedial learning classes, which familiarize students with higher education and develop study skills.
Beyond the traditional papers, exams, and projects, many programs require field experiences, clinical, labs, practicums, or internships. Examples of these include healthcare programs, like a medical assistant or nursing degree. Early childhood education programs may also require practicums in preschools or childcare centers, and paralegal students may need to complete an internship.
Associate programs will qualify students for entry-level careers in fields like healthcare, education, and public service. Preschool teachers, for instance, only need an associate degree. In other fields, an associate degree can mean increased pay and career opportunities, even if the job does not require a degree. Plumbers, for instance, do not need a degree, but companies may prefer applicants with an associate. In 2018, associate graduates earned a median pay rate of $132 more per week than individuals with only a high school diploma.
Whether students plan to transfer to a bachelor’s program or pursue an immediate career, both can benefit from an associate degree.
What’s the difference between a Bachelor’s Degree and Associate Degree
An associate degree explores the core aspects of a given area of study over a two-year period. Bachelor’s degrees build on this knowledge and often take four years or more to complete. For instance, an associate degree may include an oral communication class, while bachelor’s curriculums advance into cross-cultural and organizational communication coursework.
Students can pursue associate degrees at community colleges and, in some fields, earn employment with no additional education. For instance, preschool teachers only need an associate. Other academic careers, however, require a degree from a four-year college or university, such as K-12 educators.
Many programs and majors will often insist on a minimum GPA for graduation.
Types of Associate Degrees
Many community colleges offer certificate programs, which offer the most field-specific courses, while associate of arts (AA) and associate of science (AS) degrees require general education classes.
Students can transfer associate coursework into bachelor’s programs for quicker graduation, especially if their associate school participates in transfer agreements with four-year institutions. Associate degrees can also prepare learners for certain career roles, like preschool teacher or paralegal, without additional education.
Associate of Arts (AA)
AA degrees cover liberal arts subjects, like humanities, sociology, communications, and English. Programs usually focus on general education to prepare for transfer into liberal arts bachelor’s programs, but they also offer specialty concentration courses in areas like early childhood education, social work, or digital photography. Students can finish these associate degrees in two years for areas including teacher assistants, web designers, photographers, and social and human service assistants.
Associate of Science (AS)
AS programs incorporate both liberal arts courses and scientific and technical coursework over AA degrees. AS programs include general studies curriculums that help learners transfer into different bachelor’s programs, but they also offer focuses like accounting, paralegal studies, business administration, information technology, and pre-dental education, which prepare for entry into specific bachelor’s programs.
AS students also graduate in two years and can pursue a variety of careers, including paralegals, web developers, bookkeepers, and information clerks.
Associate of Applied Science (AAS)
While AAS coursework can transfer into a four-year program, AAS graduates are more inclined to pursue consider direct employment after graduation without earning an additional degree. These two-year, career-centered programs prepare for jobs in healthcare, engineering, construction, or home repair, including positions like dental hygienists, surgical technologists, welder, hairdressers, or construction equipment operators. Many of these positions also require a license or certification.
Admission into college associate degree programs requires a high school diploma or GED certification. Colleges and universities may also expect learners to have a specific minimum GPA and to complete their state’s pre-college curriculum, which often includes passing grades in English, math, and science courses.
Some candidates may need to submit ACT or SAT scores. Other admission materials can include personal statements, writing samples, and recommendation letters. Students can also expect applicants to fill out the FAFSA.
Cost and Considerations with an Associate Degree
Students should consider all of the costs when choosing programs. Each individual needs to consider the present and long term costs associated with this education when enrolling. Many need grants, scholarships or to take out student loans with payment plans in order to afford tuition. Loans can lead to student loan default or forced pauses in studying for candidates who fall behind on tuition payments.
To help manage costs like tuition and textbooks, degree-seekers should fill out a FAFSA to apply for financial aid, which can give them access to grants, scholarships, and work-study programs. Typically, you don’t want your total cost of enrollment to exceed your financial aid award; however, a reasonable out-of-pocket expense is a cost for gaining higher education.
Public schools cost less than private institutions. In District and In-state programs also can cost less than out-of-state options. Some online students may also pay less for tuition, though they are then required to pay technology fees.
Students need to consider their overall time requirements when choosing a program. Learners who want to quickly earn their degrees should avoid programs with high credit requirements. Many degree-seekers with hectic schedules should consider asynchronous programs since synchronous options require set attendance times.