Associate Degree vs. Bachelor Degree: Which Is a Better Fit for You?


Deciding where to continue higher education is something most students struggle with. Two popular choices are associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees. Both degrees have their own set of advantages and disadvantages, and deciding which one is a better fit for you can be a tough decision.

Read on for an overview of both degrees and find out what makes them different. 

What is an Associate Degree?


An associate degree is an undergraduate generally given by a community college or junior college. Usually, it’s the next step after high school and the one before a bachelor’s degree. An associate can be a stand-alone degree or serves as a stepping stone for your college education. 

Associate degrees can be obtained as occupational or vocational degrees. Students are provided training in specific technical skills and the academic knowledge needed for employment or further study in a chosen field. Students can also complete an associate transfer degree with the intention of transferring to a four-year university.

Is an associate degree worth it?

Associate degrees are ideal for students who have yet to determine what career they wish to pursue or are still in-between options. Programs that focus on general studies cover a range of liberal arts subjects including communication, writing, art, history, humanities, philosophy, psychology, computer science, and more.

These degrees are also an excellent choice for students who cannot get into a particular or well-known university because they didn’t perform highly in high school, or their SAT scores were low. An associate degree can help said students rewrite their educational performance.

What is a Bachelor’s Degree?


A bachelor’s degree provides students with knowledge and skills in a particular field that will lead them to professional and mid-level management jobs. This degree is considered the mandatory minimum level of education needed to work in many fields, such as business administration and engineering. 

Students who pursue a bachelor’s program may tailor their elective classes to complete a minor. A minor is a secondary concentration of courses amounting to a specialty that complements the major. For example, a major in business administration and management may be paired with a minor in finance.

Is a bachelor’s degree worth it?

Bachelor degree programs are the most fitting for students who know what degree they want to pursue. Whether you choose the traditional or online route, a bachelor’s degree provides students with the knowledge and skillset to support their passion and find a job in the field they desire. 

Fields such as business, information technology, and marketing typically have in-demand jobs that require a bachelor’s degree. For graduate degree programs, such as doctorates, post-baccalaureate certificates, or master’s, a bachelor’s degree is required.

Can You Get a Bachelor’s Degree Before an Associate Degree?

An associate degree is not required to enroll in a bachelor’s program. Using an associate degree to complete a bachelor’s degree is common for students who didn’t want to commit to a specific major right away or for professionals seeking a promotion within their current field or transitioning into a new career.

Students who like to continue their education after earning an associate degree can typically transfer many of the credits earned to a bachelor’s degree program.

Difference Between Associate and Bachelor’s Degree


If you’re struggling to choose between the two, knowing their differences can help you make a decision that will serve your best interest.


A significant difference between these two degrees is the time it takes to complete each one. An associate degree takes two years, no matter the major. On the other hand, a bachelor’s degree takes from three to seven years, depending on the specialization, the major, and the institution. However, if a student pursues these degrees part-time, then it will essentially take longer to complete.


The cost per credit varies on the institute, but associate degrees are generally less expensive than bachelor’s degrees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, bachelor’s degree graduates have median weekly earnings of $337 higher than associate degree graduates. 

Even though an associate degree can qualify for an entry-level position, it’s worth noting that promotions or other career advancements may require additional education.

Level of study

Usually, the coursework load for bachelor students is more intensive than those of associate students. Ultimately, a bachelor’s degree requires the completion of approximately 120 semester credits (40 classes), whereas an associate degree requires the completion of roughly 20 classes or 60 semester credits.

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Given these points, assess your career goals to determine which degree would help you achieve them. If you’re not yet set on a specific degree or want to rewrite your educational performance, an associate is your best bet.  Comparatively, if you find a program that will put you on the career path you wish for and plan to continue with a master’s degree, a bachelor’s degree will benefit you most.

The Bottom Line 

The decision between pursuing an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree depends on a variety of factors, including career goals, financial situation, and personal preferences. While an associate degree can provide a quicker and more affordable route to certain professions, a bachelor’s degree may offer more career opportunities and potential for higher salaries in the long run.

It’s important to carefully consider your individual situation and weigh the pros and cons of each option before making a decision. Regardless of which path you choose, remember that education is a valuable investment in your future.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

Should I get an associate’s or bachelor’s?

The answer depends on your personal and professional goals. An associate’s degree is a good option if you’re looking to quickly enter the workforce, whereas a bachelor’s degree provides more advanced career opportunities and higher earning potential.

What is the meaning of an associate degree?

An associate degree is a two-year undergraduate degree that focuses on specific fields of study, such as business, healthcare, or technology. It is typically awarded by community colleges, junior colleges, and technical colleges.

What is the meaning of AA as BA BS?

AA in BA BS stands for Associate of Arts degree. It is a two-year degree program that focuses on liberal arts and general education courses.

Is an associate degree equal to a bachelor’s degree?

No, an associate degree is not equal to a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree is a higher level of education that typically requires more credits and takes longer to complete than an associate degree.

What two-year degree pays the most?

Radiation therapy is considered as the most lucrative associate degree in the healthcare industry. It involves the administration of radiation treatments to cancer patients and radiation therapists who specialize in this field earn a median income of nearly $90,000 annually. 

Is a bachelor’s degree 4 years?

Yes, typically, a bachelor’s degree program in the United States takes 4 years to complete. However, some programs may take longer or shorter depending on the field of study and the individual student’s pace.

What level is a bachelor’s degree?

A bachelor’s degree is an undergraduate academic degree that typically takes four years to complete. It is the first level of higher education and is awarded by colleges and universities upon completion of a program of study.

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