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Deciding where to continue higher education is something most students struggle with. If you’re torn between an associate and a bachelor’s degree, 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. 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. Graduate degree programs, such as masters, doctorates, or post-baccalaureate certificates, also require a bachelor’s degree.


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.

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.



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