An associate degree is generally a two-year degree from an educational institution such as a community college, career school, university or college. The two years of coursework involves about 60 college credits received by completing a number of general education courses along with core subject courses and electives.
Associate degrees are available in a wide variety of subjects like arts, applied science, science, business, computers, health services, education, engineering and other career fields. After earning your associate degree you may have the option of transferring your credits to a Bachelor’s degree program. So what then are the advantages of an associate degree?
o Associate degrees are cheaper than a four year Bachelor’s degree. It is common to complete your Bachelor’s or Master’s degree with a debt of nearly $50,000 to your name. Associate degrees on the other hand can be half the cost of a higher degree and since many colleges now offer associate degrees online, you also have the option of working while studying and paying for your education. Many students have discovered that they can actually add to their savings while working and earning their associate degree.
o Since associate degrees are normally for two years, it allows graduates to enter the work force faster and as a result start earning faster.
o Associate degrees are favorably regarded by employers who value the motivation and maturity required by the student who opts for it and the career skills it qualifies you for. Needless to say, if you are juggling work along with your college degree program, it is always a positive feature for employers.
o Associate degrees offer more flexibility in terms of being used as a gateway into hundreds of differing advanced degree options. In case you are still unsure of your final career choice, an associate degree is your best bet to narrow down the field of choices.
o Associate degrees also give you the option of bolstering your grades before applying for a four-year degree program.
o For those students not near a big city or university, associate degrees offered by a local community college or career school offer the best option to continue your education and prepare for your career.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself before applying for an associate degree:
What does your career demand?
In today’s cut-throat job market, you will be competing among highly qualified candidates. If your job demands a Bachelor’s degree or higher, it might be difficult to go far with just an associate degree. Ask around and check with potential employers about what qualifications are required for entry level jobs into the industry.
Will an associate degree meet all your goals?
If you have long term plans that involve climbing the corporate ladder or increasing your potential for promotion, an associate degree might not be enough. Talk to people in the industry you are interested in and find out about their expectations. You may need to go back to school at some point in your career, if an associate degree is your only option right now.
Can your associate degree be transferred to a Bachelor’s degree?
There are some associate degrees that are easily transferable to a Bachelor’s degree program later on while some others are impossible to transfer. Even if graduate degree is not part of your plans right now, you may change your mind later or your job might demand it so always be sure about what type of program you are choosing. Speak to your guidance counselor and admissions officer about all the information you require to make a well-informed decision.
What industry experience do you have?
If you have an associate degree but a large amount of work experience, you may have the upper hand over others with a Bachelor’s degree in your industry. However, if you’re planning on applying for a job without any industry experience, you may have trouble competing against other candidates for even entry-level positions.
Finally, if you are convinced that an associate degree is what you need right now, make sure that the college degree program or college that you choose is accredited. Failing to check on accreditation might leave you spending a whole lot of time and money on a piece of paper that counts for nothing in the future.