What is an associates degree? An associate’s degree is a college degree that typically takes two years of study to complete. It is one of the four traditional college degrees: associate, bachelor, master and doctorate. Associate and bachelor level degree are referred to as undergraduate degrees, while master and doctorate level degrees are referred to as graduate degrees.

Overview of Associates Degrees

Associate’s degrees are the most commonly offered college degree. These degrees are offered by vocation and technical schools, community colleges and traditional four year colleges and universities. Many schools also offer associate degree programs online. Though college entrance requirements vary from one institution to another, the most common requirements for a student wanting to pursue an associate’s degree is a high school diploma or a high school equivalency certificate. While an associate’s degree is traditionally a two year degree, some programs of study can be completed more quickly. This is especially true if the student is willing to attend class year around including during the summer months. For students attending school part-time, it may take more than two years to complete an associate degree program.

Types of Associates Degrees

There are two basic types of associate’s degrees: associate of arts or science degrees and applied associate degrees. In basic terms, an associate of arts or an associate of science degree prepares a student to complete a higher level of education while an applied associate degree prepares a student for a specific career. For example, common majors for those pursuing an associate of arts of science degree include math, history and biology while common majors for an applied associate degree include paralegal, engineering technician and drafting. Applied degrees in healthcare fields are the most popular associate degree programs at many schools. This is due to the high demand for graduates with associate degrees in certain industries such as health care. Associate of arts and science degrees are often referred to as transfer degrees when taken at a two year school. The term comes from the student’s intention to transfer to a four year school to complete a bachelor level degree program.

Benefits of Earning and Associates Degree

According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, a worker with an associate’s degree can expect to earn almost $150 more per week than a worker with a high school diploma. This works out to over $7000 more income per year or well over $250,000 over a 40 year career. The differences can be even more dramatic in some high demand fields, such as healthcare, where many workers with an associate’s degree earn over $60,000 per year. In addition to earning a higher income when working, those with an associate’s degree are more likely to get hired than workers with only a high school diploma. The BLS found that workers with an associate’s degree have unemployment rates that are about 1/3 lower than workers whose highest level of education was a high school diploma.