What Is an Associate’s Degree?

An associate degree is among the achievements that can be earned by a student at the undergraduate level. Successful completion of any associate program means that the student has graduated the first level of higher education. Higher education is otherwise known as college level or post-secondary education. The bachelor level program would be the next optional step in education after an associate level degree. This degree shows that an individual is competent and skilled in a particular area of study. The California Performance Review website states other undergraduate programs include any type of one or two-year technical, certificate or degree programs that can be earned prior to a bachelor level or four-year program, or any four or five-year bachelor degree programs that are taken before enrolling in graduate courses.

Where a Student Can Earn an Associate’s Degree and Length of Program

Associate degree level programs are offered at community colleges, technical schools and many national universities. There are also many universities that offer online associate degree programs. A student that physically attends class or an individual that has decided to become a cyber-student should make sure the school is accredited by the appropriate agencies. Schools, colleges and universities that are accredited follow strict guidelines and standards for their curriculum. An accreditation agency periodically checks to make sure the college or university is meeting its high educational standards. This ensures that the students that enroll will receive the best quality of education. The length of a program depends on the degree and can take anywhere from one to three years.

Education Beyond the Associate Level

An associate degree can be transferable to another program or school. Some students decide that they do not need any further education beyond an associate’s degree. Others might be interested in using the associate courses as a foundation for future post-secondary study. Whether the student has completed his or her education at the associate level or if he or she chooses to continue on an educational track depends on the student’s individual goals and career plans. It is not always necessary to earn degrees in the same area of study but some degree programs require specific educational backgrounds.

An example would be a student that is interested in forensic psychology might earn an Associate of Science in Criminal Justice and follow up with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. The student preparing to enroll in an associate program should consider whether he or she might eventually want to continue with their post-secondary education and find out whether their credits will transfer to another school. The student should also make sure that the associate program will be relevant to any future college degree programs of interest.

Types of Associate Degrees

There are different varieties of associate degrees. Generally this degree is classified as an Associate of Science or an Associate of Arts degree in a particular field. Winston-Salem State University states the difference between an Associate in Arts degree and an Associate in Science degree involves more science courses for the latter degree. The Associate of Arts degree is designed for students that plan to follow a liberal arts path. The Associate of Science degree is intended for students that will follow a program that will include more of a focus in mathematics and science.

Earning this Degree: What is the Impact on Your Career

An education at any level shows that a person has received instruction and training to groom them for a particular career. An associate degree is proof that a person has received a formal education in their field and will be better prepared to handle a position of employment. An employee background that includes an education makes that individual a more attractive candidate for the job and can even mean more earning potential than someone without a degree can earn. Campbellsville University cited a Bureau of Labor Statistics study that showed individuals that had achieved an associate’s degree earned $130 more than an individual without a degree. A groundbreaking University of Florida study found that graduates of an associate program actually had more earning potential than graduates of bachelor programs. According to the study this was especially true of individuals that degrees in communication and public administration.

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