An Associate’s degree is a two year undergraduate degree consisting of about 60 semester hours. That kind of easy answer is nearly worthless!
The Associates degree is generally earned at either a Community College or a Technical College. They are also earned at Junior Colleges but that name seems to be waning in use. In all cases the degree indicates that the student completed a program of study that was broad based in general education with additional knowledge in a specific area. The Associates degree is the lowest academic degree offered in the US and Canada and it is designed to prepare the student for either an entry level job or transfer to a four-year bachelor’s program.
There are three main types of associate degree programs:
1. Associate of Arts degree (AA), this prepares the student for transfer to a four year university Bachelor of Arts program at a university.
2. Associate of Applied Science (AAS), this degree is primarily for career entry or job advancement but can also be acceptable toward transfer to a four year Bachelor of Science degree at a university.
3. Associate Degree of Science (AS), this prepares the student for transfer to a four
year Bachelor of Science program at a university.
What an Associate’s degree really does is show potential employers is that you are a little more educated than the high school job seeker and hopefully are also a little more mature. If it is an Associate of Science (A.S.) in a specific field that tells an employer that you have a lot more specific knowledge of that field and that in all likelihood you will require less training.
An Associate’s degree is also a tool for the individual. In many cases, working adults with significant experience use the local community college to get the Associate of Arts (A.A.), Associate of Science (A.S.) or the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree to show an employer educational credentials in order to get a raise or to move into a new field. In fact, the military allows accelerated promotion upon entry to those recruits who hold an Associate’s degree and adds promotion points to those who earn their degree while on active duty.
People also use the degree as a stepping stone because a four year degree can seem like a long process if only going part time and the Associate’s degree is a good stepping stone. Part of that stepping stone process is that in nearly all cases, a two year degree comes at a much lower cost than the same two years in a four year college and in virtually all state systems the Associate’s degree transfers into the four year college as the first two years.
Lastly, an Associate’s degree is something you can put up on the wall to show your kids that you value an education and to give them some inspiration to surpass you on the educational achievement level. That way, your kids should have it better than you which are what all parents want for their kids.