An Associate Degree is the lowest in the hierarchy of college degrees. Given for the successful completion (Grade C or better) of sixty or more credit hours of approved classes, it is quite often used as a transfer degree for the classes typically consist of the same classes as the first two years of a Bachelor Degree program. Therefore many college students, in order to save money, start out earning an Associate Degree from a two year college (Community College) before transferring to a four year college or university.
Besides the transfer degree option, there is also the vocational degree. These are two year programs designed to teach you the basics of a profession, so that you can enter the workforce after completion-locksmithing, secretarial, and auto mechanics are all things one can learn in a vocation degree program.
Of the two (transfer and vocational), the transfer degree is the more valuable. Most people either take Associate of Arts (A.A.) or an Associate of Science (A.S.). The A.A. focuses more on the social sciences and arts than the A.S., which requires more math and science classes.
Because it is the lowest degree in the hierarchy, many students underestimate the benefits of earning an Associate degree. To many, it is merely a means to an end rather than an end unto itself. While it is true that the Associate degree’s primary function is to lay the groundwork for either a job or higher degree, it serves another function.
It is during your Associate program that you learn the basics of college life, and several important real-life skills. Your basic English classes teach you how to write clearly; whether you end up writing for a living or a job requirement, or just occasionally have to write an email. Your basic math classes will lay the groundwork for any of the higher mathematics you might be interested in, and helps you have confidence when faced with math on the job. If your college requires a Speech class, by all means take it-the real-world is full of bad speechmakers, and you will never know when you will have to sway the opinions of others-it is best to be prepared.
Yet this is not all that the Associate degree programs are designed to do. For those who walk into college with a goal, it helps confirm that you made the right choice-if you discover that it is the wrong choice, it is less expensive to make the decision to change your mind during your Associate program than later. And for those who have no idea of what their eventual goal is, you can experiment taking a wide-range of courses until you find a goal that appeals to you.
An Associate program can be fun and interesting, and not just a means to an end. Take classes in subjects that interest you; after you move on you will be focused exclusively on getting a degree or a job. The time spent making sure that you are picked a goal that you want to spend the rest of your life on, or at a good portion of it, is well worth the cost of your Associate degree.