What Is an Associate Degree? And Is It Worth Studying One in 2020?

After finishing high school, most students already know what they want to do. Many enrol in a Bachelor’s programme, others take a gap year, but what about students who choose Associate degrees?

What are these degrees, and what do they offer in terms of academic education and job prospects? To find out, we’ve put together this helpful guide, so let’s dive right in.

What is an Associate degree?

An Associate or Associate’s degree is a two-year academic programme offered at the undergraduate level. The main goal of Associate degrees is to equip students with the essential skills and knowledge that allows them to start working in a particular field.

Associate degrees are most popular in the United States, where you can usually study them at community, technical, or junior colleges. But one can encounter them in other countries, like:

In the United Kingdom, they have Foundation Degrees, which are very similar.

There are generally two types of students who apply for an Associate degree:

  • Students who want to use the Associate diploma as an official qualification for a profession, which improves their chances of being hired
  • Students who see the Associate degree course as a stepping-stone or preparation for a Bachelor’s degree

Types of Associate degrees

There are four main types of Associate degrees:

  • Associate of Arts (AA)
  • Associate of Science (AS)
  • Associate of Applied Arts (AAA)
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

Unlike other degree types and titles, the difference between them is clear. AA and AS degrees are designed for students who plan to enrol in a Bachelor’s programme in the future, or at least they want to leave that door open.

AAA and AAS degrees are more practical, training students and teaching them skills that can be applied at a workplace straight after graduation. Other common types of Associate degrees include:

  • Associate of Business Administration (ABA)
  • Associate of General Studies (AGS)
  • Associate of Applied Business (AAB)

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Admission requirements for Associate degrees

One of the advantages of choosing an Associate degree is the less strict admission requirements. Here are a few typical criteria used by universities and colleges:

  • High school diploma
  • Average GPA: 2.0 – 2.5
  • Proof of English proficiency: TOEFL iBT (60 – 70), IELTS Academic (5.5 – 6.5), or PTE Academic (50)
  • Official transcript of records (grades)
  • Application fee

For some study programmes, you might be required to provide additional documents, like SAT, ACT, or CLT test results, essays, or even a higher GPA (over 3.0).

How much does an Associate degree cost?

Tuition fees for Associate degree courses vary significantly from one college and country to another.

You can expect to pay anywhere between 2,400 and 20,000 EUR/year or more. Denmark offers free Associate degrees, but only to EU/EEA students. At the opposite extreme, some Associate degrees in the US can cost over 30,000 EUR/year.

You can use the filters on our portal to find programmes that match your budget. Here are a few examples to get you started:

Differences between an Associate degree and a Bachelor’s degree

  • Although both Associate and Bachelor’s are undergraduate degrees, you can only apply for a Master’s if you have a Bachelor’s diploma.
  • Associate degrees usually take 2 years to complete – much faster when compared to 4 years for most Bachelors in the US and 3 years for most Bachelors in Europe.
  • Associate degrees are less expensive, with tuition fees commonly ranging between 2,400 – 20,000 EUR per year. Bachelor’s programmes often cost 30,000, 40,000 or more than 50,000 EUR per year, especially in the United States.
  • It’s easier to apply for an Associate degree thanks to the less demanding admission requirements.
  • You need 60 credits (or credit hours) to graduate with an Associate degree and 120 credits for a Bachelor’s. Depending on the type of Associate degree you study, you can transfer up to 60 credits towards your Bachelor’s programme, and thus finish it faster.

Popular Associate degree courses

It’s not surprising that Associate degrees are very popular, given the number of benefits they offer to students. But which are some of the most in-demand disciplines? Let’s take a look.

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Online Associate degrees

Universities and colleges offered online Associate degrees even before the coronavirus pandemic began. And this event has contributed to an increase in the number of academic programmes that can be studied remotely.

On our portal, there are around 85 online Associate degrees focused on a wide range of disciplines:

Tuition fees for these online Associate degrees range between 9,000 – 23,000 EUR per academic year.

Find Associate degrees abroad

High-paying jobs with an Associate degree

While many jobs do require a Bachelor’s even to be considered, this doesn’t apply to every profession out there. For vocational occupations, an Associate degree is often more than enough. It even brings high salaries.

Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the CNBC created a top 10 ranking with the highest paying jobs in the US, which only require an Associate degree. Check out a few professions from their list:

  • Air Traffic Controller – 124,540 USD/year
  • Radiation Therapist – 82,330 USD/year
  • Nuclear Technician – 79,140 USD/year
  • Dental Hygienist – 74,820 USD/year
  • Web Developer – 69,430 USD/year

Is an Associate degree worth it?

It depends on your career plans and financial resources. If you fancy a vocational profession, do some research and see if you can get a job with an Associate degree – in most cases, the answer is ‘yes’.

If you’re not happy with the high school GPA or grades, an Associate degree is an excellent option to study the subject you’re interested in, improve your marks, and then apply for a Bachelor’s.

You might even be able to transfer your Associate course credits and only study 2 years out of the 3 or 4 for the Bachelor’s programme. To achieve this, courses need to be compatible, and the university must allow this type of credit transfer. Your institution can offer more detailed guidance on this.

As long as you have a well-planned career path and know what to expect, an Associate degree can easily become an asset on your CV.

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