What is An Associates Degree and What Can You Do with It?

As you prepare to enter college, you may be asking "what is an associates degree?" Like a bachelor's degree, it is a course of study at the undergraduate level, however an associates degree does not demand as long a course of study as a bachelor's degree. There are many options available to you in choice of schools. You can earn your associates degree at a community college, a junior college, a technical college or an on-line university.

Students who have finished their high-school education and are looking to join the workforce may wonder "what is an associates degree good for?" Employers are more likely to hire those applicants who have earned a degree than those who have not.  It will help you gain the technical skills required to obtain a higher paying job. Other students may wish to earn an associates degree as a first step on the way to earning a bachelor's degree. So, what is an associates degree? Let's take a look.

What Is an Associates Degree?

what is an associates degree?

An associates degree is the foundation that the rest of a student's college education is built on. An associates degree is earned in two years as opposed to the four years it takes to earn a bachelor's degree. Earning an associates degree will increase the likelihood of obtaining a higher paying job. What is an associates degree? Is there just one type? There are actually four levels of associates degrees:

  • Associates of Arts

Focuses on a general education requirements, along with humanities and liberal arts classes. Some associates of arts degrees concentrate the studies on certain subject areas such as English, History, Education, Psychology and Visual Arts. This education provides a good foundation of knowledge that can be applied to earning a bachelor's degree.

  • Associates of Science

Focuses on a general education requirements, along with science and mathematics classes. Some associates of science degrees concentrate studies on certain subject areas such as dental hygiene, emergency medical services and nursing. This education provides a good foundation to earn a bachelor degree.

  • Associate of Applied Arts 

Focuses on developing artistic and technical skills, along with humanities and liberal arts classes. An associates of applied arts is designed for performing and visual arts. This education is good for those entering the job market.

  • Associate of Applied Science

Focuses on developing technical skills, along with science and mathematics classes. An associates of applied science focuses on a specific technical skill, such as electrician, computer programming, and engineering. This education is good for those entering the job market.

Educational Requirements

While some requirements will vary from one school to another, many of the requirements are the same. There is a set of requirements that must be met for admission to the college or university. Then, there is another set of requirements that must be met to maintain enrollment.

  • Prerequisites

Prerequisites are any courses that must be completed before admission. Often these include Math and English courses which must be passed with a specified grade point average. If your course of study has a concentration on a specialized subject, you may have additional prerequisites.

  • Admissions Requirements

A high school diploma or GED is the first requirement for acceptance into an associate degree program. You will need to have a minimum high school grade point average. Passing grades in any prerequisite courses are required.

You will be asked to write a letter stating your goals both during school and after graduation. They will request two or three letters of recommendation from teachers, coaches, or friends.

  • Program Requirements

A minimum grade point average must be maintainedin general education courses, such as Math and English. You must also maintain your grade point average in your liberal arts and humanities classes. Generally, a total of 60 credits is needed to earn an associate degree.

To graduate with an associates degree you must successfully complete all of your coursework. You will need to maintain a minimum grade point average throughout your two-year program.

What Is an Associates Degree Coursework?






Career Options & Salary Expectations

What is an associates degree worth in the job market? There are as many possible career options as there are subject majors. Earning an associates degree is a good option for you if your goal is to start a career in a highly-skilled job such as; physical therapist, dental hygienist, legal assistant and air traffic controller, licensed practical nurse, computer programmer, and many more. Let's look at the ten highest paying jobs you can get with an associates degree.

  • Air Traffic Controller - $122,000 - directs the flow of traffic through airports; about 24,000 jobs

  • Radiation Therapist - $80,000 - treats patients using radiation treatments; about 19,000 jobs

  • Nuclear Technician - $79,000 - assists in nuclear research and energy production; about 7,000 jobs

  • Radiology and MRI Technician - $58,000 - treats patients in a hospital setting; about 30,000 jobs

  • Computer Programmer - $79,000 - writes the code for computer applications and software; about 300,000 jobs

  • Nuclear Medicine Technology - $74,000, uses medical imaging to treat patients; about 20,000 jobs

  • Dental Hygienist - $72,000 - cleans teeth and assists dentist

  • Registered Nurse - $68,000 - cares for patients in a hospital setting

  • Web Developer - $66,000 - designs and builds websites

  • Medical Sonographer - $62,000 - uses imaging equipment to create pictures of the body

  • Salary Expectation

What is an associate degree's impact on salary? Earning an associates degree can increase your yearly salary by about $7000 over what you would earn with just a high school diploma. The average salary range for a person with an associate degree is from about $29,000 to over $85,000.

The examples listed above show the top end of the pay scale for those career choices. In actuality, the average salary for associates degree holders varies. What you earn depends on the field you have chosen to go into and what area of the country you live in.

What Is an Associate Degree? FAQ's

What iIs an Accelerated Associate Degree Program?

What Are the Advantages of Online Associate Degrees?

How Can I Verify that an On-line Associate Degree Is Accredited?

Why Is Earning an Accredited Associates Degree so important?


We've looked at the question what is an associates degree and provided you with important information. You now know you do not have to go to four years of college before you start your career. You may want to earn your associates degree, get established in your career and then continue on with your education later down the road. Associate degrees are available in many career fields and offer many advantages over a four year bachelors program. Associates degrees are more affordable than Bachelor's degrees since they only take half the time and require half the credits. They prepare you to enter the workforce two years sooner, so you can get started on your new career. The credits you earn are often transferrable to a Bachelor's degree. And, definitely not the least - an associate degree will enable you to earn more money on every paycheck.

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