An Associates Degree opens doors to a more promising career path. This flexible and fast-paced degree allows you to earn a valuable degree in just a short amount of time. Whether you want to launch a new career or pursue an advanced degree down the road, an Associates Degree is a great place to start. If you want to learn more about the benefits of an Associates Degree, read through our articles for important information or check out our Degree Search box to find out what programs are available in your field today.


What is an associate degree?

An associate degree is a college degree awarded after the completion of about 20 courses or 60 credit hours. An associate degree usually takes two years to complete and may prepare students for a specific career and/or enable them to apply earned credits toward a four-year bachelor’s degree program.

More than a half million associate degrees are awarded every year in the United States, and distance learning is becoming an increasingly popular way for people to earn associate degrees.

What types of associate degrees are available?

Associate degrees are either occupational degrees or transfer degrees.

Occupational degrees prepare students to work in a particular field upon graduation and include the Associate of Applied Science, Associate of Applied Arts, Associate of Applied Technology, and Associate of Occupational Studies.

Occupational degree programs are generally more hands-on than transfer degree programs or traditional four-year bachelor’s degree programs, but still require general education classes such as mathematics, writing, and communications. Although students will be ready to join the workforce immediately upon graduation, occupational degree credits may also be transferred and applied toward bachelor’s degree programs.

Transfer degrees allow students to enter a bachelor’s degree program with about half of the credits already earned. Students usually take a general course of study that includes mathematics, writing, science, and literature; specific majors may also be pursued.

Here is a list of common abbreviations of popular associate degrees:

  • AA: Associate of Arts
  • AE: Associate of Engineering or Associate in Electronics Engineering Technology
  • AN: Associate of Nursing
  • AS: Associate of Science
  • AF: Associate of Forestry
  • AT: Associate of Technology
  • AAA: Associate of Applied Arts
  • AAB: Associate of Applied Business
  • AAS: Associate of Applied Science or Associate of Arts and Sciences
  • AAT: Associate of Arts in Teaching
  • ABA: Associate of Business Administration
  • ABS: Associate of Baccalaureate Studies
  • ADN: Associate Degree in Nursing
  • AES: Associate of Engineering Science
  • AET: Associate in Engineering Technology
  • AFA: Associate of Fine Arts
  • AGS: Associate of General Studies
  • AIT: Associate of Industrial Technology
  • AOS: Associate of Occupational Studies
  • APE: Associate of Pre-Engineering
  • APS: Associate of Political Science or Associate of Public Service
  • ASPT-APT: Associate in Physical Therapy

In what subjects are associate degrees available?

Associate degrees are available in many areas including business, marketing, education, health care, and technology.

Some associate degree programs available include:

  • Accounting
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Automotive and Mechanics
  • Applied Management
  • Applied Science
  • Bookkeeping
  • Business Administration
  • Business Management
  • Carpentry and Construction
  • Computer Science
  • Computer Technology
  • Cosmetology
  • Criminal Justice
  • Culinary Arts
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Electronics
  • Electrician
  • Elementary Education
  • Engineering
  • Fashion Design
  • Financial Planning
  • General Studies
  • Hotel and Restaurant Management
  • Human Resources
  • Information Systems
  • Justice Administration
  • Liberal Arts
  • Marketing
  • Medical Administration
  • Medical Billing
  • Medical Transcription
  • Nuclear Technology
  • Nursing
  • Office Management
  • Paralegal
  • Physical Therapy
  • Plumbing
  • Real Estate
  • Social Psychology
  • Social Work
  • Technology
  • Web Design
  • Web Programming
  • Welding

Why should I pursue an associate degree?

Some of the benefits of earning an associate degree include:

  • Increased Earning Potential

Associate degree holders earn an average of $400,000 more over a lifetime than high school graduates, and often have higher starting salaries than those without a degree.

  • Increased Employment Possibilities

Unemployment rates are generally much lower for those with associate degrees compared to those with high school diplomas. Moreover, employment fields in which associate degrees are beneficial, especially health care, are continually growing; therefore job prospects are increasingly better for those with associate degrees as well.

  • Cost of Associate Degree Programs

Tuition of associate degree programs is usually considerably less than those of bachelor’s degree programs, credit for credit. Moreover, since most students either live close to campus or take courses online, commuting, room, and board expenses of an associate degree program are also comparatively low.

  • Convenience of Associate Degree Programs

Associate degree programs are traditionally the most flexible college degree programs, with many classes offered during evening hours-great for those who continue to work full- or part-time while studying.

  • Internships and Cooperative Programs

Many associate degree programs offer incredible opportunities for students to work in co-ops or internships while studying and receiving credit at the same time.

  • Certificate Programs

Some associate degree programs offer certificates after one year or less of study, which allow them to work with additional credentials (and perhaps higher pay) while pursuing an associate degree.

Where can I find associate degree programs of study?

Various institutions offer associate degree programs including community colleges, two-year colleges, technical institutes, and four-year colleges and universities.

Many of these also offer online associate degree programs as well; online associate degrees are some of the most common pursued through distance learning.

How do I choose a school to pursue an associate degree?

Some of the most important factors to consider when choosing an institution at which to purse an associate degree include:

  • School’s accreditation
  • Curriculum, including available degree programs and courses
  • Faculty qualifications
  • Academic facilities and support
  • Career services and job placement rates
  • Transfer rate

How can I prepare for an associate degree program?

Preparation for an associate degree program, especially for a transfer degree, can begin in high school with students taking a college preparatory curriculum including mathematics, English, science, history, and social studies.

For those intending to pursue an occupational degree program, vocational courses and/or work experience in the chosen subject are advised.

Some schools require specific courses or work experience for entry into their programs, so be sure to check with each individual school for more details.

What is the application process for an associate degree program like?

All associate degree programs require an application and high school transcripts from applicants. Some ask for a personal statement explaining why the applicant would like to pursue an associate degree at their institution, and some request scores from the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or other college achievement tests as well.

Once accepted but before beginning classes, students often must take standard assessment tests in basic subject areas like English and mathematics in order to place them in the appropriate classes for their skill levels.