Introduction to Associate Degrees
AssociatesDegrees provides students with information on associates degrees and entry-level jobs. An associate’s degree is a post-secondary academic degree that is awarded after two years of study, and typically marks a student’s half-way point to earning a bachelor’s degree.
While some students opt to stop college after earning their associate’s degree, as it is sufficient education to enter the workforce in many careers, other students move on to a four-year university. The degree can be a stepping-stone on the way to getting a bachelor’s degree, but it’s also a valid diploma in its own right, and a helpful device for marketing your education to your future employers.
What is an Associate’s Degree?
An associate degree is a 2-year undergraduate academic degree. Community colleges, junior colleges, and technical colleges award associate degrees. In some cases bachelor’s degree-granting colleges and universities also give associate degrees upon completion of a course of study usually lasting two years. An associate degree is the lowest in the hierarchy of post-secondary academic degrees offered in the U.S. and Western Canada.
The best thing about getting an associate’s degree online is the flexible nature it provides—you can earn a degree from the comfort and privacy of your own home. Usually you can select a program with coursework that doesn’t interfere with your work schedule so you can continue to work part-time or full-time while getting a degree. Occasionally your employer will help with tuition reimbursement if you’re pursuing a career-related associates degree, so check with your human resources department to see if your employer participates in a tuition reimbursement program.
Types of Associate’s Degrees
There are many associate degrees out there that can help you pursue the education and trade that you want. Every school has their own unique offerings of associate degrees.
Most associate degrees can be broken into 8 categories, with specific degrees and jobs falling within those categories:
- Arts and Humanities: Fashion Design, General Studies, Liberal Arts
- Business: Accounting, Applied Management, Bookkeeping, Administrative Assistant, Business Administration, Business Management, Financial Planning, Marketing, Office Management
- Computers and IT: Computer Science, Computer Technology, Information Systems, General Technology, Web Design, Web Programming
- Criminal Justice/Social Sciences: Criminal Justice, Police Officer, Justice Administration, Paralegal
- Education and Teaching: Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education
- Health and Medicine: Medical Administration, Medical Billing, Medical Transcription, Nursing, Physical Therapy
- Science and Technology: Applied Science, Electronics, Nuclear Technology, Social Psychology, Social Work
Traders and Careers: Automotive and Mechanics, Carpentry and Construction, Cosmetology, Culinary Arts, Electricians, Engineering, Hotel and Restaurant Management, Plumbing, Real Estate, Welding
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
There is a plethora of online associate degree programs, so it is important to do your homework before you start applying or accepting programs. There are certain things you should check into such as:
- Is the institution accredited?
- How much is tuition? What is the price per hour or course?
- What do alumni say about the school and the program you’re interested in?
- How long will it take to get the degree?
- How much assistance will the school provide you?
- How often will you be required to log in each week to attend class?
- What is the course load like?
Before committing to any program, spend time getting familiar with its special features, advantages, and disadvantages. Contact professors or do online research to know what jobs are out there for your potential degree to be sure that you select the program right for you.
The Best Associate’s Degrees for Today’s Job Market
Pricing varies among programs of different colleges and universities, so you must take into account how much a degree costs relative to its earning potential. Overall though, earning an associate degree will have a drastic impact on your potential earning. The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics did a study in 2007 that found the median earnings of young adults with an associate degree to earn $35,000 annually, compared to $29,000 for those with a high school diploma.
Recently, The Bureau of Labor Statistics ranked computer specialist ($68,570/year), radiation therapist ($66,170/year), and nuclear technician ($65,500/year) as the top earning careers for associate degrees. Dental hygienist, fashion designers, and nuclear medicine technologists come close to the top as well.
Through The Bureau of Labor Statistics, government economists estimate which occupations with associate degrees will have the most job openings between 2008 and 2018. The list is as follows:
- Registered nurses: 1,039,000
- Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants: 422,000
- Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses: 391,000
- Computer support specialists: 235,000
- Hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists: 220,000
- Automotive service technicians and mechanics: 182,000
- Preschool teachers, except special education: 178,000
- Insurance sales agents: 153,000
- Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration technicians: 136,000
- Real estate sales agents: 128,000
For more specific guidelines of how much you could earn in your potential associates degree, go to The Bureau of Labor Statistics selected occupational projections data website, and search by the education and training category.
What Kind of Financial Assistance Exists for Associate Degrees?
You can receive the same financial aid and assistance for associate degrees as you do for 4-year bachelor of art or science degrees.
The first thing you should do in wanting financial assistance is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will begin the process of determining how much federal aid you might be eligible to receive. On January 1 of every year, the U.S. Department of Education begins accepting FAFSA forms from potential students. Each year you are allowed to re-submit a “renewal” FAFSA form with updated information from the previous year’s tax information. It’s important to check with your school’s financial department to determine deadlines for aid applications. State deadlines and federal deadlines don’t always line up, so depending on where your online degree program is based you may be required to process and submit the federal aid form earlier than expected. Advisors in the financial aid department should be able to tell you about non-federal grants available through the school.
Another place for financial advice and assistance for an online associates degree is the Department of Education’s home for Student Aid. It is a Web-based resource for different student aid options with a hub of information about federal aid and scholarships, as well as calculators to help you know how much you’ll need to borrow and how long you’ll need to pay it back.
Additional Resources about Associate’s Degrees
If you are interested in getting your associates degree online, there are plenty of resources to help you in the process.
- An important link you should check out is the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs. This is a searchable index of colleges and universities that have received national and/or regional accreditation. It is important to make sure you get your associates degree from an accredited school, as they offer the best education that employers will trust. This database is invaluable to you if you’re considering online education.
- The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) also has a Web based database with more than 7,900 degree-granting and non-degree-granting institutions and more than 20,000 programs that are accredited by United States accrediting organizations.
- A helpful database that allows you to search online degree programs by the level of degrees awarded is the U.S. News & World Report. If you have a list of potential associates degree programs you’re trying to decide between, this website can help you through that process with important statistics and information.
Looking for an Associates Degree?
Fill out this short form below, and we'll help match you to an accredited college program that suits your interests, whether online- or campus-based.