Get the Lowdown on Associate’s Degrees and the Benefits They Offer
Associate’s degrees can translate into the first two years of a bachelor’s degree program or function as a fast springboard into a rewarding career. These highly affordable and flexible degrees have become increasingly popular in recent years and offer a host of benefits to those just starting their educational journeys and those looking for a career change.
An associate’s-level program typically consists of 60 credits or about 20 courses. As a full-time student, you can usually complete these programs in two years. Studying on a part-time basis could stretch the timeline by several years. You can choose from an array of public community colleges and for-profit institutions, many of which offer convenient online programs. Be aware, however, that for-profit schools can be much more expensive than their public counterparts.
There are three types of associate’s degrees. The Associate of Applied Science, or AAS, is the choice for those who want to work in a specific field right after graduation. Practical knowledge is the focus here, with industry-specific coursework that allows graduates to hit the ground running in professional terms. Entrepreneurship, paralegal studies, and human resources are good examples of majors within these degree programs.
The Associate of Science, or AS, typically caters to those who want to work in the healthcare, computer science, and physical science fields. STEM classes are the priority in this type of degree program. You might choose this type of degree if you’re interested in physical therapy, medical transcription, business administration, or any number of IT-related jobs.
If you’re dedicated to earning a four-year degree, the Associate of Arts, or AA, is your best bet. There are more arts and humanities courses in an AA program than in other associate’s curricula. On its own, an AA degree can give you a leg up in sales and business management positions. If you’re undecided on what you want to study in a bachelor’s degree program, you can earn more with an AA degree than with a high school diploma while you make up your mind.
In 2018, the median weekly earnings for those with associate’s degrees were about 18 percent higher than those with only high school diplomas. Tuition can vary widely for associate’s degree programs, but the increase in salary and career options more than justifies the investment.
Nursing is one of the primary fields in which an associate’s degree has long been the main requirement. It’s far from the only lucrative career option for those who hold associate’s degrees, though. Computer network support specialists and web developers are two good examples, both earning an average salary of around $60,000. Sonographers and dental hygienists can earn in the $75,000 range. Those positions represent the tip of the iceberg when it comes to high-paying jobs that require only an associate’s degree.
Catering to a wide range of academic and career goals, associate’s degree programs are affordable, accessible, and boast a wealth of benefits.
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