Associate Degree vs. Bachelor Degree: Which Is Better?

Associate Degree vs. Bachelor Degree: Which Is a Better? Which is more suitable, an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree? Each has its advantages depending on your situation and career aspirations. To determine what’s better for you, consider your personal circumstances and professional objectives. If you’re undecided, keep reading, and we’ll discuss some points to assist you.

What Is an Associate Degree?

Associate degrees get you ready for starting jobs or progressing to a bachelor’s degree. They typically take two years and need around 40-60 credits. Community colleges and universities provide different associate degrees in various subjects.

You can get an Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS), or Associate of Applied Science (AAS). AA degrees emphasize liberal arts and humanities, and AS degrees focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) or business areas. AAS provides specific training to quickly get you into careers like dental hygiene or respiratory therapy.

Turning Your Associate Degree Into a Bachelor’s Degree

Earning an associate degree can open doors to well-paying technical jobs. For example, radiation therapists who need an associate degree earned a median yearly salary of $89,530 in 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Yet, lots of students decide to go for a bachelor’s degree after getting their associate degree. You can begin at a two-year community college to cut costs before moving to a four-year university. Many community colleges team up with four-year schools to make transferring smooth.

The Basic Differences Between Bachelor’s and Associate’s Degrees

Deciding between community college and a 4-year degree? Community college is a cost-effective and quicker way to get a degree, while a 4-year degree opens up more job opportunities. Research the changing trends in your field before choosing between an associate or bachelor’s degree.

For an associate degree, you can focus on a specific career or take general studies, and credits may transfer to a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree typically requires around 120 credits, and it’s often the minimum education level for careers like architecture or chemistry. General education courses and electives add depth to your chosen field.

Reasons to Aim for an Associate Degree

  • The current job you aim for doesn’t need a bachelor’s degree.

Cybersecurity is a great example of a job that requires an associate degree. You can start with an associate degree, get employed, and progress in your career. Many jobs in various fields have supervisory roles, and you can work your way into those positions. Later on, if you wish, you can pursue a bachelor’s degree, focusing on management or business courses to advance into managerial roles. In 2010, 23% of kids from families pursued a two-year degree, while in 2017, this percentage increased to 34% (source: Sallie Mae 2017).

  • You’re eager to start working and gain practical experience. 

If you prefer spending less time in school and more time gaining relevant experience in the field, an associate degree is the way to go.

  • If you’re uncertain about your career path.

When exploring associate degree options, inquire about program transferability, especially if you’re considering pursuing a bachelor’s later on. Not all degree programs are equally transfer-friendly, and some schools, such as Franklin, have partnerships with community colleges to simplify the transfer of associate credits to a bachelor’s program. Avoid occupational associate degrees if you’re unsure about your future, as they focus intensely on one field (like air conditioning or welding), and if you decide it’s not for you, your coursework may not easily transfer to another area of study.

  • If you don’t have much money.

Going for an associate degree is usually cheaper than a bachelor’s degree (around $20,000-$25,000 vs approximately $40,000), as per CollegeBoard. So, if you’re strapped for cash, it might be wise to skip the pricier bachelor’s degree. Nonetheless, Dr. Doug Ross, who heads the B.S. Business Administration Program at Franklin University, notes that in the long term, various studies suggest that a bachelor’s degree typically leads to better opportunities for higher pay and promotions within your company.

  • Going to a regular college for four years might not suit your current lifestyle. 

The campus experience might not work well if you’re already juggling work, family, or kids. It’s your call to decide which type of school program suits you best.

Reasons to Begin Your Path Toward a Bachelor’s

  • Boost your income by aiming to make the most of your earning capabilities. 

On average, individuals holding a bachelor’s degree earn significantly more throughout their lifetime – approximately $325,000 more than those with an associate degree, as reported by The Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 2014.

  • To advance in management and leadership.

Having a bachelor’s degree is crucial nowadays, unlike in the past when climbing the career ladder without it was possible. Dr. Ross emphasizes that employers now seek individuals with formal education in leadership, critical thinking, knowledge, and management.

  • You aim to outshine competitors in growing areas such as cybersecurity for job prospects. 

Being the pioneer in any new field offers a chance for success. A bachelor’s degree in your chosen field can kickstart your career swiftly.

  • Feeling unhappy in your job? 

Maybe you’re thinking of switching careers, but the idea of going back to school scares you due to the cost. Look at it from a long-term perspective. Just like investing in a car, where people spend a lot and pay over time, consider education similarly. It’s a valuable investment, like a car, but unlike a car, your degree’s value lasts and doesn’t depreciate.

  • You like to learn and think critically, and education is crucial in life. 

Our natural curiosity to understand and improve is a significant aspect of our identity. Moreover, gaining a bachelor’s degree will enhance your overall job prospects. Bachelor’s programs typically incorporate critical thinking skills into the coursework, contributing to your employability. The focus is on elevated thinking and leadership, which employers acknowledge. Pursuing a master’s degree involves even more critical thinking, but that’s a decision for another time.

When It’s Time to Decide

Picking a college major is a personal decision that requires careful planning. It’s interesting to note that individuals often have different reasons for choosing between an associate program and a bachelor’s program. When opting for an associate program, considerations like cost and location play a significant role. Here are some practical tips for making this decision:

  1. Prioritize experience: Employers emphasize the importance of practical experience. According to Holly McFarland, Director of Center for Career Development at Franklin University, employers value experience highly. However, for supervisory or management roles, Dr. Ross emphasizes that a bachelor’s degree is crucial.
  2. Consider pursuing both degrees: McFarland suggests aiming for an associate degree after the initial two years of school. This enhances employability compared to someone with two years of college but no associate degree. You can later pursue a bachelor’s degree part-time, minimizing accumulated loan debt.
  3. Plan ahead: Utilize programs like “college credit plus” in high school to earn up to a year’s worth of college credits. Applying these credits to a community college could leave you with only one year remaining to complete your associate degree.
  4. Recognize the enduring value of college: Despite concerns about rising education costs, a Sallie Mae report from 2017 reveals that 98% of college students and parents view college as a valuable investment in the future. The belief that college is an investment has remained steady for a decade.

Ultimately, it’s crucial to choose the path that best suits your needs and goals.

Associate vs. Bachelor’s Degree: Which Is Right for You?

If you’re eager to kickstart a hands-on job quickly, an associate degree can open doors to various industries. Vocational training equips you for roles like a plumber, welder, or nurse. If time and money are constraints, a two-year degree may be a practical choice. Plus, if you decide to further your education later, you can transfer credits to a bachelor’s program.

On the flip side, if you aim for a career demanding a four-year degree, a bachelor’s is your go-to option. Many fields, including business, computing, and engineering, mandate at least a bachelor’s degree. Ultimately, your choice depends on your career goals.

Final words, the current job market is tough and filled with competition. Choosing your education is a crucial decision that can influence your success for many years. Make sure to decide with a clear intention, considering the future you envision for yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions About Associate vs. Bachelor’s Degrees

How many credits is a bachelor’s degree after an associate degree?

After finishing your associate degree, how many more credits do you have to take to get a bachelor’s degree? Typically, a bachelor’s degree needs around 120 credits, while an associate degree requires about 60 credits. So, you’ll likely need another 60 credits to move from an associate to a bachelor’s degree. But, always double-check your program’s requirements to stay on the right path towards your goals.

Do you earn an associate degree while getting a bachelor’s degree?

Usually, an associate degree stands on its own. You can get it at a two-year or four-year college. Once you complete the degree or accumulate 60 transferable credits, you can choose to transfer to a bachelor’s program or begin looking for a job.

Do I need an associate degree to get a bachelor’s degree?

Yes. You can start a college degree right after high school or later as a non-traditional student with no prior degrees. If you have credits from an unfinished degree, you might be able to transfer them—typically, colleges take 24-60 transfer credits, and some don’t set a minimum.