An associates degree is usually a two-year, or 20-class, degree earned at a community college or accredited institution. People who have their high school diploma or GED earn an associate’s degree to further their education or to earn part of a bachelor’s degree at a much lower cost. Several benefits comes with an associate of arts degree.
According to the Department of Education, workers who have an associate degree will earn more than workers who have only a high school diploma or some college classes. This is due to the occupations available to those who have earned an associate degree, as well as to employers that offer higher starting salaries to workers with degrees. In 2001, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with an associate degree earned an average of $128 more per week than those with only a high school diploma.
In just two years of full-time classwork, an associate degree prepares a student for an occupation. The courses for an associate of arts degree teach practical skills for many occupations that enable students to go immediately into a specific field. In 2001, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the unemployment rate for associate degree holders was 30 percent lower than that of high school graduates.
In 2001 the highest paying jobs held by workers with an associate of arts degree ranged from: heating, air-condition or refrigeration mechanic; electrician; telephone installer and repairman; electrical equipment repairman; nurse; police officer or detective; dental hygienist; radiology technician; electrical technician; graphic designer; manager in medicine and health; engineering technician; and draftsman. Other careers open to those with associate degrees include: social work, business administration, communications, agriculture and landscaping, education and childcare, and veterinary technicians.
The other benefit of an associate of arts degree is that it prepares you for completing a bachelor’s degree. Many associate degree programs correspond directly to larger university programs and fulfill about half the credit requirements of a bachelor’s degree. Many four-year colleges or universities prefer to accept a candidate with an associate degree instead of one with only some college credit, since degree completion shows that the student can follow through.
Occupational versus Transfer Degrees
Associate degrees generally fall into two categories: occupational and transfer. Occupational associate degrees are for those who wish to go immediately into the workforce, while transfer associate degrees are intended for those who wish to transfer into a bachelor’s degree program after they receive their associate degree. Occupational associate degrees offer specific career-oriented education, while transfer degrees enable a student to earn the credits needed towards a bachelor’s degree.