Bachelor’s or Associate’s: What is Right For Me?

Find out which degree program is best suited for your educational and career goals.

There are many degree options for post-secondary education, but the two most common are bachelor’s degrees and associate’s degrees. But before deciding on which program is right for you, here are a few things to consider.

What’s the Difference Between an Associate’s and a Bachelor’s Degree?

An associate’s degree is a two-year program that either results in an Associate of Arts (AA) or Associate of Science (AS) degree. It is often a general degree that is structured similarly to the first two years of a bachelor’s degree.

Associate’s degrees normally do not require a major or specific area of study. So if you’re unsure what you’d like to focus on but are considering a four-year degree, an associate’s could be a great place to start.

A bachelor’s degree is a four-year program this is either completed as a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree. Most bachelor’s degree programs require choosing a major and completing some kind of final project to earn the degree at the end of the course of study.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Associate’s degrees are technically less expensive than bachelor’s degrees, clearly, because of their shorter durations. An associate’s degree program won’t keep you out of the workforce for as long.

If you’re planning on transferring to a four-year program, an associate’s degree program can be a good idea. You can possibly save money for the first two years of your education by studying at a local community college, but ultimately receive a degree with the four-year institution’s name on it. Be meticulous about researching credit transfers, sometimes this can be difficult, especially with credits from online associate’s degree programs.

Bachelor’s degrees offer the classic four-year college experience. With a four-year college education, you’ll be able to delve deeply into your academic specialty, as well as exploring other areas that interest you. While it is not the length alone that makes a bachelor’s program worthwhile, this longer amount of time does allow you to develop your skills and deepen your knowledge.

Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degree Career Options

A variety of careers are available to people who hold associate’s degrees. Some careers that require an associate’s degree include dental assistant, occupational or physical therapy assistant, and licensed practical nurse (LPN). Many of today’s fastest growing career fields can be entered with an associate’s degree.

The greatest downside to an associate’s degree in the job market is that you will be competing with plenty of individuals with bachelor’s degrees. Many white-collar employers will eliminate resumes without bachelor’s degrees right off the bat.

Some career paths require a bachelor’s degree, particularly if they require graduate school. For example, you most likely will be unable to get into law school or medical school without a bachelor’s degree. In all likelihood, you will need a bachelor’s degree to enter into other graduate programs such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Fine Arts (MFA).

Well-paying fields like accounting and finance also often require at least a bachelor’s degree for entry.

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