The path to achieving academic qualifications can be confusing at times for many reasons. A constant battle for many students is weighing associate degree vs. bachelor’s degree. Which degree to pursue? What are the differences between an associate and a bachelor’s degree? Answering these questions can make decision-making a breeze.
This article will show you the main distinctions between the two and how you could pick either one.
Associates vs. bachelor’s degree – major differences
The following compares side-by-side some of the key similarities and distinctions:
|Credits required (typical)||
|Time to complete (normal)||
2 years (full-time)
4 years (full-time)
Some online colleges
Some online colleges
|Degrees you can receive||AA – Associate of Arts
AS – Associate of Science
AAS – Associate of Applied Science
AFA – Associate of Fine Arts
|BA – Bachelor of Arts
BS – Bachelor of Science
BBA – Bachelor of Business Administration
BFA – Bachelor of Fine Arts
BArch. – Bachelor of Architecture
Many working adults use an associate degree to complete a bachelor’s degree later when they see fit. There are two forms of associate degrees:
- General studies: Programs that do not focus on a particular skill set or a declared major. This approach fits students who wish to earn enough college credits to pursue a bachelor’s degree later.
- Specialized or technical coursework: This program trains students for specific skills or certain job titles. Examples of these include engineering, computer studies, and nursing.
Working adults usually pursue higher education when changing jobs or when seeking a promotion in their current field. They may opt for either an associate or bachelor’s degree at any point in their working life. The growing popularity of online colleges makes getting degrees much easier.
The next difference between an associate and bachelor’s degree is in the earning potential of their students. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that students holding a bachelor’s degree earn about 40 percent more than students with only an associate degree. This factor is significant and worth considering.
Differences in program costs are another considerable distinction. Although the cost of earning an associate degree can be just half of that of a bachelor’s degree, program costs of both depend much on the college itself. Factors like whether it is online or on-campus, state-owned or private college all play a role in determining prices.
Why pursue an associate degree?
Go for an associate degree if any of the following justifications suit you:
- You cannot wait to work and start earning income
- Attending a 4-year bachelor’s program does not fit your current life commitments
- You want to get experience in a particular profession
- The job you are aiming for does not require a bachelor’s degree
- You are still uncertain and divided between career paths
- There are budget limitations
Each of us has our predicaments and situations. Therefore, assess your situation carefully and thoroughly.
Why get a bachelor’s degree?
If you can manage most of the above issues but are motivated by the following, then go for a bachelor’s degree:
- You are aiming to get a promotion at work
- A bachelor’s degree will extend or maximize your earning potential
- You are ready for more challenges and leadership roles
- There are emerging fields in your industry that are hungry for new talents
- You enjoy critical thinking
- Learning is a life-long process for you
- You feel it is time to move on to another career
A bachelor’s degree allows specialization into a specific field of study. Do some research while studying or working and determine the areas of study and career that best suits you.
Whether an associate is better than a bachelor’s degree not only lies on the above factors. Personal, family, and location choices too contribute to decisions made.
With the abundant availability of online college programs, making a choice can be more comfortable.