Associate’s Degrees: Accessible, Affordable, and Timely Paths to Post-Secondary Education

If you’re looking for a quicker, less expensive approach to either finding a career or making a career change, then there’s an associate’s degree for you. Traditionally, an associate’s takes about two years of full-time study to complete – half what it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree. Not only does that mean you’ll get into the workforce faster, but you’ll spend less money than you would on a bachelor’s degree as well. Not only that, but associate’s degrees are often earned at community colleges, which have earned their reputations for being less expensive and more flexible than four-year colleges and universities.

There are three different categories of associate’s degrees, each with their own strengths. The AAS, or Associate of Applied Science, meets the needs of those seeking entry into a certain field or trade upon graduation. The focus is on practical knowledge and industry-specific training. The AS, or Associate of Science degree, focuses on STEM classes. It’s popular for those who want to transition into healthcare, law, computer science, or the physical sciences. The Associate of Arts degree, or AA, uses an arts and humanities foundation. 

An associate’s degree serves two main purposes. First, it can be used as a cost-effective way to finish the freshman and sophomore years of a bachelor’s degree without having to pay the higher costs of attending a four-year school. Earning an associate’s and then transferring can save students thousands of dollars in tuition costs, and many community colleges have acceptance agreements with four-year schools for their top students. Also, if you know you’ll want to earn a bachelor’s one day, but you aren’t sure what you want to major in, getting an associate’s degree will give you access to higher-paying jobs than a high school diploma would while you gain real-world experience and decide what to do next.

A second purpose the associate’s degree serves is to provide access to a career right away. A surprising number of respectable and lucrative careers exist for community college graduates. For example, radiology technologists average around $55,000 a year, and paralegals can easily earn $40,000 or more. There are specific associate’s degree programs for both these roles. Other jobs you can get with an associate’s degree include computer network support specialist (average salary 60K), web developers (also 60K), and registered nurse (65K). Sound too good to be true? It isn’t. In fact, according to Georgetown University, one out of three professionals with associate’s degrees reported higher average earnings than their colleagues who had bachelor’s degrees.

If you can’t decide which of these paths is for you, here’s great news: you can have it both ways. For example, you can earn an associate’s degree in hospitality management, gain some industry experience, and then transfer your credits to a four-year hospitality management program. 

Associate’s degrees may be the best-kept secret of the higher education world. At the very least, they represent a practical, affordable, and flexible way to begin a lucrative career journey.


8 schools found

Bryan University

AR, MO & Online

Bryan goes above and beyond to make each students’ experience exceptional. We want our students to leave with more than an education. We want them to have an unforgettable experience.

Centura College


Centura College, with campus locations in Virginia, and South Carolina, is dedicated to helping students gain the skills and attitudes necessary to succeed. Drawing from over 30 years of career school...

City College

FL and Online

The mission of City College is to educate and train students in their chosen major, in preparation for employment in specific career fields. City College awards Associate of Science or Bachelor of...

Colorado Technical University


Since 1965 Colorado Technical University has been proud to educate career focused students to advance their education and help achieve their goals. CTU’s commitment to provide innovative, real-world...

Eastwick College


When you’re deciding on a school or college, you look at what makes it better than all the others. Here are four major advantages of an Eastwick Education that have established us as one of the most...

Remington College


Each day at Remington College, we talk to people looking to make a change - people who believe that an education can make a real difference and can lead to new and better opportunities for those who...

South College

GA, NC, TN & Online

Since South College was founded in 1882, we have focused on serving students who want hands-on, career-driven education that will have a meaningful impact on their lives and livelihoods.

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)


Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with more than 3,000 on-campus students and over 60,000 online students, making us one of the fastest-growing...