What Is an Associate Degree?

An associate degree is a 2-year undergraduate degree, often offered through community colleges and vocational schools. An Associate of Arts or Associate of Applied Science enables graduates to pursue careers or further their education by transferring their credits to a bachelor's degree program.

Associate Degree Defined

Associate degree programs often combine general education courses with core courses in a chosen field. Graduates of these 2-year programs can either transfer their credits to a baccalaureate degree program or enter the workforce. Some associate degree programs are specifically geared towards preparing students to work in a particular vocation, such as architectural drafting, electronics repair or medical assisting. An Associate degree program should also teach students to understand themselves and the global community, no matter what the subject of the program.

Types of Associate Degree Programs

Students must complete approximately 65 credit hours, usually in about two years, to earn an associate degree, according to the Pennsylvania College of Technology. Students can earn several different associate degrees, such as an Associate of Applied Science, an Associate of Arts or an Associate of Applied Arts.

Students who earn an Associate of Applied Science Degree can pursue careers in business, construction, technology or health sciences. An Associate of Arts Degree often mirrors the first two years of a liberal arts bachelor's degree program and enables graduates to work in fields like art or music, according to Stark State College of Technology. Students who earn an Associate of Applied Arts Degree often go on to careers in advertising and communication.

Partnerships

Many colleges offering associate degree programs have partnerships with four-year institutions to allow students with an associate degree to transfer and apply credits toward a bachelor's degree program. These partnerships allow students to apply credits from their associate degree program toward the general education requirements at a four-year institution even if traditional students usually can't do the same.

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