Associate Degree vs Bachelors Degree

There are some essential differences between an associate degree vs bachelors degree. Choosing between going to college for an associate degree vs bachelors degree can be a tough choice. Your choice should match your personal, professional, financial, and academic goals for the future. 

To decide which type of college degree is best for you, consider these five key differences between an associate degree vs bachelors degree. 

Differences between associate degree vs bachelors degree

Key differences between an associate degree vs bachelors degree include program focus, length of the program, earning potential, cost of program and career prospects. 

A bachelors degree holder earns an annual income of $19,000 higher than an associate degree holder. Earnings for bachelor’s degrees tend to be higher than earnings for associate degrees because of the additional courses required to complete the degree. A bachelor’s degree will usually open up more job opportunities than an associate’s degree.

1. Length of Programme (Associate Degree vs Bachelors Degree)

Most associate degree programs will require two calendar years, while most bachelor’s degree programs will require four calendar years. Associate degrees focus on specific fields of study, whereas bachelors degrees offer students an opportunity to delve deeper into one subject.

However, both programs require similar standards in coursework assessments, so the total price tag is roughly equal. Most schools also offer scholarships and financial aid to help offset the high tuition costs.

2. Program Focus (Associate Degree vs Bachelors Degree)

Associate degrees are offered in two ways depending on the focus of the programme:

  • A focus on specific technical skills (such as business administration) where you will be required to demonstrate these skills in a particular job.
  • General studies (like English language studies). This does not require specific skills for a particular job unless you are studying to teach English.

The specialised technical or vocational course may suit you if you are interested in learning a specific skill or training for a particular job. A general studies program allows students to take courses from various disciplines without declaring a specific major. It may help you prepare for a variety of careers.

A bachelors degree program focuses on a specific major, usually one that includes a certain number of required classes.

If undergraduate college graduates take enough general education or related courses that complement their majors, they might be able to get minors in those subjects. For instance, if an English student takes enough literature classes, he or she might be able to get a minor in creative writing.

3. Earning Potential after Graduation (Associate Degree vs Bachelors Degree)

An associate degree usually costs less than a bachelors degree, but there is a cost associated with earning one.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly wages for bachelors degree holders are $1,334 per week, which amounts to almost $69,400 annually. For those with an associate degree, the median weekly wage is $964 per week, or approximately $50,000 annually.

For example, students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree typically make $1,000 more yearly than those who graduate with an associate degree. However, because they are paying more for their degrees, the extra income makes up for the additional costs.

4. Program Cost (Associate Degree vs Bachelors Degree)

However, though tuition and fees vary significantly from one school to another, it usually costs less to earn an associate degree than it does to earn a bachelors degree.

The most obvious difference between an associate degree vs bachelors degree is how much they cost. An associate’s program costs around $15,000 – $25,000 per year, whereas a bachelor’s program costs about $30,000 – $40,000 per year.

However, because of the high earning potential that comes with having a bachelors degree, program costs should not be a barrier for anyone who wants to pursue a bachelors degree without any debt.

Many students (including international students) can access financial aid to pay for their education, whether a student loan, a grant, a scholarship, or a combination of these. Many schools will also evaluate and credit relevant prior work experience for college courses, reducing the overall price tag. 

5. Career Paths (Associate Degree vs Bachelors Degree)

When deciding the difference between an associate degree or a bachelors degree, part of the choice depends on what you plan to do afterwards.

Associate degrees can often transfer into bachelors programs. If you have an associate degree, for example, in financial management, you might be able to use those credits to get a bachelors degree in accounting. You could then graduate from college after just two years instead of four.

An associate degree usually qualify one to enter an entry level position, but advanced positions often require a bachelors degree.

A bachelors degree is usually necessary if you want to pursue a career in a specific profession, such as academia, executive management, medicine, or law. A bachelors degree offers students the chance to earn a higher salary than they would if they held an associate degree only.

However, bachelors degree programs require a lot of time and effort and can be very expensive, so be sure to research the college thoroughly before enrolling. 

Associate DegreeBachelors Degree
$15,000 – $25,000 per year tuition fees $30,000 – $40,000 per year tuition fees
Potential salary after graduation is between $25,000 – $40,000 per yearPotential salary after graduation is between $32,000 – $110,000 per year
Most associate degree programs will require two calendar years for completionMost bachelor’s degree programs will require up to four calendar years for completion
Difference Between Associate Degree vs Bachelors Degree

Which jobs do not require a degree in the USA?

Some jobs do not require a degree, such as a firefighter, medical stenographer, police officer, dental hygienist, radiation therapist, nursing, fashion designer, database administrator, cashier, customer service manager, and front-desk receptionist.

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