How Long Does It Take to Get an Associates Degree?

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How long does it take to get an associates degree? There are a number of factors that may impact how long it takes you to earn an associate’s degree.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associates Degree

Earning an associate’s degree may provide you with the education required to enter into a number of exciting and rewarding fields.

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With an associate’s degree, you may also be well prepared if you decide to later complete a bachelors degree program.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate’s Degree?

The amount of time it can take for you to complete an associates degree will likely depend on a number of factors.

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Some factors include whether you enroll on a full-time basis or part-time basis, whether your program is offered online or on campus, and whether you’re eligible to attend an accelerated program.

Full-Time Enrollment

associates degree students in library

Generally speaking, enrolling in an associates degree program on a full-time schedule will take approximately 2 years to complete. These degree programs usually require you to complete 60 credits to graduate.

Earning 60 credits over a traditional semester schedule, completing 2 semesters per year with 16 weeks per semester, equals roughly 2 years.

Part-Time Enrollment

In some cases, associate degree programs can be completed on a part-time basis. This structure may allow you to balance other life demands, like work and family responsibilities, while completing your degree.

Attending a program on a part-time basis usually extends your completion time. It may take 3 to 4 years, depending on the specific course load that you take.

Online vs. Campus

associates degree studying on laptop in library

An increasing number of schools now offer associate degree programs in an online format in addition to on-campus options. Completing your associates degree online may allow you to complete the entire program and all required credits in less time.

Online programs may offer more frequent enrollment or course start dates. Some online programs may also offer shorter semesters, such as 8 week semesters instead of 16 weeks. This may be the case for a wide variety of programs, whether it’s an online associates degree in communications, computer science, or business administration.

Accelerated Associate’s Program

There are a growing number of accelerated associate degree programs available, which may allow you to graduate in less than 2 years.

These programs may offer modified learning schedules, such as 8 week courses or semesters scheduled year round.

What Is an Associate Degree?

associates degree students studying together

An associate degree is earned by completing a postsecondary educational program that requires the completion of approximately 60 credits to graduate. These programs are in between high school- and bachelor-level education.

In many cases, after graduating from an associate’s degree program, you may be able to transfer completed credits into a bachelor’s degree program. This could help speed up the completion of a bachelor’s program. An associate’s degree is the completion of the first 2 years of a bachelor’s program.

If you plan on using your associate’s degree to transfer into a bachelor’s program, you may want to ensure that you’re choosing a program that will be accepted as transfer credits. Transfer credits are often accepted when they’re earned from an accredited school or program.

What are the Different Types of Associate’s Degrees?

associates degree students attending class in university

There are a number of different types of associate degree programs for you to choose from, including:

  • Associate of Arts
  • Associate of Science
  • Associate of Applied Arts
  • Associate of Applied Science

The associate degree program that’s right for you is often the one that helps you achieve your overall career goals, allowing you to focus on an area that is important for you.

Associate of Arts (AA)

An Associate of Arts degree may cover a breadth of topics, including fine art, history, literature, music, psychology, and communication.

Associate of Science (AS)

associate of science degree student studying

Earning an Associate of Science degree may allow you to focus on areas such as mathematics, computer science, biology, chemistry, engineering, or physics.

Associate of Applied Arts (AAA)

An Associate of Applied Arts degree program places greater emphasis on providing you with tangible skills and experience in relation to your studies. This degree usually focuses on visual art and performing art skill development.

Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

An associate of applied science program allows students to gain practical experience in specific program areas. These areas may relate to hard sciences, like biology and chemistry, or other educational streams, like computer science or engineering.

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Coursework in applied programs may be performed in a lab or a similar setting.

Associates Careers and Salaries

Associates Careers and Salaries

Earning an associates degree may allow you the opportunity to work in a number of different fields. Job opportunities span from healthcare, aviation, and computer science to environmental science, law, and animal care, including many fields in between.

For some positions, an associate’s degree may be the top education required. In other cases, earning an associate’s degree can help you continue forward on an educational journey into a bachelors, and later masters or even doctoral, program.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an associate degree may qualify you for several career paths that offer lucrative salaries and the potential for a rewarding career.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Air Traffic Controllers $130,420
Web Developers and Digital Interface Designers $77,200
Dental Hygienists $77,090
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers $75,920
Occupational Therapy Assistants $62,940
Computer Support Specialists $55,510
Paralegals and Legal Assistants $52,920
Medical Equipment Repairers $51,610
Geological and Hydrologic Technicians $50,630
Environmental Science and Protection Technicians $46,850

Positions available to you with an associates degree are not limited to those above, as there may be career paths across all industries and sectors that may be pursued with an associate’s degree.

Other examples of positions you may be qualified for with an associate’s degree include veterinary technician, food science technician, preschool teacher, or human resources assistant.

Associate’s Degree Curriculum

There are a variety of courses you may take to earn associate’s degree credits and complete your degree. These courses will vary greatly depending on the type of associate program you choose to enroll in, such as associate of arts or associate of science.

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Some courses, depending on your specific program, may include those listed here.

  • Financial Accounting: This course is an exploration of the financial cycle, the use of financial statements, and the key accounting principles.
  • English Composition: You will learn college level writing skill development, including composition, narration, personal writing, and professional writing.
  • Introduction to Qualitative Analysis: This course is an overview of key qualitative principles, including algebraic expressions, solving equations, data summaries, and polynomials.
  • Success in Online Learning: Specifically geared towards helping students succeed in a virtual learning space, this course provides key skills to ensure success.
  • Perspectives of Humanities: This course is an introduction to literature, art, and philosophy and how they impact our understanding of the world around us.
  • Microeconomics: You’ll study how economic systems play a key role in society, including a look at the needs of individuals, capitalism, and economic modeling.
  • Precalculus: You’ll discover various functions, including linear, polynomial, rational, logarithmic, among others, along with key algebra and graphing principles.
  • Applied Statistics: This course covers statistical methods and practices in relation to science, technology engineering, and mathematics.
  • Introduction to Marketing: This course is an overview of foundational marketing principles, including target markets, product selection, market analysis, and pricing models.
  • Business Law: This course is an introduction to the American legal system as it applies to businesses and organizations, including risk and liability, contract law, and cyber law.

Associate degree programs may require you to complete a number of core general education courses in addition to courses that are specific to your program of study.

Admission Requirements

associate degree students studying in library

When compared to other postsecondary academic programs, such as bachelors degree programs, associate program admission criteria is generally more simplistic. It’s often easier for a diverse range of students to meet the admission requirements for an associate program.

Some admission criteria may include:

  • High school diploma or GED equivalent
  • GPA score that meets a predetermined minimum threshold
  • Transcripts from any other postsecondary institution

Specific admission criteria may vary from one school to the next, so it is important to check with individual schools prior to applying.

How Many Credits Is An Associates Degree?

Associates degree students in hallway

Traditionally, associate degree programs require you to complete 60 credits in order to graduate. When attending on a full-time basis, with traditional 16 week semesters twice per year, you may be able to earn your degree in 2 years.

The structure of an associate degree program that you take may impact the amount of time it will take to complete all 60 credits.

For example, the time it takes to complete an associates degree can vary somewhat depending on the degree requirements. A computer engineering associates degree may require more time than a liberal arts program at some universities due to the added math and science requirements.

Other factors include whether a program is accelerated and whether you enroll online or on-campus as part-time or full time.

Notably, a bachelors degree program generally requires the completion of 120 course credits, double that of an associates program.

Is an Associates Degree Considered a College Degree?

Associate degrees are earned at various types of colleges, including technical, junior, and community colleges. In some cases, colleges may be affiliated with universities. After completing your associates degree at a college, you may be able to transfer into a bachelor program at a university.

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In cases where an associate degree is offered through a university, you may find it is a simpler process to convert your associate degree into a bachelor’s degree. You may not be required to reapply, and transferring the credits you’ve earned may be an easier process.

What Can You Do with an Associate’s Degree?

Web developers working in the office

There are a wide variety of associate degree options, and there are subsequently a wide variety of positions available following graduation.

Depending on the specific degree you pursue, you may be qualified for positions such as air traffic controller, dental hygienist, web developer, diagnostic medical sonographer, occupational therapy assistant, or computer support specialist.

Other positions may include paralegals and legal assistants, geological and petroleum technicians, medical equipment repairers, or environmental science and protection technicians.

By transferring associate degree credits that you’ve completed into a 4 year bachelors program, you may be in a position to qualify for additional career opportunities and experience continued career growth.

How Much Does It Cost to Get an Associate Degree?

associates degree students studying together in a cafe

Depending on the program you choose to attend, it may cost anywhere from $100 to $500 per credit hour to obtain your associate degree.

There are a number of key factors that can impact the cost, including the school you choose to attend. Some schools may cost significantly less than others, and some may also have tuition discounts for in-state students.

Whether you complete courses online or on campus is another factor that may impact the overall costs.

I Have an Associates Degree, How Long Will It Take to Get My Bachelor’s?

associates degree students in university campus

Associate degree programs generally require the completion of 60 credits in order to graduate while a bachelors program typically requires 120 credit hours.

By transferring associate course credits into a bachelors degree program, you may be able to complete the remaining 60 credits required in approximately 2 years. It may only take 2 years if you are able to enroll full-time with a traditional schedule of 16 week semesters, twice per year.

The length of time it will take to earn your bachelors will mostly depend on whether you attend full-time or part-time, the number of weeks in each semester, and the number of credits that you are able to transfer from your associate degree into your bachelor degree program.

How Quickly Can I Get an Associates Degree?

Associates Degree attending computer class

In some cases, you may be able to earn your associates degree in 1 year or less. The speed at which you may be able to complete your degree depends on whether you’re able to attend an accelerated program, particularly one with shorter semesters that can be completed continuously.

Depending on your previous life experiences, you may also be able to take CLEP exams to demonstrate existing knowledge in certain content areas. This could help reduce the number of courses you’re required to take.

While it is possible to earn your degree in a year or less, it generally takes most students 18 to 24 months to graduate with their degree.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associates Degree Part Time?

Associates Degree students studying in a classroom

Earning an associates degree part time allows you to take on a reduced course load each semester.

The extent to which your course load is reduced will directly impact the length of time it will take you to complete your degree when attending part-time. In some cases, it may take 3 to 4 years to complete your associate degree.

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For example, if you complete 15 credit hours per year instead of the traditional 30, then it may take up to 4 years to earn your degree.

What’s the Difference Between an Associate of Arts vs. Associate of Science Degree?

Associate Degree students in university campus

Associate of Science degrees are concentrated on educational areas of science and math, which may include biology, chemistry, or physics. Other options may include nursing, accounting, dentistry, and more.

An Associate of Arts degree, on the other hand, focuses on history, literature, fine art, communication, psychology, sociology, business, or law. Associate of Art programs may also concentrate on media, marketing, or hospitality.

Depending on the school you choose to attend, some topic areas, such as accounting, may be offered within an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science program.

What’s the Difference Between a Certificate vs. Associate Degree?

Associates Degree students taking an exam

Certificate programs are usually shorter in length and geared toward learning a very specific skill set. These programs can usually be completed within 1 year.

Topics for certificate programs may include medical transcriptionist or record keeper, paralegal, nursing assistant, or HVAC technician. Associate degrees take more time to complete, and the content learned is generally broader than that learned in a certificate program.

Is an Associates Degree Worth It?

Marketing team in a meeting

Yes, an associates degree is worth it for many students. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs requiring an associate’s degree for entry are set to grow at 6% for the next ten years, faster than the average for all occupations.

Common associate degree careers include veterinary technician, web developer, geological and petroleum technicians, medical equipment repairers, and environmental science and protection technicians.

Associate degrees can also be a great stepping stone towards a bachelors degree. An added benefit of earning an associates degree is that you may be able to work in your profession before advancing into a bachelors degree program.

Getting Your Associates Degree Online

Getting Your Associates Degree Online

Earning your associates degree can be an excellent way to quickly complete your postsecondary education and enter into the professional world. An associate degree also allows you the opportunity to obtain a bachelors degree or higher down the road.

There is above-average earnings potential and positive career growth over the coming years for those who hold an associates degree. Also, when completing your degree online, your time and cost commitment may be relatively modest.

Considering these factors, earning an associates degree may prove to have an excellent return on investment. If you’re ready to start your educational journey, you may begin by exploring accredited associate degree programs to find the one that best suits your goals and preferences.

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Brenda Pyzik
WRITTEN BY
Brenda Pyzik
Brenda earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Waterloo, with a minor in legal studies. She obtained a graduate certificate in human resource management from Georgian College. Brenda’s focus is on employment, entrepreneurship, business, and training and development.