If you’re a foreigner, you probably don’t know what an associate’s degree is. This is a degree type that you might choose to study abroad instead of a bachelor’s degree. Because these degrees are usually more common in the US and Canada, it can be hard to understand what the degree really is if you don’t live there. Excited to learn about this degree? Read on to learn more about the associate degree, the differences between it and a bachelor’s degree and whether it’s a suitable fit for you. 

What is an associate degree?

An associate degree is an undergraduate degree, like a bachelor’s degree. It gives students basic knowledge that can be practical or theoretical into the area of their choice. It aims to provide students with transferrable skills that help them pursue the career they want or go on to further education through it. 

Some students may decide to take this degree to prepare for a bachelor’s degree if they haven’t met the qualification. On the other hand, some might find the associate’s degree sufficient for the career of their choice and pursue it as their primary education after high school, at least for the time being.

associate degree
associate degree

Where can I find the degree?

Even though associate degrees are more often found when you study in US or Canada, you can find them if you choose to study in Hong Kong and Australia, among other countries. There are equivalent programs like foundation degrees in the UK that typically serve the same purpose.

If you want to study this degree in the US, you can find it either at affiliated universities or colleges, like community and technical colleges. These degrees typically take two years to complete on a full-time basis. 

Read more: Best Engineering Schools in the US in 2022

What’s the difference: bachelor’s degree vs associate’s degree?

You might be confused about the difference between and bachelor’s degree, and an associate degree as both are undergraduate degrees. You can apply to either one of them as soon as you are done with your high school education. On the other hand, postgraduate degrees need undergraduate degrees at the bachelor level before applying to them.

Time taken to complete

The first difference between an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree is the number of credit hours and the time to complete the degree. When it comes to associate degrees, you usually need to study 60 credit hours total time, which is 2 years to complete.

You need to complete 120 hours for a bachelor’s degree, equal to four years full time. Although these numbers may differ based on institution or country, these are the general time-frames for obtaining both degrees. 

However, many associate’s degree students decide that they want to study only part-time, which means that they will take longer than two years to complete the degree. The opposite is also possible. Students who wish to learn at an accelerated pace can complete the degree in a shorter time frame. 

Costs of each program 

Costs also differ when it comes to the two degrees. Tuition for associate degrees tend to be lower in general, and because you study for less time, the total costs paid are also less. This is because the costs of living while studying are cheaper because it’s a shorter time period. Discrepancies in price are different based on the institution, but bachelor’s degrees are generally about two to three times more expensive than an associate degree. 

Entry requirements vary

Another significant difference between both degrees is the entry requirements. For an associate’s degree, entry requirements are more accessible and less competitive than those for bachelor’s degrees. Admission degrees are also more flexible. This is why associate’s degrees can be a good backup for students who don’t meet the bachelor’s entry requirements. This could be because they got bad grades or studied courses that wouldn’t get them into a good bachelor’s program. 

Read more: MBA Entry Requirements – USA VS Europe in 2022

Kinds of associate degrees

There are several different types when discussing associate degrees, four to be exact. These four types of associate degrees are AA, which is Associate of Arts, AS, meaning Associate of Science. AAA, Associate of Applied Arts, and AAS is Associate of Applied Science. Each degree type typically has different usages by students who pursue them.

For example, students who choose to study AA and AS degrees usually want to move after universities and pursue a degree, whether a bachelor’s or masters’ degrees. In these two programs, students take courses that are similar to those that bachelor’s students take in the first two years. 

When it comes to the AS degree, students study at least five credits of Mathematical or scientific courses to go on to pursue careers in the sciences or engineering fields. On the other hand, the AA degree is a more general degree and includes social science and humanities courses. After graduation, it allows students to work in a broader range of jobs than those who graduate from the AS degree type. 

The AAS and AAB degrees allow students employment directly after graduation, which is considered employment degree programs. Unlike the previous two degree types, these degrees contain particular courses related to the major of choice. Students from AAS or AAB degrees may also choose to transfer to bachelor’s degrees afterwards, but they will need to take some extra courses to be qualified to do so. 

Careers with an Associate Degree

Those who choose to pursue associate’s degrees can pursue careers in many diverse fields from healthcare to computer science to engineering. Some popular career choices when it comes to associate degrees are diagnostic medical sonographer, paralegal, computer programmer, registered nurse, vet, mechanical designer or dental hygienist, among many others. 

Even though no doubt that studying for a bachelor’s degree opens up more professional career paths, but it’s a good idea to check if the career you intend to pursue needs a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree will suffice. This can save you time and money! You might be surprised to find the career of your dreams only needing an associate degree. 

associate degree
associate degree

What if I decide I also want a bachelor’s degree?

If you decided to pursue an associate’s degree then choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree afterwards, there’s no harm done! Transferring to a bachelor’s degree after finishing your associate degree is pretty easy to do! This is simple as long as the course credits you have taken in your study course are relevant to the bachelor’s degree.

You should also check that the university you intend to pursue your bachelor’s degree at accepts these credits and transfers them. This will allow you to join the bachelor’s degree halfway through, often called the 2+2 format. 

If you want to keep this option open for yourself, as previously stated, make sure to look up the chosen universities and the requirements they ask for. This is important in case 6ou need to take unique prerequisites before making the transfer there. 


In conclusion, an associate degree is an undergraduate degree that is shorter and less expensive than a bachelor’s degree. Are you interested to study one now? The easiest way to know if you want to pursue one is to look at your dream career and see if it even needs a bachelor’s degree or not. If you change your mind, there’s always the option to transfer your credits and join the bachelor’s degree halfway through. Just make sure you have the prerequisite modules and requirements completed!