Differences Between Associate's and Bachelor's Degrees
Associate's degree programs are 2-year programs that may prepare students for a career or to transfer into a bachelor's degree program. Bachelor's degree programs are usually 4-year courses of study available at colleges and universities that provide more advanced study in a particular major.
Associate's Degree Overview
Associate's degree students can take courses in preparation for a specific career, or they can take classes in general studies. Credits earned for an associate's degree can be counted toward completion of a bachelor's degree. A student can earn an associate's degree at a community college or state university by taking about 20 classes within a specific curriculum designed by the school.
Associate's degree programs are available as occupational or vocational degrees, which train students in a specific skill. Students can also complete associate's transfer degrees with the goal of transferring to a 4-year college or university. The coursework completed in either type of program can be transferred to universities all over the country, and many junior colleges are directly linked to local 4-year schools. Vocational degree programs usually award graduates an Associate of Applied Science (AAS), while transfer degree programs may award an Associate of Arts (A.A.), an Associate of Science (A.S.) or an Associate of Fine Arts (AFA).
Courses of Study
Associate's degree programs may include studies in fields such as art and design, business, communication, digital animation, dental hygiene, culinary arts, automotive repair, electronics, social work and health information technology.
Although many students earn an associate's degree as a stepping stone to a 4-year degree, several jobs only require applicants to have an associate's degree, especially those in the healthcare technician and medical assisting fields. Paralegal and other specific trade jobs also typically only require an associate's degree.
Bachelor's Degree Overview
Bachelor's degree programs require approximately 120 credits of coursework to complete. A bachelor's degree is considered the minimum level of education needed to work in many fields, such as teaching and engineering.
Some bachelor's degrees include the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) and Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). Business, science, education and humanities are popular fields of study offered by most colleges and universities at the baccalaureate level.
Bachelor's degree programs often require students to complete general education courses required for all students at the college or university. These classes are referred to as the core curriculum, and may include philosophy, languages, math, science, fine arts, history and English. Other classes that allow students to learn about a specific area of interest are known as electives, and they add an interdisciplinary perspective to the chosen course of study.
Students may also tailor their elective courses to complete a minor, which is a set of classes taken together that amount to a recognized specialty that complements the major. For example, a major in business administration may be paired with a minor in accounting.
Associate and bachelor's degrees can prepare students for a career or more education and can be completed in a variety of different areas of study.