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Associate's degree vs bachelor's - Which one to choose?

AS CHILDREN, we often dream big about who we want to be when we get older. Usually, we imagine ourselves in professions like a fireman, doctor, mayor, or a movie star, however, when we need to make a choice about where to study after high school we ask ourselves the big questions - what college to choose? Can you handle the difficult disciplines? Will you have enough money for getting a degree?

Another question that bothers many prospective college students is what the difference between associate's and bachelor's degree is. Let’s discover the opportunities of the two types of these degrees and discover which one is the best for you.

First, let’s take a little quiz.

Associate's degree vs bachelor's quiz

Ask yourself:
Do you want to start working asap?
Does your chosen program offer quality vocational or technical training?
Not sure about your career path for life?
Are academic studies too boring for you?
You are not really looking forward to the traditional career ladder?
Don’t want to sit in the office all day?

If you answer “Yes” to most of the questions above, then your best choice is the associate’s degree!

Then, ask yourself again:
See job listings - do they require a bachelor’s degree?
Do you wish to pursue graduate level?
Do you need any special skills for your future profession?
Do you want to participate in science projects in your field?

If you answer “Yes” to most of the questions above, then you should choose a bachelor’s program!
So, what is the major difference between an associate's and a bachelor’s degree? Let’s find out!

Tuition rates

Most commonly, associate programs are nearly twice cheaper than the bachelor's. More in-depth academic knowledge that you gain during your bachelor’s program end up being more costly than acquiring either general or specific skills during associate’s studies.

Time for studies

For an associate degree, you will need approximately 20 credits, and twice as many for completing a bachelor degree program. Consequently, it would take you two and four academic years for associate and bachelor degree respectively.

Many students ask us, how long does it take to get a bachelor's degree after an associate's degree? Normally, it would take you additional two years because the credits you gain for an associate’s degree transfer to your bachelor’s program. If you were wondering, “do I need an associate's degree before a bachelor's” - No, it is not necessary. You can apply for a bachelor’s program as soon as you finish high school.

Depth of knowledge

Simply put, an associate degree is about how things work and how to repair them. Bachelor - is about how to improve and construct better things (requires longer career path - licenses, research projects, on-job training).

You can start with a general level of associate degree and then transfer to bachelor’s when you decide on what specific field you want to work in. At the same time, the associate is good for starting to gain job experience much quicker than while completing all four years of the bachelor. The latter, in addition, brings a higher level of scientific knowledge, which leads us to the next section.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, bachelor’s degree holders experienced a 2.8% unemployment rate while individuals with associate degrees were facing the 3.8% unemployment rate as for 2015. At the same time, the average weekly earnings registered were $1137 for bachelors and $798 for associates.

So, clearly, bachelors earn more than associates, and they win in the competition for a workplace. Do you need an associate's degree to get a bachelor's if you want to work in science? It is not necessary, but it would be beneficial if you're going to start working in the field asap. Plus, associate programs are more flexible regarding schedule - you can work full-time and study part-time, online, or on evenings or weekends. Work in the US, while doing homework UK studies - make the globalization trend work for you!

If you plan to work in non-US countries, check if your associate degree is accepted, because European countries mostly require at least a bachelor’s degree.

Often young people consider getting a bachelor’s degree in humanities or social studies (which is easier than Economy or MBA) to have a broad range of possibilities in high-paid positions requiring a bachelor’s degree. However, the job market experiences humanitarians' overflow, that’s why they become quite low in competition comparing to managers, accountants, administrators.

Finally, check the lists of the fanciest jobs for both types of degrees. Maybe you’ll find here the job of your dreams!

High-paid associate degree jobs:
Radiation therapist
Dental hygienist
Web developer
Computer network specialist
Fashion designer
Medical or nursing assistant
Police officer
Bank teller
Culinary specialist
Avionics technician
Air traffic controller
High-paid bachelor degree jobs:
Administrative roles (CEO, COO, etc.)
Engineers (Aerospace, Materials, Software, Mechanics, Architecture, Nuclear, etc.)
Managers (IT, Construction, Media, Marketing, Finance, Sales, Purchasing, etc.)
Analytical Specialists (Actuaries, Statisticians, Accountants, etc.).