By Noël Rozny
Web Editor & Content Manager
If you’re thinking about going to college, you’re probably weighing all of your options: in state versus out of state, public versus private, large versus small. You may also be trying to decide between an associate’s and a bachelor’s degree.
While there are many similarities between these two degree options, you need to understand the differences in order to choose the one that will be best for you and your career.
Know the Difference Between Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degrees
One of the main differences between an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree is time. While bachelor’s degrees generally take four years to complete, associate’s degrees can be completed in two. (Both of these time frames hinge on whether or not you go to school full time.) So if you’re looking to start work quickly, an associate’s degree might be the way to go. Keep in mind that the credits you earn for an associate’s degree can almost always be applied towards a bachelor’s degree, meaning you would only have two additional years of school ahead of you if you decided to go back (instead of starting from scratch and having to go for four).
While tuition varies depending on the school you choose to attend, in general an associate’s degree program will cost less than a bachelor’s degree. This has to do with the time factor listed above, as you’re only paying for two years of school versus four.
There are some differences between the programs and classes you have access to in an associate’s degree program versus a bachelor’s degree program. Associate’s degrees are often offered in highly-skilled vocational and technical programs, such as dental hygiene or ultrasound technology, that you can’t always enroll it at a traditional four-year school. On the flip side, since an associate’s degree is only two years, you won’t have access to higher level courses in your major. So if you are studying the liberal arts, for example, and want to get past the general courses into more advanced study, a bachelor’s degree may be a better fit.
As I mentioned above, associate’s degrees are great if you want to get to work quickly. They are also a great way to get started in your career if you already know you plan to go back to school later on, since many of your courses will count towards your bachelor’s degree. If you’re looking for long-term career growth and a higher salary, though, studies show that many jobs require a bachelor’s degree to get ahead. And if you already know that you will want or need a master’s degree, then a bachelor’s may be a better place to start.
You also need to consider what kind of college experience you want to have. Do you need a flexible course schedule that allows you to take classes online, at night and on the weekends? Then an associate’s degree might give you the flexibility you’re looking for. If you want a more traditional college experience, complete with roommates, dining halls, and sports teams, as bachelor’s degree could be a better fit for you.
Remember, starting your education is always a good idea, so there’s no right or wrong answer. By weighing the time, financial and long-term considerations listed above, you can pick the degree that’s going to be best for you.