Is an Associate Degree Enough?
Are you considering earning an associate degree? Or, maybe you already have an associate degree and are wondering if you should go on to earn a bachelor’s. Find out what an associate degree is, what you can do with it, and how it compares with a bachelor’s degree when it comes to career opportunities.
What Is an Associate Degree?
An associate degree is a college degree that is awarded to students who earn 60 credits. Students typically complete 20 three-credit courses, which usually requires two years of full-time schoolwork, although some people may complete courses more quickly or more slowly. There are four main types of associate degrees:
- An AA is an Associate of Arts.
- An AAA is an Associate of Applied Arts.
- An AAS is an Associate of Applied Science.
- An AS is an Associate of Science.
Some people stop going to school after earning an associate degree, and others continue their education and go on to earn a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or a doctoral degree.
What Can You Do With an Associate Degree … and What Can’t You Do?
With an associate degree, you can work in many fields, including nursing, education, and social work. However, you may find that you qualify for fewer positions. Many careers require a bachelor’s degree or higher, and those positions likely command a higher salary. It’s important to research the position you’re interested in and the requirements for that role in order to be certain that the degree you earn will prepare you for the career you want.
For instance, if you earn an associate degree in nursing and pass an exam, you can work as a registered nurse in many states. However, in 2017, New York passed the BSN in 10 law, requiring nurses to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) within 10 years of initial licensure, paving the way for other states to introduce similar legislation. According to the 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey, more than 60% of RNs are prepared at the bachelor’s level, and many hospitals prefer to hire nurses who hold a BSN or higher.1
In the education field, you could work as a preschool teacher, a childcare worker, or a teaching assistant with an associate degree. But in order to work as a teacher for an elementary, middle, or high school, a bachelor’s degree is required.2
With an associate degree, you can take on social work roles such as residential counselor at a group home or social services assistant. But for positions such as case manager or community outreach worker, you’ll likely need a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree. State requirements vary, but in order to become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), you will likely need a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree.3
The Return on Investment
Studies have found that the more educated you are, the more money you can earn. In fact, the biggest salary increase usually occurs if you go on to earn a bachelor’s degree rather than stopping at an associate degree. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, workers with a bachelor’s degree earn more than $15,000 more per year, on average, than those with an associate degree.4
If pursuing a particular position beyond an entry-level position is important to you, consider earning a bachelor’s degree after you complete your associate degree. You’ll want to check with the college you wish to attend to see what credits from your associate degree you can transfer to your bachelor’s degree or graduate program.
Some colleges make this process easy. For instance, you can apply online for free at Walden University, an HLC-accredited university. Submit your transcripts, and you’ll get a free transfer-of-credit evaluation. A Walden Enrollment Specialist can discuss how many transferable credits you’ll receive, the estimated length of the degree program you’re interested in, and ways to manage the cost of tuition. Walden offers online education, so you could get started earning your bachelor’s degree from home or anywhere else with an internet connection. And with a bachelor’s degree, you have the potential to pursue more job opportunities and shape the future you want.
Walden University is an HLC-accredited institution offering Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), BS in Elementary Education (Teacher Licensure), and more degree programs online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.
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