Associate Vs. Traditional Education: Differences & Similarities

Get information about programs near you or online.

Purchasing manager

Associate Degrees – What Are They?

An associate’s degree is an undergraduate program that students can undertake after secondary-level education.

These academic programs equip students with basic, academic, and technical skills as well as knowledge that they need to embark on further studies in a chosen field or go on to gain professional employment.

Basically, there are many types of associate degrees offered in various institutes such as junior, community, and technical colleges and universities.

Students are awarded associate degrees when they complete 60 academic credits.

Normally, this involves 2 years of full-time study, in some instances; it can take longer if a student is studying part-time.

Once students complete the 2-year associate’s degree program, they can pursue a post-secondary degree in the field of their choice without going through a four-year bachelor’s degree program.

Similarities and Differences Between Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degrees

Bachelor’s and associate degrees are classified as undergraduate degrees since they share some similarities.

Both degrees are open to students when they complete secondary-level education.

Though the two degrees have some similarities, they are also quite different.

While the associate degree requires students to complete 60 hours of coursework, students undertaking a bachelor’s degree have to undergo 120 hours of coursework which is equivalent to 4 years to complete the program.

Entry requirements for associate degrees are less competitive compared to bachelor’s degree requirements.

These programs are often an ideal alternative for people who did not meet the entry requirements for a bachelor’s degree either because they were unable to get high enough grades or focused more on vocational courses.

On the other hand, postgraduate degrees such as master’s programs require students to have completed their bachelor’s level education before embarking on them.

Associate degrees are mostly offered in the US; however, countries such as the Netherlands and Australia also offer these programs.

Some countries have programs that are similar to associate degrees but they go by different names such as the term “Foundation Degrees” which refers to the same in the United Kingdom.

The Cost of Education Has Been Too Great for Us to Handle!

The cost is just too much for us to handle (in most cases).

In recent years we take the costs of education into consideration even more.

Elimination of colleges from selection set due to cost by year:

elimination of colleges due to cost chart

Source: Sallie Mae

Most families (69% in 2017) eliminate colleges because of the high cost.

The high percentage of students not enrolling in higher education because of cost has been here for a long time, and unfortunately, there is no solution in sight.

Online Associate Degree Programs

Technological advancement has made it possible for virtual schools to offer various types of associate degrees to students without having them attend school-based classes.

These online programs present a unique opportunity for people who may not be able to get involved in an on-campus program.

Online programs are highly flexible and quite popular with people who have busy schedules due to work or family.

Apart from flexibility, online colleges are cheaper compared to conventional schools.

This is because when you study online, all you need is a good computer and a reliable internet connection.

When you compare these requirements to commuting and boarding costs at school, you now realize why online programs are gaining popularity.

Common types of associate degrees include:

Associate of Arts degree (A.A.)

This program requires students to undergo 60 hours of coursework including courses associated with a major and general education courses.

Students usually apply the credits from an A.A. program to pursue a bachelor’s degree program.

Associate of Arts degrees are normally awarded in liberal arts such as music, English, elementary education, history, psychology, and economics.

Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.)

These programs are aimed at preparing students for finding employment.

The A.A.S. is also ideal for working professionals who are intending to get a salary raise or promotion.

Associate of Applied Science programs normally require students to undergo fewer hours of general educational coursework.

These programs mainly focus on business or engineering.

Examples of A.A.S. programs include food service, medical assisting, management, paralegal, graphic design, and automotive technology.

Associate of Science degree (A.S.)

Normally, A.S. programs focus on science, however, students are required to undertake several hours of general education coursework.

The A.S. degree is similar to A.A. since it equips students with the necessary knowledge to pursue a bachelor’s degree program and requires 60 hours of coursework.

Common Associate of Science degree programs include biology and chemistry.

You can also pursue A.S. programs in business, computer science, and administration.


The above types of associate degrees are educational programs that subsequently offer immense possibilities.

Associate degrees are less expensive compared to a bachelor’s degree offered in most 4-year colleges.

The associate degree gives you higher employment opportunities over people with high school diplomas, in addition, you can opt to undertake the program through online school or part-time.

Video About Associate Degrees

Leave a Comment

Get information about programs near you or online.