How can an associate degree help me?

There are two types of undergraduate degrees: associate and bachelor’s degrees. An associate degree requires roughly half the amount of credits as a typical bachelor’s degree. Earning an associate degree can benefit you in several ways. Furthering your education and mastering new skills is a rewarding accomplishment and an achievement in which you can take pride. This experience can help you identify talents or areas of interest and strength that you can use in your professional career.

Earning an associate degree can also have financial rewards. Data shows that obtaining an associate degree can greatly improve your lifetime earning potential when compared with that of someone who doesn’t have a college degree.

Completing the requirements for an associate degree will also give you a good start on earning a bachelor’s degree in the future, should you decide to do so.

Associate vs. bachelor’s degree

Many people view an associate degree as a stepping stone, a goal to achieve as they work their way toward a bachelor’s degree. However, earning an associate degree is an impressive achievement all on its own.

Which one is the best option for you: an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree? That depends on your educational and professional goals. Some associate degree programs focus on a specific type of vocational training or career-based specialty. For people seeking employment in those roles, that credential alone may be enough to achieve their professional goals. 

A bachelor’s degree also represents a more substantial investment, in terms of time and money. If you aren’t sure that is something you can commit to at this time, earning an associate degree may be a more realistic goal as a starting point.

How long will it take to earn my associate degree?

How long it takes to complete your associate degree will depend on several factors, including how much time you are able to devote to courses each semester and whether you already have any previous college credits that might transfer. Our programs are designed to be highly flexible to accommodate the needs of busy adult students, so you can complete your degree at your own pace. Students who are able to maintain a full-time course load can often earn an associate degree in approximately two years. Your academic adviser can provide insight as to what sort of timeline you might realistically expect based on your individual circumstances.

Choosing the right associate degree program for you

Many associate degree programs focus on developing practical skills that graduates can use in a specific vocation or trade, so if you already have a career path in mind, look for a program that would prepare you well for those job requirements.

If you are unsure about your long-term goals or want to explore a variety of potential career options, consider a broad program such as the Associate in Arts in Letters, Arts, and Sciences program. Designed to allow the student plenty of freedom to customize their own path, this program encourages students to explore a wide spectrum of areas in the arts and humanities, while providing the opportunity to develop strong speaking and writing skills that can be valuable assets in many professional roles.

This type of versatile associate degree can serve as the foundation from which you can go on to pursue a bachelor’s degree in a wide range of liberal arts disciplines.

Picking the right school is also important. Penn State World Campus offers the high academic standards you want (and employers seek), while providing the flexibility you need. You can earn your associate degree completely online, at a pace that works for you.