How to Decide Between an Associate Degree and a Bachelor’s Degree

associate degree or bachelors

Deciding a career path takes more than just an idea of how you want to spend your time at a job. There are many factors to consider, like which type of college degree you need. This usually means choosing between an Associate degree and a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.

Associate degree and bachelor’s degree programs will differ in completion time, tuition costs, level of study required and the jobs you will be qualified for once done. They also differ when it comes to labor statistics, including employment rates.

There are schools, both online and on campus, that offer both an associate degree and bachelor’s. Types of schools can include community colleges, business schools, private or public universities. They each vary in cost and course selection.

Associate degrees typically allow students to go at their own pace. However, it can take as little as two years to complete the program if you attend as a full-time student. An associate degree can also be a stepping stone to a bachelor’s degree program.

Below are several tips that can also help you determine the right degree path.


Know the Value of An Associate Degree and A Bachelor’s Degree

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with only a high school diploma earn significantly less that those who acquired an associate degree or bachelor’s degree. Unemployment rates are listed at 5.4 percent for those with no higher education. For those with an associate degree it is at 3.4 percent and 2.5 for those with a Bachelor’s.

There is also a difference in pay between those who have earned degrees and those who have not. People with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $1173 every week, while those with an Associates earn an average of $836 each week. People with no higher education earn an average of $700 each week.

With an associate degree, you can earn a degree in the arts, sciences and applied sciences. Whereas with a bachelor’s degree, the educational field options are much broader.

There are jobs that earn more money with an associate’s degree than with a bachelor’s degree.

Depending on your short-term and long-term goals, both an Associate’s and a bachelor’s could be a stepping stone to helping you along the way. They both give you options you would not have otherwise. They can help you follow your desires and potentially feel more valued in the workplace.

You can start working on your goals by asking yourself why it is you want to attend college. Do you want personal enrichment or a specific degree? Do you want to make more money or gain knowledge in a particular area? Are you going through a transition in your life and want a complete change of career?

Start with long-term goals.


Know Your Long-Term Goals

Long-term goals are set with your future in mind. Look five, ten, even twenty years down the road. Where do you want your career to be during those milestones? Answering questions like this can help you decide if an Associate’s or bachelor’s will help you reach those goals.

Long-term goals can change based on completion or incompletion of short-term goals. For example, you may obtain an Associate degree and then realize you want to study further to get a bachelor’s degree. You may realize your strengths along the way and adjust your college goals to match where you are now.

Goal setting keeps you on track and focused throughout your college experience.

For every long-term goal, there are short-term goals. These are the tasks that will help you reach your long-term goals, the smaller duties to help you achieve success.


Know Your Short-Term Goals

Short-term goals can be set by deciding what a successful year ahead looks like for you. Does it mean completing as many courses as possible? Or making great grades? Or working while also going to college?

Your short-term goals may include more than just yourself, like family. Figuring out what it takes to be successful in all the areas of your life can help you determine if you are ready for an associate degree level of study or a bachelor’s level.

Your level of commitment to college can change based on your short-term goals. You may want to test the waters of higher education by taking a few classes. An Associate’s program could satisfy these short-term goals. You may know your exact career path and want to work through it quickly, making a bachelor’s program a more viable option.


Know What You Can Invest

The best investment you can make is in yourself and your education. Knowledge is one thing that cannot be taken away once it has been gained. Investing in your own learning is extremely valuable.

To invest wisely in learning, it is important that you know and respect your limits in all areas of your life. Remain in control of your finances and make wise decisions that will further advance you in reaching your goals of obtaining a degree.

Furthermore, know your lifestyle and how to overcome any obstacles that may affect your educational goals.


Know Your Lifestyle

How important is salary? Can you get a flexible work schedule? Do you have children with academic and sport scheduling?

These are just a few of the questions to answer when matching a college degree with your lifestyle. For everything you add to your life, some other area may get less attention.

If you are single with few major responsibilities and eager to get started towards your career goals, attending a bachelor’s degree program full-time may be ideal. On the other hand, if you are a parent of a young child who also needs to work full-time while studying, an associate degree program is better for your lifestyle.

The best way to help you decide between an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree is to do a lot of research, weigh the pros and cons of each. Find out everything you can on your chosen career.

Also, seek help from career counselors at different colleges and universities.