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Is An Associate’s Degree Worth It? All You Need To Know!

Updated: February 26, 2024 | Published: March 28, 2022

Updated: February 26, 2024

Published: March 28, 2022

Associate's degree benefits copy

Advancing your education can come in many different shapes and sizes. There are a variety of factors that can help you determine what type of degree to get, whether it is an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or doctoral degree (or, you can even get certificates and no degree). Before you enroll in an associate’s degree program, you’ll want to find out: “Is an associate’s degree worth it?”

To understand the answer, we need to look at the benefits of an associate’s degree, as well as the drawbacks. And, that’s exactly what we will do in this article.

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What is an Associate’s Degree?

Before buying any item, you probably look up reviews and understand what it is or what it does. The same should be said about enrolling in college. So, let’s cover the basics first.

An associate’s degree is an undergraduate degree that serves as the first step after secondary school. In the United States, Canada, Australia, and a few other countries, this degree goes by this name. In some other countries like the United Kingdom, an associate’s degree is called a foundation degree.

The foundation degree name is rightfully so because an associate’s degree aims to serve as a foundation for one’s career goals and education.

What Can You Do with an Associate’s Degree?

Associate’s degrees can either provide one with the preliminary knowledge to continue to earn a bachelor’s degree or serve as a degree to open the door to entry-level positions in some fields of choice.

Unlike a bachelor’s degree that usually takes four years to complete, an associate’s degree only takes about two years to fulfill. For this reason and more, if an associate’s degree is the only requirement for a job, then many students may opt for this route.

For example, the following careers often accept an associate’s degree as the standard to begin:

  • Youth worker
  • Paralegal
  • Occupational therapy assistant
  • Registered nurse
  • Respiratory therapist
  • Dental hygienist
  • Case manager

Is an Associate’s Degree Worth It?  A Look at the Pros

By looking at the associate’s degree benefits, you can determine whether or not it’s worth it in your situation to pursue.

Here are some commonly acclaimed upsides of this type of degree:

Short duration

In most cases, an associate’s degree will require the completion of 60 credits of coursework, which can typically be fulfilled in two years’ time. Some students may do so in a shorter or longer period of time, depending on their enrollment status and pre-existing responsibilities. An associate’s degree represents roughly half the time of a bachelor’s degree, which requires 120 credits over a four-year period to complete. Essentially, if your desired career or job calls for the minimum of an associate’s degree, you can save time by earning one as opposed to a  bachelor’s degree. But, there may be some potential drawbacks of doing so, which we will cover down below.


Since an associate’s degree is the shortest degree-granting, higher education option, it tends to be relatively more cost-effective than the alternatives. The reason for this is that college credits each have a price attached to them. This means that fewer credits translate into a lower dollar amount. Keep in mind that you can also earn your degrees online and at tuition-free universities, like the University of the People. Our institution offers associate’s degrees in Computer Science, Business Administration, and Health Science.


The major benefit of an associate’s degree is that it gets you ready to enter the workforce. For example, consider the job titles above. These careers require an associate’s degree to get started. You can expect to graduate with the foundational knowledge and skills you need to succeed in these positions. If you ever want to add to your education once you start working, you have the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree or higher. Alternatively, you can always increase your skills and keep your knowledge up-to-date in a field by enrolling in a certificate program. 

Salary Increase

With every degree that you earn, you can expect to receive a higher salary potential. This is partly because your education signals to potential employers that you have what it takes to get the job done. When comparing those with an associate’s degree to those without, graduates with the degree can expect to earn roughly 50% more than someone with a high school diploma. Along with higher earning potential, those who have an associate’s degree also witness lower unemployment rates as compared to those with a high school diploma.

Is an Associate’s Degree for You?

While there aren’t necessarily cons to getting an associate’s degree itself, the differences arise when you compare it to a bachelor’s degree or higher-level degree. That’s why it’s really important to determine what you need to achieve your career goals because if a minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required for your field of choice, then an associate’s degree may not be the wisest option.

When looking at an associate’s degree versus degrees above it (in the hierarchy of degrees), you may find that you’ll earn less than someone with a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, if you apply for a job against someone who has higher degrees, you may lack a competitive advantage.

Again, the major caveat here is to figure out what you want to do and what education is required to get you into your desired position. When comparing apples to apples, then you’ll often find an associate’s degree is worth it (if it’s the requirement for the job you want).

Source: Unsplash 

The Bottom Line

Asking the question, “Is an associate’s degree worth it?” comes down to a subjective answer because it really depends on what you want to do in life. There are several benefits of earning an associate’s degree, such as you can expect to spend less on your education as compared to other degrees; you can expect to finish college in a shorter amount of time, and you can expect to increase your salary potential.