Whether you’re looking for a new career or returning to school after years in the workforce, understanding the types of associate degrees available is an important first step on your path to higher education.
Earning an associate degree can increase your earning potential, reduce your risk of unemployment, and help you pursue higher education.
“For some students, they are fresh out of high school, while others are returning to school after years in the workforce,” said Meleena Eaton, Associate Dean of Business at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). “The common thread is that all students who enroll in an associate’s program do so because they see it as a benefit to their career path.”
Keep reading to learn more from SNHU academic leaders about the types of associate degrees available and the benefits of earning a 2-year degree.
How many years is an associate degree?
You might be surprised how quickly you can earn an associate degree. On average, associate degree programs can be completed in just two years, requiring 60 semester credits or approximately 20 college courses.
What is an Associate Degree?
The majority of associate degree programs fall into two categories – Associate of Arts (AA) and Associate of Science (AS) – and can give you a solid foundation of knowledge in your field of study and enhance your long-term employment. term and your earning potential.
Associate Degree Holders earn 16.7% more than workers with only a high school diploma, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Unemployment rates are 7.1% for those with an associate degree, versus 9.0% for those with a high school diploma, according to BLS data.
There are associate’s degree programs in many fields of study, so it’s important to explore your degree options and the careers they can prepare you for before enrolling.
What is an AA degree?
An associate of arts degree can help you develop soft skills sought by employers, including communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills.
“Getting an AA degree can open the door to many career opportunities and is also a great way to continue preparing for transfer to a (bachelor’s) program,” said Tara Stabile, Associate Dean of General Education.
AA Core courses explore a wide range of disciplines and meet many of the general education requirements of most bachelor’s degree programs. Many associate degree credits can also be transferred directly to a bachelor’s degree program, accelerating your ability to earn a four-year degree in almost any field of study.
AA in Liberal Arts
A liberal arts associate degree is a good choice for anyone who wants to earn a college degree but is still determining their ideal career or educational path.
“A liberal arts associate’s degree would give students the opportunity to try a few different flavors…” before choosing a major, said Priscilla Hobbs Penn, Associate Dean of General Education.
A liberal arts education will allow you to explore everything from writing and public speaking to the humanities and social sciences. By earning an Associate of Arts, jobs may be available in customer service, administration, retail and more.
Some of the possible careers with an associate’s degree in liberal arts include:
- Customer Service Representative: With a job as a customer service representative, you could work to meet customer needs face-to-face, over the phone, or online. Full-time customer service representatives earned a median salary of $35,830 in 2020, according to the BLS.
- Administrative Assistant: As an administrative assistant, you could help manage the day-to-day work of an office. Administrative assistants earned a median salary of $40,990 in 2020, according to BLS data.
AA in digital photography
An associate’s degree in digital photography provides an introduction to the technical skills of digital camera operation, lighting, and post-production editing, and can prepare you for entry-level work in as a professional photographer.
If you want to advance your photography career, an associate degree can lay the foundation for a four-year degree that can advance your professional development skills such as branding and social media.
Digital photographers earn on average $49,445 in 2021, according to Glassdoor.
Some of the possible careers with an associate degree in digital photography include:
- Portrait photographer: As a portrait photographer, you can start your own photography business or work for a photography company, capturing everything from family photos to professional portraits.
- Aerial photographer: As an aerial photographer, you can use drones and other technology to capture images of land, real estate, new construction projects, and even special events.
What is an AS degree?
An Associate of Science degree is a 2-year degree typically focused on business, technology, or social and practical sciences. By earning an Associate of Science, jobs may be available in a variety of industries, including marketing, business administration, and information technology.
“An AS degree is a great starting point for those looking to work in a specific field, gain the necessary experience, and further their education to improve job longevity,” said Mark Hobson, Senior Associate Dean of Business.
AS in Nursing
With an Associate of Science in Nursing degree, you’ll gain the skills you need to get started in the in-demand nursing field and gain a stepping stone to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to advance your career.
One of the possible careers with an associate degree in nursing is that of a registered nurse. RNs observe and assess patient symptoms, plan patient care, and manage medical equipment, tests, and medications. Jobs for registered nurses are expected to increase by 9% between 2020-2030, with RNs earning a median salary of $75,330 in 2020, according to BLS data.
ace in business
Earning a 2-year degree is a great way to start or advance a career in business, whether you’re interested in:
“I think the biggest benefit is that it allows students to start working in their field faster and gain the real-world experience that is so valuable in marketing,” Eaton said.
With an Associate of Commerce degree, jobs in marketing, sales, or administration might be available, including:
- Marketing assistant: With a marketing assistant job, you could help support a marketing department’s efforts, including social media, advertising, and content marketing. Marketing assistants earned an average salary of $43,817 in 2021, according to Glassdoor, and marketing jobs should grow by 10% compared to 2020-2030, according to BLS data.
- Commercial director: As a sales manager, you may oversee sales representatives for a department or organization. Sales managers earned a median annual salary of $132,290 in 2020, with job opportunities grow by 7% between 2020 and 202030, according to BLS data.
AS in Information Technology
An associate’s degree in information technology (IT) is another great way to start a rewarding career with plenty of growth opportunities, especially since a tight job market with low unemployment has made more difficult for employers to find qualified IT professionals.
“These circumstances offer people with an associate’s degree in computer science and some experience the opportunity to be considered for certain positions that just a few years ago would have had a tough requirement for a bachelor’s degree,” said Marc Le Page, recently retired Senior Associate Dean of Computing.
One of the possible careers with an associate’s degree in information technology is working as an IT support specialist. In this role, you could work to maintain computer systems and networks and provide technical support to system users. Jobs for computer support specialists should grow by 9% between 2020 and 202030, earning workers a median wage of $55,510 in 2020, according to the BLS.
Start with an associate degree
Whatever your career goals, earning an associate degree is a great way to get started in higher education and boost your long-term success in education and the job market.
“In today’s job market, more and more students are seeking degrees and credentials at a faster pace to meet employer needs,” Hobson said.
Danielle Gagnon is a freelance writer focused on higher education. Connect with her on LinkedIn.