What is an Associate Degree - Eligibility, Types, and Career Prospects


Samarpita Goswami
Updated on Jun 26, 2023 06:09 PM IST

Are you looking to enter the job market early? Unlock a world of possibilities by pursuing an associate degree abroad. Check out the article on associate degrees to know the requirements, colleges, cost, reasons and salary earned.

What is an Associate Degree - Eligibility, Types, and Career Prospects

Associate degrees are one of the lesser-known degrees that have the power to wield a career for individuals who never had a chance to start their degrees or who aim to enter the job market quickly. Unlike a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree is shorter in duration, more flexible and offers knowledge in a condensed two-year timeline.

Students do not have lengthy commitments while pursuing associate degrees and are awarded tangible degrees to boost employability in a short time. An associate degree provides individuals with knowledge, skills and valuable networking opportunities that will launch them in their chosen field or industry. 

In simpler terms, an associate degree is positioned between a high school diploma and a bachelor's degree. They are taught at several community colleges, technical colleges, universities, etc. This article will provide you with illuminating knowledge of associate degrees, their types and career prospects associated with them that will help you embark on a transformative academic sojourn with them. 

What is an Associate Degree?

An associate degree is an undergraduate-level academic programme with provides knowledge to enter entry-level employment opportunities. Students gain the required academic and transferable skills to enable them to progress in study or the job. 

While US universities and colleges mostly offer associate degrees, Canada, Hong Kong, Netherlands and Australia are also forerunners in delivering this type of programme. The duration of the degree varies per university and country, with typical ones requiring two years to complete. The degree can also be earned by seasoned professionals to climb the ladder or advance into a new role.  

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Why Study for an Associate Degree?

To quickly enter the workforce, associate degrees are the best option. Depending on the job field they are choosing, they have chances of earning higher salaries quickly. Besides, preparing with academic and technical fields, here are some of the reasons to pursue an Associate degree and to reap benefits:

  • Saves Time and Money: As time and money are considered valuable resources, pursuing an associate degree leads to saving both. Being short-duration courses, they are more affordable and convenient for students who want to minimise debt impact. They start earning earlier and can contribute to further studies. 

  • Transition to Bachelors: Studying for associate degrees results in seamless transfer to undergraduate programmes. Students are allowed to transfer their credits to four-year colleges and can complete their studies. 

  • Skill Enhancement Programmes: The associate degrees offer a plethora of practical training in the form of internships, work options, cooperative education, hands-on training and more. The training equips pupils to apply them in real-world scenarios. 

Get EXPERT Guidance to Study Associate Degree Abroad!

Difference Between Associate Degree and Bachelors Degree

Associate degrees and bachelor's programmes share a similarity and that is both are considered undergraduate courses. Students can pursue both courses after graduating from high school. Many employment pathways open up with associate degrees, while bachelor's degrees are considered as a refinement over the same. The differences between the associated degree and bachelor's degree can be well understood by glancing at the given points:


Associate Degree

Bachelors Degree

Length of Study

2 years of full-time study

4 years

Tuition Fees

USD 4,000

USD 20,000

Entry Requirements

High School with no specific GPA requirement

High School with a good GPA, SOP, LOR, Essay, SAT/ACT scores


60 credits in USA

120 credits in USA




Skills Acquired

Academic and practical training

Academic, hands-on training, critical thinking, analytical skills, research skills

Transfer of credits


Not possible 

Career Opportunities

Entry-level positions

Intermediate to high-level positions

Median Usual Weekly Earnings

USD 964

USD 1,334

Types of Associate Degrees

Associate degrees fall into three wide categories and the types are determined by the emphasis of the courses on preparing students for particular career roles. The types of associated degrees are elaborated on below:

  • Associate of Arts (AA): It is a stand-alone programme that focuses on liberal arts and humanities disciplines such as English, history, psychology, art, dance, or sociology. Students can upgrade to a bachelor's degree after completing the course. 

  • Associate of Science (AS): Associate of Science involves courses in mathematics and science. Certain AS degrees are also focused on business and graphics. Computer Science, engineering, cosmetology, office technology and technical theatre are some of the top choices among students. 

  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS): The course involves paralegal education, telecommunication, childhood educator, hospital management and more. While AA and AS courses lead to a bachelor's programme, AAS ones are lesser accepted for four years bachelor's programme.

Other associate degrees at universities abroad that may be offered are Associate of Forestry, Associate of Applied Arts, Associate of Business Administration, Associate of Industrial Technology, Associate of Engineering and Associate of General Studies. 

Top Associate Degree Colleges Abroad

There are several associate degree colleges abroad that provide academic expertise and hands-on training to pupils. The USA, Canada and Netherlands are among the top countries with colleges providing associate degrees. Check out the list here:

Associate Degree Colleges Abroad


Rend Lake College

United States

Alexander College


Cochise College

United States

Douglas College


Howard Community College

United States

University of Groningen


Peninsula College

United States

Canada College

United States

Thompsons Rivers University 


Radboud University


Admission Requirements for Associate Degrees

The admission requirements for associate degrees are simpler than bachelors and can vary depending on the institution and type of associate degree chosen. Here are a few entry requirements for students to satisfy during the application process:

  • High School Diploma or Equivalent: Students must have a high school diploma or its equivalent namely a General Education Development (GED) certificate. This is the minimum academic qualification required. 

  • Application and Documents: Applicants must complete an application form and submit documents such as academic transcripts or GED scores, a statement of purpose, a resume and one letter of recommendation.  
  • English Language Proficiency: International students must appear in IELTS, TOEFL or PTE to gain entry for associate degrees at an English-speaking institution abroad.

Things to Do with an Associate Degree

With an Associate degree, students can follow three potential paths that include transferring to bachelors, being employed or professional advancement. Here are the things to do with an Associate degree:

  • Transfer to a Bachelor's Degree Programme: Some students consider an associate degree as an entry point for a bachelor's degree programme. They can continue their education and gain specialisation in their field of interest.

  • Entry into a Career: An associate degree provides the necessary skills and knowledge to enter a specific career field. Some programmes are technical and are designed to equip students with in-demand practical skills for various industries. 

  • Advancement in Career: For professionals seeking career advancement, an associate degree gives them a competitive edge. It opens up opportunities for higher-paying job positions. 

Career Prospects with Associate Degrees

With academic knowledge and technical skills gained from associate degrees, students can pursue various career paths. The job roles fetch decent packages and the salary is higher than what one gets with a high school diploma. US Bureau of Labour Statistics determines that the average salary earned by associate degree graduates is USD 964 per week.

In many industries, these graduates get the opportunity to start with entry-level positions. One may find earning more experience than bachelors degree holders who graduate after two more years. The careers that can be pursued with an associate degree are:

  • Paralegal: Paralegals assist lawyers and conduct legal research, draft documents, organise case files and prepare for trials. They are employed in law firms, government bodies and corporate legal departments. 

  • Web Developer: A career as a web developer includes designing and creating websites while implementing visual and interactive elements. They get employment in web development agencies or technology companies or work independently as freelancers.

  • Dental Hygienist: Dental hygienists assist dentists to provide oral healthcare services to patients with oral They clean teeth, examine patients, conduct x-rays and create awareness among patients about oral hygiene.

  • Graphic Designer: To pique the audience’s interest, graphic designers create visually compelling graphics by brainstorming creative ideas. They are expected to know the tools to create graphic designs. 

  • Video Game Designer: A designer involved in video games creates fun, engaging and dynamic animations and interfaces. They work as a part of the creative team to conceptual ideas and develop plots, settings and characters. 

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Highest Paying Associate Degrees

Students who do not have time and opportunity to pursue full-time bachelor's degrees must not be discouraged. Individuals with an associate degree get several high-paying jobs though they earn less than those with bachelor's degrees or other advanced degrees. Here are some of the top highest paying associated degree jobs that one can opt for:

Job Roles

Median Salary Range (in USD)

Web Developer


Dental Hygienist


Physical Therapy Assistant




MRI Technologist


Associate Degree Alternatives

Those who do not wish to attend associate colleges can opt for other alternatives such as professional certificates, boot camps and trade or vocational schools. Here are some options that are flexible and serve as alternatives to associate degrees:

  • Professional Certificate/License: Professional certifications are credentialed students can obtain by taking courses and appearing for examinations to prove their expertise in a certain sector. It is offered both online and in person. They can be completed in a few months to a few years and frequently any prior knowledge of the subject is not required. A professional certificate is available in many different disciplines, including marketing, data analysis, IT assistance and programming.

  • Trade Schools: Trade schools are vocational or technical institutions that prepare students for careers with specific competencies. They concentrate on practical instruction and delivery. A typical trade school programme is two years or fewer, while some professions may need for further apprenticeships after the course. When looking into trade schools, factors like accreditation, a history of job placement, and whether the programme is financially fruitful are important to consider. 

  • Bootcamps: They help to gain skills quickly to enter a new field or domain. Bootcamps are typically conducted for a few months and the most popular ones are UI/UX design and digital marketing. 

Associate degrees are pathways for students to gain specialised skills and knowledge in a short duration. It provides opportunities for personal gain and professional growth. They are practical and affordable options for those aiming to enter the job market faster than others. The industry relevance and flexibility make associate degrees a viable choice for students. 

Our study abroad experts have helped students find suitable degrees abroad. Contact them at abroad@collegedekho.com.

Check Out the Top Universities Abroad Offering Associate Degrees!


Can I pursue an associate degree abroad?

Yes, you can pursue an associate degree abroad. Many countries like the US, Canada, Hong Kong, and the Netherlands offer associate degrees of two years to international students. It is important to verify the accreditation and recognition of the degrees provided in the home country of the students. 

What is the duration of an associate degree programme?

The duration of an associate degree is 2 years if they are pursued full-time. The colleges design the course structure in a way that corresponds to the syllabus of the first two years of the undergraduate programme. This enables students to gain knowledge and technicalities of the course. 

Can I transfer credits from an associate degree to a bachelor's programme?

While there is a general norm that you can transfer your credits from an associate degree to a bachelor's degree, transfer policies vary between universities. A total of 60 credits is earned in an associate degree and the same can be transferred to a bachelor's programme. 

What is the cost of an associate degree?

The cost of an associate degree in the US is around USD 4,000 to USD 10,000. It is cheaper than most bachelor's degree programmes and students are not unnecessarily burdened with financial debts. 

What are the career prospects after completing an associate degree?

The career opportunities after completing an associate degree depend on the field of study. Associate degrees abroad provide a solid foundation in courses related to healthcare services, business management, technology or creative arts. Graduates can find entry-level positions or pursue further education. 


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