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Both degrees have been in existence for a long time, but a lot of people are still confused about the difference between the two degrees. In fact, a lot of people view both as being the same thing, but is an associate degree an undergraduate degree

Many people asked the question of which to study first, associate degree or bachelor’s degree? A lot of people are even confused about whether two associate degrees make up a bachelor’s degree.

For a start, a Bachelor’s Degree is an undergraduate program that you can study next after high school. It takes four years to complete, and you will only be awarded the degree after you have satisfied all requirements stated by the school. 

In the US, there are many bachelor’s degrees awarded to students, but the main types are four, and they all have their particular fields of interest. The types are Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor in Science (BS), Bachelor of Fine Arts, and a Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS). 

The Associate degree, on the other hand, is a two-year program that you can also study after you are through high school. It can be studied as part of the prerequisites for advanced study in a bachelor’s degree, or you can decide to start working after you are being awarded. It has four categories. 

In this post, we will discuss the differences between the two, the salary, financial aid available, and the job available for the two. You will also get to know whether there is something called a bachelor associate or bachelor associate degree.

What is an Associate Degree?

An associate degree is an academic program that runs for two years, and it is aimed to equip the student with the necessary technical and academic skills needed for them to be employable or to further their pursuit of a higher study.

Associate Degree Admission Requirements

The program is the first stage of study after leaving the high; therefore, it does not require much. To gain admission into the college to pursue the associate’s degree, you will need a high school diploma, you must have passed General Education Development (GED), and maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0

And the required age at the time of enrolment should be between 17 to 20 years.

Type of Associate Degrees

The associate degree is divided into four:

  • Associate in Science (AS)

This program is more focused on science subjects, and they are for the student that wants to major in fields such as medicine, nursing, engineering, mathematics, and all technology-related fields. It comprises five or more courses, and they are all based on science and mathematics. 

The program is both for transfer and employment, but it focuses more on employment. Throughout the study, you will study both core and elective subjects. 

  • Associate of Art (AA)

This is more like the associate in science but more generic than the AS. This program deals with other fields apart from science, technology, and mathematics-related fields. It can also be used both for transfer and employment, but it focuses more on transfer for advanced study. It is wider than the AS.

It is good for students that are indecisive about their major because it covers all studies.

  • Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S)

What differentiates this from AS is the “Applied” It is also for students that want to study science and mathematics subjects. But it focused more on making the student employable than transfer. The training aims to make students readily available for jobs after the degree.

  • Associate of Applied Arts (A.A.A)

This offers extensive training in performing and visual art. It is also a two-year degree focused on equipping the student with the right knowledge and skill to start working directly after graduation. 

The program is available for courses such as fine art, music, art education, sculpting, and so on. It is more of a specialized degree than a general.

Cost of an Associate Degree

The degree is majorly earned at community or junior colleges, and the cost might differ according to schools. But the average associate degree cost for a student at the public college is $3,570 while the cost for students at Private colleges will be around $14,587.

What is a Bachelor’s Degree?

This is a degree awarded by the universities or colleges for undergraduate students after completing coursework and meeting the minimum graduation requirement. It runs for four years, and it has a full-time, part-time, and distance learning option. 

Bachelor’s Degree Admission Requirements

This is also a post-secondary program as the associate degree, and so has similar requirements. You must be a high school graduate, must have passed the GED test, and also has a minimum GPA of 2.0. And you can also transfer if you have an associate degree.

The age requirement is also between seventeen to twenty years.

Type of Bachelor’s Degrees

There are four types of bachelor’s degrees, and they are as follows:

  • Bachelor of Science (BS)

This is a program awarded after the successful completion of four years of classwork, assignment, internship, and research in science. It can be obtained based on a full-time, part-time, or learning from a distance.

The program has an emphasis on science and technical subjects.

  • Bachelor of Arts (B.A)

This has a strong focus on liberal art courses; it focuses on general education, core, and electives in humanities. The course has a wider focus than the BS, although they both take the same years of completion.

The program is basically for high school graduates that want to focus more on social sciences and art courses. Or an associate graduate of Art.

  • Bachelor of Applied Science (B.A.S)

It also focuses on science and mathematics subjects but is more specialized than the BS. It is for professionals. It is for people that want to develop leadership and management skills to meet demands in their workplaces.

Studies have shown that most of the people that study this course are grown-up adults. Adults looking for a way to increase their knowledge and skills.

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A)

This is essential for students passionate about visual and performing art. It prepares the student for more advanced and practical learning in art. It is the study of the application of designs to various activities in their daily lives.

It is majorly focused on designs, whether graphical, industrial, or fashion.

Cost of a Bachelor Degree

The average tuition fee for a bachelor’s degree student in a year is $8,893 for state universities. But for universities out of the state, it cost $22, 203 each year. While the average tuition for a private institution is $30,094.

However, it would be best to note that the figure above does not include other costs.

Differences Between Associate and Bachelor’s Degree

The first major difference is the year of completion. The associate degree takes a maximum of two years before you can be awarded while the bachelor’s degree lasts for four years.

The associate degree is undertaken mostly for transfers and sometimes for employment, but the bachelor’s degree is a program that a more advanced study focused on a specific area of interest.

Another difference is the cost; the bachelor’s degree takes more time than the associate degree and involves more credits. This makes it more expensive to acquire than the associate degree.

The associate degree has less course work than the bachelor’s degree. Depending on the associate degree you are choosing, the associate’s course work can either be vocational to prepare you for employment or general to prepare you for transfer into the advanced study.

While the bachelor’s degree focuses on General, core, and electives, the start of a bachelor’s degree will require that you focus on the general course work while the following year allows you to specialize in a field and graduate after you have completed projects.

The associate degree is good if you are looking forward to working in technology companies, but some employment opportunities like finance, accounting might need a bachelor’s as the least requirement for employment.

According to research by the Bureau of Labor, the rate of unemployment is much with people with an associate degree than people with a bachelor’s degree.

Associate Vs Bachelor’s: The Job Market

According to research conducted by Georgetown University in 2016, many percentages of jobs still go to the holders of bachelor’s degrees. And it was also noted by CNN in a research report that 8.4 million jobs out of the over eleven million jobs created after the Great Depression went to the bachelor degree holder. 

The percentage also further describes this big difference as only 36% of Americans have a bachelor’s degree or higher, while only 30% of Americans have an associate’s degree, and only 34% have a high school diploma or less.

According to US NEWS, it is becoming increasingly difficult to rely on an associate degree to get a job or a career in some areas.

But irrespective of the figure, each degree guarantees employment, the chances might vary. 

Associate Degree Vs Bachelor Degree Salary

There have been consistent statistics over the salary difference between the two degrees. A survey conducted by PayScale in 2009 showed that “employees with a bachelor’s degree earn at least 20% more than an employee with an associate degree in the first five years of their career” and continue to earn during the first ten to fifteen years of employment. 

A 2014 PayScale survey found a similar situation. As explained by MarketWatch, the income of ordinary graduates with no work experience is 26% higher than that of ordinary associate degree graduates with the same experience (almost $ 10,000 a year). “But in a few years, when that employee has ten years or more of experience, the difference between the income of an employee with an associate degree and an employee with bachelor’s degree is almost $ 30,000 – a difference greater than 50% “, as emphasized by Market Watch.

Financial Aid: AS Vs BS

It does not matter whether you are in pursuit of an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree; there is financial aid available for both. If you intend to obtain an associate degree first, then transfer credits and obtain a bachelor’s degree, you should note that the financial assistance that you can receive may be limited. 

This is especially true of federal financial aids, as federal financial assistance limits the number of semesters for which aid can be received.                      

Also, for the federal Pell grant, the grant is no longer applicable for the student that has been awarded a bachelor’s degree, but you can still be eligible if you have an associate degree.


Bachelor’s degree and associate degree differences do not matter; the most important thing is deciding on having an undergraduate degree that will give your a chance to compete in the labor market. 

Before considering the bachelor’s degree and associate’s degree difference, consider the course you want to study and the reason for studying it. If it is a technical based course and you don’t want to spend so much time in the academic environment, then you can go for an associate degree, but if otherwise, the bachelor’s is the best choice for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better an Associates’s or Bachelors’s degree?

The better one depends on what you want to use it for. If you don’t want to spend much money and time, choose an associate degree. But if you are willing to undergo a more specialized program without minding the duration, then a Bachelor’s degree is better.

But ultimately both associate and bachelor degrees are equally good.

Does an Associate’s degree count as a college degree?

It is a degree awarded by the college after two years of academic activities, so It is a College degree.

Can you skip an Associate’s degree and go straight to a Bachelor’s?

Both associate and bachelor’s degrees are post-secondary, so you can decide to go straight for the four-year course. However, you can also decide to have an associate before you transfer to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Can you skip an Associate’s degree?

It is not compulsory that you earn an associate degree; you can skip it and go directly for the bachelor’s degree.

Helen Vlasova
Helen is the co-founder of admissionsly.com, a career guidance website for students and young professionals. She has a degree in English from the University of Michigan. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, and traveling.

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