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How do I Earn an Associate's Degree?

Melissa Barrett
Melissa Barrett

You typically can earn an associate's degree by attending a college that offers such a degree and earning the required number of credits. This degree typically takes two years to earn, but this can vary. Both brick-and-mortar schools and online programs offer a wide variety of ways to earn an associate’s degree. The types of associate degree programs offered, the location of the school, the price of the program and the flexibility of class schedule are all important aspects to remember when choosing the program that best fits your needs.

Most accredited four-year universities also offer associate degree programs. If you live near a college, it is probably worth checking into. These “traditional” colleges often offer the most diverse program selection but they usually have the biggest price tag.

Associate degree programs can be completed in two years.
Associate degree programs can be completed in two years.

Contact the admissions department to meet with a representative who will show you around the campus, outline the programs and help you fill out the admission forms. There generally are counselors available during the tour to answer financial aid questions. If you think that you might be interested in completing a four-year program in the future, you should remember that most universities will allow some or all of the credits earned towards a associate's degree from an accredited college to be applied towards more advanced degrees.

Business or career colleges are another way to earn an associate's degree. These colleges are plentiful and you might be able to find one within easy commuting distance. Usually, the types of associate's degree you can earn at these schools are limited, and the curriculum is much more directed. Graduation time from a full-time program can often range between 12 and 24 months.

Classes tend to be smaller at business colleges, and there often are one or two set schedules, and you must adhere to a schedule for the duration of the program. Earning an associate's degree from a business college can be a less expensive option than earning one from a traditional university, and financial aid is often readily available. The total time it takes to finish the program is frequently quicker than at a traditional college, but the associate's degree credits might not be transferable to other schools.

Earning an associate's degree online is becoming increasingly popular. Many traditional colleges and career colleges allow some classes to be taken online, but there are accredited schools that allow you to earn an associate's degree without ever being in a classroom. These programs were designed to have an extremely flexible schedule and, in general, online degrees are less expensive than the other two options.

The choice of online associate degree programs is nearly limitless, although it can be difficult to find your desired program in a fully accredited school with a good reputation. Financial aid is often available, but many private grants and scholarships do not acknowledge online academics. Online credits are very seldom transferable to other programs.

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    • Associate degree programs can be completed in two years.
      By: Monkey Business
      Associate degree programs can be completed in two years.