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An associate degree is the most basic academic degree you can earn from a college or university. An associate degree is commonly referred to as a two-year degree because it can typically be earned in two years if you are enrolled full time. However, the amount of time it takes to earn an associate degree depends on several things, such as your previous education credits, your ability to successfully complete each course, the pace set by the degree program, and whether or not you need to take remedial courses.
An associate degree can be extremely beneficial to anyone looking to begin a new career or advance their career. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), occupations that require an associate degree are expected to have an employment increase of 19% through to the year 2018, which is higher than occupations requiring any other level of education. In addition to this, the BLS has released statistics showing that unemployment rates for individuals with an associate degree have been lower than those with only a high school diploma or less year after year. Also, the BLS noted that those with an associate degree tend to earn more money than people with only a high school diploma or less, with associate degree holders in 2009 earning an average of $100 more a week than high school graduates without a degree.
Many people who earn an associate degree use it as a foundation for further academic achievements. In many cases, once you obtain an associate degree, you can transfer your credits to another school as a block, which can lessen the amount of time it will take you to earn another degree by two years. In other words, if you choose to pursue a bachelor's degree, which generally takes about four years to earn full time, you may only have to go to school for roughly two additional years. However, keep in mind that earning an associate degree does not guarantee that your credits will be successfully transferred.
What to Expect
Many of the courses you can expect to take while earning an associate degree are considered "core" or "101" classes, which are introductory courses across several subject areas. They can include college algebra, biology, English, history, and more. These courses are generally required for every associate degree, no matter what your major is so that you graduate with a more well-rounded education. Since an associate degree covers the basics and introduces you to your major, it can be used toward a bachelor's degree. A bachelor's degree will delve deeper into your major with more advanced classes.
Something for online students to keep in mind is that each online college varies in how they conduct their classes. Some classes consist of forums that are open to students taking the class. These forums are typically text-based and allow students and instructors to post information, questions, and assignments. Other classes will include pre-recorded or live video lectures, or live chat sessions that allow students and instructors to discuss topics in real time. However, just like in a traditional classroom setting, all assignments come with a deadline. In essence, while the specifics of completing an online associate degree will differ from completing one in a classroom, the overall goals are the same.
In addition, depending on your score on the SAT or other college entrance exam, as well as an evaluation of your previous education, your school may require you to enroll in some remedial courses as well. Remedial courses are designed to help students reach the college level by teaching them the basic concepts of a subject, such as algebra or English. In fact, remedial courses are relatively common because not all high schools and preparatory schools graduate students at a level that matches every college's or university's educational standards.
There are numerous types of associate degrees you can choose from. Many students pursue a general studies associate degree, such as an Associate of Science, which covers all subject areas, but will require you to complete multiple science courses, such as biology, chemistry, and anatomy. An Associate of Arts degree will also cover all subject areas, but will require you to complete multiple art courses, such as art history, drawing, and painting. Some of the other popular associate degrees include the Associate of Business Administration, Associate of Arts in Teaching, Associate of Fine Arts, and Associate of Science in Nursing. These types of associate degree require classes that focus on your major in addition to basic math, science, English, and history courses. For example, an associate degree in business administration will require introductory courses in management, accounting, business law, marketing, and other areas of business. Likewise, an associate degree in nursing will require courses such as anatomy and physiology, physical assessment, basic nutrition, pharmaceuticals, and other courses related to health and patient care.
What to Consider
Each online college is different, so to find the right one for you, consider a few things. First, visit the websites for the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education, and search for the school you are considering in their databases of accredited institutions. Accreditation is a way to ensure that your education will be of high quality. You then should make sure the school offers a program that interests you. Also, we recommend researching the teaching methods and types of assignments used by the school, as well as the length of each course, and determining whether or not you feel like you would be able to fulfill the requirements of each course in the amount of time provided. Other things to consider include the credentials of the faculty, the school's reputation, and tuition costs.