List of Associate Degrees (Plus Popular Careers)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated December 1, 2021 | Published March 1, 2021

Updated December 1, 2021

Published March 1, 2021

There are plenty of opportunities that undergraduate students can explore that don't require a bachelor's degree. One of these options is an associate degree, which is a two-year program that offers students the ability to enter a career immediately after graduation or to pursue more advanced degrees. Before pursuing a career, it can be helpful to review what types of associate degrees are available. In this article, we explain what an associate degree is, give a list of associate degrees, compare an associate to a bachelor's degree and discuss career options for those who have an associate degree.

What is an associate degree?

An associate degree is a two-year college degree at the undergraduate level. Associate degrees are available at many universities, colleges, technical colleges and community colleges. Students in an associate degree program often study general education requirements and courses specific to their area of study.

Certain careers only require an associate degree to begin working, so unless you decide to change careers or receive advanced certification, you may not need to pursue additional education. For others, an associate degree is one step toward further education, which can include pursuing a bachelor's degree, a master's degree or a doctorate.

Related: Is an Associate Degree Worth It?

Associate vs. bachelor's degree

There are many different college degrees, some of which build upon others. For instance, to receive a master's degree, you need a bachelor's degree first. The primary difference between an associate degree and a bachelor's degree is the time each takes to complete. An associate degree is a two-year program, and a bachelor's degree is a four-year program. There are many careers you can pursue with an associate degree only, but obtaining a bachelor's degree might offer additional opportunities.

The coursework to complete an associate degree might be similar to the first two years of a bachelor's degree, especially in an Associate of Arts (A.A.) or Associate of Science (A.S.) program. An Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) and other applied associate degrees, since they often teach career-specific skills, are slightly different. Many associate programs can be transferred to a four-year bachelor's program if a student decides to do so, but it's best to verify with your school to be sure.

One benefit of an associate degree is that the costs are lower compared to a bachelor's degree, especially at the same educational institution. However, depending on your field, you may find that a bachelor's degree offers greater earning potential. A student with an associate degree can decide later if they want to pursue a bachelor's degree, though, so you can always attend school for two years and return later to pursue a bachelor's degree.

List of associate degrees

Here are the most common types of associate degrees:

Associate of Arts

Students often pursue an Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree as a first step toward getting a bachelor's degree. Many AA degrees are transferable, which means the credits count toward a student's bachelor's degree. Additionally, the focus of many A.A. degrees is not associated with a specific job or career. The classes students pursuing an A.A. degree take are very similar to what students take in their first two years of a bachelor's degree, including general education courses and humanities courses.

There are many reasons a student might choose to pursue an A.A. degree, even if it doesn't immediately qualify you for a particular job. For example, a student might want to obtain an easily transferable set of credits along with a diploma for their work. A student might get an A.A. as a first step if they are unsure about continuing with a bachelor's degree but still want to have a degree they can use in the future. There are some entry-level positions an A.A. could qualify you for, such as a marketing assistant, esthetician, writer and web designer.

Related: 10 Jobs You Can Get With an Associate of Arts Degree

Associate of Science

Students may also pursue an Associate of Science (A.S.) degree before continuing to a bachelor's degree. An A.S. degree is often more science-focused than an A.A. degree and typically involves more math and science courses. However, not all A.S. degrees solely focus on science-related topics. Certain A.S. degrees, such as business or graphic design degrees, are less focused on science specifically. A.S. degrees are often adaptable to a wide variety of skills and industries.

An A.S. degree may qualify you for careers such as a nursing assistant, phlebotomist, emergency medical technician or pharmacy technician. With an A.S., you have several options. You might decide to start working after graduation and then return for another degree later. You could also graduate with an A.S. and go right into a bachelor's program, or you might decide you are happy with the career you obtained after receiving your A.S. degree.

Related: Top 10 Entry-level Associate of Science Degree Jobs

3. Associate of Applied Science

Students who pursue an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree are generally searching for a more vocational degree that they can use to begin their career immediately after graduation. There is a wide variety of A.A.S. programs available, including those for becoming a paralegal, an early childhood educator, a chef or a telecommunications technician. The courses included in an A.A.S. degree are usually more focused on building a student's skills for their career and less on meeting requirements for a bachelor's degree.

While students who receive an A.A.S. degree may decide to return to college for a bachelor's degree or another program, for many, this degree is enough to get started with their desired career.

Related: Computer Science Salaries and Careers With an Associate Degree

4. Other associate degrees

Some other associate degrees that many colleges offer include:

  • Associate of Applied Arts

  • Associate of Forestry

  • Associate of Engineering

  • Associate of Industrial Technology

  • Associate of Business Administration

  • Associate of General Studies

  • Associate of Applied Business

  • Associate of Fine Arts

  • Associate of Pre-Engineering

How each school classifies a particular program may vary, but if your career requires an associate degree, those in your industry may be familiar with those variations. Researching before you begin classes, however, can help you ensure you're enrolled in the proper program.

Careers with an associate degree

There are many industries where you can start an entry-level position with an associate degree. Additionally, you may find that as you progress in your career, you gain direct experience in your field that those with a bachelor's degree have to wait to gain. There are many careers you can pursue with an associate degree, such as:

  • Web developer

  • Respiratory therapist

  • Chef

  • Wildlife manager

  • Veterinary technician

  • Dental hygienist

  • Paralegal

  • Accountant

  • Video game designer

  • Graphic designer

Explore more articles