If you’re considering going to college in the near future, you may be undecided or even confused about what type of degree program is best for you. For undergraduates, the primary choice is between a bachelor’s degree and an associate degree. There’s no one right answer; the best choice for you depends on your career goals, the time you can devote to college, and your budget. We’ll outline the key differences between each type of degree to help make this decision easier.
Key Differences Between a Bachelor’s Degree vs. Associate Degree
The primary difference between earning a bachelor’s degree and an associate degree is time. An associate degree program can usually be completed in two years, whereas a bachelor’s degree program generally takes four years of study. However, there are other key differences as well.
A bachelor’s degree program allows for more general education classes that don’t directly pertain to your major. This offers students a more well-rounded education and may allow you to pivot more easily if you find it necessary to change careers later in life. An associate degree program generally concentrates on classes that directly relate to your major.
An associate degree program takes approximately two years of attending classes full-time to complete, depending on the field of study. A bachelor’s degree program generally takes around four years to complete. In addition, online programs can save you time by allowing you to attend lectures and finish coursework virtually and at your own pace without spending time driving to and from campus, finding a place to park, and walking to and from class. That may not sound like a lot of time, but it can add up quickly over the course of a two or four-year course of study.
Since an associate degree program takes roughly half of the time to complete as a bachelor’s degree, the total tuition required for your degree is much lower for an associate degree than with a bachelor’s degree. You can save even more by completing your coursework online, by saving on gas, parking, and new clothes to wear to class.
Some careers require a bachelor’s degree (or an advanced degree), while training for other careers is complete with an associate degree. For example, if you want to be a teacher, you’re going to need to complete a bachelor’s degree program. However, some other careers, such as nursing and many medical technology fields, can be started with an associate degree. The good news is that you can generally apply most of your credits earned in your associate degree program to a bachelor’s degree if you decide later than you want to earn a four-year degree. Most individuals will find more opportunities for advancement along their career path with a four-year versus a two-year degree.
While the job market is definitely skewed in the job seeker’s favor right now, that is likely to change at some point during your career. When there is a large supply of applicants for a few jobs, employers often use education as a way of filtering out applicants. In that case, a person with a four-year degree would have an advantage over a person with similar experience and a two-year degree.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median earnings for someone with a bachelor’s degree is $68,000 per year, compared to a $49,000 median salary for someone with an associate degree. That means, on average, a graduate with a bachelor’s degree earns $19,000 more annually than a graduate with an associate degree. Taking that a step further, if a person attended college right after graduating from high school at age 18, this means that a person with a bachelor’s degree will earn enough extra by age 34 to pay for the extra cost of that additional two years of college.
However, there are a lot of variables that can change your individual results away from the BLS averages. Your exact earnings will depend on your field, the type of job you have, your experience in your field, the area of the country where you work, and the size of the company or organization where you work.
You’re also more likely to be employed if you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree compared to someone with an associate degree. The BLS reports that in 2020, the unemployment rate for individuals with a bachelor’s degree was lower (5.5 percent) than for those with an associate degree (7 percent).
Earning your degree from Johnson & Wales University
Johnson & Wales University (JWU) offers a variety of two-year and four-year degree programs with more than 100 majors. The university is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education and has two campuses–in Providence, RI and in Charlotte, NC. In addition, most degree programs can be completed online.
Johnson & Wales, founded in 1914, has more than 8,000 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students. The university has seven different colleges within its structure and is particularly well-known for its food and beverage and hospitality programs.
The number of online degree programs has exploded at JWU, as it has at universities all over the world. This learning option, once a novelty, has become accepted by most students. Online learning allows students to work at their own pace and make their own schedule. It’s a great option for students with a full-time job, those who live far away from a university campus, and those with child and eldercare responsibilities.
Johnson & Wales students have an excellent 95.4% career outcomes rate, as well as a vibrant and proactive career services office that provides placement services and helps match students with employers after graduation. For an explanation of the career outcomes rate and other university information, visit JWU Student Consumer Information.
Deciding on whether to pursue a bachelor’s or an associate degree can be challenging. The degree program that’s best for you depends on your professional goals, the time you have to commit to going to college, and your budget.