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What is an Associate Degree?

By DeVry University

The information presented here is true and accurate as of the date of publication. DeVry’s programmatic offerings and their accreditations are subject to change. Please refer to the current academic catalog for details.


April 5, 2024

9 min read


An associate degree is a level of undergraduate college education falling between high school and a bachelor’s degree. Earning an associate degree can be a great way to prepare yourself for your future. It could be the first step in your academic journey, preparing you to pursue a bachelor's degree, or a quick pathway to pursue entry-level employment in business, information technology or another field.


A young woman in an office, working on her laptop on the desk in front of her.


Let's take a closer look at what an associate degree is, explore some of the different types of associate degrees that you might come across in your research and answer a few frequently asked questions in the following sections:

Types of Associate Degrees

There are several different types of associate degrees that you can earn, including Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS) or Associate of Applied Science (AAS). However, the type of associate degree you choose to pursue is just one part of making your decision, with the other being the degree’s focus. When looking into different academic programs, you should always pursue a subject that interests you and stands to serve your goals the most.

Keeping that in mind, here's a quick look at the different types of associate degrees:

Associate of Arts (AA)

An Associate of Arts, or AA degree, is a type of associate degree typically awarded to students within the wider field of liberal arts. Like an Associate of Science, this degree is sometimes viewed as a steppingstone on the way to a bachelor's degree, though earning a bachelor's degree after completing an AA program is not required.

Associate of Science (AS)

An Associate of Science, also known as an AS degree, is an associate degree awarded to students who study subjects within the broader world of science. Unlike the similarly named Associate of Applied Science, this type of associate degree is geared toward helping prepare you to pursue a bachelor's degree, even though it can still be earned as a standalone credential.

Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

An Associate of Applied Science differs slightly from both an AA and an AS degree in that this type of degree program is specifically designed to build your up skills in preparation to pursue potential employment within a certain field. While both an AS and an AA also contain opportunities to learn new skills that may be useful to your future career, they are not as directly focused on a singular field or discipline as an AAS. 

Many of our programs here at DeVry fall under the Associate of Applied Sciences umbrella, including our Associate in Engineering Technology, our Associate in Information Technology and Networking and our Associate in Cybersecurity and Networking.

Associate Degree Requirements

The requirements for an associate degree could refer to two things: the requirements to enroll, also known as prerequisites, and the requirements to graduate.

While the enrollment requirements will vary between schools and programs, to enroll in an undergraduate program at DeVry you need to have a high school diploma or equivalent, undergo a college-level skills evaluation and meet certain academic requirements. Some states may require you to interview or speak with an Admissions Representative. Please see our Undergraduate Admissions page for complete admissions requirements. 

The requirements to graduate from an associate degree program will vary based on the degree you pursue. To graduate, you need to complete and pass all the necessary classes outlined in your program guide, meet the minimum credit requirements and maintain the minimum GPA requirement.

Associate Degree vs. Bachelor’s Degree

You may be asking yourself, how does an associate degree compare with a bachelor’s degree? A bachelor's degree is a higher-level degree than an associate and is typically earned within the framework of a four-year college or university program. The associate degree, traditionally offered as a two-year program, is the entry-level undergraduate degree program, while the bachelor’s degree is the highest level of undergraduate study in a particular field.

While either degree can provide you with the chance to develop a foundational understanding of a field, the degrees are quite different. An associate degree program may be shorter in length, have different college credit requirements and contain fewer courses than a bachelor's program. 

While many associate degrees are designed to take approximately two years to earn with full-time enrollment, bachelor's degrees are designed to take around four years to complete, although there are several factors that influence how long it takes to earn your degree, such as breaks, course load or transfer credits.

Available Associate Degree Programs

At DeVry, we offer a number of associate degree programs that you can explore in the areas of business, healthcare and technology. There’s something for everyone, no matter the chosen career path. Earn your degree 100% online with instruction from experienced professors who are there to help you develop your skills and work with you as you prepare to pursue job opportunities in your chosen field. 

Associate Degree in Business

If you want to gain the hands-on skills for today’s global, competitive business world, a DeVry Associate Degree in Business can be the first step on your journey. Coursework in this dynamic program will expose you to current business trends and technologies, helping you to solve common business problems and build your grasp of business functions like accounting, marketing and data analysis. After you’ve completed 30 semester hours of the program, you can sharpen your skills with an industry-specific focus by choosing a specialization in Budgeting and Forecasting, Healthcare Business, Retail Management or General Business.

Associate Degree in Health Information Technology

Prepare to stand out in the healthcare field with our online Associate Degree in Health Information Technology. This program can help you explore opportunities in healthcare by helping you build a strong foundation of health information technology skills like medical records, medical coding and health insurance reimbursement procedures. Experienced faculty help you develop skills in current coding and management software and health data content and structure.

Coursework in this program covers areas such as health insurance and reimbursement, health services and information systems, document and record information legal and regulatory issues in health information, International Classification of Diseases coding and more. When earned with the Health Information specialization, our Associate Degree in Health Information Technology is CAHIIM accredited.

Associate Degree in Cybersecurity and Networking

If you’re interested in a technology career but not sure where to start your journey, our Associate Degree in Cybersecurity and Networking can help you prepare to pursue a career as a cyber defender, safeguarding data, networks and applications from the growing threat of cybercrime. No previous IT experience is required for this 100% online program.

What will you learn? The robust curriculum in this program will help you learn how to identify vulnerabilities in networks, software and devices and how to protect them from cyberattacks, work through incident response and disaster recovery, understand how firewalls work and more. Coursework in this associate degree program may also help you prepare to pursue industry-recognized certifications such as CompTIA A+, CompTIA Cloud+ or CompTIA LINUX+.

Associate Degree in Engineering Technology

Learn the fundamentals needed to pursue a career in today’s rapidly evolving technology space with our Associate Degree in Engineering Technology. Develop an agile and adaptable skillset in programming languages, data management, interconnected devices and security protocols as you prepare to pursue career opportunities like Electrical Engineering Technician, Computer User Support Specialist, Field Service Technician or Engineering Technologist (General).

Infused with the versatility found in our bachelor’s and graduate degree programs, our Associate Degree in Engineering Technology allows you to choose a degree specialization in Machine Learning and Design Techniques, Medical Technology and Healthcare Systems, Renewable Energy and Sustainable Power, or pursue a General Option.

Associate Degree in Information Technology and Networking

Learn the basics of IoT technology, operating systems and programming, hardware, connectivity and security with our Associate Degree in Information Technology and Networking. This versatile degree program is anchored with our Tech Core curriculum, designed to help you build skills in software and information systems, engineering technology and information technology.

Coursework covers complex problem-solving, digital literacy, application of math and science principles through programming, data analysis and more as you prepare to pursue career opportunities like computer network support specialist or computer systems analyst.

Choose from 3 information technology and networking specializations: Automation and Electronic Systems, Information Systems and Programming or Network Systems Administration.

Benefits of an Associate Degree

Earning an associate degree can be beneficial in several ways, based on factors like the cost of education, the amount of time you are able or willing to commit to the pursuit of the degree and the types of job opportunities you plan to pursue:

  • Cost efficiency: Because an associate degree program consists of fewer credit hours, it can be comparably less expensive than a bachelor’s degree. 

  • Spend less time in school: If you’re concerned about the amount of time it will take to complete your education, you’ll be glad to know that it takes less time to earn an associate degree than it does to complete the typical bachelor’s degree program. As an example, at DeVry, you can earn your Associate Degree in Business in as little as 1 year and 4 months with an accelerated schedule (per 12 month period, does not include breaks and assumes year-round, full-time enrollment), 2 years with a normal schedule (per 12 month period, does not include breaks and assumes 2 semesters of full-time enrollment) — or even more quickly with qualifying transfer credits.

  • Qualify for a job in a new industry: If your goal is to find a job in a new industry, earning an associate degree could help to broaden your options. For example, after earning our Associate Degree in Business, you may be able to consider entry-level roles in a variety of industries including marketing, sales or  accounting. After earning our Associate Degree in Information Technology and Networking, you may be prepared to pursue enty-level career opportunities like Computer Network Support Specialist, or Computer Systems Analyst.

What Can You Do With an Associate Degree?

The list of entry-level career opportunities you may be able to pursue with an associate degree is extensive and varied. Depending on which area you pursue, (business administration, IT or health information management) potential career opportunities may include:

  • Assistant Manager

  • Customer Service Representative

  • Assistant Marketing Analyst

  • Sales Account Representative

  • Accounting Associate Jr. Staff Accountant

  • Computer Network Support Specialist

  • Computer Systems Analyst

  • Medical Records Analyst

  • Medical Coding Specialist

  • Medical Records & Health Information Technician

Transfer to a Bachelor's Degree Program

If you decide to continue your education beyond an associate degree, you’ll be glad to know that many of our online associate degree programs are considered stackable credentials. That means when you’re ready, the credits you’ve earned while pursuing your associate degree can be applied toward your DeVry bachelor’s degree in a related discipline1. Classes taken in one program may “stack” directly into the next, allowing you to build your education on your timeline. An Admissions Representative can tell you more about how this works and which programs stack together.

Cost of an Associate Degree

How much will your associate degree cost? The answer depends on the program you enroll in, any qualifying transfer credits you may have and any scholarships or grants you qualify for. Visit our Tuition page to learn more about our cost per credit hour or contact our Admissions Team for a personalized evaluation. Remember that your tuition and fees cover more than just what you learn in class - you'll also gain access to Career Services, 24/7 tutoring and the technology tools you need to help prepare you for real-world business settings.

It's also important to keep in mind the availability of financial aid and the variety of scholarships and grants, like our Women+Tech Scholarship, Future-Ready Transfer Scholarship and Opportunity Grants, that can help make a DeVry education more affordable.2

Your financial situation is as unique as your education goals. That's why our Student Support Advisors are ready to break down all the costs associated with your education, helping you build your plan and gain a complete understanding of where your money goes and how your investment may impact your education and professional aspirations.

FAQs: Associate Degree

Is an Associate Degree Worth it?

An associate degree can be well worth pursuing for a variety of reasons. If you’re just getting started, an associate degree represents a first step in an academic journey that could help open doors to new opportunities, whether that involves pursuing an entry-level role or the continuation of your education. If you’re already working in your area of interest, earning your degree may help you prepare to pursue a promotion or new opportunity. Associate degree programs can also help you learn valuable soft skills, such as communication, teamwork and problem solving, that are transferrable across many industries. 

Do I Need an Associate Degree?

The answer depends on your goals. You may find that, along with some specific skills, an associate degree is a minimum requirement in some job listings. By earning an associate degree, you may be more likely to stand out to employers than someone who has only a high school diploma or equivalency.

How Do I Choose the Right Associate Degree Program?

Begin by evaluating your strengths and interests and researching career options. If there is a career you have in mind, choose a program that will allow you to transition directly to employment in that field or continue your education by enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program. Decide whether on-campus or online learning is the best option for you, or if you prefer a hybrid program that offers a mix of online and on-campus courses. At DeVry, we offer the flexibility to earn an associate degree while studying online or in a hybrid format, as well as the option of studying part time or full time.3

What Level of Education is an Associate Degree?

An associate degree is typically considered the first level of postsecondary education. It can be a steppingstone toward a bachelor's degree, or it can be treated as a standalone credential.

Can I get an associate degree online?

Yes. At DeVry, you can earn your associate degree online, or choose a hybrid program, taking courses online as well as in person at one of our campus locations.3

How long does it take to earn an associate degree?

An associate degree generally takes about half as long to complete as a bachelor’s degree program. Program completion timelines will vary according to your area of study, your schedule, credit load and other factors. But as an example, you can complete your Associate Degree in Information Technology and Networking at DeVry in as little as 1 year and 4 months on an accelerated schedule, or 2 years on a normal one.4

4Accelerated schedule does not include breaks and assumes 3 semesters of year-round, full-time enrollment per 12 month period. Normal schedule does not include breaks and assumes 2 semesters of full-time enrollment per 12 month period.

Are associate degrees from DeVry University accredited?

DeVry University as a whole is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC)5, a national agency that accredits U.S. colleges and universities at the institutional level. In addition to this institutional accreditation, DeVry’s Associate Degree in Business program has achieved voluntary accreditation6 from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, and our Associate Degree in Health Information Technology when taken with the Health Information Specialization is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education. Visit our accreditation page for more complete information.

What is the expected job growth for someone with an associate degree?

Because the projected growth will vary based on where you live, what industry you’re pursuing a career in and the role you hold or want to hold, it’s hard to identify the overall growth expectations for associate degree holders. For more information on specific industries or job sectors, please refer to the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook.  

That being said, the BLS does have some data on what holders of associate degrees can expect in terms of employment and general earning potential. According to the BLS, associate degree holders typically experience lower rates of unemployment overall than those who only have some college, a high school diploma or no degree at all.

Associate Degree or Associate’s Degree: Which is correct?

Although grammatical style manuals may allow the use of either Associate’s or Associate, at DeVry we prefer Associate, following the style recommended by the widely used Associated Press Stylebook.

1At the time of application to the next credential level, an evaluation of qualifying transfer credit will occur and the most beneficial outcome will be applied. Future programmatic changes could impact the application of credits to a future program. Refer to the academic catalog for details.

2Students may participate in only one DeVry University-based scholarship, grant or group tuition benefit program at a time. Those who qualify for more than one program will be presumed to accept the program with the highest reduction in by- session cost. Students who qualify for and prefer a different tuition benefit program must confirm, in writing, the alternate program in which they wish to participate prior to starting classes at DeVry. Scholarship and grant terms and eligibility conditions are subject to change. Scholarships are available to those who apply and qualify. Click here for more information.

3Program, course, and extended classroom availability vary by location. In site-based programs, students will be required to take a substantial amount of coursework online to complete their program.

4Accelerated schedule is per 12 month period, does not include breaks and assumes 3 semesters of year-round, full-time enrollment. Normal schedule is per 12 month period, does not include breaks and assumes 2 semesters of full-time enrollment.

5DeVry University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC),

6Conferral and Assessment Data - Available for all of DeVry and Keller's ACBSP accredited programs. For a full list of DeVry University's business and accounting degree programs accredited by ACBSP, please see the Accreditation page.

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