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Associate Degree

What is an Associate Degree?

Classes Start January 02, 2023

Whether you know exactly where you're heading, or you're still planning your next steps, it all starts with a simple conversation. Let’s talk.

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.


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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 stepping stone 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 Network Systems Administration.

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.

What Level of Education is an Associate Degree?

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

Associate Degree vs. Bachelor’s Degree

You may be asking yourself, what is an associate degree compared to 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.

How Can I Start Earning an Associate Degree?

At DeVry, we offer a number of associate degree programs that you can explore. From our Associate Degree in Business to our Associate Degree in Health Information Technology, there’s something for everyone, no matter your 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. 

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 or Associate Degree in Information Technology and Networking, you may be prepared to pursue career opportunities in information technology, computer systems analysis, sales and marketing, retail management, customer service and other fields.

  • Higher earning potential: An associate degree may help you qualify for positions which may offer higher salaries. If your current employer offers a tuition assistance program for upskilling or talent succession, an associate degree could help you advance to a new, higher-paying position within your current organization. For the most reliable job growth and salary information, visit the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Can You Do With an Associate Degree?

The list of career opportunities you may be able to pursue with an associate degree is extensive and varied. In the areas of business administration, accounting, IT and health information management, potential career opportunities may include:

  • Assistant Manager

  • Customer Service Representative

  • Assistant Marketing Analyst

  • Sales Account Representative

  • Accounting Associate

  • 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 “stack” directly into the next, allowing you to build your education on your timeline, potentially lowering your initial education costs and avoiding wasted credit hours. 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 tutoring2 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 affordable3.

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.

FAQ: Associate Degree

Here are the answers to some frequently-asked questions about associate degrees.

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. For those 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 that are transferrable across many industries, such as communication, teamwork and problem solving skills. 

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 a more qualified job candidate than someone who has only a high school diploma or equivalency.

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, on campus or in a hybrid format, as well as the option of studying part time or full time.4

1At the time of application to the next credential level, an evaluation of qualifying transfer credits will occur and the most beneficial outcome will be applied.
2Each student is allotted a set number of hours of tutoring per academic session through (available 24/7). Additional tutoring services are also available through
3Student loans, grants and scholarships are available to those who apply and qualify.

4Program, 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.