What is an Associate Degree?

An associate degree is the first academic level of undergraduate education. Earning an associate degree can be a great way to prepare yourself for you future. It could be the first leg 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.

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:

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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). The type of associate degree you choose to pursue is just one part of your decision. The other part is your degree’s focus. When looking into different programs, you should always pursue a subject that interests you and best serves your professional goals.

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 toward 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 develop your 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 online programs 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 something equivalent, like a General Equivalency Diploma (GED), undergo a college-level skills evaluation and meet certain academic requirements. Some states may require you to interview or speak with an Admissions Representative. Some states may require you to interview or speak with with an Admissions Representative. Please see the DeVry University Academic Catalog 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 all the coursework specified in your program guide, meet the minimum number of credit hours required and maintain the minimum GPA requirement set by your school.

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.

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 typically represents the completion of your 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 between two and three 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 their career path. Earn your degree 100% online from experienced professors who are there to help you develop your skills and work with you as you prepare to pursue a career in your chosen field. 

What Can You Do With an Associate Degree?

The list of career opportunities you could pursue with an associate degree is extensive and varied. In the areas of business, 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 & Healht 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. Remeber that your tuition and fees cover more than just what you learn in class - you'll also gain access to Career Services, 24/7 tutoringand 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.

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 www.Tutor.com (available 24/7). Additional tutoring services are also available through www.DeVryTutors.com.

3Student loans, grants and scholarships are available to those who apply and qualify.