Should you earn a bachelor’s or associate’s degree?

Only you can decide.

Associate’s vs. bachelor’s degree: Which one is better? It’s a question career counselors hear all the time.

Ask yourself the following questions when deciding which path to pursue:

1. What careers are you interested in? Find out degree requirements for careers that catch your eye. A bachelor’s degree isn’t required for all professions. Furthermore, some professions require studies that are specific to an associate’s degree program.

2. What factors might affect your commitment to school right now?

Time. Associate’s degrees programs are typically two years in length, while bachelor’s degrees programs usually last four years. If you attend school part-time, completing both degrees will take longer.

Out-of-school/personal situations.  Are there circumstances for which one degree option may be better suited than another? Will childcare be a requirement? Will you be working while in school? Do you require the opportunity to       take night or online classes? Many associate degree programs and most bachelor degree programs require students attend class full-time during the day. How might this affect your choice?

Finances. Associate degree tuition is often less expensive than a bachelor’s degree. But additional expenses (lab fees, classroom materials, books) can add up. How much are your finances a part of your decision?

Interest in being a student. Be honest with yourself about your interest in being a college student right now. Both associate and bachelor degree paths require commitment to studying, attending class and participating in the college student process. You and others affected by your decision must be emotionally and mentally ready to make the commitment.    

Next, make sure you aren’t misguided by the myths about both degrees:

Myths about bachelor’s degrees

A bachelor’s degree means a better paycheck.  Not necessarily. Some industries do offer higher salaries for bachelor’s degree candidates, but not all professions. For example, a social worker may earn less than a cardiovascular technologist. Yet becoming a social worker requires advanced training beyond a bachelor’s degree, while cardiovascular technology specifically requires an associate’s degree.

Bachelor’s degrees are more valued by employers. “Value” is a subjective word. It’s important to focus on requirements for career fields rather than what is considered valuable. You’ll be valued as an employee for your qualifications, contributions and work ethic.

Myths about associate’s degrees

Associate degree courses are easier. Associate degree courses are college level courses taught by college professors. Content in a college science, math or humanities course is the same regardless of the degree.   

Associate degrees aren’t “real” degrees. Associate degrees prepare students for employment. What isn’t “real” about that?

At the end of the day, it’s not a matter of answering which degree is better, but rather which one is better suited for your current situation and future career plans.