Difference Between an Associate Degree and Bachelors Degree
The bachelor's degree is often an extension of an associate's degree. While most individuals do not need both, an associate's degree can be counted toward the first half of a bachelor's degree program. The latter takes twice as long to complete and opens the graduate up to more possible careers. This article details further differences between associate's and bachelor's degrees.
Associate's Degree: Overview
Associate's degree programs commonly take two years to complete and are usually dedicated toward a specific career. However, general studies may be taken at this level as a jumpstart toward a bachelor's degree program. The student earning his or her associate's degree can do so at a community college or state university by taking about 20 classes within a specific curriculum designed by the school.
Types of associate's degrees include occupational or vocational degrees--which train the student in a specific skill--and transfer degrees, for students looking to get into a 4-year college or university. The coursework completed in either type of program translates to universities all over the country; often, junior colleges are directly linked to local 4-year schools, ensuring smooth transfers and encouraging a continued pursuit of higher education.
Programs at the associate's degree level are similar to those at the bachelor's degree level. They may include options in fields such as art and design, business, communication, drafting, law enforcement, construction, electronics, social work and healthcare technology. Many jobs require applicants to have at least an associate's degree, especially those in the healthcare technician and medical assisting fields.
Bachelor's Degree: Overview
Bachelor's degree programs typically take four years, or approximately 120 credits of coursework, to complete. They are considered the minimum level of education needed to work in many fields; examples include teaching and engineering. According to the National Center for Career Statistics (NCES), the most popular fields of study at the baccalaureate level fall into business, health sciences, education and humanities categories.
Bachelor's degree programs often require students to spend up to half of their credits taking the general education courses that are required by all students at the college or university. Some of these courses may include philosophy, languages, theology, math, science, fine arts, history, English and Western Civilization. Subject-specific courses are often referred to as the core curriculum. Other classes are known as electives; these allow individuals to explore themes that pique their interest and offer interdisciplinary perspective to their studies. Students may also tailor their elective courses to compose a minor--a set of classes that, taken together, amount to a recognized specialty in an area that often complements the major. For example, a major in business administration may be paired with a minor in accounting.
Sample degrees conferred at this level include the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.), Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch) and Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). Approximately 1,563,000 bachelor's degrees were awarded in 2007-08, according to the NCES (www.nces.ed.gov).
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