There are many reasons why people decide to pursue higher education.

The most common reasons are to have a specific career path and to earn a higher salary.

But when it comes time to decide which degree is right for you – namely a master’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or an associate degree – it can get a little confusing.

What are some reasons a person may decide to go for an associate degree over others?

Some students, right out of high school, know exactly the type of career path they want. Other graduates are not as sure about their major and decide to go for an associate degree, which will help them get the main college courses out of the way.

They can later decide their major and continue on to their bachelor’s degree.

Adults who joined the workforce right out of high school may wish to advance at their current job and recognize that obtaining an associate degree is a great way to do so.

But how many credit hours will it take to earn this degree and is there a way to speed up the process?

I’m going to share absolutely everything you need to know about earning an associate degree, including one way to earn it faster than the typical two years, so be sure to read this entire article!

What is an Associate Degree?

An associate degree is a post-secondary degree, also called an undergraduate degree, that typically takes two years to earn. These degrees have traditionally been obtained through community colleges, technical schools, vocational colleges, and some four-year colleges.

An associate degree can help someone achieve professional goals in fewer years than it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree. In addition, working adults can work toward a career change by obtaining credits in the field they seek to go into.

How Long Does it Take to Get an Associate Degree?

Traditionally speaking, it takes two years to obtain an associate degree if you are going to school full-time. If you are an adult with a full-time job and family responsibilities, it can take longer than two years.

But as promised, I am going to show you a way you can earn your degree in less time than you probably think possible!

How Many Credit Hours Are Needed for an Associate Degree?

Individual institutions may have different requirements for the number of credit hours needed to earn an associate degree. It’s always a good idea to check with the school you’re thinking of applying to.

Generally speaking, most schools require 60 semester or 90 quarter credit hours. One college course is usually worth three credits, so you will need approximately 20 college courses to earn your associate degree.

What are the Different Types of Associate Degrees?

There are two main types of associate degrees and those are an Associate of Arts (AA) degree and an Associate of Science (AS) degree.

What is an AA Degree?

An Associate of Arts degree helps students learn soft skills that many employers seek. These skills include things like critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving.

These skills can open many doors as far as career paths. In addition, core AA courses meet many of the general education requirements of most bachelor’s degree programs, helping students easily continue with their education should they so choose.

What is an AS Degree?

An Associate of Science is another two-year degree that generally focuses on technology, business, or the practical sciences. This degree is usually earned by those who wish for a career in information technology, business administration, or marketing to name a few industries.

8 Awesome Careers You Can Have with an Associate Degree

We’re led to believe that the only way to have a rewarding and lucrative career is to get a bachelor’s or master’s degree. But that is simply not the case.

Yes, those degrees will typically lead to management positions and the highest salaries earned. But when you look at the following careers that only require an associate degree, I think you’ll agree these are awesome jobs with great salaries.

Air Traffic Controller

Average Salary: $130,420

Air traffic controllers are responsible for some very important safety operations at our nation’s airports. Not only do they instruct pilots on proper landing requirements and monitor the local airspace, but they also enforce correct taxiing procedures.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the industry will experience 4% growth over the next decade, which means more air traffic controllers will be needed. This is a career that you can feel good about and earn an incredible salary.

Information Systems Security Technician

Average Salary: $96,917

These professionals are responsible for many important tasks including establishing user access in a computer system, collecting and analyzing system data, maintaining security files, logging access requests, and keeping track of usage trends to ensure security in the future.

While the median salary for professionals is $96,000, the BLS reports earnings can go as high as $188,000 per year.

Biomedical Technician

Average Salary: $88,550

Biomedical technicians are responsible for maintaining, servicing, and repairing medical equipment in hospitals, clinics, and private health organizations. The BLS reports this is a growing field that will require more techs over the coming years. This means job stability for those who earn the right degree.

Radiation Therapist

Average Salary: $86,730

Have you always wanted to work in the medical field but didn’t like the idea of going to school for 8 years or touching blood? If so, then a career as a radiation therapist might be a wonderful fit!

These professionals administer radiation therapies and treatments to cancer patients in hospitals and other cancer treatment centers. While the average salary is $86,000, top-paying positions can earn upwards of $124,300 per year, according to the BLS.

Dental Hygienist

Average Salary: $75,500

Dental hygienists are the backbone of any dental office. These professionals are responsible for performing teeth cleanings, oral health administration, and customer service.

According to the BLS, the field is expected to experience a 20% growth in the coming years, which means this is an excellent field to get into. With the demand for hygienists so high, you can expect solid job security.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Average Salary: $73,860

A diagnostic medical sonographer uses special technology that passes sound waves through a patient’s body to view and diagnose disease. This technology is more typically referred to as ultrasound, sonogram, or echocardiogram.

While $73,000 is the average salary, the BLS reports top earners can bring in as much as $100,400 per year. This is another field that is expected to experience tremendous growth over the coming years – 23% to be exact – so now is a great time to get your foot in the door!

Computer Forensics Specialist

Average Salary: $72,869

Are you someone who really likes technology? Are you a keen observer and critical thinker? Do you like the idea of managing a computer system? If so, a career as a computer forensic specialist may be a perfect fit!

These professionals assist law enforcement and other government agencies with criminal investigations. For instance, a computer forensic specialist could be recruited by the CIA to investigate terrorist issues relating to technology. According to the BLS, top earners can bring in as much as $114,00 annually.

Electrical Engineering Technician

Average Salary: $65,050

An electrical engineering technician assembles electrical equipment as well as designs electrical systems. Duties also include testing and repairing equipment and special instruments.

These individuals are usually hired by major electricity companies or corporations and can earn upwards of $85,000 a year, according to the BLS. These pros will be in high demand for years and years to come.

Admit it, you’re a bit surprised at some of these awesome careers. You may have assumed you would need at least a bachelor’s degree to start on these career paths. But that is simply not the case.

Earning an associate degree can absolutely lead to a rewarding and highly lucrative career!

Want to Earn Your Associate Degree Even Faster (and for less money?)

If you’re a working adult who would like to make a career change or seek advancement as soon as humanly possible, I’ve got wonderful news for you. You don’t need to go the traditional route to earn your associate degree.

You don’t need to take night or weekend classes at your local community college and hope to get your associate degree in 3 or more years. Heck, you may actually be able to earn your degree in less than 2 years if you go the route I am suggesting.

So what’s the secret?

How can you earn your degree far faster, and typically for far less money, than going the traditional route?

By earning your associate degree online. Online learning has been a total game changer for higher education. It has allowed working adults with families to earn their degrees and improve their annual income.

Online learning means working adults can learn on their own schedule. Let’s be realistic, not many of us can commit to going to night school or attending classes on the weekend. That pulls us away from our families.

With online learning, you get to choose when you study. That means you can study for an hour in the morning before your kids get up and an hour at night after they go to bed. It means you can study on your lunch hour at work, and on Saturday afternoons when your spouse takes the kids shopping.

Flexibility is really key when working adults are seeking higher education. This flexibility also means you can speed up the time it takes you to earn your degree.

No one is stopping you from earning your associate degree in less than two years if your schedule permits. That’s what’s so great about not having to rely on traditional classroom learning!

Of course, the other really great thing about earning your associate degree online is that it costs a fraction of what it would cost if you earned your degree through a 4-year college or even a local community college.

But it gets even better because makes it possible for you to earn your degree faster and even more affordably than you ever thought possible.

One of the ways we help students speed up the time it takes to earn their degrees is to offer FREE courses online. When you sign up (which is entirely free and easy) you can take as many free courses as you’d like.

We’ve gone ahead and built relationships with universities around the country that will give you credit for the free courses you’ve completed. Not only does this give you the ability to save thousands on your degree, but it also allows you to potentially earn your degree much, much sooner.

As an added bonus, we have found many schools that offer students major tuition discounts. Simply put, you could save between 5% to 25% depending on the school you choose. This can equate to a huge amount of savings.

Signing up with is 100% free for you to do and there are no strings attached. We are committed to helping adults have access to higher education.

So sign up right now and take full advantage of our free courses and the relationships we have already built with some of the top colleges and universities across the country!


About the Author
Grant founded with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.