As an adult nontraditional student, your educational needs are different than a traditional student going to college directly from high school. You may need a degree to advance to the next level in your workplace or to qualify for a particular kind of employment. You may find that your earning potential is limited without a college degree.The type of degree you consider is closely intertwined with your end goal. Two year (Associate degree) and four year degrees (Bachelor degree) are the most common. Of course, within those two types of degree is an almost infinite variety.Associate DegreeAn Associate degree usually requires two years of college. Associate degrees are typically offered at community colleges, technical and vocational colleges, and some 4-year colleges.It is vital to understand the different types of Associate degree because the choice you make can affect your future schooling opportunities. There are two main types of Associate Degree: Occupational and Transfer.Occupational:If you need a degree for a specific skill, an occupational Associate degree may be a good choice for you. The courses you take will be heavily weighed toward the occupation you are studying; you will take a minimum of traditional general education courses like English and Mathematics.Although each college is different, generally an occupational Associate degree results in:Associate Degree of Applied Science (A.A.S.) ProsYou can be career-ready in two years. There are a significant number of careers where an Associate degree is helpful. Some examples include: interior design, fashion design, auto mechanics, computer networking, computer programming, social work, veterinary technicians and healthcare.ConsIf you plan on continuing your education to obtain a 4-year degree, be aware that the majority of occupational-related coursework you do will probably not transfer to your selected school. Typically, only the general education coursework you complete will count toward a 4-year degree.Transfer:A transfer Associate degree is designed to be the first step toward a 4-year bachelor's degree. Most of the coursework will be in general education areas (English, Mathematics, Sciences) and will correspond to the core classes offered at a 4-year school. This is a great way to enhance your current career by adding a degree to your skillset while you work to obtain your bachelor's degree.Although each college is different, generally an occupational Associate degree results in:Associate of Arts (A.A.) Concentration in humanities and social sciencesAssociate of Science (A.S.) Concentration in science coursesProsThis can be a very cost-effective way to get through the first two years of required coursework for your 4-year degree. Tuition at the local community college is usually a fraction of the cost of tuition at a private university. You obtain a degree which can enhance your career prospects and increase your potential earning power.ConsTypically you will choose a concentration of study. If you later change your mind about the type of 4-year degree you wish to pursue, your two years of coursework may not translate to a full two years of transfer classes.Talk to your academic advisor to make sure your coursework will transfer to the 4-year college of your choice! Many community colleges have articulation agreements with local state colleges, but not all coursework automatically transfer. If a transfer degree is your goal, save yourself time and money by ensuring your coursework will count at the college of your choice.
Bachelor's DegreeAlso referred to as either an undergraduate degree or a 4-year degree, a Bachelor's degree generally takes a minimum of four years to complete. As an adult student, it may take several years to complete the coursework for a Bachelor's degree so be prepared that your 4-year degree might take you 6, 8 or more years to complete. A Bachelor's degree is a prerequisite to a Master's degree (a graduate degree) or a Doctorate.A Bachelor's degree typically focuses on a specific area of study combined with general educational courses. For example, a Bachelor's degree in psychology is general educational courses, some elective courses, and a heavy concentration in a number of psychology-related courses. This specific area of study is called your Major.Like the Associate degree, there are different types of Bachelor's degrees. Each college is different, but typically a Bachelor's degree results in:- Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) Concentration in humanities and social science.
- Bachelor of Science (B.S). Concentration in scientific and technical fields.
- Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.).
- Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.)One Last Note: Degrees versus CertificationA certification isn't a degree in the traditional sense, but it certifies that you have gone through specialized education for some type of trade or skill. For example, you may want to be certified as a massage therapist, beautician, or a truck driver. These skills do not require a traditional college degree. Certifications are typically offered by technical/vocational schools and community colleges.