One of the most important decisions you face as a prospective college student is whether to earn a bachelor’s or an associate degree.
“Do I need a bachelor’s degree?” you might ask. “Should I start with my associate degree and then go back to school later?”
There is no one right answer to these questions. Nurses considering pursuing an ADN vs. BSN degree must consider a different set of issues than someone considering an associate or bachelor's degree in business management. The best program for you will depend on your personal career goals and your career timeline.
If you’re not sure which type of program is right for you, consider these differences:
1. Time and money
One of the most basic differences between a bachelor’s degree and an associate degree is the time that it takes to complete each program, which contributes to the total cost of the program. Most associate degree programs can be completed in two years or less, while bachelor degree programs typically require three or more years.
2. Career options
For many jobs, a bachelor’s degree is an educational requirement. If you’re debating whether to pursue a bachelor’s or an associate degree in a specific field, research which career opportunities would be available to you as a graduate of each. Then, determine which program is right for you based on how it aligns with your career goals.
You can still obtain entry-level roles in certain fields, such as nursing or information technology, with an associate degree. Earning an associate degree is a great option if you’re looking to launch a new career or expand your career opportunities in a relatively short period of time.
If the profession accepts both types of degrees, then a bachelor’s degree might be seen as a differentiator, giving you a competitive advantage over other applicants.
Bachelor’s degree programs will include an in-depth study of your field and focus on developing higher-level skills that will prepare and position you for career advancement. In an associate degree program, you’ll develop a solid foundation of the knowledge and basic skills required for entry-level positions in your field and have a pathway towards earning your bachelor’s degree.
4. Opportunities for advancement
With a bachelor’s degree, you’ll likely have more opportunities for career advancement. As you gain experience on the job, you will be able to move into roles with greater responsibility. Graduates with an associate degree will often have to pursue a bachelor’s degree if they wish to advance to leadership or management roles.
For example, many nurses who graduated from associate degree programs are now returning to college to earn their bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). BSN-prepared nurses are in high demand right now, as healthcare organizations strive for Magnet status and work to meet rising demand for healthcare services.
5. Continued learning
Regardless of whether you choose to pursue a bachelor’s or an associate degree, continued learning is an important part of your career development. With your associate degree, you’ll have a clear path towards earning your bachelor’s degree when the time is right.
Graduates with a bachelor’s degree can position themselves for leadership or management roles with a master’s degree in their field. Herzing University offers dual credit in some programs, allowing students to earn credits towards their master’s degree while completing their bachelor’s.
Additionally, industry-recognized certifications can help graduates of both degree programs gain specialized knowledge and expertise that sets them apart from the rest of the workforce.
* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2021. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.