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    How Many Credits Do You Need For an Associate’s Degree?

    By Cait Williams

    Cait Williams is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cait recently graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Journalism and Strategic Communications. During her time at OU, was active in the outdoor recreation community.

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    Reviewed by Annie Trout

    Annie has spent the past 18+ years educating students about college admissions opportunities and coaching them through building a financial aid package. She has worked in college access and college admissions for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission/Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation, Middle Tennessee State University, and Austin Peay State University.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: January 30th, 2024
    How Many Credits Do You Need For an Associate’s Degree?

    Most likely, you have heard a few things about associate degrees. Perhaps you heard that  earning one takes less time and money than a four-year degree. But just how many credits do you need for an associate’s degree, and are they worth earning anyway? Let’s jump into it all together! 

    How many credits do you need for an associate’s degree? 

    A typical associate’s degree requires students to complete 60 credit hours. While 60 credit hours may seem like a lot, don’t let it scare you off! Remember that your classes will likely range between 3 and 4 credit hours, and you can take classes as quickly or as slowly as you would like. Your first semester you may start slow, but by your second semester you may be feeling ready to add more to your course load.

    While 60 credits is average, this number may change slightly depending on the college you choose to attend and what field of study you earn your degree in. Always double check with the school you plan to attend about what the exact requirements are.

    How long does it take to earn an associate’s degree?

    Typically, it will take two to three years. However, not everyone has the luxury of being able to pursue their education full time. If you have to work full time, taking one to two classes a semester may be the most you can do. If that is the case, that is entirely okay and it shouldn’t be something that discourages you from trying to pursue an associate’s degree. 

    There may be a sense that you need to finish your associate’s degree quickly, however, that is not true. An associate’s degree is a college degree, so pursuing one is a big deal. Don’t be tempted to minimize this endeavor because it is one of the “faster” degree tracks. How long your associate’s degree takes you is based around you and how much time you have available. 

    Don’t miss: How to get scholarships as a part-time student

    What if I already have some college credit?

    Below is an outline for some of the common steps that you will have to complete in order to transfer your college credit. You may need to do all of these or just some depending on how the schools you’re working with handle transfer students. 

    Inform the school you are transferring to

    If you already have some college credit, make sure your intended school knows. While not all colleges will accept credits from other institutions, most will. It’s important to let a school know you have transfer credits before you begin attending. 

    Check their website for a transfer guide or use websites like Transferology 

    If you know where you would like to attend, you can usually find out if your credits will transfer by calling them or visiting their website. Some college websites will have a transfer guide available that says what classes they accept. If you can’t find some of your classes on their list, it is always worth inquiring further about them and using websites like Transferology.

    Send transcripts or other official documents

    You will most definitely need to send your transcripts from any previous colleges you’ve attended. Your transcript is your official academic record that says what classes you’ve taken when and what grades you received in those courses. 

    What can you get an associate’s degree in? 

    Associate degrees come in a wide array of subjects. The three most common associate degrees are an Associate of Arts, Associate of Science and an Associate of Applied Science. Below are the basic outlines for what each of those tracks focuses on. For a more detailed description of each, check out our article about the basics of associate degrees

    Associate of Arts (AA)

    • Humanities
    • Sociology
    • English
    • Communications

    Associate of Science (AS)

    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Science and technical coursework

    Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

    • Occupational coursework focus
    • Healthcare
    • Engineering
    • Construction

    What is the purpose of an associate’s degree?

    The purpose of an associate’s degree varies depending on the person who is seeking it. Some people want a more gradual introduction to college. Others may know that their future career choice does not require a four year degree and do not want to pursue more formal education than needed. Some people pursue an associate’s degree to make themselves more competitive job candidates. 

    Whatever the reason, pursuing higher education is always something that can be beneficial. Even if you don’t have an exact plan for your degree, that’s okay. Education is a tool that can unlock doors you don’t yet know about. You don’t need to have a firm plan in order to pursue further education. If it is something you are passionate about, that is a good enough reason to pursue your degree!

    Related: What can I do with an associates degree?

    Who are associate degrees for? 

    There can sometimes be stigmas around associate degrees. Perhaps it’s because they’re commonly completed through community colleges, which come with lots of misconceptions of their own, or because they do not require as many credit hours to complete as bachelor’s degrees. Whatever the reason, there’s no reason to look down on associate degrees or those who earn them, but who does typically earn them anyways? 

    Below are just a few categories that you may fit into yourself, or that you might find completing an associates degree along with you!

    • Recently graduated high school students who are unsure about their college goals
    • Adults who are looking to go back to school or begin their higher education journey
    • Individuals looking to switch careers
    • Professionals trying to advance in their field 
    • High school students who are completing college courses while in high school

    What does it cost to receive an associate’s degree?

    Funding an associate’s degree is similar to funding a bachelor’s degree. However, because an associate requires fewer credit hours, they usually will not cost nearly as much! Federal financial aid and scholarships are both options that can help you fund your education. If you plan to file FAFSA, you should follow all the same deadlines as you would if you were in a bachelor’s or graduate program. Apply for scholarships and make sure that they can be used toward an associate’s degree and do not require you to be enrolled in a four-year degree program. 

    Can an associate’s degree be put towards a bachelor’s degree?

    The credits that you receive from an associate’s degree can typically be used towards your bachelor’s. As we said earlier in this article, sites like Transferology will tell you what credits you earned will count towards your next degree. And as always, talk to advisors at your school about what pursuing your bachelor’s, after receiving an associate’s, will look like. It’s even possible to transfer to an Ivy League school from a community college!

    Related: Highest-paying associate degree jobs

    Where can you earn an associate degree? 

    Last, but not least, let’s take a quick second to talk about where you can earn an associate degree. Community colleges are very popular because they are usually very low cost, are nearby and don’t usually have a long application process. Some community colleges even have dorms if you’re looking for the full traditional college experience! Traditional four year universities may also offer associate degrees. There are also plenty of flexible online programs available. 

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • Associate degrees require around 60 credit hours of coursework to be complete
    • Earning an associate degree is a great way to begin your higher education journey, as well as a great way to switch careers
    • Associate degrees are typically much cheaper to complete and can take significantly less time to complete as well
    • Community colleges usually offer several different associate degrees, as well as a lot of flexibility that allows you to complete them on your time 

    Frequently asked questions about associate degrees

    Is an associate’s degree worth it?

    If an associate’s degree is going to help you achieve a goal of yours, then it is one hundred percent worth it! It’s true that an associate degree might not be the highest level of education, but that doesn’t mean they don’t offer tons of benefits. They’re a great way to explore new areas of study to find out if you want to go further!

    How much does an associate’s degree cost?

    Associate degrees can range between six thousand and ten thousand dollars. However, it’s important to keep in mind that you won’t pay that full amount at once. You’ll pay tuition slowly over each semester that you take. Remember that FAFSA, scholarships and grants are all available to you to take advantage of!

    How many classes is 60 credits?

    A normal college class will be between 3 and 4 credit hours. Math and science courses that require you to attend a lecture and a lab are usually worth four credit hours, while other classes like English, humanities and foreign languages usually are worth 3 credit hours. In total you can expect to take between 15 and 20 classes to complete your associate degree.

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