Man in graduation cap and gown.

The need for training and diplomas is common across career fields, with most jobs requiring some type of advanced education beyond a high school diploma. If you’re ready to take the next step in your career, there’s a chance you might be curious about the differences between associate and bachelor’s degrees and which to choose. Penn Foster can help clear up some of the confusion so you can decide which degree is best for you.

What’s the difference between an associate degree and bachelor’s degree?

Associate and bachelor’s degrees have a few similarities. They are both considered undergraduate degrees and have some overlap with the classes required for each. There are also key details that set them apart from one another, which can help you determine the better option for you.

  • How long it takes. Traditionally, if you’re a full-time student, expect to spend about two years earning your associate degree, or four years to earn a bachelor’s. If you opt for a part-time option, it can take longer for each. At Penn Foster, flexible scheduling in all courses allows students to take on as many or as few classes as their schedules can handle, meaning you could finish either degree in a shorter amount of time. It all depends on what amount of studying works best for you.

  • Coursework. Associate degrees usually require 60 credits of coursework while bachelor’s degrees require 120 credits. In addition to more credits, a bachelor’s degree usually requires general education credits, followed by credits in your declared program or major course of study. An associate degree allows you to take credits in either a specific course of study or in general education credits, which can then later be applied toward earning a bachelor’s degree.

  • Cost. Because an associate degree requires fewer credits and less time to complete, it costs less than a bachelor’s degree. At a public institution, an associate degree can cost upwards of $21,196 while a bachelor’s degree tuition averages at more than $100,000, with the fees increasing at private colleges and universities. These price tags can be intimidating, so one of Penn Foster’s goals is to ensure your education is affordable. Most programs cost $85 or less per credit and have payment plan options available. For instance, a veterinary technician student can earn their associate degree for around $6,000 while a Bachelor’s in Business Management will cost about $10,000; significantly less than similar degrees at public colleges.

Why earn a degree?

There are a lot of different types of academic programs out there, so it’s important to know which to choose and why. If you’re looking to complete courses in order to earn a college diploma, you’ll want to choose a degree program instead of a certificate program. Degrees show that you’ve completed a specific course of study, with associate and bachelor’s being at the undergraduate level. Earning a degree may also improve your chances of being employed, with those holding an associate or bachelor’s degree traditionally earning more than those with only a high school diploma.

Which degree type is for me?

Though a bachelor’s degree can often earn you more than an associate degree, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a bachelor’s degree is the better choice. Knowing which degree path is better for you depends on your needs and career goals. If financing is an issue, you can start with an associate degree to improve your job prospects, later applying those credits towards earning a bachelor’s degree. Some careers like medical assistants and paralegals also don’t require a four-year degree, meaning an associate degree can get you where you want to be professionally without the added time and expense of a bachelor’s. If you then need or want additional training or credentials, you can work towards earning career diplomas in your specialty. Whichever degree is best for you, Penn Foster’s programs are all online and self-paced so you can study when and where it’s convenient.

Start working towards a degree with Penn Foster

Penn Foster can help you earn an accredited associate or bachelor’s degree affordably and flexibly from the comfort of your home. To learn more about our degree programs, contact an Admissions Specialist today at 1-888-427-6500.