Cost of College – Associate’s Degree Versus Bachelor’s Degree

When comparing the benefits of earning an Associate’s degree versus a Bachelor’s degree, it is obvious that from a career perspective, you would have far more doors opened with the Bachelor’s degree.  Today, businesses around the country look at job candidate’s education and when they see that someone put in the time, effort, and money to earn a higher college degree, that person is automatically more in demand.  While there is nothing wrong with an Associate’s degree and it certainly helps in many career fields too, it may be worth the extra cost and time to complete your Bachelor’s degree.

Now, we know that with a Bachelor’s degree career opportunities would be greater but from a cost perspective, it would be helpful to see the amount you would have to pay to earn one degree versus the other.  If you are thinking about going to school and unsure if you want to stop with a two-year degree or go on to a higher degree, it would be important to think long-term.  Although the cost would be more for the Bachelor’s degree, it would eventually pay off when you secure a great job that pays well.

However, not all jobs require a Bachelor’s degree.  Therefore, if the career you want only requires an Associate’s degree, you would need to weigh the pros and cons of sticking with the minimum Associate’s degree or pursuing a Bachelor’s degree.  One thing you want to consider is that although the job you want only requires an Associate’s degree, would there be advancement opportunities if you earned a Bachelor’s degree.

Sure, you could always return to college but it may make more sense to go for the higher degree from the start but you need to look at the current financial angle too.  If you are in a position of needing to get to work and you have limited aid for college, then stopping with the Associate’s degree may be the right option.  To determine the right path for your situation, we wanted to offer information for five specific factors to make the decision-making process less painful.


Pursing an Associate’s degree means dedicating two years of study whereas for a Bachelor’s degree, you would need to attend college for a full four years.  Only you know your situation and the amount of time you feel you can give or handle at this point.

Campus Location

To earn an Associate’s degree, you would more than likely attend a community or junior college.  While there is nothing wrong with this, sometimes finding a great educational institution of this level can be challenging, especially in smaller towns.  On the other hand, to earn a Bachelor’s degree, you would have a choice of colleges and universities all over the country.  The good news is that regardless of degree, you also have options via the internet.  In most cases, an online education is the more affordable route but even then, you want to make sure the school of choice is not only accredited but one that offers the area of study you are interested in.

Study Requirements

When earning an Associate’s degree, courses would typically be taken specific to your major.  However, for a Bachelor’s degree, you would have several prerequisites or general requirements in addition to focused courses.

Cost of Education

One of the more important considerations is the cost to earn an Associate’s degree versus a Bachelor’s degree.  On average, you would pay $2,500 a year to finish a two-year education whereas with a four-year degree, the cost would increase to around $7,000.  Keep in mind, these prices are for in-state schools so to attend a college or university out of state, you would expect to pay 50% or more over these costs.

After Graduation Compensation

As discussed, while immediate cost is important, often it is even more important to look at compensation once you graduate.  Although it may be difficult to look long-term when in immediate need, it would be an important consideration when looking at an Associate’s degree versus a Bachelor’s degree.  The average salary for someone with an Associate’s degree is $35,000 while someone with a Bachelor’s degree could earn around $40,000.  Looking even further into the future, twenty years after graduation, salaries would increase to $60,000 to $80,000 respectively.

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