Associate degree programs are two-year education programs which appeal to many different types of learners. Programs are available that satisfy general education requirements that can later be transferred to a four-year university and applied to a bachelor's degree. Plus, there are many concentrated technical programs that lead directly to jobs for those who don't care to take unneeded general education classes, as well as career changers who already have degrees but want to gain the added knowledge required to enter new fields. Associate degree programs are available at community colleges, technical training schools, vocational schools, online schools, and sometimes four-year universities.
For those intending to eventually complete a bachelor's degree or other type of advanced degree, the programs called "transfer" programs are the appropriate route. These are usually associate of arts, or associate of science degrees. Some are focused on one area such as English or math, but all cover the general education requirements that will most likely be required for a bachelor's degree.
If transfer to a four-year university is the intent, it's important to match the classes to the requirements of the transfer school. Some state schools will have transfer agreements with community colleges that state students transferring from certain associate degree programs will be considered to have completed all general education requirements. This is something that must be confirmed with the transfer school's admissions office, however.
Associate degree programs are not only an economical alternative for first and second year college students, but many community colleges are now allowing junior and senior high school students to take courses before graduating from high school. Considering the tuition difference of a community college and a private college, this could save many families a considerable amount of tuition money. Home schooled students can also benefit from this option, as it's a great resource for advanced students in the sciences or technical classes. Earning an associate's degree early may allow students to complete advanced degrees early as well.
Associate degree programs in technical and medical fields are also very popular. Instead of the "transfer" label, these programs are often designated as an "applied" science or art. So, instead of "associate of science" degree, diplomas may read "associate of applied science." Each school uses its own terminology, but those are things to look for when seeking a specific type of degree.
One of the most popular associate degree programs in the medical field is nursing. Many schools now offer a two-year registered nurse (RN) option. Other favorites are degrees leading to jobs as radiology technicians, massage therapists, dental hygienists, medical billing specialists, physical therapy assistants, medical assistants, phlebotomy specialists, and medical lab technologists.
Technical training options are also legion. Programs are available that lead to jobs as computer programmers, networking specialists, aerospace engineering technicians, construction managers, web designers, computer aided drafting designers, automotive technicians, electrical specialists, industrial machinists, welders, and a host of others. Whatever a student's interest, there is most likely an associate degree program to fit.