Associate Degree

An associate degree is an undergraduate academic degree awarded by community colleges, junior colleges, technical colleges, and bachelor's degree-granting colleges and universities upon completion of a course of study usually lasting two years. In the United States, and to some extent in Western Canada, an associate degree is equivalent to the first two years of a four-year college or university degree. It is the lowest in the hierarchy of post-secondary academic degrees offered in these countries.

Time requirements
The associate degree is awarded to students who complete 2 years of schooling. The requirements usually include courses such as English composition, Algebra, social interaction, humanities, etc. Some people refer to associate degrees as "two-year" degrees because it is possible to obtain the degree in approximately that long. For students who place into developmental (sometimes called pre-college or remedial) courses, the time will be extended since these credits will not apply toward the associate degree.

A lesser diploma, called a certificate, is awarded for specific studies that may be completed in one year or less, for example certification in a particular field of information technology may only run for four to six months.

At 2-year colleges in the United States, more students attend part-time than full-time. To accommodate part-time students, many of whom work, most US community colleges offer required courses during evening and weekend hours and, increasingly, online (the Sloan Consortium reports that 51% of all degrees earned online are associate degrees.)

Names of associate degrees
Data on associate degrees are frequently disaggregated by curriculum: vocational or nonvocational. The Higher Education General Information Survey (HEGIS) counts nonvocational degrees under the category "Arts and Sciences or General Programs"; vocational degrees are counted under six headings:

    business and commerce technologies
    data processing technologies
    health services/paramedical technologies
    mechanical/engineering technologies
    natural science technologies
    public service-related technologies