Many students come to community college with the ambition of transferring to a four-year university. After completing the required courses in a community college, students often earn an associate’s (AA) degree.
There are several benefits to earning an AA degree before pursuing a bachelor’s degree.
The first benefit is time. An AA degree takes less time to earn than a bachelor’s degree. For full time students, it can take an average of two years to complete about 60 units, the minimum requirement needed to earn an AA degree. The number of units required to earn an AA degree can vary depending on a student’s major and where they intend to transfer.
Some community colleges may offer programs to accelerate this process further. For example, the General Education (GE) Path Program is available exclusively at Pierce College and is designed to enable students to transfer to California State University, Northridge (CSUN) more efficiently.
Students take courses that are tailored to a certain “path.” These courses are all related to one another in some way. Upon completion of a path, students who intend to transfer to CSUN will have seats reserved for them in classes that are a part of that path. Not only will students earn an AA degree upon completion, but they will also earn a minor in civic engagement.
Students who do not intend to transfer to CSUN may still enroll in the GE Path Program but will not earn the minor in civic engagement.
The second benefit is cost. Going straight to a four-year university can be expensive, but the cost can be decreased significantly if a student decides to pursue an AA degree first. Not only does a student spend less time at a four-year university, but overall cost can be cut in half for students with AA degrees. Some four-year universities have special accommodations as well.
Earning an AA can be an advantage when applying to four-year universities. There can be less competition for those who have earned an AA degree because students have already completed entry level requirements rather than a student who is applying straight out of high school.
Some students may not plan on transferring to a four-year university after earning an AA degree. More careers are becoming available that do not necessarily require a bachelor’s degree. Some careers include dental hygienist, nursing, construction management, and legal assistant, just to name a few.
In certain career fields, it may be worthwhile to be employed before continuing to pursue a bachelor’s or a more advanced degree such as a master’s degree. Getting an AA first can lead to a more focused education in pursuing a more advanced degree.