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An associate degree is a college degree awarded after the completion of about 20 courses. It either prepares students for a career following graduation or allows them to transfer into a bachelor's degree program. Associate degrees are available from public community colleges, private 2-year colleges, for-profit technical institutes, and many 4-year colleges and universities.  An associate degree program can prepare you for many exciting careers in science, technology, engineering, and healthcare. Compared with those whose highest level of educational attainment was a high school diploma, those with an associate degree earn much more -- especially over the course of a career. 

Associate Degree Statistics
According to the most recent U.S. Department of Education data, a total of 728,114 associate degrees were awarded in the U.S. during the 2006-2007 academic year by degree-granting postsecondary institutions in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and outlying areas that year. Of these, men earned 34.3% and women earned 62.5% of degrees awarded. 

Between 200607 and 201819, in the middle alternative projections, the number of associate's degrees is projected to increase 25 percent overall;
increase 16 percent for men; and increase 31 percent for women.

A December 2009 report, "Changes in Postsecondary Awards Below the Bachelor's Degree: 1997 to 2007," describes changes in the number and types of postsecondary awards below the bachelor's degree (certificates and associate's degrees) conferred over the decade between 1997 and 2007. According to the report, about 47 percent of all undergraduates were enrolled in subbaccalaureate programs in 2007-08, and in the previous year, subbaccalaureate awards accounted for almost 40 percent of all undergraduate credentials awarded. Between 1997 and 2007, the total number of subbaccalaureate awards conferred increased by 28
percent to a total of 1.5 million. While community colleges still confer the largest number of subbaccalaureate awards, the rate of increase in awards conferred by private for-profit institutions was greater, especially in 4-year for-profit institutions, which more than tripled the number of awards conferred between 1997 and 2007. 

Several government-approved organizations evaluate and accredit schools. The approval of these organizations signals that a school meets basic academic and financial standards. There are seven accrediting organizations approved by the U.S. Department of Education, one for each of seven regions.

Beyond broad school accreditation, specific programs are also accredited. Professional and industry associations or organizations -- such as ABET for engineering, and the American College of Veterinary Medicine for veterinary technicians -- also accredit programs that train professionals for specific occupations. Click here for more information about program accreditation.

Associate degree careers
To be career-ready in 2 years, students need to choose an
occupational major early in their school career. And there are plenty of options. Explore a wide range of careers that start with an associate degree.



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