Difference between Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and Master’s Degrees

Choosing what higher learning degree to pursue is indeed a difficult decision to make. In order to make the right choice, one must be informed of the various factors and opportunities brought about by every degree. So if we want to secure our educational future, let us remember that it is definitely better to be guided than not!


master’s degree
Master’s degree diploma

An associate degree is conferred by community colleges and technical-vocational colleges to those who complete a course of study which usually lasts only two years. It may also be considered as an undergraduate academic degree.

A bachelor’s degree is also an undergraduate course of study but is given after the completion of four to five years of study. The term “bachelor” is derived from the Latin word baccalarius which meant “a young squire in training” during the 14th century.

A master’s degree, on the other hand, is given to individuals who have advanced mastery in a specific field of knowledge. It can only be taken after first graduating from a bachelor’s degree, and usually takes at least two years.

Comparison chart

Associate’s degree Bachelor’s degree Master’s degree
Two years Four to five years Two to six years
Technical-vocational General education connected to a specific field of study Advanced mastery in a specialized field of study
Technical-vocational work Lands a graduate the majority of jobs in US Better employment opportunities
Low tuition Higher tuition Highest tuition rate

Associate’s vs Bachelor’s vs Master’s Degree

What is the difference between associate’s, bachelor’s  and master’s degrees? Let us discuss them according to duration, level of course of study, employment opportunities and tuition rate.

  • An associate’s degree demands the least amount of time among the three degrees. It can usually be finished after only two years, since typically it just requires 90 quarter credit hours or 60 semester credit hours of schooling as long as it is taken with a full-time schedule. A bachelor’s degree requires four to five years of study, depending on the field of study. A master’s degree can be finished within two to six years since it also requires rigorous training and research work.
  • For students who want to pursue technical-vocational work, an associate’s degree is highly recommended, especially for computer programming, nursing and the culinary arts. In a bachelor’s degree, there is a certain focus on coursework which allows students to choose a major and complete a final project in relation to it. It is also important to note that earning an associate’s degree may entitle a student to transferrable credits in order to gain access in to attaining a bachelor’s degree. Being under a master’s program, on the other hand, requires deep focus on a specific discipline. It combines the theoretical and application aspects of a study that must be closely related to the bachelor’s degree a student has completed.
  • Despite the risks of high unemployment, the demand for technical-skilled workers such as technicians, therapists and nutritionists is still increasing. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree would still give you a better employment standing since most jobs require an educational attainment of a four-year degree. However, having a master’s degree still offers the best long-term opportunities in employment. This is because having a high mastery in a specialization does not send master’s graduates into jobs where they are mere workers, but gives them a better chance of being managers and leaders.
  • An associate’s degree has the lowest tuition rate but this is dependent on the nature and duration of the course followed. Even though studying for a master’s degree requires the ability to pay the highest tuition rates, it still provides the avenue for students to be flexible in their time as it allows them to juggle both work and studying.


For more details, you can watch the following video. It shows a registered nurse discussing the differences between an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree in nursing.