What Is the Difference Between an Associate and Bachelor’s Degree in Business?

Beside the length of time it takes to complete each degree, the decision between an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree differ in the education they provide for the student.

An associate degree will introduce concepts and foundational course work for management, marketing, accounting, and economics over a standard two years of study, although how long it takes for you to complete an associate degree program will depend on whether you’re a full-time or part-time student, whether you already have any transferrable credits, and your specific program requirements. According to Kaplan University’s curriculum for its associate degree in business administration, introductory economics may include work in the analysis of macroeconomic and microeconomic theory, including national income determination, monetary and fiscal policy, and global economics, and price determination, consumer behavior, and market structures. Introductory accounting, on the other hand, will cover records management and presentation, current and non current assets, liabilities, and equity. Introductory marketing will discuss the distribution, promotion, and pricing of products and services.

All in all, associate degrees provide students with firm, basic knowledge about their fields of study. Because of this, associate degrees are applicable to a few entry-level positions, including positions as insurance agents, purchasing agents, and sales agents, but they are mostly used to improve employment opportunities, career flexibility, or advancement.

In contrast to an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree in business administration requires four years of undergraduate education (though this may vary for the same reasons as mentioned above for an associate degree student), and usually allows the student to specialize in an area such as accounting, entrepreneurship, finance, human resources, international business, marketing, or public relations. A bachelor’s degree in business covers the core curriculum that may be found in an associate degree, as well as field-specific course work and field projects and internships for real-world application of concepts learned in the classroom.

Depending on the specialization and the school, a bachelor’s degree curriculum will likely cover the creation of a business plan and may require the student to collaborate on projects to test the business theories and strategies on their own business models. According to Carnegie Mellon University’s curriculum for a bachelor’s degree in business administration, for example, marketing courses will immerse students in product management, pricing strategy, social psychology, and media course work. Finance majors will complete course work in discrete and continuous-time finance, cost benefit analysis, derivative securities, and financial economics.

In addition, a bachelor’s degree may also provide preparation for the GRE and the pursuit of a master’s degree in business administration. A variety of entry-level positions with prospects for advancement are available with a bachelor’s degree in business, including positions in accounting, financial analysis, marketing, market research, and sales.

Overall, when it comes to deciding between whether to complete an associate or bachelor’s degree, choose the program that’s appropriate for you: if you have a position currently and are looking for a way to advance within your company, an associate degree may be preferable, considering the reduced cost and length of the program. However, if you are looking for a business career in a specific field, or know that you will need an MBA for a desired position, you will most likely require a bachelor’s degree in business.

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