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Degree Research

What Is an Associate’s Degree in Education?

By The Editorial Team
  • 5 Reasons to study early childhood education

Whether you’re helping a young child learn the alphabet or a secondary student grasp a math concept, one of the most gratifying parts of working with children is seeing their confidence grow as they master new skills. If you’re inspired by the prospect of helping guide a child’s development and learning, an associate degree in education may be the right fit for you.

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Read on to learn what this program involves and the paths you can follow after earning your degree.

What is an associate’s degree?

An associate’s degree is awarded after completion of a two-year undergraduate program of studies. It gets you career-ready to work in a specific occupation and sets the foundation for further studies.

There are two types of associate’s degrees:

  • Vocational degrees provide skills and knowledge related to a specific profession, such as a teacher’s aide, so you can start work right away. This type of degree is often known as an Associate of Applied Science, or AAS.
  • Academic degrees combine general university-level courses and foundation work in a specific discipline. Credits may be transferred to a bachelor’s degree program if you decide to pursue further studies later. This degree may be called an Associate of Arts (AA) or an Associate of Science (AS).

What kind of associate’s degrees in education are there?

Depending on your interests, you can find associate’s degree programs focused on different aspects of child development and education. Examples include:

  • Associate of Arts in Teaching
  • Associate of Science in Early Childhood Education
  • Associate of Applied Science, Paraprofessional Educator
  • Associate of Arts in Elementary or Secondary Education

There are also online early childhood education associate’s degree programs that offer the flexibility of learning at home.

A high school diploma or GED and minimum cumulative GPA are usually required for admission to an associate’s degree program.

How long does it take to get an associate’s degree?

An associate’s degree comprises at least 20 courses or 60 college-level credits, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Coursework often includes general university-level courses in English, history, and math. These may be supplemented by classes in education and child psychology, depending on the focus of the degree. Some programs also include field experience.

An associate’s degree takes two years of full-time study or part-time equivalent.

What can I do with an associate’s degree in education?

An associate’s degree can help launch your career by demonstrating that you’re formally trained in some aspect of childhood education or development. Many states require that preschool teachers or teacher assistants hold an associate’s degree, according to an article published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This degree can also improve your chances of getting a job and impact your earning potential. According to the BLS, a person with an associate’s degree earns a median annual wage that’s $15,000 higher than someone with a college diploma or certificate.

What kind of jobs can I get with an associate’s degree in education?

An associate’s degree in education can lead to rewarding opportunities in a child care center or preschool, or in a public school supporting a lead teacher. In some cases, you may be able to teach at a private school.

Here are some career paths you can pursue with an associate’s degree in education.

Preschool Teachers

Preschool teachers use play and other techniques to help young children learn basic language, social, and motor skills. Jobs for preschool teachers are expected to grow by 7% between 2018 and 2028.

You can find employment as a preschool teacher in a child care center or program organized by private, community, religious, and civic organizations. Most preschools require teachers to have an associate’s degree, although public schools and some positions in Head Start programs ask for a bachelor’s degree and teaching license.

Teacher Assistant

A teacher assistant is also called a teacher aide, education assistant, or instructional aide. The BLS reports that more than 75% of teacher assistants work in public and private schools, supporting the work of licensed teachers.

Responsibilities of a teacher assistant vary depending on the teacher’s needs but can include getting material ready for lessons, working with students in small groups to apply concepts taught in class, supervising, taking attendance, and recording grades. Spending time in a classroom as a teacher assistant can help you decide if you might want to pursue your teaching credentials down the road.

In child care centers, teacher assistants work with young children. They help with feeding, playing, and educational activities.

Child Care Worker

Child care workers are needed in preschools, day care centers, family child care centers, Head Start programs, and private homes. This role involves looking after a young child’s basic needs but also engaging them in activities to promote social and intellectual development. You might help children learn to count, play with building blocks, color, and develop gross motor skills through games and physical activity.

Although some child care positions are open to those with a high school diploma, an associate degree demonstrates relevant training in early childhood education and can enhance your chances of landing a job.

Can an associate’s degree be applied to a bachelor’s degree for teachers?

K-12 teachers in a public school must have a four-year bachelor’s degree and state license. For some positions, a master’s degree may be required.

If you decide to pursue your teaching credentials, you may be able to transfer credits from your associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree program. One-quarter of community college students end up transferring to a four-year institution, according to the Community College Research Center. Of these students, those with an associate’s degree are more likely to successfully complete a four-year degree.

Some colleges have articulation agreements in place with other institutions to make credit transfer easier. The terms of these agreements vary greatly, so check with individual institutions for requirements. Keep in mind that even if agreements are in place, you must still meet admission criteria to the bachelor’s program, such as minimum GPA scores, before continuing on your teaching career pathway.

  • 5 Reasons to study early childhood education

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