Incorporating an Associate Degree Into Your Student’s Learning Plan

by | May 13, 2021

​Earning college credit in high school saves students money and shortens the time that they spend pursuing a degree. That’s why many high school students enroll in dual credit programs through their local college, take CLEP tests or AP courses, or find credit options through online courses.

But what about earning a complete associate degree in high school? Is it possible? Would it be beneficial to the student? The answer to this question is yes, it is possible, and yes, it would be extremely advantageous to the high school student.

What Is an Associate Degree?

The “associate degree” is categorized as an undergraduate degree and is usually the first stage taken after secondary school. Associate degrees usually serve two main purposes: to prepare a student to enter a specific career by providing in-depth training in a particular field or to be the first leg of a bachelor’s degree for a student wanting to transfer into a four-year program. Associate degrees usually take two years of full-time courses to complete, equaling 60 credit hours.

There are four types of associate degrees:

  • AA Associates of Arts
  • AS Associates of Science
  • AAA Associates of Applied Arts
  • AAS Associates of Applied Science

AA and AS associate degrees are targeted more toward students wanting a bachelor’s degree. These degrees focus on preparing the student for higher levels of academic study. The applied associate degrees are more focused on preparing students for a particular career and mastering vocational skills.

The Benefits of Earning an Associate Degree in High School

Students pursuing an associate degree in high school would have a significant advantage at graduation over those with just a high school diploma. Obtaining an associate degree can offer many benefits to students.

Less Time In College

Whether the student enters the workforce after the associate degree or goes on for a bachelor’s, obtaining an associate degree in high school would significantly shorten the time a student attends college, or eliminate the need to attend college at all.


Earning college credit in high school is usually a fraction of the cost of traditional college courses. Plus with two years already completed, the student will only need to pay for an additional two years of college.

Job Opportunities

Research continues to show that a person with a degree, associate or higher, typically has an advantage over someone without a degree in the hiring and promotion process.

Job Preparation

The curriculum in an associate degree provides a solid foundation for critical thinking and communication across a variety of courses, skills that are important no matter what career path a student chooses. Some associate degree programs provide training specific to an industry, while many hiring managers just want to see that a person has completed the degree program.

Four Questions to Ask Before Pursuing an Associate Degree In High School

With these benefits, it seems like an obvious choice to get an associate degree in high school. However, there are a few things that students should keep in mind before committing to the degree plan.

Is the student mature enough to handle the rigors of a college-level course?

Will the student put forth the effort and time required to be successful in the course? These are college-level courses that require college-level work. Some high school students may not have the time-management skills yet, or they may have other obligations that would keep them from being successful.

What are the student’s goals?

Do they want to pursue a career that requires a bachelor’s degree? Do they want to enter the workforce pursuing a job that requires particular skills? An associate degree is a great option for a lot of students, especially if they have clear learning goals. But if a student is unsure about where they are headed, taking a few individual courses for college credit might be a better place to start.

Do the course requirements of the associate degree line up with the student’s particular goals and desired outcomes?

Different associate degree programs have different purposes. Review the course degree plan to help the student choose which type of associate degree they should pursue. You might also check with the school the student would like to ultimately attend or someone currently working in the desired field to make sure it aligns with their requirements.

How transferable is the degree?

Colleges and universities can be selective in accepting credits into their institution. To make sure everything aligns with the goal institution, the student should check with the admissions office of their school of choice about the transferability of the degree credits.

Earning an Associate Degree Through Dual Credit

Associate degree programs are available at most community colleges and through numerous online programs. If a student wants to pursue an associate degree while still in high school, the best way to accomplish this goal is through dual credit courses.

Students need to look at the associate degree program requirements and pinpoint which of the courses required may be taken through available dual credit courses. Choosing courses that are also required for their state high school graduation will allow the students to earn credit for both high school and college. For each course the student takes that is on both the associate degree plan and their high school requirements, they are one step closer to obtaining an associate degree and their high school diploma.

With careful consideration and preparation, it is possible for high school students to graduate with a complete associate degree. Having the opportunity to earn two years of college credit in high school would not only be an effective use of the student’s time but also very cost-effective. The degree could give the student more opportunities in the job market or allow them to enter into the study of a major career earlier. Obtaining an associate degree by their high school graduation gives the student a head start in the pursuit of their future goals.

Interested in earning an associate degree with TEL Courses? Contact us about our options with York College, Mid-America Christian University, and Oklahoma Christian University.

Kathy Burt is the Outreach Director of the Homeschool Market for TEL. She is a thirty-year career educator with experience in the public school system, a homeschool mom, and the owner and administrator of two private schools. Her passion is for the next generation and she thrives on helping them understand and attain the great potential they have been given.

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