Smart Associate's Degrees To Earn Now

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These associate's degrees could be earned in as little as two years and lead to high-demand fields.

By Caroline Hailey

Think you can't land an in-demand career without a bachelor's? Think again.

While it's true that many careers require a bachelor's degree, there are plenty of good jobs that you can pursue without one.

In fact, there are numerous careers currently in demand that ask only for an associate's degree - which means you might be able to nab a job in a growing field in as little as two years.

"The obvious advantages of getting an associate's degree instead of a bachelor's degree is that it's a lot faster and cheaper," says Laurence Shatkin, a career information expert and author of several education and career development books. "For some careers, they even prefer you to have an associate's degree."

Intrigued? Here are some particularly smart associate's degrees that could prepare you to pursue a hot career.

Degree #1 - Paralegal Studies

Are you interested in law, but find yourself cringing at the idea of going to school for your bachelor's and law degrees?

Good news - that's not the only route to a legal career. In fact, the right associate's degree could help you prepare for a career as a paralegal.

Why It's Smart: "Having an associate's degree [in paralegal studies] is a sweet spot in terms of employment," Shatkin says. Why? Could be due to the fact that - according to the U.S. Department of Labor - one with a degree in paralegal studies could potentially find work helping lawyers prepare for a hearing or trial as a paralegal, a career that is projected to grow by 18 percent from 2010 to 2020.

But even with the estimated large job growth, there will still be competition for legal work, notes the College Board, an educational organization that administers tests like the SAT. So having the right preparation could help you stand out in the crowd.

Click to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Program Now.

Degree Details: What kinds of courses might you encounter with this degree? According to the College Board, this degree program offers common classes in legal research and the legal applications of computers, among others.


Degree #2 - Business Administration

If there's one thing the world has plenty of, it's businesses. Without people trained in business administration, what would all those poor businesses do?

But getting business preparation could take at least four years in a bachelor's program. Fortunately, an associate's degree could be a smart alternative for those looking for a shorter time commitment.

Why It's Smart: Having an associate's degree in business administration could help you most when working for small businesses, says Shatkin. Such a degree could also help you build upon your prior work experience.

For example, if you have experience as a construction worker, an associate's degree could help you pursue a career in construction management, says Shatkin. "Having the degree can help get you up the management ladder in the right situation."

Click to Find the Right Business Administration Program Now.

Degree Details: Those studying business administration could take a variety of classes, including business statistics, business ethics and law, economics, marketing, or human resources management, according to the College Board.


Degree #3 - Registered Nursing

Just like law school, medical school loves to devour one thing: your time. Although everyone studies at their own pace, an associate's degree program in nursing might help you save time by requiring less schooling than a bachelor's or doctorate's degree.

Why It's Smart: This degree could help you pursue an in-demand registered nursing career. How in demand? Employment for registered nurses is projected to grow by 26 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. What's more, the College Board predicts that the number of open positions should outnumber qualified candidates by 2018.

Click to Find the Right Registered Nursing Program Now.

Degree Details: Students working toward their associate's degrees in nursing could take courses in anatomy, nutrition, psychology, chemistry, or physiology, according to the Department of Labor.


Degree #4 - Medical Assisting

If you want to work in a medical setting, but aren't interested in overseeing the direct care of patients, earning an associate's degree in medical assisting could be the right choice for you.

Why It's Smart: While there are no formal education requirements to pursue a career in medical assisting, says the U.S. Department of Labor, employers may prefer that candidates have such a background.

And you know what else? Medical employers need a lot of assisting. "There are a lot of ways to assist in a medical office," Shatkin says. "Health providers will always be around and will need people with the right background and training to help them with the paperwork."

Additionally, the aging Baby Boom population is expected to cause the field to grow by a projected 31 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the Department of Labor.

Click to Find the Right Medical Assisting Program Now.

Degree Details: Students studying medical assisting might take courses like medical office administration and insurance, diagnostic procedures, and pharmacology, according to the College Board.


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