Exact Answer: 2-3 years
An Associate degree in the United States is a degree in any subject that is obtained after attending the equivalent of 2 to 3 years of post-secondary education. Post-secondary education in the US is any education after high school which is the 12th grade.
So technically an Associates’ degree is obtained after the student has completed the second year of education from the day they graduated high school. It is an education between high school and a Bachelors’s degree.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate Degree?
In the United States, there are multiple ways to obtain an Associates’ degree. One way is to attend a community college, vocational school, or some other form of technical school after high school.
The community college will offer Associates degrees in various subjects. Usually, this would take 4–6 semesters of study.
One semester is approximately fifteen weeks. A semester can also be defined by the number of credit hours a student attempts or completes.
Another way is to take college-level courses while still attending high school. This process can be done during the Junior and Senior years of high school and can take less than 2 years depending on the level of classes the student takes.
For example, an AP or Advanced Placement class can give credit for the high school requirements as well as the requirements for a college course. If a student is taking many AP classes per semester in high school, then those classes would substitute for an equivalent class in college.
This process also depends on high school and college or university that the student wishes to attend. Depending on the high school curriculum, the student may be able to use those credits towards a community college instead of a 4-year university.
This could be due to any number of reasons but mainly, it is because the college or university does not participate in this type of program. Most times this type of program is seen with a community college.
Why Does It Take This Long?
The Associate degree is almost like an introduction to the subject that the degree is in. The first year of the degree is used to take general education classes.
The general education classes can include any subject such as science, math, language, art, etc. These classes are to give the student a foundation for completing their degree.
They are designed to give them the tools they would need to complete the classes they need for their degrees. The second-year is used to take classes that are specific for the degree.
These classes get more specific about the degree subject, but they may not go too deep into the depth. For example, someone who is seeking out an Associate degree in a business-related subject may only take introductory classes for various business subjects such as Accounting, Finance, and general business. It may also include introductory business math-related courses. An Associate degree gives the student an introduction to a subject and may also give them an idea of whether they want to go further with their education.