Preparing for College

Earning an Associate's Degree AFTER a Bachelor's Degree

Question: I have a question about applying for an associate's degree after a bachelors degree. is it possible?

I have heard of 4-year colleges that will not allow students with a Bachelor’s degree to apply to earn a second Bachelor’s, but I have never heard of a student who was not allowed to aim for an Associate’s after a Bachelor’s, although maybe cases do exist.


Typically, when someone with a B.A. or B.S. wants to return to school to get an Associate’s, it’s because the student plans to change career fields or to learn different skills. Perhaps ironically, the most sought-after four-year colleges may not always provide their graduates with “real-world” know-how. For instance, one good friend of mine earned a degree in theater from Stanford but then, some years later, enrolled at a community college in order to study film-making. She realized that, as prestigious as her Stanford sheepskin might be, she really didn’t know how to do much!

But my friend is typical of many community-college returnees in that she didn’t need to earn a complete A.A.  She only aimed to acquire very specific skills which didn’t necessitate another degree. She simply signed up for the classes she wanted but did not matriculate in a full degree program.

Some career fields require examinations or designated classes for licensing or certification but  not an actual degree in that field, especially for those who hold a bachelor’s in another field already. So, just as my Stanford friend did, it’s possible to “cherry pick” the appropriate classes without going for the whole bowl of fruit.

Thus, depending on your interests and goals, you may find that it’s most expedient to return to school to study what you want or need to learn but without completing an entire Associate’s degree.  However, if you do intend to go after the degree—for whatever reasons—you should check to see if credits you earned for the Bachelor’s degree might be applicable to the Associate’s. Most Associate degrees require general education classes in areas such as English, math, science, etc.  So if you took these classes for your Bachelor’s and you don’t want to repeat them when you head towards your Associate’s, you should ask in advance if your old credits will get you out of new requirements.  I have known students of many ages who decide to return to college just for the love of learning. These folks don't care if they have to take classes that they also took eons ago. But other students who have career goals in mind often want to reach these goals ASAP and don’t want to spend time on algebra or American history, if they already fulfilled such requirements in the past, and if these courses aren’t germane to their current pursuits. So when you are deciding which colleges offer the best opportunities for your next academic steps, be sure to ask if previous credits can do double-duty. You may discover that different colleges will give you very different answers.

Well, that was a long-winded response to a brief question. A shorter reply would simply be YES. ;-)