Am I wrong to think that an associate's degree is seen as useless by people in professional life?

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by TeacherBelgium, Sep 10, 2020.

  1. TeacherBelgium

    TeacherBelgium Active Member

    I really have this sentiment.

    I have studied 2 years for an associate's degree in law.
    I thought this would give me great career opportunities.
    Here in Belgium it is not so difficult to be hired with this qualification as a paralegal.

    However, on an international level I feel like associate's degrees are seen as not worthy mentioning on a curriculum vitae, as completely worthless and as ''amateuristic''.
    I may be a bit pessimistic here but I feel like those two years were a waste of time.

    The good thing is that I can have it upgraded from associate's degree to a bachelor's degree with a fast track programme of 1 year if I wanted to.
    I never considered that necessary but now I'm in a position where I'm thinking that maybe I should follow that extra year and have it upgraded to a bachelor's degree.

    When I look at visa requirements for example, associate's degrees aren't even given a thought anywhere. Only bachelor's degrees.
    It's really like an associate's degree is better than nothing but almost equal to nothing.

    It saddens me because in the associate's degree programme I followed the level of intensity was on par with that in a bachelor's degree.

    We received fiscal law / tax law, corporate law, social law, public law, criminal law, trade law, professional communication, French communication, English communication, ICT skills, economics, jurisdictional writing, jurisdictional law, law methodology, 2 internships for a total of 425 hours, 3 projects that were very intensive and we had to write a thesis.
    It's just that it was a duration of 2 years instead of the normal 3 or 4 required for a bachelor's degree but the intensity was equal to bachelor's level. I know because I took courses at bachelor's level and didn't think the ones at associate's level were easier.

    I'm so unnerved that I might have wasted 2 years of my life for what I thought would be a valuable qualification but what might internationally be seen as useless.

    Maybe I'm seeing things too negatively but when I Google requirements for visas and jobs around the world, I feel like the high level it was taught at wouldn't even matter from the moment it's qualified as an associate's degree.
    I feel like I earned a qualification that is seen as a degree that even a 5 year old could earn. That's how I envision people looking at associate's degrees.

    Now I'm debating whether I should go an extra year to school (physical presence) and update it to a bachelor's degree.

    As I already explained, I have the master's degree from Isabel in sight but the bachelor's degree is more important than I imagined after all.

    I really thought my associate's degree would be more valuable than I generally think people around the world estimate associate's degrees as.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2020
  2. Linguaphile89

    Linguaphile89 New Member

    While it may not meet a whole lot of requirements for getting jobs and immigration, I do think there is intellectual value in it. Would I stop at an associate's degree? No, probably not. In the corporate world, at least at every company I've worked at, the bachelor's is treated as a minimum. That's not to say that people with no degrees don't get hired, but most of my colleagues in business-impacting corporate roles have, at minimum, a bachelor's degree. I can't think of a single person on my immediate team who doesn't. I definitely think an associate's degree is better than no degree, but if you can finish an associates, you can finish a bachelor's. The time you've put into an associates was not wasted. It was proof that you are capable of studying at a higher level. It was proof that you were capable of seeing something through to the end. It likely cost you less money than it would have if you would have started with a bachelor's. Long story short, you've already proven you can earn a degree -- now replicate the results and earn the bachelor's.

    I will say that if international immigration is your target, then being as educated as possible definitely helps. My wife and I are US citizens who went through the Canadian PR process, and even with a BS (at the time) and 3 years of experience as a software engineer, the requirements were stiff. I hadn't yet earned my MBA and we only qualified because I scored points for being bilingual in English and French.

    Don't let draconian laws of immigration determine the worth of your degree. Those laws don't exist to extend or retract value to you personally as a candidate. They're there to protect domestic human capital markets. What you accomplished a great thing and have given yourself a springboard to further education. Should you continue your education? Absolutely! Especially if you want to immigrate. Does the fact that you don't have a bachelor's yet mean the associates was a waste? No! Can you stop at the associates and still find success? Yes! You're way more attractive with an associate's than without one, but it's a numbers game and much of your competition will have a bachelor's as minimum.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2020
  3. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    I can't speak for Belgium, but around where I'm from, we have nearby a very highly respected community college, which has by extension added credibility to Associate's degrees in general. There are always plenty of things you CAN do with an associate's and plenty of things you CAN'T do. However, that would depend on what your major is and what your goal is. You won't become a lawyer with just an associate's in law, but you might find work in a law firm or in a non-profit organization.

    Now, to speak for myself. One of the proudest moments of my life was when I got my associate's degree. That's even though I was planning on getting 2 Bachelor's and maybe a Master's after it. After many years of starts and stops and all sorts of obstacles in-between, the moment I finished the AA was the moment I would never again be without a college degree. Nobody could ever take that away from me, even if they entertained absurd notions that it was a meaningless credential that a 5 year old could earn. Hater's gonna hate, but I was still on top of the world with my AA :cool:
    Acolyte and LearningAddict like this.
  4. AsianStew

    AsianStew Moderator Staff Member

    It all depends on who's looking at the AA and what career/profession you want to get into. For the last few years, the high school diploma is/was the "basic" requirement for any job. If you want to get a career, then the Associates level is where most people nowadays land on as the "next level". Statistics show that the bare minimums aren't going to be a high school diploma anymore, I think the Associates degree will be the bare minimum in a few years. I would recommend you take the Bachelors if that's what your heart is telling you, you can get a 'top-up' program in the UK for example, or go for a competency based degree from a US institution.
  5. Mac Juli

    Mac Juli Well-Known Member


    Well, we recently had a discussion in this forum whether this is even a real degree. After some rethinking, from my point of view, I tend to agree.
    Basically, I have two diplomas eq. to an associate's degree - and neither of them helped me to get a job.

    Best regards,
    Mac Juli
  6. sideman

    sideman Active Member

    When you want to immigrate internationally you play by a different set of rules. For example, in the U.S., paralegal jobs with an associates degree can still be had. However, many of the larger firms are requiring bachelors degrees with a paralegal certificate and there are now colleges offering bachelors degrees in paralegal studies. This has been a shift towards more education from the time I became a a certified paralegal circa 1990. At the time I studied for the certification exams with a lady that had a masters in library science plus a paralegal certificate. Talk about being overqualified then. Now, with all the competition for jobs, and the over emphasis on bachelors degrees as a minimum, it doesn't seem so far fetched.

    As far as getting your bachelors and the worth of your associates, I believe you've already answered your questions in the above referenced statements you made. If your associates is of little to no worth, why are you receiving two years of credit and being fast tracked to a bachelors in just a year? It's just another year. A relatively small sacrifice for a bigger payoff. And by your listing of courses it looks like you "covered all the stuff, without any of the fluff", but again it seems that major employers are stuck on the BS theory of hiring. Good luck.
  7. TeacherBelgium

    TeacherBelgium Active Member

    It's true that they likely wouldn't have given me two years of credits if my degree was utter trash but I had thought it was of more value since we had to make a capstone and such and do two heavy internships above the multiple courses in law subjects.

    A year is not much, that's true, but I'm already 24 and I'm scared I will be considered too old by the time I'm graduated with my bachelor's (25 if I start now) by most employers.
  8. TeacherBelgium

    TeacherBelgium Active Member

    The courses I took in my associate's degree were very intensive but still under my capacity.
    The teachers even told me that I was taking studies that are under my capacity. At that time my reasoning was that I would graduate faster if I took the associate's degree instead of the bachelor's degree.
    Now I feel so foolish for having done so.
    I will still need to take the extra year.

    It's just a year but it's a dissapointment as I'm not very young anymore :-(
  9. TeacherBelgium

    TeacherBelgium Active Member

    Here in Belgium I guess they also strongly look at your capacities but I see bachelor's degree mentioned as a minimum requirement quite often, yet I always get an interview proposal when I mention my experience and my associate's degrees' content.
    I guess that's something.
    It's true that I will mostly be competing against bachelor's degree holders.
    Then the associate's doesn't make up for it obviously.
    But it's sad, because the associate's degree was as intense as the bachelor's level courses I took which were quite a lot actually.
  10. TeacherBelgium

    TeacherBelgium Active Member

    It's just that an associate's is so looked down on. Even a bachelor's degree as an only degree often raises eyebrows under lawyers in a law office, I notice. I did two internships in a legal environment and they really looked down on paralegals. They said that paralegals were slightly better positioned secretaries but not to be compared with actual legal practitioners and stuff like that.
    It made me feel pretty small.
    It made me feel meaningless.

    That's why I'm thinking about taking that extra year.

    Also because I would have an inexplicable gap on my curriculum vitae if I list my associate's degree and the master's degree I will soon get.
    They will frown and ask where the bachelor's is and probably think I got the other two diplomas from a mill or something.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2020
  11. TeacherBelgium

    TeacherBelgium Active Member

    I am bilingual (French - Dutch) and master English well too.
    So I have that going for me regarding immigration but indeed, if I am competing against bachelor's degree holders I won't be given the time of the day with my associate's degree and my master propio.

    So I will likely finish the bachelor's top up programme.
    I hate how associate's degrees are so looked down on.
    I know many people who even look down on bachelor's degrees from colleges. Here in Belgium a college is allowed to award a bachelor's degree. Those are called professional bachelor's degrees. They have 180 ECTS (90 US credits) but are not as intense as the bachelor's programmes from universities (also 90 US credits but much more intense).
    So I'm thinking about taking one of those professional bachelor degree top up programmes that would take 1 year.
    Then I hopefully will be closer to fulfilling international immigration requirements.
  12. Mac Juli

    Mac Juli Well-Known Member

    Not very young. Gimme a break. I was 29 when I restarted my studies. And I bet this is considered young. At your age, one year feels like long, but believe me: it is not. So clench your teeth and just do it if you think you should (et pensez au Bachelor Europeen que j'ai vous donne)...
    Johann likes this.
  13. lawrenceq

    lawrenceq Member

    Interesting question.

    It depends. Working in some medical and industrial fields you are good with an AAS, which is a bit different than the AS and AA degrees. I completed 72 credit hours for my electrical technology degree, which landing me a good job in operations at a refinery. I'm also a Navy veteran so that played into it, which is another thing that can help your case when looking for certain jobs, regardless of your education level.

    I personally think having any schooling after high school is a plus.
  14. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    And I was around 41. (That was 36 years ago.) It worked out OK - but don't be like me. (Nobody should be like me!) Don't wait if you don't have to. And you don't... Best possible use of a year, I think!

    "But I'll be 53 (or whatever) when I finish that degree."
    "How old will you be then if you don't finish it?"
    SpoonyNix likes this.
  15. sideman

    sideman Active Member

    Whoa! Hold on a minute. You came on this forum asking for guidance and everyone that's responded to you has given you the benefit of their experience. If you choose to ignore this advice, then do so at your own peril. But posting nonsense like this will only make me think that you are just making excuses for your situation and won't garner you much support. If indeed you worked in an environment in which you described, then shame on them. Sure, there are some lawyers that look down on paralegals, but also in their arrogance they look down on others as well, not just support staff. This is a futile argument. I work with attorneys on a weekly basis and the last time I was actually able to travel in person, pre-covid, the firm had six paralegals lined up doing the brunt of the research, client contact, etc. They were treated very well and professionally. Without the paralegals on staff, this firm would not have functioned like the well oiled machine that it did.

    And this comment is for anyone else interested in becoming a paralegal and tuning in to read this thread. Know that there are good hard working attorneys out there that need a competent paralegal. If that's the career direction you wish to take, get as much education as you need. I am outta here.
  16. Linguaphile89

    Linguaphile89 New Member

    I'm afraid an unfortunate truth in life is that someone will always find a reason to look down on others. If it's not because you have an associate's degree, it'll be because your bachelors isn't from a university they consider 'prestigious'. They might look down on you for your major, your experience, your title, or any number of a million other reasons. In the end, you have to learn to look past that. The people who look down on an associate's degree are the same people who would look down on you for any other number of factors they could choose from. Focus on making strategic decisions that put you where you want to be and get there in the way that ultimately means you will be successful. The speed and the route don't matter, as long as you get to where you want to be.

    I remember when I was younger and in university, so much of what I thought was important about education (school pedigree, internships, perfect grades, academic major) consumed my worries about my future. Ultimately, I made it through three years of a BS in modern languages and then fizzled out. I ran into some stuff and life happened. I watched all my friends graduate and get ok paying jobs. At 24, I felt like I had failed. I hadn't finished my degree even though I'd come so close and I was working in a call center as a bilingual customer service rep with an unfinished degree and no hard skills other than having had the opportunity to become fluent in French through study abroad and working as an assistant de langue vivante for education nationale for a couple of years in France after I dropped out. When I came back to the states, I decided I'd go back and finish my degree. I finished at 28, got a job as a software engineer with no experience, and through a series of lateral moves to different companies over the last few years, I now earn six figures. I was able to purchase a home.

    I spent so much time in my early 20s thinking about all of the things I had failed at, or how people must view me, or what people would think of my 'online degree' or how I would prove myself or if anyone would ever take me seriously. It was a lot of wasted heartache and effort that was ultimately needless. In the end, I knew I wanted something better and I set myself on the path to get there. Are there people who look down on my degree? probably. Are there people who did everything right, graduated from prestigious unis at the expected age and who are successful? yup! Are there people who did those things but failed to be successful? Yup! Are there people who could've changed course like I did, but failed to do so and still struggle every day? definitely. People are all over the spectrum. In the end, you have to find out where you want to be and how to get there and do what it takes to get there regardless of things such as 'what others will think' or 'how long it will take me'

    The real truth that no one tells younger people is that in the real world, people care about your results and the tangible, bottom line value that you bring to your company. Graduating with a PhD from Yale means nothing if the company for which you work cannot derive value from it. Never in the history of any professional colleague I've ever dealt with has my expertise and credentials been called into question. That is very much a thing that college grads and interns get up to, but most professionals don't really care. Those who do are just assholes and would have been assholes anyway.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2020
  17. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    I don't mean to make light of your anxiety, because I know times are tough and you're making difficult decision.

    But I promise you, in a few years when you see that you said this you will laugh out loud.
    Maniac Craniac and Johann like this.
  18. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    To the original question about associate's degrees, I'll say this: show me the job listings specifying applicants must have one. I would except from this specific associate degrees for specific professions (like nursing).

    You see many listings that say a bachelor's degree or higher is required or preferred, even when it doesn't specify a particular major field of study. I don't seem to recall a lot of employers setting the bar specifically at the associate's level.

    Personally, I don't think the associate's is an actual degree. I would change my mind if there was a discernible demand for it (again, beyond those fields where it is a specific requirement for licensing). It is uniquely American, too.

    I feel that way about the Education Specialist (EdS), which looks like an ABD EdD, a way to package up graduate credits for pay and promotion for teachers. Not a degree.

    As for the broader question about whether or not associate's degrees have value, that is really wide open. I have two of them, and neither have ever mattered one whit during the course of my 40 years-plus career. But maybe I missed something. And let's not ignore the non-career-related value such an accomplishment might bring. So I think the real answer is "YMMV."
    Tireman 44444 likes this.
  19. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    That's like saying that your basketball team didn't score because you're not counting all the times they threw the ball through the hoop.

    That's not true. They're also in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, and throughout the West Indies -- and no, I'm not counting countries that only offer two year diplomas or two year degrees with a different name.

    They didn't even originate in the U.S.; they were developed in Britain in the 19th century:
    Johann likes this.
  20. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I really tried to understand this analogy. I did not. I guess I should go back to community college.

    I made an exception for those few occupational areas where this distinction applies. The exception does not negate the bigger point.

    I didn't realize that. I see they are no longer awarded in the UK. I also checked out the Wikipedia page. I think there is enough of an argument to call this a degree...with one caveat. When one says colloquially that one has his/her "degree," does having an associate's count? I think that term more commonly evokes a bachelor's degree.

    Oh, and here's another: if it is a degree, why don't most universities award them? They got their real growth here in the US as a product of graduating from junior (now community) college. (According to that same Wikipedia page, one-third of associate degrees are awarded by California community colleges.)

    Oops, here's another. Many associate degrees do not fully transfer to bachelor's degree programs (and they're not designed to do so). What impact does that have on the "associate's-as-a-degree" argument? (I can see it going either way.)

    Finally, it is, perhaps, a moot point. It is what it is. But that "I've got my degree" thing still rings hollow....

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