Society & Culture & Entertainment Education

Associate Degree Vs. Diploma

    Length of Time

    • A high school diploma generally takes four years to earn. Once you graduate from high school, you earn your diploma; this document says that you have completed the required course work and testing and have successfully finished your high school career.

      An associate degree generally takes two years to complete. This is shorter than the length of time it takes to graduate from high school, but you will have to earn your diploma before you can get your associate degree; so, essentially, the difference in time between the two options is four years to six.

      If you work while you complete your associate degree, it could take up to four or five years to finish after high school; two years is the average for a full-time student.


    • According to, people who earned associate degrees in 2003 made an average of $8,000 a year more than their counterparts who had only earned a high school diploma. Also according to the website's statistics, a high school graduate earns approximately $9,000 a year more than someone without a high school diploma or GED.


    • Unless you go to a private school, a high school education is, essentially, free. You pay for supplies and fees, but the diploma itself comes at no cost to you.

      Community college is less expensive than a university, and a two-year degree will cost less than a four-year bachelor's degree program. Liz Pulliam Weston with MSN Money put the estimate for tuition and books at $2,500 a year in 2009. Students can also get scholarships and grants for associate degrees just as they can for four-year degrees. Additionally, when you factor in the extra earnings you receive from having that degree, the degree can pay for itself in only a few years.


    • A high school diploma generally only comes in one variety per state; sometimes, there are options for earning an honors diploma instead of a traditional one, but in either case a high school diploma is fairly general. One other option for some high school students is to earn a diploma from a technical or vocational school; this can provide a high school education in combination with job training and even certificate programs for careers in cosmetology, child care, mechanics or cooking.

      An associate degree has more variety than a traditional high school diploma, including liberal arts, applied science and occupational degree programs. Each one comes with a set of job skills and experiences that can lead you into a future career.


    • Sometimes, a higher degree (meaning after high school) is called a diploma, as in the case of nursing. According to, at around a hundred hospitals in the U.S. young people who want a career in nursing can complete nursing diploma programs that will prepare them to sit for the registered nurse exams. In other cases, people could earn an associate degree in nursing through a community or junior college.

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