What Is an Associate Degree in Business?

An associate degree in business is a two-year business degree that you may be able to earn from an online university, community college, junior college, or some four-year colleges and universities. You can start earning your associate degree immediately after graduating high school or after getting some work experience. When you have an associate degree, you can use it to open doors to different career paths, or apply those credits toward earning a bachelor’s degree.

This degree is similar to a bachelor’s degree in business, but you only need to complete about half the number of college credits, which saves time and tuition. Research suggests that getting an associate degree gives you better job prospects and higher earning potential compared to having a high school degree. Better yet, with your associate degree program, you’ll cultivate your skills and prepare for entry-level business jobs.

What does it take to earn an associate degree in business?

To get your associate business degree, you’ll typically need to complete around 60 college credits, however some associate degree programs can require over to 80 credits. For many students, this works out to roughly two years of full-time coursework.

Learn more: How Many Credits Do You Need to Graduate College?

Associate degree in business coursework

Most schools that offer a business associate degree will focus their programs on either business administration or business management. Business administration tends to skew toward strategy, while business management is a bit more about the interpersonal aspects of business.

Still, both degrees tend to be similar since the associate degree is primarily an introductory-level education. The requirements and coursework may vary depending on the program and the school, but some common courses that you’ll see in an associate business degree program include:

  • Human resource management

  • Business analysis

  • Financial accounting

  • Business writing

  • Business information systems

  • Customer service

  • Business ethics

Why do students opt for an associate degree in business instead of a bachelor’s degree?

Earning your degree may improve your employment outlook compared to candidates with a high school degree. But that doesn’t mean you have to commit to a four-year bachelor’s degree to reap those benefits. Although some people complete an associate degree and go on to pursue a bachelor’s, others leverage that degree to get right into the workforce. Being able to grow your career quickly isn’t the only benefit of an associate degree versus a bachelor’s degree. There’s also the cost of getting that degree and the time you’ll need to invest.

Cost of the degree

The total cost of your associate degree will depend on the school you attend. On average, tuition for one year at a public, in-district associate degree program in the United States in 2021 was $3,800, according to the College Board [1]. That’s much lower than the tuition associated with a public, in-state four-year university ($10,740) and a private four-year university ($38,070).

Time investment

People often refer to an associate degree as a two-year degree. That’s because many programs take an average of two years to complete. There are factors that impact the length of time the program requires. For example, if you attend school full-time and take 15 credit hours each semester, you’ll complete your requirements in four semesters or two academic years. If you opt to complete your schooling part-time, it will take longer to earn your degree. Some schools may also offer an accelerated option, which could allow you to get your associate degree in as little as 12 to 18 months.

Ability to enter the workforce quickly

Because it only takes around two years to get an associate degree, you’ll be able to get an entry-level job in the business field and start gaining experience faster than if you were getting your bachelor’s degree. Having an associate degree in business can help you stand out among other applicants because it demonstrates your mastery of certain skills. It may also provide you with more opportunities for promotion after you’ve been hired. Additionally, by earning an associate degree in business, you can explore the various fields of the industry and the areas in which you’d like to focus on before committing to further education and determine if it’s the right degree for you.

What jobs can you do with an associate degree in business?

By getting your associate degree in business, you may be able to advance your career with your current employer. You can also qualify for a variety of business-related jobs ranging from administrative roles to banking to sales and more.

Here are some roles you may decide to pursue with an associate degree in business, along with their average base salary in the United States as of July 2022, according to Glassdoor.

Administrative assistant

Average base salary: $37,359

As an administrative assistant, your day-to-day tasks will largely vary depending on your employer and your work location. You might work for a specific person or for an entire department, and you may have to report to upper management. Common duties include scheduling meetings, answering calls, managing mail, managing supplies, writing emails, and performing clerical tasks to keep business operations moving forward.


Average base salary: $40,071

As a banker, you’ll provide customer service and manage client relationships. You’ll need to gain familiarity with the services and products offered by your employer so you can answer your clients’ questions and help guide them to make the right financial decisions. You’ll typically work as a central point of contact for individuals and for businesses, which may have more complex account issues.

Customer service manager

Average base salary: $48,068

In this role, you’ll perform a variety of tasks including: managing accounts payable and receivables, managing company goals and targets, enacting process improvement opportunities for optimal customer service, and providing leadership to the customer associates and representatives that work as part of the team. You could start out as a customer service associate and work your way up to a management position, or you could get hired as a manager. Although 45.6 percent of customer service managers have a bachelor’s degree according to Zippia [2], having an associate degree in business is also common.

Store manager

Average base salary: $49,074

As a store manager, you’ll spend a lot of your time training employees and managing work schedules for the store. You may also order inventory, help customers, evaluate what your store’s competitors are doing, and set up shop displays. Additionally, you’ll head the sales team by setting goals, creating training programs, and analyzing data. You might also be in charge of the store’s budgets and be tasked with attracting new customers and helping to improve the experience of existing customers.

Sales support specialist

Average base salary: $44,325

As a sales support specialist, you’ll perform a variety of tasks to support the sales team. This may include doing market research, cold calling prospects, and getting materials ready. You might also help provide solutions to product-related issues, help carry out customer requests, and maintain client records. As a sales support specialist, you’ll also manage the help desk or online chats to provide sales-related support.

Account manager

Average base salary: $55,031

As an account manager, you’ll provide customer service to your dedicated accounts. You’ll manage client accounts, answer questions, provide solutions, and contribute to your company’s ability to provide a positive client experience.

Human resources coordinator

Average base salary: $43,401

As a human resources professional, you’ll work closely with employees, to help them understand their benefits and deal with any compliance or disciplinary issues. You may also oversee hiring, onboarding, and training processes, and you may be required to bridge the gap between management and employees. To further your career and move into management, you’ll need to become well versed in governmental regulations and employment law, and you may need to pursue an advanced degree.

Next steps

Beyond pursuing an associate degree, you have other options for furthering your education and increasing your business knowledge. With a Professional Certificate from industry leaders like Google, HubSpot, and SalesForce, you can learn from anywhere with an internet connection and qualify for entry-level business positions in about six months.

Explore business courses on Coursera. Sign up for a free 7-day trial and gain access to over 5,000 courses, certificates, and degrees. Join our global community and start learning today!

Related articles

  • What Is an Associate Degree? Requirements, Costs, and More

  • 10 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get with an Associate Degree

  • How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate Degree?

  • Your Guide to the Associate Degree in Business Administration

Article sources

1. College Board. “Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2021, https://research.collegeboard.org/media/pdf/trends-college-pricing-student-aid-2021.pdf.” Accessed July 27, 2022.

2. Zippia. “How to Become a Customer Service Manager in 2022: Step by Step Guide and Career Paths, https://www.zippia.com/customer-service-manager-jobs/.” Accessed July 27, 2022.

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