Grammar Is It Associate Degree or Associate’s Degree? |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Is It Associate Degree or Associate’s Degree?

American English is replete with style questions and details. One item that can remain elusive for those seeking consistency in their writing is the treatment of academic degrees. If you complete your education at a community college, have you earned an associate degree—or an associate’s degree?

Let’s discuss that further and arrive at direction you can use.

Does Associate’s Degree Need an Apostrophe?

In many cases, you can use either associate’s degree or associate degree as you choose. In daily formal writing, you will often be correct either way. If on the other hand you write where there are in-house style guidelines, follow what is established.

You might also choose to maintain a particular stylebook’s direction. The Chicago Manual of Style, which is commonly used for more-formal publications such as books and academic journals, allows for either associate degree or associate’s degree.

The Associated Press Stylebook, which guides many mass-market publications such as newspapers and magazines, recommends associate degree (no apostrophe). 

Should I Capitalize Associate (Associate’s) Degree?

Note that neither we nor the two stylebooks use capital letters when referring to the degree in general. However, we would capitalize Associate (no apostrophe) if we are identifying a specific type of associate’s degree, such as:

Associate of Applied Business (AAB) Associate of Engineering (AE/AEng)
Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN)
Associate of Applied Technology (AAT) Associate of Occupational Studies (AOS)
Associate of Arts (AA) Associate of Science (AS)
Associate of Business Administration (ABA) Associate of Technology (AT)


Nmakani recently earned an associate (or associate’s) degree.

Nmakani recently earned an Associate of Science degree.

We would capitalize associate degree or associate’s degree if it appears in a title or headline or at the start of a sentence.


“Jobs That Pay Well With an Associate’s Degree” (article title)

Provo UT Man Turns Associate Degree into Success (newspaper headline)

Associate degrees are a great way to save on a college education. (sentence)

What Is an Associate (Associate’s) Degree?

An associate degree is an undergraduate degree awarded after a course of post-secondary study at a community college, vocational school, or technical college. It is a level of education and qualification above a high school diploma or GED and below a bachelor’s degree.

Many associate degrees are earned in sciences and the liberal arts, often in two years. One year of study will usually focus on college-level general education, and the second year will concentrate on the student’s intended area of discipline.

In the U.S., an associate degree may allow transfer into the third year of a bachelor’s degree at a college or university depending on the institution’s course and transfer requirements.

An associate degree can be attractive to a student in that it completes about half the study of a four-year bachelor’s degree for less than half of the expense or even one-fifth. The average annual cost of attending a U.S. private college in 2021 is around $50,000 per year. The average annual cost to attend a university for in-state residents is about $23,000. These amounts include tuition, fees, and room and board.

By comparison, the average yearly cost to attend a community college is between $10,000 and $11,000.

Related Topics

Is It Bachelors Degree or Bachelor’s Degree?
Is It Masters Degree or Master’s Degree?

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