Associate degrees in business are a fast-track to the working world.

They say there’s more than one way to skin a cat; well, there’s also more than one way to get a degree in business. Some colleges offer two-year degrees, called associate degrees, in business instead of a full four-year degree. While the two-year degree obviously saves time and gets you toward a career more quickly, it is not without its drawbacks.

Core Concepts

An associate degree in business is likely to provide you with all of the basic knowledge that a four-year degree in business might. Programs like the associate degree from Penn State University aim to offer students a solid foundation in the concepts of business. Penn State says that its students graduate from the associate program with sufficient communication and mathematics skills to be well-rounded and knowledgeable

Workplace Ready

One of the main draws of a two-year program in business is that you’ll graduate ready to enter the workforce. Associate degrees tend to focus on the skills needed to make you a good worker in the business world while laying the base for further stud, should you decide to go on an get a bachelor's in business. Broadview University’s associate degree prepares students for entry-level management positions while teaching what it calls “employer-requested skills”

Lack of Transferable Credits

Associate degrees are often lauded by universities as courses that prepare you for a bachelor's degree, but don’t assume that two years of work on your associate degree means only two further years of study to get your bachelor’s. Even Penn State’s recruitment office warns that not all of its associate-level courses transfer to its bachelor programs. Researchers at Miami Dade College also found that many associate degree courses didn’t transfer toward a full degree. You may not want to consider an associate degree as a bridge into a full academic program, as you may end up short credits and could wind up studying longer.

Dropout Rates

The Miami Dade study also revealed that students in two-year programs were 15 percent less likely to complete their studies than students in an equivalent four-year program. When leaving a four-year college program, you retain the credits you achieved should you decide to return to school later. That’s true of a two-year program too, of course, but the credits aren’t necessarily transferrable, meaning that you may never get the time back that you put into your associate degree -- should you drop out. And dropout rates are higher in associate degrees: nearly 70 percent compared to 54 percent in a four-year course.