Multiple Associate Degrees - Worth It or Not?

The big question on my mind (and the basis of this post) is, “Was it worth the effort to earn multiple associate degrees at my community college before applying to a 4-year university, or was it a waste of time and just simply prolonged my start date in a bachelor’s degree program?”

Currently, I am a non-traditional student at Fullerton College with 108 transferrable units at a 3.65 GPA and 7 associate degrees:

  • AA Business Administration
  • AA Economics
  • AA Interdisciplinary Studies: Science and Mathematics
  • AA Interdisciplinary Studies: Social Behavior and Self-Development
  • AA Interdisciplinary Studies: Social Sciences
  • AS-T Business Administration
  • AA-T Economics

I will also earn 2 more associate degrees at the end of the Spring 2020 semester:

  • AS Marketing Management
  • AA Interdisciplinary Studies: Arts and Human Expression

I entered all this information in my application for transfer to CSU Fullerton (my preferred choice), Cal Poly Pomona, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, and Penn State for the Fall 2020 semester.

When I started (actually re-started) this journey at FC in Fall 2015, earning multiple degrees was not my initial intention. Here’s how it played out:

I was a horrible college student in the beginning, having earned only a 2.0 GPA for 36 units in math, computer science, and some general education courses. I was working as an adminstrative assistant, performing desktop publishing and light programming duties. I worked a lot of overtime, which resulted in accumulating more W’s than grades. Within a few years, I was working as a full-time programmer/analyst earning a decent salary commensurate with a degreed programmer. It wasn’t until several years later that I finally realized I would not promote to any management position without at least earning a bachelor’s degree.

I enrolled in Business Administration at FC in Fall 2015. My advisor recommended I work towards completing an AD-T curriculum specific to CSUF. This would ensure that all CSU GE courses and major prerequisites would be completed. In addition, I needed to improve my overall GPA to be competive for acceptance due to my earlier low GPA. By end of Summer 2016, I earned a 4.0 GPA in all my courses and enough credits to earn an AA in Business Administration, but not the AD-T yet. I needed two more courses in Business Writing and Statistics. In reviewing the college catalog, I realized that the associate degree in Economics was very similar to Business Administration. I asked my advisor if I could earn both degrees at the same time. It was allowed only if I earned another 12 units of top of the 60 units required for the first degree, except for AD-T’s which allow for dual credit without the extra required units. Since I already had a few extra transfer credits from my earlier efforts and I needed 7 more units anyway for the AD-T, I figured it couldn’t hurt.

I applied to the Business program at CSUF for Fall 2017, entering my earned AA Business Administration information with another AA in Economics and an AS-T in Business Adminstration, both in progress to be completed by Summer 2017. I earned my second associate degree in Economics and was accepted to CSUF for Fall 2017. However, I did not complete my AD-T. At CSUF, my evaluator explained I would need to complete several pre-requisite courses prior to being allowed to begin enrolling in my major courses. However, the cost of these CSUF courses compared to the same courses at FC were 10 times as much. I didn’t think it was worth it at the time. I withdrew from CSUF before starting. FC had already started and the classes I needed were already filled. I would have to wait to enroll again.

I went back to FC in Fall 2018 and enrolled in the prerequisite courses and the final AD-T course. I added an additional course to earn another AD-T in Economics. However, I mistakingly did not apply to CSUF for Fall 2019. Instead, I would agressively save for tuition for CSUF for Fall 2020. My FC advisor informed me that the policy for the extra 12 units per degree had been removed and that I was already eligible for 3 additional degrees in Interdisciplinary Studies. By Summer 2019, I completed the final courses for both AD-T’s in Business Administration and Economics. Thus, I currently have earned 7 associate degrees, including 2 AD-T’s. I applied to CSUF again for Fall 2020. Looking ahead, I figured since I would have to wait another year to start the business program at CSUF, I might as well stay in school and earn the last IDS associate degree and another associate degree in Marketing Management. My rationale was that another course in marketing would benefit me in my business major at CSUF. But, truthfully, I think this became a degree game and possibly an obsession for me. I am anxiously awaiting acceptance to CSUF and/or my other backup universities.

So, there it is - in a nutshell. What the hell was I thinking, especially after re-reading what I just wrote for the post. Did I just waste time? Should I have stayed at CSUF in Fall 2017 and just paid the price for those pre-req courses? If I had, I might have finished my bachelor’s degree in Business Administration by now… heavy sigh

What do you think? Did any of you have a similar experience? My manager at work told me that these multiple degrees sort of look bad, like I am not focused. I argued that I was focused, which is why I earned a 4.0 from the 72 units I took at FC. Doesn’t it make me a better employee with management potential being so well-rounded in business, marketing, economics, and social sciences? I know that 9 associate degrees does not equate to a bachelor’s degree, but is it worth anything? Do any of you have multiple degrees at the same academic level?

Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks for reading this riduculously long post. Cheers to everyone in the New Year!

Just finish. Your major doesn’t matter at this point. Sit down with an academic and financial aid adviser at Fullerton and ask the question “what is the fastest way for me to complete a Bachelor’s degree”.

You don’t need to list your 9 Associate’s degrees on your resume once you have a BA. You’ll be a college graduate and that’s that.

1 Like

The problem will come with financial aid. You will likely need 60 hours from a four year university to get a Bachelors, but financial aid will cut off at around 130 hours. If you are self pay it won’t be an issue. But if you’re counting on financial aid you may have real problems.

1 Like

That’s interesting @Boxcar101. I will depend on some financial aid (student loan) to enroll at CSUF. Does it matter for financial aid that CSUF will cap my transfer units at 70 credits? Is there any separation of lower division and upper division units earned for financial aid qualification?

@Late2theGame There are two limits I am aware of.
(1) Pell Grants are only for 12 semesters/ 6 years.
(2) Satisfactory Academic Progress - Each school has it’s own policy on SAP, but looking over it generally you can’t go over 150% of the time it should take to get a degree. So if you want a 4 year BA/BS, you have to get it in the equivilant of 6 full time years of work, (180 hours, in other words.)

Here is CSUF description of SAP:

Click on
How Does CSUF Calculate the Maximum Time-Frame or “Unit Cap”?

The way I interpret that is you have 180 total hours to get a 4 year degree, including hours you take elsewhere and including hours that don’t count toward your degree.

Accordingly, it looks like you might just make it in under the cap, but you can’t afford many wrong steps! Good luck.

1 Like

Thank you again @Boxcar101 for the information. I read the linked CSU Fullerton webpage that your provided on financial aid eligibility. I may have made a huge mistake taking so many credits at Fullerton College. In my enjoyment to pursue and knock out multiple degrees that had overlapping courses, I may have made myself ineligible for the financial aid that I would need to attend CSUF. My vanity and ego may essentially be my downfall. If there is anything that I could pass on to any students falling into the same traps, it would be to focus on their degree of choice and get to their dream university as soon as possible.

I was accepted today to CSUF, my preferred choice, as well as Penn State World Campus (online). I’m excited, but worried that I will run into financial aid trouble with the amounts of units I have taken. I’m trying for scholarships, but I’m curious what my advisors at both schools have to say.

I SIR’d at CSUF mid-April, waiting as long as I could through the COVID-19 pandemic before I couldn’t wait any longer. I thought it best considering my complicated academic history so I could give the evaluation department a chance to review my record that will most undoubtedly be a nightmare for any evaluator that has the unfortunate luck to be assigned my case (if that’s how it works). I don’t want to be stuck with any holds for registration time in late June.

I had my online advisement meeting this week. I tentatively declared Information Systems as my concentration, though Marketing and Finance were close considerations. I was thinking about making one of them my second concentration, or even an Economics minor, due to my other degrees earned at FC. But I learned that adding any additional courses other than those required by the major would NEGATE my AD-T and require me to fulfill any pre-major requirement or lower division course that was waived by the AD-T. This includes the joint concentration majors under Business. Apparently, they are NON-ADT concentrations. I found this very interesting and informative. That bit of detail definitely would have altered my thinking years ago.

In any case, my advisor told me to wait another week or two, then keep up with the adjustments to my course evaluations to make sure they are credited accurately. Particularly since there is a unit transfer limit.

When it is time to revisit my advisor, I will take the advice of @blossom and seek guidance for developing a plan to complete a bachelor’s degree the fastest way possible, even if that requires changing my concentration.

Glad to see you are moving forward. Stick with the one major and get that degree without wandering down additional paths.

1 Like

Working with the CSUF advisor to help me choose the fastest and most appropriate path to earning my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, we looked at several concentrations based on my earned Associate’s degrees in Marketing and Economics, as well as Information Systems based on my long work history as a programmer/analyst. But the Finance concentration seemed (to me) the fastest path based on similar courses taken at FC, specifically the Real Estate track. The reason I thought this was that I had taken 3 real estate courses at FC (RE Principles, Legal Aspects of RE, and RE Practice). These courses were the required and approved courses by the California Dept. of Real Estate to qualify for taking the CA Real Estate Salesperson exam, which I took and passed earlier this year. These same courses are on the list of 12 units of electives that I am required to take. I thought for sure I would receive some kind of credit for having taken them and speed up my chosen educational path. However, the CSUF advisor informed me that I wouldn’t get any credit because they are upper division courses whereas FC were lower division. Also, because they require a letter grade, I could not test out of them. Additionally, no credit is given for outside experience since I earned my CA Real Estate Salesperson license.

My question to you is what makes the courses at CSUF so special over the same FC courses when both institutions satisfy the same course requirement by the CA DRE?

Those are 9 units of courses taken in a single semester at FC that I will now have to take again at CSUF. This seems like another argument that supports the wasted time at FC earning additional Associate’s degrees when it could have been used toward my Bachelor’s degree at CSUF.

Since all paths required the same effort and no path was faster than the other, I chose the Information Systems concentration based on my confidence of prior knowledge and experience.

Please just finish. Take one major and get that degree.

You will continue to be passed up for promotions because you still wont have a degree.


Don’t sweat it. You were obviously smart enough to do them at the same time and you knew you could achieve it. People are intimidated and will try to say the more the worse, but we all know how the saying truly goes. As long as you understand why you did it and can pride yourself on your successes. Some people pride themselves on one degree and make bank! You’re allowed to do the same. Great job.