What is an associate degree?
An associate degree is a two-year college degree at the undergraduate level. Most Associate Degree options, including some of the most popular ones, are available at community colleges, however, many universities, colleges, and technical colleges also offer them.
Students in an associate degree program often study general education requirements and courses specific to their area of study.
Certain careers only require an associate degree to begin working. For others, an associate degree is one step toward further education, which can include pursuing a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, or a doctorate.
US News and World Report: By Farran Powell, Emma Kerr, and Ilana Kowarski
|Feb. 23, 2022, at 4:56 p.m.
Associate of Arts
Students often pursue an Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree as a first step toward getting a bachelor's degree. Many AA degrees are transferable, which means the credits count toward a student's bachelor's degree. Additionally, the focus of many A.A. degrees is not associated with a specific job or career. The classes students pursuing an A.A. degree take are very similar to what students take in their first two years of a bachelor's degree, including general education courses and humanities courses.
Associate of Science
Students may also pursue an Associate of Science (A.S.) degree before continuing to a bachelor's degree. An A.S. degree is often more science-focused than an A.A. degree and typically involves more math and science courses. However, not all A.S. degrees solely focus on science-related topics. Certain A.S. degrees, such as business or graphic design degrees, are less focused on science specifically. A.S. degrees are often adaptable to a wide variety of skills and industries.
Associate of Applied Science
Students who pursue an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree are generally searching for a more vocational degree that can be used to begin their career immediately after graduation. There is a wide variety of A.A.S. programs available, including those for becoming a paralegal, an early childhood educator, a chef, or a telecommunications technician. The courses included in an A.A.S. degree are usually more focused on building a student's skills for their career and less on meeting the requirements for a bachelor's degree.