AAAssociates of Arts and ASAssociate of Science

What is an Associate degree? The Associate Degree is a  post-secondary degree.  It is a degree that the student pursues within a period shorter than the bachelor’s degree; 2 years, although may choose to go by their pace. Over the past few years, degree has become common as people are looking for a short way to earn degrees without spending much time and money. The associate degree is categorized into two:

  •  Associate of Art (AA)
  • Associate of Science (AS)

You can find out below what is better AA or AS.

What is an AA Degree (Associates of Arts)?

AA is an abbreviation of Associates of Arts. AA is the best way to move to a university for a four-year bachelor’s degree and study many major subjects.  Also, the AA degree offers maximum flexibility for students who do not choose a university or a major in the transfer.

The AA degree is a two-year degree program that can provide training in disciplines such as humanities, mathematics, literature, history, psychology, and life sciences.  This associate arts degree is generally considered a step towards undergraduate studies.

The associate of art program includes both the core courses and the electives. The core courses are the foundational ones that will be focused on in the first year. While the electives are always studied in the second year, the degree can be taught both on the campus, in distance learning, and online.

There are a lot of skills that you can gain as a student in the program. Some of them are written and communication skills, the ability to work together with teams, i.e., Team management, application of learned theories to the practical world, and research, analysis, and evaluative skills.

The program involved courses that are somewhat general than specific. The AA diploma is generally considered a secondary education level, but some programs provide you with training that will qualify you for a good job.

If you are looking forward to working on time without spending much time and money on a four-year degree, AA is your best choice. Although state and private universities do not award this degree, the community and vocational colleges award them.

And the program is also seen as not centered on a career but more focused on foundation courses to prepare you for a four-year bachelor’s degree. It can also be called a Transfer degree. Before it can be awarded, it requires a 60 hours credit of course work.

The program includes both core and elective courses, but the core courses take more hours than the electives. You will spend an average of 15 to 20 hours on the electives while you are likely to spend between 30 and 50 hours with the core courses.

In conclusion, the Associate of Art gives you the opportunity to explore different fields of study. It is the best program to opt-in if you are confused about the field in which you should specialize.

What is an AS Degree (Associate of Science)?

Associate of Science is also a two-year degree that serves as a stepping stone to bagging your bachelor’s degree. They are both similar, but AS is more focused on careers. The course allows the student to combine both the general courses and the technical courses.

So, it prepares them for a career and at the same for a four-year degree.  The AS program is intended for students seeking a bachelor’s degree in mathematics or a science degree (or higher).

Generally, associate degrees in science, technology, and mathematics, and other technical fields are referred to as Associate of Science.

Unlike the AA, AS degree has fewer elective courses than the former; it focuses more on core courses. As a student in the Associate of Science program, you will gain various disciplinary understanding of natural and applied sciences, to further improve your research and critical thinking skills.

The program offers a rich learning experience and enables the students to specialize in courses and focus on areas of personal interest. The degree also allows the student to develop skills such as сompetence in the interpretation and measurement of data.

An associate in science also enables the student to develop the ability to express thoughts and make assumptions based on complex thinking. The course is best useful for those that want to develop an understanding of natural and applied sciences.

It is also a program that involves 60 hours of credit, of course, work before completion. The degree’s design is more focused on preparing the student for their various careers rather than an advanced study.

It is also called a vocational degree. With the program, students can actively start working as professionals in their various fields of interest. Some majors in AS include paralegal, remedial, entrepreneurship, and web design.

Difference Between AA and AS Degree

Deciding to take an associated program is a great way to start your career.  Choose a program that can provide you with the skills necessary for a well-paying job and give you more chances to obtain a full bachelor’s degree. However, the associate degree is divided into two, and you might find it difficult to choose whether AA or AS degree.

From the meaning of its name, AS solely focused on science and technology-related courses while the Associate of Arts comprises other ones.

The courses in Associate of Arts offer more flexibility because it can include some courses in AS courses such as science and math, although there might not be an in-depth study on them like in the Associate Degree.

Essentially, the AA degree is a general program and can help students to continue their education or enter different professional fields. While an Associate degree in science is more concentrated and you may need an additional course if you want to extend your studies.

Both are good to start a good career and advance in studies, but they focus differently on them. The Associate of Arts, also known as the Transfer degree, is primarily focused on pursuing advanced study, although you can still be employed with the degree.

While the Associate of Science is focused more on industries, the program is for those that have no interest in pursuing a four-year bachelor’s degree.

Another difference is that AA offers more electives than AS, although they both have the same hours of course study.

Minimum Requirements for AS and AA

The minimum requirement for AS and AA are similar as they are both associate degrees. But they might be different from schools. However, there will be certain similarities that connect them. Obviously, the student must complete the 60 hours of coursework and pass all the core subjects.

The minimum GPA to maintain is 2.0, and it applies mostly to all schools. The student must also pass the General Education. The minimum credit to pass is 36; anything below this will make you ineligible to be awarded the degrees.

How to Determine What Program to Choose?

After making the big decision to invest in higher learning, the next thing you have to do is choose the program. You might be happy that you are going for advanced learning, but you should also have in mind that the program is longer. And if care is not taken, you might be confused.

So, out of the many programs, how do you determine the best for you. If you are in this state of confusion or you do not want to be stranded in your choice. Then the tips below will help you determine your program in time.

  • Ask questions from people

This is very important, as you can never be an island of knowledge. And that apart, you are looking forward to applying so what you might know can be considered little. The information on the college website might not be enough or outdated. So, the next thing you can do is talk to someone.

Either you take the contact of the admission office to know about their requirement, or you can talk to the student of that school. 

It is important to do this so you can get to know whether you are eligible for the program or not.

  • Understand the cost of course

The cost of different programs differs, and also there are financial aids for some causes, while some do not have. The first thing is weighing your options, whether the program you want to choose can be financed by you. And if you know, ensure you choose the one that has financial aid. But if it does not have financial aids and you don’t have the money you might want to consider another program.

  • Do your research

This will save you from a lot of troubles both now and in the future. Ensure you research well the program. You have a goal that you are looking forward to achieving. The next question you should ask yourself is if the program matches the goal.

Is the program going to contribute or lead you to that goal? Ensure you check whether the program is enough for you to start working or you will need to study more before the program can be useful for you.

So, the next time you are discussing with your admission advisor, also discuss your goals and not only your career. This will enable them to guide you through.

  • Transferability

Is the credit of the course transferable? And how many credits can you transfer? These are the questions you must also ask yourself before choosing a program. If a program is similar, one allows the transfer, and the other allows. It might be advisable that you go for the one that can be transferred.

Apart from this, there are times that a course that has more credit transfer does not align with your goal, like the one that has less credit transfer. The bottom line is to pause and weigh your options to determine the best one for you.

  • Is the school accredited?

Accreditation is very important, especially if you are going to do transfers. Check whether the school you are applying for is accredited, whether regionally or nationally.

Because some schools do not accept a credit transfer from schools that are not accredited.

  • Time and lifestyle

Ensure you know the average time that the program will require. And be honest with yourself, so you can know whether you will devote such time. Do you have enough time available for the program?

Another thing to consider is the lifestyle; different programs have a different lifestyles. With your lifestyle, will you be able to cope with the program? And it is also essential that you know the lifestyle of the program before you apply. This will help you know whether you have what it takes to be successful in the program.

The most important part of how to determine the right program is by asking questions. If you have any doubt, ask questions. Do not keep your mouth sealed; this has to do with your future. So, asking any questions about it will really be worth it.

Other Associates Degrees

Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S)

The program is a post-secondary degree and prepares the student both for advanced studies or immediate employment.

The A.A.S degree is adapted to the needs of professional adults in various fields of application. 

Students choose the option or specialty corresponding to their profession. The program provides skills that are focused on career, and the student can start working right after the program.

Associate of Applied Science program is more practical oriented, so the student will spend much time in the laboratory and clinics depending on the course.

Associate of General Studies (A.G.S)

Associate studies for general studies are intended for students pursuing higher studies but do not know in which field they wish to study. These programs involve general education courses that teach basic skills and critical thinking to help students advance to higher college courses.

Therefore, if you are in need of more time to think about what to study or you want to explore in order to weigh your options, then general studies are the perfect choice for you. The program is basically for students who want a comprehensive study for their personal interests or other academic and professional goals.

The degree sets the minimum requirements for general education and provides great flexibility in designing and finding courses that correspond to individual studying goals.


Associate of art and associate in science degree is both branches under the umbrella of an Associate degree. It would be best if you know that there is no best degree between AA and AS. The AA or AS degree difference is best determined by you.

Which one suits your goal? Which one can you sacrifice your time and money for? They both offer flexibility at learning, but which one works most for you? Do you want to study more after the program or do you want to start working immediately?

These are the important questions you should ask yourself before choosing a degree between AA and AS. And peradventure; you are confused, then you can refer back to the guide on how to choose a program. But remember, it does not matter what you are choosing, ensure it aligns with your goal.

Frequently Asked Questions
Can I get a BS with an AA?

Yes, the AA is a two-year degree, and it’s meant to serve as a foundational study for a four-year bachelor’s degree. So, after completing your AA, you can do a transfer to another college to earn your BS

Do two associate degree equals to a bachelor?

The associate degree is a two-year program and the bachelor a four-year program, but two associates do not make a bachelor’s. You can only use an associate to gain admission for a bachelor degree

Can you skip your associate degree and go straight to a bachelor’s?

Yes, you could skip an associate degree. Getting an associate degree before the four-year bachelor’s is not compulsory. You can decide to go directly to earn your bachelor

Do you need your AA to get a bachelor’s?

If you already have your AA, you can use it to get a bachelor’s. The Associate of Arts is equivalent to the first two years (freshman and sophomore) for bachelors. But if you don’t have it and want to earn your bachelor directly, you do not need an Associate of Arts degree.

Helen Vlasova
Helen is the co-founder of, a career guidance website for students and young professionals. She has a degree in English from the University of Michigan. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, and traveling.

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