What is an Associate Degree Everything You Must Know in 2020

Undergraduate studies have two types of degrees that you can earn as a student. If you are thinking of getting a degree, you might be confused about the one you should pursue. All degrees are good and beneficial, but they can best be taken advantage of if you understand the meaning of the degrees, what is it for? And Who is it for?

Many people even ask questions about the best associate degrees they can pursue, while others wonder whether they can ever secure a job with an associate degree. And that is why we will be explaining many things in this guide. What you should know about the Associate’s degree, the type of associate degrees available, and why it is important for you to get an associate degree.

Is it compulsory that you earn an associate first before your bachelor’s? Do you even need an associate before you get a good job? And also, what are the examples of lucrative jobs you can get with an associate degree. What are associate’s degree requirements? With your high school diploma, are you qualified for admission to study associate’s degrees?

The above are the frequently asked questions that will be answered in this post. But for a start, bear in mind that in undergraduate studies, associate degrees have the shortest length of study and are less specialized.

And the mode of learning for the degree can either be full-time or part-time, and some colleges offer an online associate’s degree.

Why Get an Associate Degree?

Why should you ever think of getting an associate degree? What do you stand to gain with an associate degree? 

An associate degree is a 2-year college degree that the student can pursue after high school. It is offered mostly by junior and community colleges. Therefore, the first reason you should get an associate is because of the shorter time. If you cannot bear the stress and time it will take to earn a four-year degree; then you should consider getting an associate.

The standard of admission for an associate is lesser than the one for a four-year degree. The required mark for a bachelor’s degree is always much. But with an associate, you can earn your degree in two years and later use the point to transfer to study bachelor. 

So, if an associate is easily accessible, why not go for it and use the credit from your associate’s degree to transfer to earn the bachelor’s later.

The degree is also known as a Transfer degree; the two years used in pursuing the associate are equivalent to the freshman and sophomore in college. So, getting an associate degree will fasten up your pace to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Deciding on the field to major in might be hard sometimes, and you might need to explore various topics, so you eventually choose the best one for you. The only degree that will grant you more opportunity to do this is the Associates. 

If you do not have the ambition for an advanced study, what you want is to study for a few years and then start working. Your best at achieving this is to pursue an associate degree because the associate of science aims to prepare students for direct employment after the program.

Examples of jobs you can get with an associate’s degree are dental hygienist, a registered nurse, and air traffic controller.

Types of Associate Degrees

There are many useful associate degrees that you can earn, the list is many, but the common category of the degree is three. Although they are all Associate degrees, they have different functions tailored to meet the student’s different needs. The common types are Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, and Associate of Applied Science.

Associate of Art (AA) Degree 

What is an AA Degree?

The AA degree is an abbreviation for Associate of Arts; the AA degree meaning is drawn from its name “Art” because it consists mostly of liberal art subjects. The degree is general and provides the student opportunity to explore different subjects, including science and mathematics-related subjects.

There are various types of Associate of Arts degrees available; most of them were designed to serve as an intermediate study between high school and a 4-year college degree. But some are designed to train you on the skills necessary to make you employable. 

An example of program that can prepare you for employment is the Associates of Arts in Theatre Art. With the degree, you can become a theatre manager or a playwright. 

However, if you choose to use it as a transfer, some colleges affiliated with 4 years of college so that you can transfer directly after completing the program. And the transfer will be to the junior year and not the freshman.

The degree has general, electives, and core subjects, and both are taught differently each year during the program.

What is it for?

With an emphasis on subjects like sciences, history, psychology, education, and sciences, the AA degree is seen as the combination of several fields of study. It is best used to pursue advanced studies.

Who is it for?

This is basically for students that have not yet concluded on their area of interest. And that is why the degree was designed basically for Transfer. Unlike the associate of science, the degree is less specialized. 

Features of an Associate of Arts (AA) Degree

It is a two-year undergraduate degree and a Community College associate degree.

The program is both for transfer and preparation for some careers, but it is more focused on being used as a Transfer degree. The courses to be studied will depend on whether you are using it for a transfer or preparing for a career.

During the program, you will complete more credits on liberal arts courses than other Associate of Science and Associate of Applied Science.

If you are considering using an Associate of Arts to pursue your career, some of the jobs you can get are theatre manager, elementary school teacher, creative assistant, graphic designer, customer service representative, and operation manager.

In order to be considered as a graduate, you must have completed a credit hour of 60 and maintained the minimum CGPA of 2.0

One of the best things that an Associate of Arts will offer you is flexibility in your career path, and you are not restricted to a certain field.

Requirements and Eligibility

To be considered for admission for AA, you must have graduated from high school, completed the General education development, and other things depending on the program or college.

Some Examples of Associate of Arts (AA) Degree Programs

  • Associate of Arts in Accounting
  • Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies
  • Associate of Arts in Business Administration
  • Associate of Arts in Public Administration
  • Associate of Arts in Education
  • Associate of Arts in Hospitality Management

Associate of Science (AS) Degree

What is an AS Degree?

The best way to start a career in the medical or science and mathematics-related field is to pursue an AS. AS is an abbreviation for Associate of Science, and it is also a 2-year associate degree at the college.

Like the AA, an Associate of Arts is also offered mostly by junior or community colleges. Even though both AA and AS are associate degrees, they are often differentiated from their subjects. The Associate of Science focused more on subjects like biology, physics, engineering, computer, and a lot more. 

You can decide to enter the general program or study more specialized programs like nursing and dental, although they are often referred to as AAS.

You can also study this program in a school that has an affiliation with a four-year college. So, as you study the college will also ensure that you meet the general study requirement in the first and second year for the 4-year college.

What is it for? 

The Associate of Science degree can be used for two things either you pursue it to have foundational and a basic knowledge of your field of interest that you want to pursue in high school. Or on the other hand, you can pursue the program so you can start working immediately after school. However, this might depend on your area of specialization.

Who is it for?

The program is for a student that wants to have basic ideas about a particular field of interest because of gaining admission to the university or college for a four-year degree.

It is also for individuals that do not want to stay longer in academia and are looking for an option that will make them earn a degree in a shorter time.

Features of Associate of Science (AS) Degree

It also takes two years to complete the program and is often offered by a community or junior college, although universities do offer the program. The age requirement for admission is between 17 to 20 years.

It is a transfer degree but with a more specialized focus than the Associate of Science degree. The program offers both technical and vocational skills necessary to start working after concluding the program. 

Before you can earn the degree, you will have to fulfill 60 credit hours and a minimum cumulative Grade point of 2.0

Examples of jobs you can get with an AS degree are: dental hygienist, radiologic technologist, administrative assistant and you can become a registered nurse.

The mode of studying for the program can be either full-time or part-time.

Requirements and Eligibility

You must obtain a diploma from high school, complete and pass the General Education Development test, and do other things as required by the institution.

Some Examples of Associate of Science (AS) Degree Programs

  • Associate of Science in Accounting
  • Associate of Science in Accounting
  • Associate of Science in Business
  • Associate of Science in Agriculture
  • Associate of Science in Network Engineering
  • Associate of Science in Marketing
  • Associate of Science in Computer Science
  • Associate of Science in Engineering Science
  • Associate of Science in Mathematics
  • Associate of Science in Environmental Science 

Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

What is an AAS degree?

An associate of Applied Science degree is a two years degree that is mostly awarded by the community or junior colleges, technical colleges, and vocational schools although some universities and 4-year colleges also offer the program.

The degree is different from both AS and AA degrees, and the “Applied” in its name makes the difference. It is centered more on application than other associate degrees. The associate degree is more focused on career than other associate’s degrees.

The AAS degree is for those that want to get into the labor market in no time and has a more specialized focus than the Associate of Science and Associate of Arts degree. Rather than exploring different general courses the AAS focus directly on the focus that aligns with the student’s area of interest.

What is it for?

As stated earlier, the program is for gaining the needed vocational, and technical skills so you can be found suitable for employment in your area of interest. And it is not really applicable for use as a transfer degree, you may transfer in some fields and others might not accept. Some universities do not see it as a program that fulfills general requirements.

Who is it for?

It is for students that do not want to go through rigorous study in a four-year college before they can start working. So, it is for those that want to start working earlier. It is mostly available for students in technology-related fields.

Features of Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Degree

It is an Associate degree that runs for two years, it is distinct from other associate degrees because the degree aims more on equipping students with skill sets that will make them marketable and employable.

It is rarely used for transfer and if you are considering a transfer to the university later it would be best that you opt-in either for an Associate of Science or Associate of art degree.

You must fulfill the same requirement with AS and AA before you can graduate from the program, 60-semester credit point which equals 90 quarter credit points. Although more specialized than the AA and AS degrees.

You can get jobs using an AAS degree, some of the jobs are certified occupational therapist assistant, nurse, medical assistant, medical laboratory technician, respiratory therapist, and certified surgical technologist.

Requirement and Eligibility

You are eligible to study AAS if you have a high school diploma, passed the GED test, and fulfill other requirements by the college of your choice.

Some Examples of Association of Applied Science (AAS) Degree Programs

  • AAS in Agricultural Production
  • AAS in Mechanical Technology
  • AAS in Computer Programming
  • AAS in Information Technology
  • AAS in Graphic Design
  • AAS in Computer and Electronics Technology
  • AAS in Renewable Energy Technologies
  • AAS in Agriculture Technology
  • AAS in Business Administration
  • AAS in Information Technology 

How Much Does an Associate Degree Cost?

The cost of obtaining this degree is lower than the one for a bachelor’s degree. During your two years of stay in college pursuing an associate degree, you will be expected to spend a median cost of $3,570 as the tuition in a year at a public college while it might cost you $14, 587 at a private institution i.e. for both years at a private college.

What Does an Associate Degree Do for Your Career?

Identifying Your Area of Interest

Not everyone gets to decide on the area they want to major in right from the high school. There are times when you are confused about the field you can specialize in. If you are in this position, it is a problem that an associate degree can solve. While pursuing associate degrees especially AA, you will have the chance to explore different courses from different fields.

Then you will be able to decide the one you love most or the one you can comfortably cope with in the future.


The tuition paid at the community colleges that offer associate degrees is lesser than the one you will pay in a 4-year college. If you can pursue an associate degree then you are almost done with your bachelor’s because a transfer to the university will make you a junior and not a freshman.

So, if you are looking for the best way to cut costs while pursuing your bachelor then you should consider pursuing an Associate’s degree first.

Starting Earlier

Asides from having an Associate degree, there are jobs that only require you to have a high school diploma. So, you still have a better chance of employment with the degree, and since it’s just two years you also have the chance to start working early.

Finally, With An associate degree, you are better than someone pursuing a bachelor’s degree but has not yet been awarded. You have a better chance of employment than the person who’s in bachelor.

What is the Difference Between AA Vs AS Vs AAS Degree?


  • AA: It is the best associate’s degree for Transfer because it mostly involves General Courses.
  • AS: Also good for Transfer but you also have a lot of chances at using this for a career.
  • AAS: This is rarely used for the transfer, in fact, if you know you will be doing transfer later to pursue a bachelor degree then this is not the right choice.

Level of Specializations

  • AA: The level of specialization is low and in fact, it doesn’t have any. It only focuses on different liberal art subjects.
  • AS: This is much more specialized than the AA, at least you will be able to learn some foundational things about your course of study.
  • AAS: It has the highest level of specialization; its main focus is getting the student ready for the labor market.


  • AA: The AA can be used to obtain a few jobs if you decide to stop your education, but the program is generally designed for advancement to higher learning.
  • AS: More career-oriented than the AA also designed for pursuing higher learning.
  • AAS: This has the primary aim of equipping the student the needed vocational skills to kick start their career. Therefore, AAS is career-oriented than AA and AS.

Top Highest Paying Jobs With an Associate Degree

Air Traffic Controller

They are in charge of coordinating the traffic at the airports and ensuring there is safe and effective air Travel. The instructions for landing and takeoff were issued by them, and they also direct the planes both on and off the ground. And it only requires two years of study in the Air Traffic controller schools.

It is one of the highest paying associate degrees as you can expect to have an average earning of $124,540.

Computer Programmers

 It is the job of the programmer to create codes for the effective running of software and applications. And you can learn this course within two years as an Associate degree, although also available at the bachelor’s level. 

It is also a Top paying associate degree. Computer Programmers Earn Around $82,240.

Radiation Therapist

They work at the hospitals, and they administer treatment to cancer patients using radiation. The expected growth for the profession is 13%. 

A radiation therapist is expected to earn an average of $80,570.

Dental Hygienist

Their responsibility is to help the people clean their teeth and also enlighten the patient about the importance of their dental health and also serve as an assistant to the dentist. The job has a growth expectation of 20%.

A dental hygienist can earn a salary of around $74,070.

Registered Nurse

An associate in nursing is the fastest and the most affordable way to study the course, although you will still need to earn a 4-year degree at the college. 

The salary is $70,000.


Earning an Associate degree is a good way to start your career, but before you think of pursuing the degree, make up your mind whether you want to transfer. Knowing this will help you know whether you should pursue the AA, AS, or AAS.

Frequently Asked Questions
Which Associate degree is the easiest?

The easiest is the Associate of Arts because it has more general courses.

How long is an Associate degree?

Typical Associate degree years will last for two years.

What is an Associate of Science Degree good for?

Depending on what you want to use it for, it is good for Transfer and also good for Employment.

How many credits for an Associate degree?

The associate degree hours have 60 credit hours per semester and 90 per quarter.

Helen Vlasova
Helen is the co-founder of admissionsly.com, 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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