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What are the differences between Associate Degrees?

associates degrees

Do you need to earn an associate degree? But, don’t know where to start? There are several types, so, what are the differences between Associate degrees, such as the A.A., A.S., and A.A.S degrees? Here, we attempt to answer your burning questions about earning an associate’s degree.

Additional Resources: The 40 Highest Paying Jobs With A Trade School Education

Quick Summarization
There are several types of Associate degrees to choose from. The one you choose to earn is very important for your future career path. Before signing on, educate yourself on the differences between each one!


If you are beginning your college journey, you will need to start earning your associate’s degree; however, which one will fit your needs?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What sort of career aspirations do you have? What is your desired end goal?
  • How long do you have to earn your associate’s degree?
  • Will you want to transfer your credits to a bachelor’s degree program, and then perhaps, a master’s degree? 
  • Do you need a distance learning option or will attending your local community college meet your needs?
  • What are my other options? Can technical colleges teach me the concentrated skills I need at half the cost?

Differences Between Associate Degrees

There are three main types of associate degrees to consider. Let’s explore each one. 

Associate of Arts (A.A.)

associate of arts

The Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree program covers a wide array of liberal arts topics, such as English, Sciences, Sociology, Humanities, Visual Arts, and the like. With this skill set, your credits may be able to be transferred into a bachelor’s degree program, if so desired. 

On the other hand, some A.A. programs will prepare you for immediate employment. There are many trade-type careers available to the owner of an Associate of Arts degree.

Associate of Science (A.S.)

associate of science

The Associate of Science (A.S.) degree program includes coursework designed to prepare you for employment immediately after graduation; however, additional skills learned by earning your bachelor’s degree may be recommended. Typically, you can easily transfer your credits.

With an A.S. program, you may be asked to choose a concentration. When your general requirement courses are finished, you can complete your electives, often focused on science-related fields, such as biology, engineering, computer science, and many more. 

Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.)

associate of applied science

The Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) program is often considered a terminal degree; therefore, transferring credits may not be applicable, depending on the school. The A.A.S. degree will prepare graduates for real-life work options immediately after completion and is often awarded upon completion of a vocational program. In this setting, the general education requirements are very flexible.

If you think that earning a bachelor’s degree is in your future, don’t consider the A.A.S. program. You may need to spend extra time taking qualifying classes first if you decide to enroll in a bachelor’s degree program later.

Take a look at this: The 20 Easiest Online Associate Degrees

Consider These Facts Before Choosing An Associate Degree Program

  • Typically, earning your associate’s degree is a two-year degree program, while a bachelor’s degree is a four-year degree.
  • What can you do with your associate degree? An associate degree can gain you an entry-level job in almost all types of industries. Such fields include technology, healthcare, engineering, the travel industry, and much more.
  • Earning an associate’s degree is a great way to determine which career path is right for you.
  • But, keep in mind… earning an associate degree may not qualify you for a management or leadership position. You will need a bachelor’s degree, in most cases, for career promotions and to earn a higher salary.
  • Associate degree programs are plentiful and are easily earned through an online learning format.
  • Earning an associate’s degree is a good stepping stone to earning your bachelor’s degree, and for the cost-conscious student, the associate degree costs are cheaper than diving into a bachelor’s degree program right up front!
  • The curricula in an associate’s degree program will generally cover your required general education courses, as well as elective courses. For those who are interested in earning bachelor’s degrees, your credits can be easily transferred into a four year bachelor’s degree program, then you can select a major. However, if you choose to earn an Associate of Applied Science degree (which is often a “terminal degree”), you can also focus on a particular trade or technical knowledge, getting you out into the workforce immediately after graduating. Credits in an AAS degree are not typically transferrable.
  • Where can you earn your associate’s degree? Vocational schools, junior colleges or a community college where you live is the best place to earn your associate degree, which makes it particularly easy when you can attend college in your local area. Online associate degrees make it even easier and are also offered by community colleges!
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that on average, associate degree holders earn approximately $938 median weekly earnings, as opposed to bachelor’s degree holders who earn approximately $1,305 per week.
  • While in high school, a growing number of programs will allow you to earn credit for college courses to apply towards associate programs.
  • What courses can I expect in an associate degree program, you ask? Some examples may include general studies, humanities courses, business administration, science courses, fine arts, criminal justice, business management, math, and, to name a few. You’ll learn decision-making and critical thinking skills, as well as transferable skills that will serve you well personally and professionally.
  • As for career opportunities, the sky’s the limit! Sign up today for the right associate degree program for you! Associate’s degrees are a great start to your educational journey. It’s only the beginning!

Key Takeaway

It is crucial to find out the particulars of your associate degree program before signing on, therefore, ask about future credit transfers, accreditation, and the specific coursework needed for your chosen desired field to maximize your educational needs!


Are you ready to begin your college career? Take a look at this: The Top 20 Most Valuable Associate Degrees Online

Malcolm Peralty
Chief Editor