What Is An Associate’s Degree?

Student reading a book with text: what's an associate's degreeAn associate’s degree is a 2-year degree that you can complete after secondary school. Associate degree programs aim to offer students a faster, less expensive path of study. On completing the program, you will have gained the basic knowledge necessary for certain employment opportunities. Additionally, you could also transfer to a 4-year college an earn a full bachelor’s degree in just two additional years.

Basic Things to Know about an Associate’s Degree

A typical associate degree program is 60 semester credits of study.

The associate degree program generally takes 2 years to complete, though there is a lot of flexibility. Some institutions offer an accelerated option that allows students to complete the program in only one year.

This is particularly useful to those students want to pursue their education while still working a job or tending to family.

These programs focus on equipping student with the basic foundation and academic knowledge in a specific field. An associate’s degree can qualify you for an entry-level job in a specialized field.

Transferring from a Community College to a 4-Year School

Students who have earned an associate’s degree are also qualified to continue into a bachelor’s degree program. These are known as 2+2 programs, because you earn an associate’s degree in two years, then transfer to another college/university to finish out another two years and earn a bachelor’s degree.

This is a great solution for students who can’t attend a full, “traditional” bachelor’s degree program either due to time or money constraints. Additionally, attending a community college first can save thousands by way of tuition fees.

Most associate degrees are awarded by public community colleges or private career colleges. Also, an increasing number of community colleges are offering a wide range of associate degree programs online.

Types of Associate Degrees

As with any other degree, there are several factors to consider when deciding which one is right for you. The first thing to consider is what type of job you are looking for. Does it call for more math and science knowledge, or is it more business oriented?

There are 4 types of associate’s degrees you can choose from:

  • AS (Associate of Science)
  • AA (Associate of Arts)
  • AAA (Associate of Applied Arts)
  • AAS (Associate of Applied Science)

The Associate of Science degree focuses on math and science subjects including computer science, engineering, physics, and chemistry and health sciences.

The Associate of Arts degree focuses on humanities, social sciences, economics, philosophy, and similar subjects.

AS and AA

The AS and AA degrees focus more on academic requirements and also general education courses. They aim to prepare students for higher levels of study. You will have to choose one of these associate’s degree programs if you want to go on to a bachelor’s degree.


The AAA and AAS focus more on hands-on learning and practical vocational skills. They prepare students for a specific career. These may be the better choice for you if you wish to enter the job field directly. When opting for an applied degree, it is important to choose a program that matches your intended field.

Possible careers depend on the both, the type of associate’s degree you earn and your choice of major.

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