What Is the Difference Between an AA, AS, and AAS Degree?

Do you want to obtain an associate degree or you are wondering what is the difference between an AA, AS, and AAS? The information in this guide will show you the difference between an associate of arts (AA), an associate of science (AS), and associate of applied science (AAS) degree.

Generally, an associate degree can be completed in just two years. Those seeking an associate degree can choose from the variety of options available.

Associate of arts (AA), associate of science (AS), and associate of applied science (AAS) degree are types of associate degrees available at colleges. Associate of arts concentrates on liberal arts and general education, while an associate of science focuses on scientific and business subjects.

AAS is designed for students who want to get into the workforce.

Associate degree holders are employed by several employers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics in 2019, those with associate degrees earn about $890 as a weekly median salary.

AA, AS, and AAS Degree

What Is an Associate Degree?

Unlike a bachelor’s degree which takes four years to complete, an associate degree can be completed in two years. An associate degree is offered at accredited colleges.

Within just two years or less, students can obtain an associate degree at any college. Generally, students with an associate degree can also pursue a bachelor’s degree at colleges or universities.

An associate degree can be obtained from various accredited institutions such as community colleges, junior colleges, online colleges, and other four-year institutions.

Associate degrees offered at colleges vary and they serve different purposes. Each specializes in a specific field of study, but all the same, they are completed within two years.

Those with associate degrees can pursue a bachelor’s degree at colleges and universities. Every student has an academic goal and what they want to pursue.

The three types of associate degrees provide students with an opportunity to focus on a specific field of study. For instance, if you decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree at any college or university, you might choose a program based on your preference. But, if you intend to enter the workforce, then your best option is an associate of applied science (AAS).

Some associate degrees equip students with real-world skills and experience. Other associate degrees are more focused and consistent with subjects you might study at a four-year institution.

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What Is an Associate of Arts (AA) Degree?

An associate of arts degree focuses specifically on liberal arts and general education. 

With an associate of arts degree in early childhood education, you can get a job as a childcare provider. Those with an associate of arts in physical education studies can become athletic directors or personal trainers.

You can get jobs as a graphic designer or web publisher with an associate of arts in graphic design.

It takes about two years or less to complete an associate degree. So within two years, you can complete an associate of arts degree. 

An associate of art degree offers core courses such as English composition, college readiness, mathematics, social sciences, and history. Major-specific courses and electives are also added as part of the program.

What Is an Associate of Science (AS) Degree?

An associate of arts (AA), associate of science (AS), and associate of applied science (AAS) degree can all be completed in two years. However, the subjects differ for each associate degree.

An associate of science focuses on maths, business, and science-related majors. As a student pursuing an associate of science degree, expect these majors.

An associate of science degree holder can get jobs in different establishments. Graduates with AS degrees can apply for jobs as bookkeepers, database administrators, IT support specialists, staff accountants, and web developers.

Majors such as biological or engineering science focuses on preparation for bachelor’s level study areas. Graduates who specialize in these study areas may be eligible for entry-level careers.

On average, an associate of science program requires up to 60 to 65 credits before a student graduate. Expect to complete the credits within two years, which is how long it takes to complete an associate of science program.

Core courses in an associate of science program include college readiness seminars, general education and electives. Art, English, maths, and social studies are areas in electives you should expect. 

Students in associate of science programs also take introductory courses in their major study areas. They can also take elective courses before graduating.

For instance, if you are taking an information science major, expect to take courses in game design and development. Those pursuing an associate of science in health science can choose from nutrition, human biology or wellness.

What Is an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Degree?

We have discussed an associate of arts (AA), and associate of science (AS), now let’s look at an associate of applied science (AAS) degree.

An associate of applied science program is designed to equip students with real-world skills and experience. After completing the program within two years, graduates are prepared to enter the job market.

However, some associate of applied science programs does not prepare graduates for bachelor’s level studies. They only focus on providing practical skills for students who are interested in building future careers.

So, if you want to enter the workforce or set up a career right away, an associate of applied science is your best option.

Accounting, graphic design, law enforcement, marketing, and nursing are among the majors of an associate of applied science. Once you complete an AAS program within two years, you can be employed as a bookkeeper, staff accountant, digital marketer, law enforcement investigator, multimedia artist, housekeeping supervisor, or nurse.

An associate of applied science offers more subjects than an associate of arts and associate of science. AAS programs also require fewer general education credits.

An AAS program concentrates on college readiness, English composition, and lots more. You can complete an associate of applied science program in two just years. Credits to complete an AAS program are about 65.

What Is the Difference Between an Associate of Arts (AA), and an Associate of Science (AS) degree?

Whether you want to pursue an associate of arts (AA), an associate of science (AS), or an associate of applied science (AAS) degree, it only takes two years or less to complete.

Now the difference between an associate of arts (AA) and an associate of science (AS) degree is the majors they offer. An associate of science program focuses on maths and scientific majors, while an associate of arts focuses on liberal arts and general education.

Students pursuing an associate of science degree may take algebra, chemistry, or science courses.

An associate of arts degree is more of liberal arts and general education. Students enrolled in an associate of arts degree should expect courses like performing arts, human services, design, and culinary arts.

Liberal arts allows students to take a variety of classes in areas that may not be directly related to their major. Liberal arts provides a combination of courses for students to study outside their area of specialization.

For instance, a chemistry major in an AS program may need to take a class in English and history. On the other hand, an English major in an associate of arts program may be required to complete some science courses or mathematics classes.

Despite having different majors, an associate of arts and associate of science degree both have liberal arts requirements.

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What are AAS and AAA Degrees?

Generally, AAS is an acronym for an associate of arts, while AAA is an acronym for an associate of applied arts. An associate of arts and associate of science degree both offer maths, science, liberal arts and general education courses.

An associate of applied arts offers something different. An AAA degree program has a different curriculum. Associate of applied arts programs has fewer liberal arts requirements.

Students in AS or AA degree programs complete all their general curriculum classes before proceeding to an undergraduate degree program. It’s different for students enrolled in an associate of applied arts.

What Is the Primary Purpose of an Associate of Applied Arts (AAA) or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Degree?

We are still discussing the difference between an AA, AS, and AAS degree.

An associate of applied arts (AAA) can also be completed in two years. AAA degree programs have fewer liberal arts requirements.

An associate of applied science is the best option for students who are interested to enter the workforce. It’s an associate degree program that prepares students for the job market.

Just like other associate degree programs, an associate of applied science (AAS) program can be completed in two years. AAS programs require students to complete 60 credits before graduation.

Associate of applied science programs is more of maths and science courses. AAS programs are designed to prepare students with specific skills and provide required experiences for jobs.

An associate of applied science program is designed to set students for a career path as;

  • Dental Hygienist
  • Mechanic
  • Mechanical Drafter
  • Registered Therapist
  • Registered Nurse
  • Radiology Therapist
  • Respiratory Therapist
  • Physical Therapist Assistant

Associate of Applied Arts

An associate of applied arts program can be completed in two years just like other associate degrees. An AAA program is one with fewer liberal arts requirements.

Those who graduate with an associate of applied arts degree can get jobs in various establishments. Graduates with AAA degrees can have successful careers in business administration or computer science fields.

An associate of applied arts degree is the best option for students who want to get jobs as;

  • Music or Arts Teacher
  • Paralegal
  • Graphic Designer
  • Preschool Teacher
  • Creative Assistant
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Customer Service Representative

Accreditation and Cost of an Associate Degree

We all know that tuition at institutions varies based on the standard of education they offer. If you want to obtain an associate degree at a specific community college, the tuition will be different compared to other colleges you have once considered.

So, what you need to do is find out the tuition for your preferred institution. However, the cost for an associate of arts (AA), associate of science (AS), or associate of applied science (AAS) degree might be different.

When conducting your research for tuition at several colleges, it’s also essential you find out if an institution is accredited.

Employers consider this factor when job seeker with associate degrees submits their job applications. If you prefer attending an online school or a community college, ensure they are accredited.

Below are accredited institutions that offer online associate degrees.

CollegesAnnual Tuition
Allen County Community College$3,080
Clovis Community College$1,304
Holmes Community College$3,510
Great Basin College$3,593
Southern Marine Technical College$2,880
Laramie County Community College$4,613
Hutchinson Community College$3,240
San Juan College$$1,618
Albany Technical College$2,996
Arkansas Northeastern College$2,458
Barton County Community College$3,552

Do Employers Prefer an Associate of Science (AS) or Associate of Arts (AA) Degree?

An associate of Science degree holder can be employed in various establishments, just like those with an associate of arts degree.

There are specific career fields which employers consider favourable and will accept graduates with an associate of arts or associate of science degree.

Employers will consider graduates who are successful as;

  • Web developers
  • Dental hygienists
  • Air traffic controller
  • Occupational therapy assistants
  • Physical therapist assistant
  • Radiation therapist

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Frequently Asked Questions

Below are frequently asked questions regarding the difference between an AS, AA, and AAS degree.

Which is better, an associate of arts or an associate of science?

An associate of science degree is not better than an AA and neither is an associate of arts better than an AS degree. Both associate degrees are unique and serve different purposes. These associate degrees are available for students to choose from based on their interests.

Can I transfer credits to a bachelor’s degree?

Yes, you can transfer your credits to a bachelor’s degree program. Four-year institutions accept students from community colleges, especially if the students are residents of the state. You can transfer credits earned to a bachelor’s degree provided you obtained your degree from an accredited institution.

Conclusion

Now you know the difference between an AS, AA, and AAS degree and the cost to obtain an associate degree. Whether you prefer to attend an online institution or a community college, make sure the institution offers an accredited degree.

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