Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Degree

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Associate of Applied Science main - AAS students studying in the library

What Is An AAS Degree?

An Associate of Applied Science or AAS Degree is a two-year undergraduate degree similar to the Associate of Arts (AA) and the Associate of Science (AS) degree. The AAS degree is offered at most community colleges, technical colleges, and vocational schools, as well as a few bachelor’s degree-granting colleges and universities.

The Difference Between An AAS and An AS Degree

Unlike Associate of Arts (AA) and Associate of Science (AS) Degrees, which are designed primarily as transfer degrees, the AAS degree is designed for students who intend to enter the workforce immediately following graduation from their program. Consequently, most AAS degree programs require students to choose an area of emphasis or specialty early on in the program so they are adequately prepared for entry-level career positions within a specific field upon graduation.

Are AAS Degree Credits Transferable?

While some students who earn an AAS degree may transfer to a four-year college or university to pursue a bachelor’s degree, it’s important to note that some AAS courses are not granted transfer equivalency credit, nor will they fulfill the general education requirements of a bachelor’s degree program. If a four-year college degree is in your future, it is more advantageous to earn an AA or AS degree from a regionally accredited community college, or a community college that has established articulation agreements with four-year institutions.

Benefits of Earning an Associate of Applied Science Degree

Many of the benefits associated with earning an associate of applied science degree are the same as those for other associate degrees, but the biggest benefit of earning an AAS is that it is one of the fastest, most cost-effective ways of preparing for a career. Typically, a bachelor’s degree is the best preparation for entry-level career positions, but when you take into account that first, an associate of applied science degree is far less expensive than a bachelor’s degree and, secondly, that most AAS programs today teach real-world skills that are immediately applicable in the workplace, the argument can effectively be made that an AAS is a much better value than a bachelor’s degree. AAS degrees can be particularly valuable in IT career fields where employers are less concerned about your degree and more concerned about your skills set.

Popular AAS Fields of Study

The Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree can be earned in a large variety of specialties and disciplines. The following are a few of the more popular AAS fields of study:

  • Accounting
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Business Administration
  • Computer Support and Operations
  • Computer Systems and Network Technologies
  • Computerized Drafting and Design
  • Criminal Justice
  • Customer Relationship Management
  • Digital Art
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Fashion Business
  • Fitness and Recreation Management
  • Human Services
  • Individualized Studies
  • Medical Administrative Assistant
  • Nursing
  • Paralegal Studies
  • Physical Therapist Assistant
  • Polysomnographic Technology
  • Respiratory Care
  • Teaching Assistant
  • Theater Technology
  • Tourism and Hospitality Management
  • Veterinary Technology
  • Web Design

Career and Earning Potential With an AAS Degree

While most students graduating with an Associate of Applied Science degree go on to further study, many choose to enter the workforce in a variety of industries. Here are some examples of popular jobs and their corresponding salaries that are obtainable with an Associate of Applied Sciences degree:

Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Program and Degree Requirements

Many of the requirements for earning an AAS are the same as those required for an AA or AS However, as an AAS is intended to prepare students for a career, the degree typically requires the completion of 60 to 80 semester hours, as opposed to the 48 to 60 required for an AA or AS degree. Additionally, much greater emphasis is placed on technical and career training throughout the program. Most AAS programs require students to complete coursework in general education, technical specialization, and general electives and are typically required to earn a minimum number of credits in each area. Most schools also require students to maintain an overall GPA of 2.0 or higher in order to graduate.

General Education Requirements

General education courses are designed to help students master basic skills that are important for both personal and professional development. General education courses will help students to develop critical thinking, problems solving, communication, and foundational computing skills, as well as the ability to efficiently process quantitative data. Areas of study typically include computer literacy, mathematics, communications (written and oral), and social sciences.

AAS degree mathematics student in front of blackboard

Technical Specialization of the AAS Degree

The technical specialization component of the AAS is designed to ensure students acquire the professional skills, knowledge, and experience required to become proficient and employable in their desired career field or discipline. Courses in the technical specialization are determined by a student career path, field of study and discipline. All technical courses specified in the selected program of study must be completed to graduate.

General Electives

The general electives component of an AAS program provides students with the opportunity to select courses of professional or personal interest. Unlike the general education and technical specialization components, students are typically at complete liberty to select any elective courses they want. However, smart students will sit down with a school guidance counselor to determine which elective courses will best support their desired career path.

Online Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Degree Programs

With the advent of the internet and huge leaps in digital communication, more and more degree programs are going online at every level, including associate degrees. Online AAS degrees offer students greater flexibility than campus-based programs and can be completed at their own pace. However, given the technical nature and hands-on requirements of many AAS programs, there are only a handful of good online AAS programs offered. These include the following:

Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Degree in Computer Information Systems

The Associate of Applied Science in Computer Information Systems is one of the most popular online associate degrees available. The AAS in Computer Information Systems (CIS) program is designed for working professionals and adults who are interested in acquiring the skills necessary to launch a career in information technology (IT) or positioning themselves for advancement opportunities in their current career.

Common topics addressed in this program include wireless network systems installations, hardware troubleshooting, software analysis and basic programming, data management and web development.

Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Degree in Business Administration

One of the more popular online AAS programs is the Associate of Applied Science in Business Administration. This flexible degree program is ideally suited for aspiring business professionals and managers who are seeking to increase their skill set or are looking to position themselves for entry-level managerial, operations, finance, bookkeeping or other business-related positions.

Typical topics covered in this program include accounting, finance, human resources management, communication, product management, organizational management, small business entrepreneurship and business management.

Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Degree in Accounting

Given that much, if not all, of its course curriculum, can be hosted on the internet, the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Accounting is one of the most popular of all available online degree programs. Not only is this program extremely flexible, it provides students a very useful and marketable skill set.

Topics covered in the AAS in Accounting online degree program include basics of accounting, financial analysis, economics, and communication. All subject matter addressed in this program can easily be performed and tested via any Internet-enabled computer terminal. Also, if you earn your AAS in Accounting from a regionally accredited institution you’ll (1) be qualified for entry-level career positions and (2) be able to transfer to a 4-year university to pursue a bachelor’s degree if you choose.

Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Degree in Criminal Justice

Another online AAS program that is growing in popularity is the Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice. This degree program is primarily designed for working adults and aspiring career professional who want to advance their current career or transition into a career in law enforcement and criminal justice. The online AAS in Criminal Justice covers a large variety of topics including criminal interviewing and interrogations, criminal law, constitutional law, terrorism, criminal evidence and procedure, corrections, and several other related subject areas.

International Associate Of Applied Science Degrees

Foundation Degrees in United Kingdom and Northern Ireland

In the UK and Northern Ireland, the Foundation Degree is the equivalent of an associate degree however it is more weighted toward preparing students for continuing education than toward specific areas of employment. Foundation Degrees are generally designed to guarantee a certain level of education that qualifies them for bachelor’s degree programs, and to assimilate non-UK students into the UK education system.

While Foundation Degrees are tuned more towards continuing education and will not qualify you for most graduate jobs, they can still give you a range of transferable skills that make you more attractive to employers, as well as giving you useful hands-on experience. After six months of graduating with a Foundation Degree, 55% of graduates employed in the UK were in managerial or professional jobs. This is lower than the 66% of Bachelor’s graduates in these positions but still significant.

You can search for Foundation Degree courses in the United Kingdom here.

Foundation Degrees in Europe

Many European universities also offer UK-inspired Foundation Degrees in a wide range of different subjects. Studying for a foundation degree in Europe is particularly useful for students who are also hoping to improve their language skills.

Most European Foundation Degrees take a year to complete, but some schools offer 6-month intensive programs. Subjects can be standalone or tailored toward further study at a particular institution.

You can search for Foundation Degree courses in Europe here.

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Here are some featured online Associate of Applied Science degree programs in the United States: