Associate of Arts (AA) Degree

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Associate of Arts student studying in the library

An Associate of Arts (AA) Degree (often mistermed Associates of Arts Degree or Associates in Arts Degree) is a two-year undergraduate degree program that is typically offered at a junior, technical, or community college – although some four-year colleges also offer AA degrees. An Associate of Arts (AA) degree provides students a general liberal arts education that prepares them for a bachelor’s degree program at a four-year university. In order for credits earned through an Associate of Arts degree to transfer to a four-year university and meet the general education requirements of a bachelor’s degree, the program and/or the school where the associate degree is earned should be regionally accredited. If an Associate of Arts degree is earned at a nationally accredited community or junior college it is possible, and likely, that the credits earned won’t be transferable to a four-year college or university, most of which are regionally accredited.

Similar to a Bachelor of Arts (BA), an Associate of Arts provides students with a foundational education in liberal arts. Studies may include coursework in humanities, social sciences, history, and mathematics, among other subjects. While the AA degree helps students gain useful career skills, they are typically designed as a stepping stone into a bachelor’s degree program. For students seeking a 2-year technical or career-oriented degree, consideration should be given to earning an Associate of Science (AS) or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree.

Associate of Arts (AA) Degree Requirements

Students pursuing an Associate in Arts degree are typically required to complete between 48 and 60 semester hours of coursework. While an AA allows for students to take several electives of their choosing, the degree also has several required areas of study, which usually include communications (written and oral), humanities (ethics, music appreciation, etc.), social sciences (psychology, anthropology, etc.), natural sciences (biology, physics, chemistry, etc.) and foundational mathematics. On average, an AA program includes roughly 15 to 20 hours of elective coursework and 30 to 50 hours of structured core coursework.

Transfer Degrees and Articulation Agreements

While most community colleges are nationally accredited, some are regionally accredited, whereby enabling their students to transfer credits earned to a four-year university, which typically only accept transfer credits from other regionally accredited institutions. Some community colleges have transfer or articulation agreements with four-year colleges and universities that guarantee automatic admission of their graduates and/or transferability of all credits earned via an associate’s degree. It’s always important to check with a transfer counselor before starting an AA program as admission and transfer policies vary from school to school.

Benefits of an Associate of Arts (AA) Degree

Earning an AA degree has several benefits. The credits earned in an Associate of Arts program at a community college are typically far less expensive than the same credits earned at a four-year higher education institution. As long as you earn your AA degree at a regionally accredited community college and/or at a community college that has established articulation agreements with a university you want to attend, you can really get a good deal on your education.

An Associate of Arts degree is also an excellent stepping stone into a bachelor’s degree program at a four-year college or university. If you didn’t shine academically in high school, earning a good GPA in an AA degree program provides you a second chance to prove that you have the academic acumen and skill set to succeed at a four-year university.

Finally, an associate degree will provide you the opportunity to explore various disciplines and career fields. If you’re not quite sure which major or career you want to pursue, an associate degree will allow you to explore your options and make up your mind without incurring the cost of a full bachelor’s program.

Career Opportunities

An Associate of Arts is primarily a foundational degree that prepares students to pursue a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college or university. Notwithstanding, students will gain useful skills and knowledge that are directly applicable in any workplace such as critical thinking, problem solving and communication. Students who enter the workforce following the completion of an AA degree will be prepared for entry-level positions in government, social services, and business.