Associate Degrees (AA, AS, AAS, AAA)

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Associate degree students doing a class project_

What Is An Associate Degree?

Associate degrees are undergraduate degrees that can be completed in two years and generally require students to complete 60 semester credit hours. They are primarily offered by junior or community colleges and vocational schools. Some four-year colleges and universities also offer associate degrees.

What You Should Know About Associate Degrees

Two Main Categories of Associate Degrees: Occupational and Transfer.

Occupational Associate Degrees

Occupational associate degrees are designed to help students acquire specific knowledge and skills in preparation for a particular career path. These associates degrees include the Associate of Applied Science (AAS), Associate of Applied Arts (AAA), Associate of Occupational Studies (AOS) and Associate of Applied Technology (AAT).

See all associates degree abbreviations below.

As occupational degrees are intended to prepare students to enter the career field immediately following graduation, they tend to be much more hands-on and skill-based than transfer degrees. Notwithstanding, occupational degree program still have several general education requirements, which include coursework in English, math, and communications. The associate credits earned via an occupational associate degree may still be applied toward a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college.

Transfer Associate Degrees

In contrast to occupational degrees which are very hands-on and skill development-driven, transfer associates degrees are more academic in nature and have a greater focus on general education and liberal arts. Transfer degrees are designed to prepare students to pursue a four-year degree at a college or university. Courses offered in transfer degree programs include mathematics, writing, literature, science, and English. Even though transfer degrees are not career oriented, many do allow students to pursue a specific major or field of study.

The two most common types of transfer associate degrees are the Associate of Arts (AA), a liberal arts degree, and the Associate of Science (AS), a liberal arts degree with a greater focus on math and sciences. Unlike the AAS degree, which is primarily an occupational degree, the AA and AS degrees are traditional tracks for students looking to transfer to a four-year college upon graduation. Other liberal art oriented associates degrees include Associate of Arts in Teaching (AAT), Associate of Engineering Science (AES), and Associate of Fine Arts (AFA).

How to Make Sure Your Associate Degree Credits Will Transfer

If your plan is to transfer to an accredited four-year college after completing your associate degree, you’ll want to make sure the community college where you earn your degree is regionally accredited. Most four-year colleges (which are regionally accredited) will only accept transfer credits from community colleges that are regionally accredited. Before enrolling in a program review your options with a college counselor.

The Benefits of Earning an Associate Degree

The following are some of the benefits of earning an associates degree.

  • Increased Earning Potential – On average, a professional with an associate degree will earn $400,000 more during their lifetime than a professional with only a high school diploma.
  • Increased Employment Opportunities – Compared to those with a high school diploma, the unemployment rate is substantially lower for those with an associate degree.
  • Cost of An Associate Degree – The cost of earning an associate degree is typically much less than it is for earning a bachelor’s degree. Best of all, if you earn an associate degree at an accredited community college you can apply your credits toward a bachelor’s degree down the road.
  • Convenience – Associate degree programs at community colleges and vocational/technical schools are typically quite flexible. Many offer night-time, weekend and online classes tailored to meet the needs of working adults and students.
  • Additional Certification – Many associate degree programs allow students to earn a professional certificate after one year or less of study. This enables students to gain a valuable credential quickly, which can aid them in their current career.

Choosing a Junior College, Community College, or Online School

The school you choose to earn your associate degree can make all the difference in the world. The first thing you’re going to want to look at is accreditation. Is the school regionally accredited? If you plan on transferring to a four-year college after earning your associate degree, it’s imperative you earn your degree from a regionally accredited community college or vocational school. Most four-year colleges and universities are regionally accredited and will only accept transfer credits from other regionally accredited institutions.

Other factors you’ll want to consider are curriculum, transfer rates, available degree programs and courses, faculty qualifications, academic facilities and support, career services, and graduation and job placement rates.

Associates Degree Abbreviations

  • AAAssociate of Arts
  • AE – Associate of Engineering or Associate in Electronics Engineering Technology
  • ANAssociate of Science in Nursing
  • ASAssociate of Science
  • AF – Associate of Forestry
  • AT – Associate of Technology
  • AAA – Associate of Applied Arts
  • AAB – Associate of Applied Business
  • AASAssociate of Applied Science or Associate of Arts and Sciences
  • AAT – Associate of Arts in Teaching
  • ABA – Associate of Business Administration
  • ABS – Associate of Baccalaureate Studies
  • ADNAssociate Degree in Nursing
  • AES – Associate of Engineering Science
  • AET – Associate in Engineering Technology
  • AFA – Associate of Fine Arts
  • AGS – Associate of General Studies
  • AIT – Associate of Industrial Technology
  • AOS – Associate of Occupational Studies
  • APE – Associate of Pre-Engineering
  • APS – Associate of Political Science or Associate of Public Service
  • ASPT-APT – Associate in Physical Therapy

Best Jobs for Associate Degree Holders

Occupations With the Most New Jobs

OccupationTotal Job OpeningsFrom GrowthFrom Replacement NeedsMedian Annual WageTrainingExperience
Nursing assistants599,000262,000337,000$25,100NoneNone
Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers404,50098,800305,800$39,520Short-term on-the-job trainingNone
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses322,200117,300204,900$42,490NoneNone
Medical assistants262,100138,900123,300$29,960NoneNone
Automotive service technicians and mechanics237,20039,100198,100$37,120Short-term on-the-job trainingNone
Hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists212,10058,400153,700$23,120NoneNone
Preschool teachers, except special education158,70029,600129,100$28,120NoneNone
Dental assistants137,50058,60078,800$35,390NoneNone
Firefighters112,30017,40095,000$45,970Long-term on-the-job trainingNone
Emergency medical technicians and paramedics98,00058,50039,500$31,700NoneNone
Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers84,20039,60044,600$44,630Long-term on-the-job trainingNone
Paralegals and legal assistants82,70021,20061,400$48,350NoneNone
Medical records and health information technicians71,20029,00042,200$35,900NoneNone
Dental hygienists70,30037,40032,900$71,520NoneNone
Medical and clinical laboratory technicians68,10029,00039,000$38,370NoneNone
Web developers58,60039,50019,100$63,490NoneNone
Physical therapist assistants54,70031,90022,800$54,410NoneNone
Radiologic technologists54,40017,20037,200$55,870NoneNone
Library technicians53,9005,30048,600$31,680NoneNone
Phlebotomists51,60028,10023,500$30,670NoneNone

*median salary data from May 2014

Jobs That Require An Associates (At Minimum)

All jobs listed below require an associate degree, have an average annual salary of $35,000 or more, and have a steady or increasing projected job growth rate. Included is whether or not the job requires on-the-job training.

OccupationOn-the-Job TrainingProjected New JobsProjected Growth Rate2015 Median Pay
Aerospace engineering and operations techniciansNone0 to 9990 to 9 percent$55,000 to $74,999
Agricultural and food science techniciansModerate-term on-the-job training1,000 to 4,9990 to 9 percent$35,000 to $54,999
Air traffic controllersLong-term on-the-job trainingDecliningDeclining$75,000 or more
Architectural and civil draftersNoneDecliningDeclining$35,000 to $54,999
Avionics techniciansNone0 to 9990 to 9 percent$55,000 to $74,999
Broadcast techniciansShort-term on-the-job trainingDecliningDeclining$35,000 to $54,999
Cardiovascular technologists and techniciansNone10,000 to 49,99920 to 29 percent$35,000 to $54,999
Chemical techniciansModerate-term on-the-job training1,000 to 4,9990 to 9 percent$35,000 to $54,999
Civil engineering techniciansNone1,000 to 4,9990 to 9 percent$35,000 to $54,999
Computer network support specialistsNone10,000 to 49,9990 to 9 percent$55,000 to $74,999
Dental hygienistsNone10,000 to 49,99910 to 19 percent$55,000 to $74,999
Desktop publishersShort-term on-the-job trainingDecliningDeclining$35,000 to $54,999
Diagnostic medical sonographersNone10,000 to 49,99920 to 29 percent$55,000 to $74,999
Drafters, all otherNoneDecliningDeclining$35,000 to $54,999
Electrical and electronics draftersNone1,000 to 4,9990 to 9 percent$55,000 to $74,999
Electrical and electronics engineering techniciansNoneDecliningDeclining$55,000 to $74,999
Electro-mechanical techniciansNone0 to 9990 to 9 percent$35,000 to $54,999
Environmental engineering techniciansNone1,000 to 4,99910 to 19 percent$35,000 to $54,999
Environmental science and protection technicians, including healthNone1,000 to 4,9990 to 9 percent$35,000 to $54,999
Funeral service managersNone1,000 to 4,9990 to 9 percent$55,000 to $74,999
Geological and petroleum techniciansModerate-term on-the-job training1,000 to 4,99910 to 19 percent$55,000 to $74,999
Human resources assistants, except payroll and timekeepingNoneDecliningDeclining$35,000 to $54,999
Industrial engineering techniciansNoneDecliningDeclining$35,000 to $54,999
Magnetic resonance imaging technologistsNone1,000 to 4,99910 to 19 percent$55,000 to $74,999
Mechanical draftersNoneDecliningDeclining$35,000 to $54,999
Mechanical engineering techniciansNone0 to 9990 to 9 percent$35,000 to $54,999
Medical and clinical laboratory techniciansNone10,000 to 49,99910 to 19 percent$35,000 to $54,999
Medical equipment repairersModerate-term on-the-job training1,000 to 4,9990 to 9 percent$35,000 to $54,999
Morticians, undertakers, and funeral directorsLong-term on-the-job training1,000 to 4,9990 to 9 percent$35,000 to $54,999
Nuclear medicine technologistsNone0 to 9990 to 9 percent$55,000 to $74,999
Nuclear techniciansModerate-term on-the-job trainingDecliningDeclining$75,000 or more
Occupational therapy assistantsNone10,000 to 49,99930 percent or faster$55,000 to $74,999
Paralegals and legal assistantsNone10,000 to 49,9990 to 9 percent$35,000 to $54,999
Physical therapist assistantsNone10,000 to 49,99930 percent or faster$55,000 to $74,999
Preschool teachers, except special educationNone10,000 to 49,9990 to 9 percent$25,000 to $34,999
Radiation therapistsNone1,000 to 4,99910 to 19 percent$75,000 or more
Radiologic technologistsNone10,000 to 49,9990 to 9 percent$55,000 to $74,999
Respiratory therapistsNone10,000 to 49,99910 to 19 percent$55,000 to $74,999
Veterinary technologists and techniciansNone10,000 to 49,99910 to 19 percent$25,000 to $34,999
Web developersNone10,000 to 49,99920 to 29 percent$55,000 to $74,999

Sources



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