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BellaOnline's Colleges Editor

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Associate Degrees

Guest Author - Susan D. Bates

In the United States, there are two main categories of associate degrees: associate degrees designed to help students prepare for a bachelor's degree program and associate degrees designed to help students train for a particular profession.

Bachelor's Degree Preparation

Many students complete associate degrees as a first step toward earning a bachelor's degree. There are associate degrees designed specifically for students who plan to enroll in a bachelor's degree program. These associate degrees consist mostly of the general education courses which are intended to fulfill general education requirements of a bachelor's degree program. Students should check the requirements of the college where they plan to complete their bachelor's degree to ensure that the coursework will fulfill the college's requirements.

Associate of Arts
The Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree is the most common type of associate degree for students who are preparing to enter into a bachelor's degree program. It is often a general degree (not specific to a particular field of study) requiring students to complete general education coursework. The A.A. degree is typically designed to fulfill all or the majority of the general education coursework required by a bachelor's degree program.

Associate of Science
There are two types of Associate of Science (A.S.) degrees. In most cases, it is a general degree program for students who want to transfer to a bachelor's degree program. It is similar to the A.A. degree; however, in many cases the A.S. degree requires more coursework in natural sciences and mathematics. Therefore, an A.S. degree can be a good choice for students who want to earn a bachelor's degree in a science or mathematics area of study.

Another type of A.S. degrees is designed to prepare students for occupational fields, such as graphic design or criminal justice. These A.S. degrees are designed to helps students prepare for a particular occupation, and might not be intended to help students fulfill bachelor's degree requirements. However, they will usually require more general education courses than than other career preparation associate degrees.

Career Preparation Associate Degrees


There are many different associate degrees designed to help students prepare to enter to workforce with training in a career field. The coursework required for these degrees is occupation specific, therefore, few general education courses are required. These degrees are not designed to fulfill bachelor's degree requirements. However, some colleges offer completion programs in related fields that allow students who have earned career-related degrees to apply the majority of their associate degree courses toward the completion of a bachelor's degree. Students interested in completing both a career-related associate degree and a bachelor's degree should consult bachelor's degree-level colleges of interest to determine the transferability of their associate degree coursework.

Some common career-related associate degrees include the following:

Associate of Applied Science
An Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree is an associate degree designed to prepare students to enter a variety of occupations. The career field that students earning an A.A.S. degree will vary depending on their academic program. Some examples of the programs of study could include business, culinary arts, and automotive technology.

Associate of Occupational Science
The Associate of Occupational Science (A.O.S.) degree is similar to the A.A.S degree. It is also designed to help students prepare for their chosen career field. The academic program associated with a particular associate degree varies between colleges. For example, an area of study that is an A.O.S. degree at one college might be an A.A.S. degree or other type of associate at another college.

Associate of Fine Arts
The Associate of Fine Arts (A.F.A.) degree is designed to help student prepare for various fine arts fields, such as such as filmmaking or creative writing. This degree can be general where students would take a variety of fine arts courses or it could have a specialization in a particular fine arts field.

Associate Degree in Nursing
The Associate degree in nursing (A.D.N.) is a degree designed to prepare students to become registered nurses.


There are many different associate degrees available in the United States. Some are designed to help students complete bachelor's degree requirements and others are designed to help students enter occupations. Before selecting a degree program, it is important for students to research their options to ensure it will be the best route to achieve their goals.


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Content copyright © 2014 by Susan D. Bates. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Susan D. Bates. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact BellaOnline Administration for details.

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