Preparing to attend college can be a stressful time. Trying to decide what major to pursue can add to those difficulties if students don’t understand the difference among the various degrees.
These are usually one-year or sometimes one-semester programs. This time frame is one of the biggest differences between a certificate and a degree. A certificate illustrates that a student has taken coursework and demonstrated some mastery of the skills. Certificates might be offered for some computer technology, mechanic work, and paralegal, for example.
The AAS degree is called the Associates of Applied Science. These are typically two-year degrees. The first year is basically made up of the basic education courses like composition, social studies, science, and math. The second year, students take primarily classes that support their major. For instance, a student working for an accounting degree would take accounting and business courses.
Students who don’t need a four-year degree, don’t plan to get a four-year degree, and tend to have some difficulty with college-level courses like college algebra should consider the AAS degree. Since the AAS is not considered a transfer degree, there may be a difference in requirements. For example, that college algebra class may be replaced with business math. Rather than college composition, technical writing may be required. Because these lower-level courses may be taken instead of the college-level ones, the AAS will not usually transfer as a degree. Students who get an AAS and then decide later that they want to get a four-year degree may have to take the additional classes that their AAS did not require.
These degrees are the Associate of Arts and Associate of Science. They are also two-year degrees, but they are intended to be transfer degrees. One difference between the AA/AS and AAS is that the AA/AS degrees have more of the general education requirements. For instance, the AAS may require students to choose six credits from a selection of social studies courses while the AA/AS degree seekers will need to choose nine credits from the same list. That means that fewer elective credits are available to the AA/AS students in the first two years.
The second difference is that the AA/AS are transfer degrees while the AAS is not. Students who seek an AA/AS are usually intending to transfer to a four-year college or university at some point. Because they are transfer degrees, AA/AS require students to take college-level courses. Often, preparatory courses don’t count at all toward the required credits for completion of the degree.
The terms Arts and Sciences should not be taken to heart with these degrees. An Associate of Arts degree would be appropriate for someone with a major in art or music but also social work and psychiatry. The Associate of Sciences is not only for chemistry majors but also accounting and homeland security. The types of courses required are more likely tied to the major than the degree label; that terminology doesn’t usually make a difference to universities or potential employers.
The Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Sciences follow these same ideas about categorization. The difference between the Associates degree and the Bachelors is that the BA/BS is a four-year degree. The last two years of a BA/BS degree experience are typically made up primarily of courses specific to the major and minor. Once the BA/BS is achieved, undergraduate education for this major is done.
The biggest decision with regard to choosing a college degree lies with students debating the difference between the AAS and AA/AS. Remember that completing a degree of some kind is always preferable to just taking random classes here and there since colleges and universities will accept credits from finished degrees more readily. But also remember that college is invaluable, especially in this day and age. Choosing the degree program that is right for you is an important step in making a difference in your life, making yourself a more marketable asset in the job world.