Associate Degree

Associate Degree

What is an associate’s degree?

The first associate’s degrees were awarded in the UK (where they are no longer awarded) in 1873 before spreading to the US in 1898. The associate’s degrees have since been introduced in a small number of other countries. The associate’s degrees are most commonly offered in the US, but you’ll also find them in some parts of Canada, Hong Kong, Australia and the Netherlands. Other countries have similar programs but under a different name, such as foundation degrees in the UK.

In the US, the associate’s degrees are usually academic programs taken at the undergraduate level (the first stage after post-secondary study) in two years or more and can be attained at community colleges, technical colleges, vocational schools, and some colleges, affiliated colleges of universities, as well as at some universities. It is a level of qualification above a high school diploma, GED, or matriculation, and below a bachelor’s degree. It aims to give students the basic technical and academic knowledge and transferable skills they need to go on to employment or further study in their chosen field.

A student who completes a two-year program can earn an Associate of Arts (AA) or an Associate of Science (AS) degree. Students who complete a two-year technical or vocational program can often earn an Associate of Applied Science (AAS), although sometimes the degree name will include the subject (a “tagged” degree).

Transfer admissions in the United States sometimes allows courses taken and credits earned on an AA, AS, or AAS course to be counted toward the third year of a bachelor’s degree via articulation agreements or recognition of prior learning, depending on the courses taken, applicable state laws/regulations, and the transfer requirements of the university.

For some students, an associate’s degree provides preparation for a bachelor’s degree, while for others it’s a qualification in its own right, helping to improve employment prospects compared to only having completed a secondary-level education.

What is an Associate of Arts degree, or AA?

An AA degree provides foundational education in a particular subject, typically focused on the liberal arts and sciences such as humanities and social science fields. A program may emphasize general education credits for transfer to a bachelor’s degree or more in-depth focus on a liberal arts subject.

Students can typically complete an AA in two years and about 60 credits. They take core courses like college readiness, English composition, math, history, and social studies. The program then adds major-specific courses and electives.

Learners who want to explore different study areas, particularly in preparation for a bachelor’s degree, can find options for individualized degree programs within the associate of arts. They still take a strong core of liberal arts courses but work with advisors to assemble a customized suite of electives. (Reference from

What is an Associate of Science degree, or AS?

Learners pursue majors related to business, science, or math when working towards an AS degree. AS degrees are awarded to those studying in applied scientific and technical fields and professional fields of study. Generally, one year of study is focused on college level general education and the second year is focused on the area of lower-level discipline. Specific examples include business administration, criminal justice, cybersecurity, health science, and more.

Some majors, like biological or engineering science, emphasize preparation for bachelor’s-level studies. Graduates in these areas may qualify for some entry-level careers, but these programs primarily aim to ready enrollees for future education.

Most associate of science programs require about 60-65 credits for graduation, and students can complete the degree in two years. Typical core courses include a college readiness seminar along with general education electives in areas like English, math, social studies, and art.

Students typically take introductory courses in their major area and round out the degree with electives. For example, an information science major might take courses in game design and development, while a student pursuing health science could choose wellness, nutrition, or human biology. (Reference from

What is an Associate of Applied Science degree, or AAS?

Graduates usually exit an AAS degree program ready to enter the job market. Many AAS programs do not prepare students to proceed to bachelor’s-level studies. Instead, they focus on the practical skills their learners need to pursue careers right away.

Examples of AAS majors include accounting, nursing, marketing, law enforcement, hospitality, and graphic design.

While these subjects overlap with those that an AA or AS may offer, the AAS usually requires fewer general education credits. The curriculum instead focuses on major-specific courses. College readiness and English composition often appear as staple requirements, but a business major would focus more on courses like financial accounting and statistics, while a criminal justice student takes classes in police administration and sociology.

The associate of applied science degree also tends to favor internships, capstone projects, and other experience-building requirements. Students can complete an AAS in two years and about 65 credits. (Reference from

Differences between A.S. and A.A.

In short, the AA focuses on liberal arts and general education, the AS targets scientific and business-focused subjects, and the AAS prepares students for immediate entry into the workforce.

The length of these programs is two years. Students will normally take 60 credits of study to complete the associate degree. The A.S. and the A.A. degree are generally used by students who plan to transfer to four-year universities and pursue a bachelor’s degree. Those courses taken during the A.S and A.A degree are equivalent to the first two years of a bachelor’s degree program at a four-year university.

Knowing what your planned four-year major will be, and where you plan to transfer, can affect the choice of which degree you choose and the courses you choose to complete that degree. This means knowing where you plan to transfer is an important decision that is best made early in the process. However, since there are courses that can satisfy General Education requirements at most universities, this decision can be delayed. The delay in making this decision might mean you will take additional semesters to complete your four-year degree. (Reference from

The best degree is the degree that fits each student’s individual goals. No one specific degree type is automatically better than another, and learners must decide where their interests lie before enrolling in a program.

What is the difference between a bachelor’s degree and an associate’s degree?

Both bachelor’s degrees and associate’s degrees are categorized as “undergraduate” degrees, meaning that they are both open to students as soon as they complete secondary level education. In contrast “postgraduate” degrees, such as master’s or PhD programs, require students to have already completed a bachelor’s-level program.

Associate degree holders can usually transfer the credits they earn to a bachelor’s-degree program, as long as the degree they earn is accredited. Prospective students who plan to continue to four-year institutions should ensure that their associate degree program holds regional accreditation, as schools widely accept these credits.

Degree-seekers can typically transfer the most credits from an associate to a bachelor’s program when they seek out similar programs.

A bachelor’s degree program may ask applicants to meet other requirements prior to enrollment in the program. For example, some expect a minimum GPA for all college-level credits. This can vary widely depending on the institution and the subject area. A school may also ask for admission materials such as standardized tests, essays, and recommendation letters.

Some associate degree programs funnel students directly into four-year programs. Sometimes, a two-year school accepts students for an associate degree if they failed to gain admittance to a connected four-year school. Other pathways can include dual admissions, which allow students to transfer credits seamlessly from a two-year college to a designated four-year partner institution. (Reference from

Benefit of Choosing the Associate Degree

The American Center for Education has partnered with the Broward College to offer these programs of the Associate degrees in AA/AS/AAS in Singapore.

The Broward College is a state college in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It is part of the Florida College System. It was established in 1959 as part of a move to broaden Florida’s two-year colleges. In 2008 it adopted its current name, reflecting that it is one of the schools designated a “state college”, meaning it can offer four-year bachelor’s degrees.

In 2012, Broward College was named one of the top 10 percent of community colleges in the nation by the Washington D.C.-based Aspen Institute.

In May 2018, Broward College was named as a top 10 for the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

ACE students taking the Broward College’s Associate degree programs are able to transfer most of the US Universities to continue their year 3 and year 4 study of a bachelor’s degree. The students are able to be admitted to the top 50 US universities if the GPA and other performance from the Associate degree study meet the requirements of these universities.

ComparisonAdvantages in Enrolling to Broward CollegeDisadvantages in 4-year Universities
EntrySimple entry requirementAdditional requirement such as TOEFL, SAT and others
EnrollSoft landing for all international students with adaptation and less culture shock-
ServicesComprehensive student servicesStudents to live in more independent environment with limited student services
CostLower costExpensive Average tuition fee S$30000-S$35000/year
ClassesSmall classesLarger classroom setting around more than 300 students in a lecture hall
AssistanceAcademic advisors providing personal/academic assistanceLimited access to professors in year 1 and 2
-Options of Scholarship and work study arrangement
TransferUniversity Transfer Program (UTP) to excellent and ranked US universities-
ActivitiesCommon student activitiesBig collegiate div I/II/III activities such as sports, intramural, student gov, and etc.
-The universities and colleges have the urban or rural setting, safe, friendly, and beautiful campus.

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