An associate degree can open up opportunities for a graduate both professionally and in their pursuit of higher education. Attending college classes also inspires a student to explore new concepts and interact with a more diverse group of individuals who are working to achieve higher education goals and career goals.

Depending on what area of study you intend to pursue, there are a few important differences to understand between an Associate of Arts degree and an Associate of Science degree. Each degree takes about two years to complete depending on the workload and other obligations the student may have.

Benefits of an Associate Degree

An A.A. degree stands for Associate of Arts degree. Aside from more knowledge in the area of your choosing, an associate degree can provide you with significant financial benefits.

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The credentials that come with obtaining an associate degree can increase your annual earnings by an average of more than $7,000. Associate degree graduates can earn around 35 percent more than those with only a high school degree.

Many undergrads take on an associate degree to prepare for a bachelor’s degree. They can also pursue positions in their field that help them gain experience and income while they pursue more education.

Areas of Study for an A.A. Degree

An Associate of Arts degree takes about two years of study to complete. It opens doors to a number of professional careers, from psychology to theater.

Those who are enrolled in an Associate of Arts degree program typically are planning on studying majors such as:

  • Performing arts
  • Literature
  • Language arts
  • Music
  • Drama
  • Art mediums

This type of degree lays a good foundation of higher education that can be used to go on to a career in the arts as well as accounting, hospitality or restaurant management.

A.S. Degree Requirements

An Associate of Science degree can lay a foundation for pre-med or other science-based and health care careers. This type of degree can better prepare students for the rigors of a four-year college in their chosen area of study. A.S. degree requirements vary by the college but typically include a minimum of 60 units of instruction and a grade point average above 2.0.

After successfully completing an Associate of Science degree program, graduates can begin work in their field. Many lucrative positions are available to a graduate. A.S. degree jobs include:

  • Medical assistant
  • Home caregiver
  • Physician’s office administrative assistant

Most graduates with an Associate of Science degree expect to go on to other areas in their field that require more education or certification. In this case, the work and instruction the student completed to get the Associate of Science degree helped to prepare them to complete advanced programs successfully.

Difference Between an A.A. and A.S. Degree

Both Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees have the same rudimentary foundation of English, math, reading and writing comprehension and a few courses that cover the basics of science and social studies. From there, the degree programs deviate into more specific areas of the student’s chosen career path.

An Associate of Science degree is designed for graduates who expect to enter the medical field, pursue higher education in math or science or otherwise need this type of degree to further their pursuits. An Associate of Arts degree has a more diverse use, with students going on to any type of field, including science or the arts. For instance, either an A.A. or A.S. in psychology can be beneficial to a student before going on to acquire more education.

About the Author

Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.