Associate of Arts (AA) Degree

The Associate of Arts Degree (AA) is a two-year program that is equivalent to completing freshman and sophomore years at a four-year college or university. However, the Associate of Arts degree is usually offered through community colleges–and sometimes technical colleges–not four-year colleges and universites. The Associate of Arts is not typically career-oriented. It offers a general liberal arts education and prepares students to pursue a bachelor's degrees at a four-year college or university. Areas of study typically include history, literature, life science, math, psychology and statistics, among other topics.

Students who pursue an Associate fo Arts are often undecided on a particular field of study or career path, nor are they ready to attend a four-year college or university. While admission requirements vary, most community colleges require students to a high school diploma or complete a GED before they can enroll in an associate degree program. Many community colleges also have educational prerequisites that must be met–such as fundamental math, biology or statistics.

Some community colleges have transfer, or "articulation" agreements in place with larger colleges and universities in the region. Transfer agreements ensure that students who successfully complete their associate's degree will receive admission to the college or university.

In order for credits earned through an Associate of Arts degree program to transfer to a regionally accredited college or university (which includes most four-year colleges), and be applied toward the completion of a bachelor's degree, the associate degree must be obtained from a regionally accredited community college or technical school. Credits earned through nationally accredited community colleges and technical schools usually will not transfer to a four-year colleges and universities.

Associate of Arts (AA) Degree Requirements
An Associate of Arts (AA) degree usually requires the completion of 48 to 60 semester hours of coursework. Typically, the Associate of Arts degree has general education and elective components. General education curriculum may include courses in humanities, social science, history, psychology, anthropology and mathematics, to name just a few. General education courses, or "core" courses, are completed during the first year of the program. Once all general education courses have been completed, students are able to select elective courses that are more in line with their interests, educational track, or career goals. General education usually makes up about 30 to 40 hours of all course work completed. Electives courses make up anywhere from 15 to 20 hours of total courses required to graduate.

Transfer Degrees and Articulation Agreements
One of the biggest reasons students pursue an Associate of Arts (AA) degree is to prepare to pursue a four-year bachelor's degree at a college or university. Four-year colleges typically only accept credits earned through an AA program if they were earned through a regionally accredited community college. If students do not earn their AA through a regionally accredited community college, it's likely they'll still have to complete the first two years of their bachelor's degree when they transfer. Students who complete their AA at a regionally accredited community college, and then transfer to an accredited four-year college or university, will enter as a Junior.

Sometimes four-year colleges will not allow all credits earned through an AA to be applied toward a bachelor's degree, even when earned from a regionally accredited community college. For this reason, if you plan on pursuing a bachelor's degree down the road, you should meet with an admission counselor at the college or university you plan on attending to make sure you only take courses that can be applied to your bachelor's degree.

One of the best ways to ensure there is a smooth transition from an assciate's degree to a bachelor's degree program is to earn your AA at community college that has articulation agreements in place with the major colleges and universities you plan on attending in your region. Articulation agreements ensure that upon graduation with your Associate of Arts degree (1) you'll be admitted to a four-year college and (2) the AA credits you earned will be applied toward your bachelor's degree.

Advantages of Earning an Associate of Arts (AA) Degree
There are several benefits to earning an Associate of Arts degree. One of the biggest is cost. Earning an AA degree at an accredited community college is typically far less expensive than earning the same credits at a four-year college. And, if after completing your AA degree you end up transferring to the same four-year college you would have attended as a freshman and sophmore, at the end of the day you'll end up with the same bachelor's degree–just at a much lower cost.

An AA degree can be used as a stepping stone into an accredited bachelor's degree program offered through a four-year college or university. If you didn't have the grades in high school to get accepted into the college of your choice, spending two years in an accredited AA program can provide you the opportunity to improve your grades and gain admission to a reputable college or university.

While the Associate of Arts degree is primarily intended as a "transfer" degree, many AA programs offered through community colleges and technical school can provide you with the education and training to qualify for entry-level jobs and career positions upon graduation. Earning an Associate of Arts degree can prepare students for entry-level positions in government, social service, law enforcement, and business.

Online Associate of Art Degree Programs
Many schools now offer Associate of Art (AA) degree programs entirely online. Earning an AA degree online is very convenient and usually cost effective. Online programs can be completed at your own pace and with the added inconvenience and cost of daily travel. However, beware! Many of the online Associate of Art degrees marketed online are offered by nationally accredited school and colleges–and an AA degree earned from an nationally accredited college usually will not transfer to a four-year college or university. If you want to earn your AA online, make sure to perform your due diligence.

Below you can search different types of associate degree that can be earned at a traditional college campus or online.

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