Associate Degrees are undergraduate degrees that typically take two years to complete. The three-part degree program is comprised of general education courses, major field of study courses, and elective classes--adding up to a total of 60 semester-credit hours. The Associate Degree, offered by community colleges, junior colleges, business colleges and trade schools, acknowledges that the student has completed a traditional undergraduate general education along with a foundation of studies in a major field.
There are typically three kinds of Associate Degrees offered by American colleges: the Associate of Arts Degree (A.A.), Associate of Science Degree (A.S.), or the Associate of Applied Science Degree (A.A.S.). The A.A. Degree traditionally focuses on arts, humanities, or social sciences, while the A.S. Degree may concentrate on technology, mathematics, or natural sciences.
The A.A. and A.S. degrees are customarily accepted when a student transfers or enters a four-year, Bachelor Degree program at a college or university. Up to 60 hours of the Associate Degree coursework may be accepted toward the four-year degree. The A.S.S. degree traditionally is a career-focused degree program that allows graduates to enter the workplace with their new specialty or transfer to a four-year college.
There are also technical, career-oriented Associate Degree programs that name their specialty, such as Associate in Applied Science, Associate in Occupational Studies, Associate of Science in Nursing, or Associate in Physical Therapy.
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the Associate Degree can qualify applicants for occupations such as veterinary techs, registered nurses, dental hygienists, paralegals, computer support specialists, and legal secretaries.
U.S. Department of Labor