What is an Associate of Arts Degree?

These days, more students are choosing to begin their education at a community or junior college before transferring to a four-year university. But others see the independent value in two-year institutions and choose to pursue an associate’s degree. What is an Associate of Arts degree, exactly? It’s a two-year degree you typically earn from a community, junior, or vocational college, but sometimes bachelor’s degree-granting institutions award them as well. You need 60 semester hours to obtain one, and it differs from the Associate of Science degree in that it’s geared toward students with a vested interest in the humanities.

General Education Requirements for the A.A.

Similar to a bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree requires a strong selection of core educational classes in a variety of different disciplines. You are expected to take basic writing, mathematics, science, and communication classes. Depending on your school and your state, there may be requirements for performing arts classes, physical education classes, or courses in diversity and history. The general requirements are usually the same for both the A.A. and the A.S. degrees, and some schools ask you to adhere to a timeline for completing them. These are also the courses you’ll need if you should choose to transfer to a university later on.

Major Requirements for an Associate’s Degree

As a community college student, you may be asked to declare a major whether you intend to complete your associate’s degree or not. If your major is non-vocational, you can complete the basic, lower-level requirements for the major at a university level. If you choose a specific vocational path, your associate’s degree can lead directly to employment in dozens of distinct industries where a four-year degree is not necessarily required. For students who are truly unsure of the career path they intend to pursue, there are usually general associate’s degree plans that can help you decide where your interests lie.

Associate of Arts Uses

Most students fail to realize that the associate’s degree is not always geared towards people who don’t intend to transfer to university – it is often intended to closely fit your major. The Associate of Arts may more closely apply for students who want to pursue humanities majors, including English, history, social sciences, cultural studies, and performing and visual arts. The arts emphasis tends to be less vocational and more easily applied to transfer work. However, it’s important to note that this is not always the case. More than ever, community colleges are offering programs in areas of technology or business administration, where an A.A. degree can be helpful in finding entry-level employment. Transferring is almost always recommended, but the two-year degree you receive from your community or junior college has its own uses.

Attending a two-year institution has undeniable financial benefits for students, and it may help you complete college in a more convenient manner. The degrees these schools offer are designed to give you a well-rounded knowledge base on which you can expand your education and focus your goals. The Associate of Arts degree is the most common community college degree, and for some, it’s the first step towards their career.