Associate Degree


The term associate degree is used to describe an award given to students that complete at least sixty credit hours of post-secondary study.  An associate degree is the lowest of the post-secondary academic degrees, and is typically achieved after two years of full-time study.


While an associate degree is usually associated with community colleges and junior colleges, it can be granted by any post-secondary institution upon completion of two years of full-time study.  This includes approximately 20 courses or 60 credit hours.  Typical coursework under these programs is broken down into three sections:

  • General Education:  also known as GenEd, this includes required classes in areas such as communications, mathematics, social studies, history, humanities, foreign language, and natural sciences.
  • Major Requirements: includes classes that are specific to an area of concentration such as accounting, biology, finance, journalism, and sociology.
  • Electives: includes a wide range of classes that a student can choose from as part of their coursework.

Associate degrees can be further subdivided into the following types of study:

  • Associate of General Studies (A.G.S.):  awarded to students that plan to continue their education at a four year college or university; does not require the student to declare a major.
  • Associate of Science (A.S.):  designed for students planning to pursue a bachelor's degree in areas such as agriculture, biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics, and physics.
  • Associate of Arts (A.A.):  designed for students planning to pursue a bachelor's degree in areas of study such as the fine and performing arts, English, and music.
  • Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S):  includes specialized areas of study such as dental hygiene, emergency medical services, and nursing care.
  • Associate in Occupational Studies (AOS): considered a vocational degree; typically excluding requirements such as GenEd.

Related Terms

bachelor's degree, master's degree, doctoral degree, Latin honors, dissertation, ACT, SAT