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    What is the Difference between AS and AAS Degrees?

    By Zach Skillings

    Zach Skillings is the Scholarships360 Newsletter Editor. He specializes in college admissions and strives to answer important questions about higher education. When he’s not contributing to Scholarships360, Zach writes about travel, music, film, and culture. His work has been published in Our State Magazine, Ladygunn Magazine, The Nocturnal Times, and The Lexington Dispatch. Zach graduated from Elon University with a degree in Cinema and Television Arts.

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    Reviewed by Annie Trout

    Annie has spent the past 18+ years educating students about college admissions opportunities and coaching them through building a financial aid package. She has worked in college access and college admissions for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission/Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation, Middle Tennessee State University, and Austin Peay State University.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: February 1st, 2024
    What is the Difference between AS and AAS Degrees?

    If you’re thinking about earning an associate degree, you may already know that you have a few different options. The Associate of Applied Science (AAS) and Associate of Science (AS) degrees are both great options for students interested in a career related to science, technology, engineering, or math. However, there are some differences between these two programs to consider when choosing between AS and AAS degrees. 

    AS vs AAS: What’s the difference? 

    The Associate of Science (AS) and Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees are similar in a lot of ways. They are both two-year undergraduate degrees oriented around math, science, or technology. They’re also both great degrees for students who want to obtain the education they need to quickly launch their careers. 

    However, there’s one key difference between AS and AAS degrees. AS degrees are better-suited for students who want to continue their education and earn a bachelor’s degree, while AAS degrees prepare students to immediately enter the workforce after graduation. Keep reading to learn more about each type of degree and which one might be better for you. 

    What is an AS degree?

    • They are typically considered “transfer degrees” because they provide an academic foundation for students to transfer to a four-year school and earn their bachelor’s
    • Students in AS degree programs take general education requirements such as English, math, and science courses
    • Generally AS degrees take 2 years to complete and are commonly offered at community colleges 

    These credits usually transfer to another institution upon completion of the program. To make the transfer process easier, many community colleges have agreements with four-year schools. This allows students with an AS degree to transfer seamlessly without losing credits. 

    There are many jobs you can get with an AS degree that do not require further education. The advantage of earning an AS degree is that you can work in your field for a while and then return to school and earn a bachelor’s degree down the road to advance your career. 

    Below are some common AS degree programs:

    • Business administration
    • Paralegal studies 
    • Criminal justice 
    • Human services
    • Accounting

    Related: Complete guide to undergraduate degrees

    What is an AAS degree?

    • AAS degrees prepare students to enter a career directly after graduation
    • Courses are oriented around skills-based training
    • Education involves hands-on projects in the field, instead of classroom work

    Additionally, AAS degrees cut out most of the general education requirements that are found in AS programs. As a result, students can expect the majority of their coursework to be directly related to their desired field. This can be appealing for students who have a firm grasp on their intended career path. Some students don’t want to spend time taking courses outside their desired field. 

    The downside of AAS programs is that they don’t prepare students to transfer into bachelor’s degree programs. While it is possible for AAS degree graduates to continue their education at another institution, the transfer process is usually more difficult. 

    Below are some common AAS degree programs:

    • Web design 
    • Nursing 
    • Radiologic technology
    • Welding 
    • Carpentry
    • HVAC 

    Which degree should I pursue?

    If you’re debating between an Associate of Science and an Associate of Applied Science, consider the questions below:

    • Are you looking to immediately enter the workforce?
    • Do you plan to pursue a higher degree after completing your associate degree?
    • What jobs do you desire to work in after obtaining an associate degree? 

    Pursuing an AS degree

    With an AS degree, you’ll fulfill general education requirements. The credits earned can later be applied to a bachelor’s degree. This is great for students who want to quickly find work in their field, or who may not have the financial resources to pursue a bachelor’s degree at this time. It also leaves the door open for continuing their education in the future. By starting at community college and then transferring to a four-year school, students can save a lot of money and build up their GPA in the process.

    Pursuing an AAS degree

    AAS degrees are better suited for students who are certain about their career path. These students don’t plan to earn a bachelor’s degree. With an AAS degree, you’ll receive the practical training needed to find work in your field. You also won’t have to worry about completing an excess number of general education courses unrelated to your career path. For these reasons, AAS degrees are a solid option for students who want to maximize their time in the workforce and minimize their time in school. 

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • Both the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) and Associate of Science (AS) degrees are great options for students interested in STEM related careers
    • An Associate of Science (AS) will focus on more general coursework that can be transferred towards a four year degree rather seamlessly
    • An Associate of Applied Science (AAS) will offer students hands on course work that can prepare them to immediately enter the workforce after graduation
    • Choosing between AS and AAS degrees comes down to what your present and future plans are–are you on the road to a four- year college degree, or do you want to enter the workforce asap?

    See also: Top STEM scholarships 

    Frequently asked questions about the difference between AS and AAS degrees

    What does an applied science degree mean?

    An applied science degree is designed to teach students hands-on and practical knowledge of a certain subject. The skills they learn help prepare them to immediately enter the workforce to gain their desired positions.

    Is an associate in applied science worth it?

    Yes, absolutely! You of course need to decide for yourself if an associate in applied science is worth it, as it’s not true that just anyone should obtain them. However, if you are looking for a place to start your higher education journey and you are looking for a degree that can help you gain hands-on experience, then this degree might just be for you!

    Is nursing an applied science?

    You can receive an associate of applied science in nursing. This degree takes 2 years to complete and prepares you for the hands-on work that nurses usually complete. However, this degree does not mean you are an RN. You will still need to take the national exam to become a registered nurse and potentially complete more schooling. However, an associate of applied science in nursing can be a great first step to becoming an RN!

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