What Is an Associate of Applied Science Degree?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

An AAS degree often provides a scientific or technical education to prepare you to enter the workforce after graduation. Learn more what you can study and do with the degree.

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An Associate of Applied Science (AAS) is a two-year degree that focuses more on career preparation than other types of associate degrees. With this credential, you can enter the workforce right away, using the skills you’ve developed and the knowledge you've gained in school. 

In this article, we’ll go over what it takes to earn an AAS degree, how it differs from an Associate of Science (AS) degree, and what you can do after graduation.  

What is an Associate of Applied Science degree?

College degrees are often awarded depending on the type of major you choose. At the associate level, there are arts degrees, science degrees, and applied science degrees, the latter of which refers to career-specific majors, such as automotive technology, child care management, and construction management. 

In these programs, you’ll learn a science-based education that prepares you to enter an industry after graduation. As such, your curriculum will often involve hands-on assignments in a simulated or real workplace located on campus.   

How long does it take to earn an AAS?

An Associate of Applied Science is a two-year degree you can earn at community college or at certain four-year colleges in the United States. Typically, it takes between 60 and 80 credit hours to complete this degree, so some paths take two years of full-time study to finish, while others take longer. 

AAS programs

Each school offers different AAS programs, so it’s a good idea to review the ones available in your area and see which align with your goals. Let’s go over some of the more common examples.  

Accounting

An AAS program in accounting prepares you to take a job as an accounting assistant, a bookkeeper, or a financial clerk. Some of the courses you might take in this program include:

  • Business law

  • Cost accounting

  • Data analytics for accounting

  • Government and nonprofit accounting

  • Principles of accounting

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Computer information systems

With this degree, you'll be ready to work on a company’s network systems as a network IT analyst or network IT project manager. 

Sample courses can include:

  • Introduction to networking 

  • Network security fundamentals 

  • Network essentials

  • IT Project management

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Child care management

Working with children in a daycare or preschool setting involves more than caring for their immediate needs. A child care management degree can provide a useful foundation for this type of work. 

Sample courses can include:

  • Principles of nutrition

  • Early childhood development

  • Family relations

  • Preschool training

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Respiratory therapy 

Respiratory therapy involves the treatment of patients with breathing issues, whether temporary or chronic. Respiratory therapists can work in areas such as adult critical care, sleep disorder clinics, and neonatal units. 

Sample courses can include:

  • Anatomy and physiology

  • Medical terminology

  • Respiratory assessment

  • Respiratory pharmacology

  • Clinical practice

Welding

A welder uses heat, pressure, or a combination of both to join metal pieces or parts. Welders work with a variety of different metals as well as thermoplastics. 

Sample courses can include:

  • Welding processes

  • Reading mechanical blueprints

  • Gas metal arc welding

  • Industrial robotics

  • Industrial safety

What’s the difference between an AAS and AS? 

An Associate of Applied Science is different from an Associate of Science or an Associate of Arts in a few ways. First, the available majors tend to be much more career-focused. As such, the curriculum for an AAS degree typically involves fewer general ed classes. What you’ll end up taking may likely provide more hands-on learning than the theoretical classes offered as part of an Associate of Arts or an Associate of Science. 

An AAS degree is also considered a degree that leads almost immediately to a career; therefore, you may not be able to transfer the credits you earn as part of your degree. Many students who get an AA or AS degree go on to earn a bachelor's degree, so those credits usually are transferable. 

Learn more: Do College Credits Expire?

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Benefits of an AAS degree

There are a number of benefits you may experience while working toward your Associate of Applied Science degree. 

Short time to completion

Due to the average length of time (two years) it takes to earn an AAS degree, it can be an ideal educational option when you’re interested in pursuing higher education, know what you want to do as a career, and are ready to get started in less time than it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Lower cost 

According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost for one year at a four-year college is $35,551—a price that includes tuition, books, supplies, and living expenses [1]. However, an associate degree from a community college can be more affordable. As of 2021, the median annual cost totaled $10,300 [2]. 

Stable salaries

Jobs requiring AAS degrees tend to be in-demand across the labor force. The job you get after you've earned an AAS degree may not pay as much as a bachelor's-level job, but it will typically pay more than a high school degree alone, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) [3].

Choice of many career paths

The American Association of Community Colleges states that two-year institutions awarded nearly 900,000 associate degrees in 2022 [4]. Many students are drawn to an Associate of Applied Science because of the many career paths available. You can select a track in the financial sector, medical field, or hands-on careers such as auto technology. 

Transferable skills

Employers increasingly seek skill-forward applicants. No matter which career path you choose, an AAS degree can enhance your workplace and technical skills, and in turn strengthen your candidacy for various roles. 

Jobs you can get with an AAS degree

You can find a number of career options with an AAS degree, though your opportunities will depend on the program you enroll in. Below, you’ll find a list of common jobs that people who earn their AAS degree (in that major) go on to pursue. 

Job titleAnnual US salary*
Bookkeeper$45,560
Automotive service technician$46,880
Paralegal$56,230
Drafter$60,290
Dental hygienist$77,810

Because AAS programs are designed to shift students into a specific career, your program may have connections with local businesses to help you transition into a job after graduation. As you research potential degree programs, take note of the career services each school offers. 

Learn more: 10 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get with an Associate Degree

Next steps

To find out if a particular applied science program is right for you, consider taking an online class on Coursera from one of many leading institutions. Try Introduction to Finance and Accounting offered by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania or the Medical Terminology Specialization offered by Rice University. Once you've finished your schooling, come back to Coursera and take Preparation for Job Interviews, which can help you prepare for job interviews by offering guidance on how to answer questions. 

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Article sources

1. Education Data Initiative. "Average Cost of College, https://educationdata.org/average-cost-of-college." Accessed September 19, 2022.

2. Education Data Initiative. "Average Cost of Community College, https://educationdata.org/average-cost-of-community-college." Accessed September 19, 2022.

3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Education Pays, https://www.bls.gov/emp/chart-unemployment-earnings-education.htm.” Accessed September 19, 2022. 

4. American Association of Community Colleges. “Fast Facts 2022, https://www.aacc.nche.edu/2022/02/28/42888/.” Accessed September 19, 2022. 

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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