A Guide to Associate of Science Degrees

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

An Associate of Science degree can be a step toward a new career or a bachelor's degree. Learn more about how these two-year programs can support your goals.

[Featured image] A young man in a plaid shirt wears headphones and works on his Associate of Science degree on his laptop.

An Associate of Science (AS) degree is a two-year degree in a scientific or technical subject. In the United States, you can typically earn your AS degree from community colleges. While some students earn the degree to launch or support their career, others transfer into bachelor's degree programs.  

In this article, we'll discuss what you can study in an Associate of Science degree program, what it takes to earn the degree, and what you can do with it after graduation.

What is an Associate of Science degree?

Associate of Science degrees are available in a range of STEM, business, and computer science subjects. As opposed to a college major, which you declare as part of a four-year undergraduate degree, you won't spend as much time studying your chosen subject in an associate degree program.

Instead, you can expect to complete a set of core requirements—which are likely to include math, English, social science, and humanities—before studying some electives in your preferred field.

Associate of Science degrees tend to be a flexible degree choice, allowing graduates to enter the workforce and pursue a variety of roles, or transfer to a four-year bachelor's degree and continue their education. Between 2019 and 2020, community colleges in the US awarded 865,504 associate degrees [1].

How long does an AS degree take?

Requirements vary by school and program, but you'll typically be required to complete 60 credits, which generally takes two years of full-time study. However, the curriculum can be flexible. Many community colleges allow you to accelerate your studies to one year or extend them to three. 

What can you study in an AS degree program?

The options for AS degree majors are vast. You can keep your studies general, focusing on science, math, engineering, business, or computer science subjects, or you can specialize and choose subjects that relate directly to your preferred profession.

AS degree subjects include:

  • Paralegal studies

  • Nursing

  • Dental hygiene

  • Air traffic control

  • Policing 

  • Digital media technology

  • Criminal justice

  • Cybersecurity

  • Live entertainment design and production

AS vs. AA degree: What's the difference?

While both degrees take the same time to complete, the main difference between an Associate of Science and an Associate of Arts (AA) is their focus. AS courses tend to focus on STEM subjects and AA courses tend to focus on liberal arts. Depending on your interests and needs, you can choose to pursue one or the other within your ideal timeframe.


5 reasons to earn an Associate of Science degree

There are many reasons to earn your AS degree. With an AS degree, you can study a subject you enjoy without the time and financial commitment that a bachelor's degree requires. Since these degrees are also, for the most part, earned at community colleges, you may end up paying less for your education than if you attended a four-year college.  

Some other benefits include:

1. A path to a higher degree

When you earn your AS degree from an accredited school, you credits should transfer to a bachelor’s degree program. You’ll typically need to complete 120 credits for a bachelor’s degree, which means that if you could be halfway through your bachelor’s degree by the time you enroll. 

2. Job opportunities

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 99 occupations out of the 800 listed currently require an associate degree as the most common entry-level requirement—and this is projected to grow 11 percent by 2026 [2].

Unemployment rates are highest for those members of the population without a degree, at 5.4 percent, but for someone with an associate degree, this is only 2.7 percent [3]. This trend is projected to continue, with higher levels of education equating to lower levels of unemployment.

3. Flexibility

Community colleges typically offer part-time courses that can be more flexible, with options to study in the evenings and on weekends. This can be beneficial if you're pursuing a degree while working or managing other life commitments.

4. Specialized skills

Professionals with specialized knowledge are in high demand. AS degrees can be quite general, however, you can take specialized courses if you’re looking to enter a specific profession. You can access specialized associate degree jobs by taking electives such as epidemiology, integrative nursing, or digital marketing

5. Higher earning potential

As with any qualification or certification, gaining an associate degree could increase your earning potential. The salary of someone who holds an associate degree in the United States is $887 per week on average, which is higher than someone with only a high school diploma, who earns an average of $746 [3]. 

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What kinds of jobs can you get with an Associate of Science degree?

Earning an AS degree can be the beginning of many career paths across health care, computer science, and communication, among others. Some popular choices include:

  • Pharmacy technician

  • Medical sonographer

  • Home health aid

  • Engineering technician 

  • Dental hygienist

  • Paralegal and legal assistant

  • Web developer

  • Occupational therapy assistant

  • Radiologic technologist

Learn more about high-paying jobs you can get with an associate degree.

Explore further

You can develop important job-ready skills with a Professional Certificate on Coursera. Learn from industry leaders such as Google, IBM, Meta, and more.

Curious how a degree could further expand your career opportunities? Explore the range of bachelor’s degrees from top universities available on Coursera. 

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Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Article sources


American Association of Community Colleges. "Fast Facts 2022, https://www.aacc.nche.edu/research-trends/fast-facts/." Accessed February 8, 2023.

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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.