A Guide to Associate of Science Degrees

Written by Coursera • Updated on

An Associate of Science degree could be your next step toward a new career or a bachelor's degree. Learn more about how these two-year programs could support your career 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 program available in community colleges and universities across the United States. With an Associate of Science degree, you may be able to qualify for certain jobs after graduation or continue your education at a higher level. 

“Associate of Science” is a comprehensive term for different course topics and has become a popular option for undergraduate study. According to Statistica, the number of associate degrees earned in the United States in 2018 and 2019 was 1,036,662 [1].

What is an Associate of Science degree?

An Associate of Science degree is a two-year degree that can be earned after high school and before a bachelor’s degree. 

AS degrees are available in a range of STEM, business, and computer science subjects. You'll generally need to complete a set of core requirements—which are likely to include math, English, social science, and humanities—with the option to study electives in your preferred field. In addition to STEM subjects, some programs allow you to specialize even further by choosing options like dental hygiene or nursing. 

In some cases, your AS degrees could transfer, meaning your credits may count toward a bachelor’s degree at a college or university. Be sure to check for individual requirements and accreditation status of the schools you're interested in.

Read More: What Is an Associate Degree? Requirements, Costs, and More

Why earn an Associate of Science degree?

Some of the reasons why you might choose an Associate of Science degree include enhanced career prospects, smaller and more imitate classes, and the ability to advance your education. With an AS degree, you can study a subject you enjoy without the time and financial commitment that a bachelor's degree requires. These degrees are also, for the most part, delivered in community colleges, which tend to be more economical than universities or four-year colleges. Therefore, completing an AS degree at a community college and transferring the credits to a bachelor’s degree is often more affordable than studying for four years at a university. 

A path to a higher degree: Course credits from an AS degree might transfer to a bachelor’s degree program. You’ll typically need to complete 120 credits for a bachelor’s degree, and 60 credits for an associate degree. This means that if you complete a transferable associate degree, you could be halfway through the completion of your bachelor’s degree by the time you enroll. 

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—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.

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.

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

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]. 

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. You can specialize in the following areas:

  • Paralegal studies

  • Nursing

  • Dental hygiene

  • Air traffic control

  • Policing 

  • Digital media technology

  • Criminal justice

  • Cybersecurity

  • Live entertainment design and production

How long does it take to get an Associate of Science degree?

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, to earn an AS. The curriculum can be flexible, especially when studying at a community college, allowing you to accelerate your studies to one year or extend them to three. 

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.

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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

Getting job ready

Whatever career you decide is right for your future, consider a Professional Certificate as a way to get job-ready with the skills companies are hiring for. 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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Article sources

1. Statistica. “Number of Associate’s Degrees 2030, https://www.statista.com/statistics/185168/number-of-associates-degrees-by-gender.” Accessed June 17, 2022.

2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Employment outlook for occupations requiring an associate’s degree, certificate, or some college, https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2018/article/postsecondary-outlook.htm.” Accessed June 17, 2022.

3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Learn more, earn more: Education leads to higher wages, lower unemployment, https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2020/data-on-display/education-pays.htm.” Accessed June 17, 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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