What Is an Associate of Arts Degree?

Associate of Arts degree programs typically last two years, during which you'll complete general education requirements and begin major coursework; you might even receive career-specific training. Read on to discover the differences between the various associate's degree programs, the courses you'll take and the process of transferring to a 4-year school.

Associate of Arts Degree Program Information

If you choose to enroll in an Associate of Arts (AA) degree program instead of an Associate of Science (AS) or an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) program, you'll likely take more general education courses than ones that are specific to a major or a vocation. AS and AAS degree programs typically prepare students to complete a bachelor's degree in the sciences and to begin a career, respectively; however, some AA programs can also provide the training required for entry-level positions in a career field. In an AA degree program, you'll fulfill more liberal arts credits than an AS or AAS student but fewer liberal arts requirements than if you were enrolled in a 4-year Bachelor of Arts degree program.

Important Facts About Associate of Arts Degrees

Online Availability Programs are available
Common Courses Public Speaking, Information Technology, Statistics
Concentrations Speech Communication, Computer Science, International Studies
Prerequisites High school diploma/GED, application completion and fees, sometimes pre-assessments are required
Possible Careers Elementary Teacher, Secondary Teacher, Fine Artist
Median Salary (2018) $58,230 (elementary teachers); $60,320 (secondary teachers); $49,380 (fine artists)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 7% (elementary teachers); 8% (secondary teachers);7% (fine artists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Overview of the Associate of Arts Degree

There are different types of Associate of Arts degree programs. Most focus on general education requirements and prepare you to transfer to a bachelor's degree program upon completion. Concentrations may be offered in English, Psychology, Visual Arts, History, and Education. Some community colleges partner with 4-year colleges and universities to give you the opportunity to take classes at the institution where you may wish to transfer. If you then choose to transfer to a baccalaureate program, you'll be considered a junior, rather than a freshman.

Usually, the AA degree is seen as an intermediate educational step, but some programs provide you with training that prepares you to seek employment. One associate degree of the latter type is an AA in Theater Arts, which can prepare you for a position as a theater manager, set designer or playwright. Another example is an AA in Corrections, which may qualify you for entry-level careers in probation and parole. If you want to advance in your career, however, some of these positions may require that you continue your education and earn a bachelor's degree.

Courses Offered

If you enroll in the bachelor's degree preparatory type of AA program, the majority of your courses will cover liberal arts subjects that will stand in for the courses you'd take during the first two years of a 4-year bachelor's degree program. If you enter a program that prepares you to enter the workforce, your core courses will depend on the subject area. Typically, in both cases, you'll be required to complete at least one semester of study in each of the following disciplines:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Laboratory science
  • Social science

Some AA degree programs may have additional requirements in disciplines such as public speaking or a foreign language. Your program may also offer a variety of electives.

Transferring to a 4-Year Institution

If you want to transfer to a 4-year institution after completing your AA degree program, you'll need to familiarize yourself with the transfer requirements of the 4-year school you wish to attend, which may vary according to the discipline of study. Some schools may require you to have a minimum grade point average in order to be considered eligible. Keep in mind that not all credits may transfer if there isn't an agreement between the two schools.

Some schools may not require you to complete your AA degree program or your general education requirements before applying to transfer; however, doing so can make you a stronger applicant.