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What Are the Different Types of Community College Degrees?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The most common community college degrees are the Associate in Arts (A.A.), Associate in Science (A.S.), or Associate in Applied Sciences (A.A.S.). Individual colleges may have additional associate's degree titles, which are usually a combination of general education studies up to the sophomore level with classes in a specific major. The alternative to community college degrees is a variety of certificates, reflecting focused training in specific areas.

There is actually a much more diverse selection of community college degrees that may reflect a student’s major. For example, some licensed practical nurses earn an Associate in Nursing (A.N. or A.S.N.), and students studying programming might get an information technology (A.I.T.) degree. It would be hard to list all of these variations because they are so extensive.

Most associate degrees require two years of coursework.
Most associate degrees require two years of coursework.

Community college degrees are best understood by the work they represent. Most A.A.s require at least 60 semester units, or roughly two years of full-time school. They have approximately the same coursework that four-year university freshmen and sophomores pursue. Additionally, the community college student has typically taken extra classes in an area of interest or an identified major. Sometimes this isn’t the case, and pupils may earn an Associate in General Studies (A.G.S.) degree.

Some community colleges offer a limited number of academic programs and majors.
Some community colleges offer a limited number of academic programs and majors.

An A.S. often represents slightly more units of study in math and science classes, but requires liberal arts studies, too. In contrast, the A.A.S. could have fewer general education requirements because additional practical or hands-on classes are needed. Many people refer to community college degrees like the A.A.S as career degrees. Most students with an A.A. or A.S. would be able to directly transfer to a four-year college or university, though this should always be verified. On the other hand, students with an A.A.S. might need to take one or two more classes to be eligible for transfer, but also might be ready to begin a career.

Schools don’t operate solely for the purpose of turning out community college degrees. They may have a wide range of other training programs that can lead to different types of certificates. Some are earned in a few days and others represent several months or semesters of study. A number of medical technician jobs, for example, are available to people with the right certificate.

The various associate's degrees and certificate studies represent very different types of study and classes. In particular, certificate programs only require general education classes that directly relate to the subject being taught, such as certain types of math for the medical technician or computer trainee. Unlike an associate's degree, a program for certification doesn’t include a broad pattern of general study. Instead, most classes are specifically focused on the practical knowledge the student must acquire for work in a career.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent WiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent WiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...

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    • Most associate degrees require two years of coursework.
      By: pixelrobot
      Most associate degrees require two years of coursework.
    • Some community colleges offer a limited number of academic programs and majors.
      By: seandeburca
      Some community colleges offer a limited number of academic programs and majors.