What Is an Associate of Arts Degree?


An Associate of Arts degree is a two-year degree, usually offered at community or junior colleges, that shows you have completed the general education requirements necessary for a bachelor's degree program. You may apply the course credits toward a four-year degree. Students planning to complete degrees in the humanities or social sciences may particularly benefit from an Associate of Arts program.

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An Associate of Arts degree provides a foundation in the liberal arts. Skills gained in the program, including the areas of mathematics, humanities and social sciences, are applicable to many different vocations. Students may transfer their degree credits to a four-year institution to pursue a bachelor's degree in the arts or sciences.

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Associate of Arts programs require between 48 and 60 semesters hours to complete the degree. Required courses include communications, both speech and written; humanities, such as music appreciation or ethics; socials sciences, such as psychology or anthropology; natural sciences, such as physics or biology; and mathematics. In addition, students select approximately 17 hours of elective coursework. Topics range from architecture, archeology and American Indian culture to world history and women's studies.

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There are several benefits to completing an Associate of Arts degree. Community colleges, where Associate of Arts degrees are often offered, are usually less expensive than four-year institutions. If your high school grades were not sufficient to get you into your preferred college, earning an associate degree might allow you to pull up your grade-point average and give you a second chance. If you are undecided on the major you want to declare, earning an associate degree will allow you to explore a wide range of topics that may help narrow your choices.

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Some community colleges have transfer or articulation agreements with four-year institutions that allow you to automatically transfer your credits and apply them toward a bachelor's degree. You still need to meet the admission requirements of the four-year school. Most four-year institution will transfer some credits from any accredited associate degree program. However, it’s possible that not all credits will apply. Most schools have transfer counselors available to help you navigate the process.

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Associate of Arts degrees provide a foundation for further study, and students gain knowledge and skills that are applicable in almost any work environment, such as problem solving, critical thinking and communication. Most students continue their studies in bachelor's degree programs in a specific area and pursue careers in a related field. Those who choose to enter the workforce with an associate degree are prepared for entry-level positions in areas such as businesses, social services or government agencies.

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