An Associates Degree is the most basic college degree you can earn after high school. It generally takes two years of full-time study. Associates Degrees are usually offered at community colleges, although some four-year colleges and universities also offer them. They are popular because they cost less than more advanced degrees and usually prepare the student for a career with fewer years of study.
The requirements for an Associates Degree are determined by the institution that grants the degree. Each school, and often each department within the school, decides how many credits, what grade point average and which specific classes are required to complete the degree.
There are four major types of Associates Degrees, based on the field of study:
Associate of Arts for the social sciences and humanities; Associate of Science for the theoretical sciences; Associate of Applied Sciences for practical sciences; Occupational Associate to prepare students for a trade.
Most programs require the completion of 60 or more credits with a grade point average of at least 2.0. About half the credits will meet the school's general education requirements and the rest will come from the program in which the degree is granted. The program usually stipulates which classes must be taken.
Most Associates Degrees require between 60 and 66 credit hours of class. As most classes offer three credits, the student will take about 20 classes. A full-time student can complete this requirement in four semesters. However, some programs also require practicums or labs that may change this time frame.
When you begin a course of study toward an Associates Degree, consider your future goals. If your purpose is to go on to a four-year institution, be sure to take classes that will transfer to that school. If you are preparing for a career that requires the degree, consider the different aspects of the career to be sure that your degree will be in the right program.