What Are the Differences Between an AA & a Minor?


While earning a four-year bachelor's degree tends to be the standard result of a college education, it is possible to earn lesser recognition, such as a minor, in a particular study, or to earn a two-year degree, such as an associate's degree. However, the two should not be considered synonymous. The differences lie in their purpose and function.


  • An associate's degree is given to graduates of a two-year educational program, which typically covers the basic courses all college students are required to take (economics, a math course, a science course, English, etc.).

    A minor represents specialization in a particular field. After basic courses, or prerequisites, have been completed, a student can choose a certain number of courses from a predetermined group of electives to complete a minor.


  • An associate's degree can be earned as a transfer degree, which in some states gives the student the right to transfer to a state university, or as a technical trade degree, which signifies a specific set of skills have been learned and signals that the graduate can be hired in that trade.

    A degree cannot be earned in a minor, though many fields of study that are offered as degree programs also are offered as minors. There is essentially a near-endless number of potential minors that can be earned.


  • Community colleges are the primary givers of associate's degrees, often for the purpose of transferring to a university or college to earn a four-year bachelor's degree. Such institutions do not offer minors because they are focused on providing basic courses rather than higher-level electives.

    Minor programs are offered at four-year institutions, typically associated with a bachelor's degree program.


  • An associate's degree represents completion a of certain higher-education level. A student with such a degree ideally can find employment.

    A minor is commonly used to develop a secondary specialty in addition to the main field of study in which the bachelor's degree was earned. For example, a student may earn a bachelor's degree in government with a minor in economics. This would give a potential employer the impression the applicant is ready to work in a government field and possesses the ability to understand economic concepts and related numbers.


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