What is an Associate Degree?

An associate degree is the first academic level of undergraduate education. An associate degree program is built to teach you many of the basic principles of a discipline and can either help you prepare to enter the workforce or be the first step in your postsecondary education.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at what an associate degree is, explore some of the different types of associate degrees that you might come across in your research and answer a few frequently asked questions in the following sections:

Classes Start Every 8 Weeks

Whether you know exactly where you're heading, or you're still planning your next steps, it all starts with a simple conversation. Let’s talk.


Types of Associate Degrees

There are several different types of associate degrees that you can earn, including Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS) or Associate of Applied Science (AAS). However, the type of associate degree you choose to pursue is just one part of making your decision, with the other being the degree’s focus. When looking into different programs, you should always pursue a subject that interests you and stands to serve your goals the most.

Keeping that in mind, here's a quick look at the different types of associate degrees:

Associate of Arts (AA)

An Associate of Arts, or AA degree, is a type of associate degree typically awarded to students within the wider field of liberal arts. Like an Associate of Science, this degree is sometimes viewed as a steppingstone on the way to a bachelor's degree, though earning a bachelor's degree after completing an AA program is not required.

Associate of Science (AS)

An Associate of Science, also known as an AS degree, is an associate degree awarded to students who study subjects within the broader world of science. Unlike the similarly named Associate of Applied Science, this type of associate degree is geared toward helping prepare you to pursue a bachelor's degree, even though it can still be earned as a standalone credential.

Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

An Associate of Applied Science differs slightly from both an AA and an AS degree in that this type of degree program is specifically designed to build your up skills in preparation to pursue potential employment within a certain field. While both an AS and an AA also contain opportunities to learn new skills that may be useful to your future career, they are not as directly focused on a singular field or discipline as an AAS. 

Many of the programs at DeVry fall under the Associate of Applied Sciences umbrella, including our Associate in Engineering Technology, our Associate in Information Technology and Networking and our Associate in Network Systems Administration.

Associate Degree Requirements

The requirements for an associate degree could refer to two things: the requirements to enroll, also known as prerequisites, and the requirements to graduate.

While the enrollment requirements will vary between schools and programs, to enroll in an undergraduate program at DeVry you need to have a high school diploma or something equivalent, undergo a college-level skills evaluation and meet certain academic requirements. Some states may require you to interview or speak with with an Admissions Representative. Please see the DeVry University Academic Catalog for complete admissions requirements. 

The requirements to graduate from an associate degree program will vary based on the degree you pursue. To graduate, you need to take and pass all the necessary classes outlined in your program guide, meet the minimum credit requirements and maintain the minimum GPA requirement set by your school.

What Level of Education is an Associate Degree?

An associate degree is typically considered the first level of postsecondary education. It can be a steppingstone toward a bachelor's degree, or it can be treated as a standalone credential.

At DeVry, many of our associate degree programs are designed to stack1 into a related bachelor’s degree, meaning that the credits you earn while working on your associate degree can in many cases be put toward earning your bachelor’s with us.

Associate Degree vs. Bachelor’s Degree

You may be asking yourself, what is an associate degree compared to a bachelor’s degree? A bachelor's degree is a higher-level degree than an associate, and typically represents the completion of your undergraduate study in a particular field.

While either degree can provide you with the chance to develop a foundational understanding of a field, the degrees are quite different. An associate degree program may be shorter in length, have different credit hour requirements and contain fewer courses than a bachelor's degree program. 

While many associate degrees are designed to take between two or three years to earn with full-time enrollment, bachelor's degrees are designed to take around four years to complete, although there are several factors that influence how long it takes to earn your degree, such as breaks, course load or transfer credits to name a few.

How Can I Start Earning an Associate Degree?

At DeVry, we offer a number of associate degree programs that you can explore. From our Associate Degree in Business to our Associate Degree in Health Information Technology, there’s something for everyone, no matter what your career goals. Earn your degree 100% online from experienced professors who are there to help you develop your skills and work with you as you prepare to pursue a career in your chosen field. 

1At the time of application to the next credential level, an evaluation of qualifying transfer credits will occur and the most beneficial outcome will be applied.