What is an Associate of Science (AS) degree?

Author: Bambi Majumdar
Reviewed by: Melissa Anderson
Reading level: Grade 8
Read time: 8 minutes, 32 seconds
Original publication date: December 2021
Updates: 3

What is an Associates Degree in Science

An associate of science is a two-year undergraduate degree. This type of degree program provides college-level training. It is available in fields like:

  • Science
  • Business
  • Engineering
  • Allied health
  • Related STEM fields

Community colleges or junior colleges usually offer associate degrees. These programs take two years to complete. Associate of applied science jobs are plentiful, so students with degrees in the above fields are in high demand. Prospective students can refer to rankings about the best associate degrees. This will help them find the right fit for their career goals. 

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Most colleges and universities offer generous credit transfer policies and transfer agreements. These programs are designed specifically for students with an associate degree. They allow students to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree in two years. They are available on campus as well as online. S who need a more flexible schedule opt for an online associate degree. Associate in Science degree programs provide students with foundational knowledge. This prepares them to transfer to 4-year institutions.

Associate of Science degrees offer many benefits. They are a great choice for students wishing to jumpstart their careers. This type of degree prepares students to pursue a bachelor’s degree in STEM fields. Plus, they’re versatile. Depending on the program’s flexibility, students may take less time to complete the required courses. They may also extend the program to buy a little more time. 

The AS degree is a basic degree that provides foundational knowledge in a specific field. An associate program can provide excellent career choices that match students’ interests. Courses may include:

  • English Composition
  • Mathematics
  • Materials Science
  • Management
  • Chemistry
  • Healthcare

A variety of elective courses are also available. 

The AS degree is a basic degree that provides foundational knowledge in a specific field. The two-year associate program can set the path to an excellent career that matches students’ budgets and interests. Courses may include English composition, mathematics, materials science, management, chemistry, and healthcare. A variety of elective courses are also available. 

What is an Associates Degree in Science

Is an associate of science degree worth it?

Associate of Science degree programs help students set the path to professional success. It allows them to increase their skills. This qualifies them for job opportunities with good earning potential. They provide training for careers with competitive salaries in many different industries. Many entry-level roles do not require advanced degrees. This makes it easy for many students to get into the workforce early and start earning. It’s a lucrative alternative to a four-year bachelor’s degree and a worthwhile investment. Put simply, it is a good way to start a career. Consider an accelerated online associate’s degree if you’re worried about how long it takes.

Benefits of an Associate of Science Degree

Students participating in a associates degree class

Associate of Science degrees offer several professional benefits. Some of these perks include specialized training and a higher earning potential. Other benefits of an AS degree are:

  • Specialized training for in-demand careers.
  • Flexible online AS programs help students balance their studies with other work-life obligations.
  • Thanks to transfer agreements, AS degree credits easily transfer to bachelor’s programs, allowing students to earn their bachelor’s degrees faster and cheaper. 
  • Allow students to attend a great school without the need to move across the country.
  • Students with an associate degree enjoy a higher median salary
What is an Associates Degree in Science

What is the difference between an A.S. and A.A. degree?

An Associate of Science (AS) degree is specific to STEM or a science-related field. Still, it can cover a broad range of topics. A.S. majors include:

  • Business
  • Engineering
  • Social Sciences
  • Allied Health

This program is an excellent fit for students who need the knowledge to pursue advanced STEM degrees.

An Associate in Arts (A.A.) degree offers wide-ranging courses. Examples include:

  • History
  • Art
  • Music
  • Literature
  • Writing
  • Public Relations
  • English Composition
  • Communication

The diverse subject matter prepares students for a range of careers and degrees. Associate of Arts programs offer immense potential for students. A.A. majors include:

  • Communication
  • English
  • Liberal Studies

These degrees typically require fewer math and science courses. General education requirements are also less compared to AS programs.

Then, there are Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degrees. These programs are great for students who want to start work in a career immediately. Typically, these are more technical or vocational degrees. Examples include:

  • Web Development
  • Nursing
  • Accounting
  • Teaching Assistant
  • Paralegal
  • Respiratory Care
Students participate in lab work during a science class.

Types of Associate of Science Programs

Students pursuing an associate of science degree may specialize in various disciplines. Examples include:

  • Allied Health
  • Business
  • Science
  • Engineering

These programs emphasize problem-solving and analytical skills.

Computer and Information Science:

This degree in science program in computer and information science covers topics like:

  • Web Development
  • Programming Languages
  • Coding
  • Computer Science

Those students who meet degree requirements can pursue roles like:

  • Web Developer
  • Computer Programmer
  • Computer Support Specialist

Dental Hygienist:

Dental hygienist programs are common. They train students in:

  • Anatomy
  • Oral Health
  • Periodontics

Graduates with an associate degree in the field can work as dental hygienists. These professionals earn a median annual salary of $76,220.

Business Administration

Business administration AS degrees cover study topics like:

  • Finance
  • Accounting
  • Communications
  • Management

This AS degree leads to career opportunities in:

  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Finance
  • Administrative Assisting
  • Project Management

Engineering:

An associates in engineering helps students build basic technical and problem-solving skills. Degree requirements may include classes in:

  • Civil Engineering
  • Materials Science
  • Electrical Engineering

Biology:

An AS in Biology covers topics like:

  • Biological Systems
  • Environmental Science
  • Basic Anatomy
  • Laboratory Science

Students who meet degree requirements can work as biology technicians. Or, they can use AS credits to transfer to a bachelor’s program.

Picture of an Associates Degree graduate.

What Are the Degree Requirements for an Associate of Science?

Most associate science degrees require a high school diploma or equivalent. Some schools may also require SAT or ACT scores and cumulative GPA scores. Most of the time, this rule is more common for bachelor’s degree programs. Applicants often need to submit the following:

  • Recommendation Letter
  • Resume
  • Statement of Purpose

Requirements for completing an AS degree include major courses and general education requirements. Some elective courses may also be necessary. There could also be laboratory or practicum requirements to give students hands-on experience. To earn an associate degree, students need to complete 20 courses. This is around 60 credit hours.

A picture of library books in a college library.

What will you learn in an Associate of Science Program?

Associate of Science degrees may focus on specific fields. These could include natural sciences, allied health, engineering, business, and mathematics. At most community colleges, these programs focus on technical skills. This readies students for further education or careers in scientific or technology industries. 

Most programs also incorporate math courses. Associate of science courses builds strong analytical and critical thinking skills. Some examples include:

  • Introduction to Chemistry
  • Introduction to Physics
  • Introduction to Engineering Sciences 
  • Biology 
  • Introduction to Computer Science
  • General Education Statistics
  • General Education Mathematics
  • Finite Math for Business & Management
  • Earth Science 
  • Applied Physical Science
What is an Associates Degree in Science

Concentrations to Choose in an Associate Degree in Science Program

Students can select a concentration to tailor their program. Examples include:

  • Computer Science
  • Biology
  • Physics
  • Engineering
  • Health Sciences
  • Chemistry

If they choose an Associate of Applied Science degree, they can specialize. Topics like:

  • Dental Hygiene
  • Nursing
  • Emergency Medical Services

Sometimes, AAS programs may take longer to complete than general associate programs. Still, they allow for more generous credit transfers to a bachelor’s degree program. They can also be more conducive to immediate employment upon graduation.

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What is the career outlook for an associate of science degree?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says associates graduates can earn over $800 weekly. The median salary for associate degree holders is $47,078 per year. Graduates with an AS degree can pursue careers like:

  • Engineering Technician
  • Dental Hygienist
  • Web Developer roles

Some engineering or dental hygiene degrees can lead to a higher salary potential. Students can also transfer to a bachelor’s program with their AS degree credits. This will allow them to complete that degree in less than four years.  

Associate’s degrees provide the skills necessary to start a good career. Some of the best associate degrees lead to jobs that pay well. They can align with one’s interests and educational aspirations. Some associate degrees that pay the most lie in the area of skilled trades. Moreover, AS degree holders can eventually work as:

  • Lawyers
  • Doctors
  • Engineers
  • Therapists

Still, they may need an advanced degree to grow in these fields. For instance, if you wanted to become a geologist, you would likely need a bachelor’s minimum to work in that field. The good news is we’ve got you covered when it comes to finding affordable degrees. Taking geologist as an example again, we have a ranking featuring some of the most affordable online geology degrees out there.

Other high-paying associates degree jobs can be found in healthcare and related fields. These occupations hold immense opportunities for students. Some Jobs only require an associates degree. These include:

  • RadiologyTechnicians
  • Dental Hygienists
  • respiratory Therapists
  • Medical Assistants
  • Occupational and Physical Therapy Assistants
  • Surgical Technologists

Students interested in becoming registered nurses can earn an associate degree. They can start practicing and pursue a bachelor’s degree for more advanced studies. The sky’s the limit for these students. They have the opportunity to pursue a master’s in nursing. If interested in administrative or leadership positions, healthcare management is also a choice.

The BLS reports a high demand for professionals with specialized knowledge and skills. This includes graduates with either AS or AAS degrees. It also includes many careers in manufacturing like:

  • Machining
  • Welding
  • Automation
  • Mechanics
  • Industrial Maintenance
  • Construction

. Other associate’s degree jobs in the skilled trades area include:

  • Maintaining electrical and natural gas lines
  • Installing and maintaining home heating
  • Cooling
  • Ventilation systems

Well-paying associate degrees can be found in the field of information technology. With an Associates in Science, you can pursue jobs in:

  • Computer repairs
  • Maintaining computer hardware
  • Managing computer networks
  • Software developing
  • Computer programming
  • Network troubleshooting

However, they may have to get an advanced degree to grow in these fields. 

There are many opportunities available in the agriculture-related field and agri-businesses. Students can find jobs in:

  • Farms
  • Cooperatives
  • Horticulture Services
  • Greenhouses
  • Agriculture Consulting Firms

Opportunities abound in regular business areas like accounting, management, and marketing.

Young female scientist looks through microscope in a science lab.

Some of the high-growth sectors for students with an associate of science degree include:

Healthcare

Healthcare is one of the fastest-growing job sectors in the U.S., so there is a massive demand for medical workers. Frontline workers have saved millions of lives during the pandemic. This includes everything from nursing aides to personal care providers. One can secure a top-quality job with an associate’s degree but may need an advanced degree to grow in the field. 

Some high-growth jobs that require an associate’s degree are:

  • Radiologic and MRI Technologist
  • Nuclear Medicine Technologist
  • Dental Hygienist
  • Registered Nurse
  • Medical Sonographer
  • Personal Care Aides
  • Home Health Aides
  • Medical or Nursing Assistants
Young man and woman consulting in a room full of IT equipment.

Information Technology 

Software and IT jobs are increasing every day. There is a pressing need for people with knowledge of computers, networks, and new programs. Other professionals are hired to set up these technologies and use them effectively. Some high-growth jobs in the area that require an associate’s degree are:

  • Web Developers
  • Computer Programmers 
  • Computer Network Specialists
  • Computer Support Specialists
  • Computer System Analysts
  • Network and Computer System Administrators 
  • Network Engineer
  • Operations or I.T. manager

Other associates of science degree jobs include:

  • Veterinary Technologist 
  • Chemical Technician 
  • Physical Therapist Assistant 
  • Geological and Petroleum Technician 
  • Medical Transcriptionist 
  • Phlebotomist
  • Medical assistant 
  • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
  • Medical Biller
  • Pharmacy Technician
  • Laboratory Assistants 
  • Engineering Technician
Photo of a stack of books with piggy bank on the top in front of a chalk board reading "education costs".

College debt and expenses can be hard to bear. Affordability is a significant benefit of associate degrees, though. Plus, completing an associate degree takes less time than a bachelor’s degree. An affordable associate’s degree in science prepares students to start working. They gain hands-on industry experience right after high school. This type of degree program also allows students to work and support themselves. While doing this, they prepare for varied jobs or higher education. Public community colleges and junior colleges usually offer these associate’s degree programs. That means students can pay much lower tuition than at public or private four-year colleges. Plus, financial aid is available for these academic programs.

The associate’s degree is just the beginning for many. Students who wish to grow in their careers can apply to four-year bachelor’s programs after earning their two-year credentials. These ambitious grads can earn a bachelor’s degree at a lesser cost with just two extra years of study.

Sources

  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 
  • U.S. News & World Report
  • Salary.com 
  • Payscale.com