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What is an Associate of Science Good For?

A man looks at his computer screen researching an associate of science degree

If you’re thinking about going to college but don’t know where to start, an associate degree could be the right option. Generally taking only two years to complete, an associate degree provides foundational academic knowledge and technical expertise for a variety of career fields without the time and financial investment of a four-year degree.

Community colleges often come to mind when people consider earning an associate degree, though more and more four-year schools offer associate degree options. Associate degrees generally serve two main purposes:

  1. They are a way to earn the foundational credits needed to advance to a bachelor’s degree.
  2. They provide preparation for the workforce in career fields that do not require a higher level of education.

What Can You Do With an Associate Degree?

If you’re wondering what kind of jobs you can get with an associate degree, the answer is more varied than you might think. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists as many as 99 job fields that require some post-secondary education but don’t need a four-year degree.

According to the BLS, some jobs that only require an associate degree are:

  • Architectural drafter
  • Automotive services technician
  • Bookkeeper
  • Computer network support specialist
  • Dental hygienist
  • Firefighter
  • Hairstylist and cosmetologist
  • Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanic and installer
  • Human resources assistant
  • Licensed practical nurse
  • Medical assistant, including nursing assistant, medical assistant and dental assistant
  • Paralegal and legal assistant
  • Photographer
  • Teacher assistant and preschool teacher
  • Web developer

What Are the Advantages of an Associate Degree?

One of the biggest advantages to earning an associate degree is the amount of time it takes to complete the degree. In half the time it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree, you can have a credential that can help boost earnings and lead to a rewarding career.

With more career opportunities comes greater earning potential – and the less time it takes to earn a degree, the less money the degree typically costs. Many associate degrees are also flexible so that students can work while attending school.

An associate degree is an excellent jumping-off point toward building a career. For example, you could earn an associate degree in dental hygiene and build a rewarding career in a dental office. If you decide to further your education by applying your associate degree to a four-year degree via transfer credits, you could work toward becoming a practice manager or even continue on to becoming a dentist.

Likewise, an associate degree in paralegal studies could lead to a rewarding career as a paralegal. Or, the associate degree could lead to an interest in pursuing a bachelor's degree in a similar or different area.

What’s the Difference Between an AA and AS?

Infographic that shows the difference between an Associate of Arts and Associate of Science. The letters AA with an icon of a camera, people, and a building. The letters AS with an icon of an atom, gears, and a computer.While both an associate of arts (AA) degree and an associate of science (AS) degree provide foundational academic preparation, coursework for the former focuses more on the liberal arts while coursework for the latter focuses more on science and technology.

If your career focus and personal interests are in the social sciences, education, liberal arts or humanities, you may wish to seek an associate of arts degree. If science, architecture, engineering, computer science or technology are your focus, an associate of science may be the degree for you.

These subject areas are not set in stone, however. Whether a degree is classified as an AA or AS can depend on the institution and the program itself. It's always worth exploring different types of associate degrees at schools that interest you to see if pursuing an AA or AS is the better choice.

Why Pursue an Associate Degree in Science?

An associate degree in science can prepare you for a career in the growing and exciting fields of cybersecurity, data analytics and information technology. Perhaps you want to start your career as an accountant or business professional. An associate degree in science can also lead to a career in the applied arts, such as fashion merchandising or marketing.

What Does an Associate of Science Focus On?

Associate of Science degrees focus on the skills and knowledge you will need to get ahead in the workplace. With an AS in Business Administration, for example, you may learn record-keeping, supply chain basics and customer service.

With an As in Criminal Justice, you can learn how to examine laws and regulations as well as manage conflict. And with an As in Information Technology, you may learn how to use industry-relevant technologies to design computer networks and utilize cloud computing.

Is it Worth it to Pursue an Associate of Science?

If you’re wondering why you should earn an associate degree when you could just work towards a bachelor’s degree instead, there are two words for you: transfer credits. Because so much of the work done at the associate degree level is foundational, the work you do earning that degree will likely transfer well into a bachelor’s degree program in a similar field.

So, if you’re not sure if the time and money investment in earning a four-year degree in accounting is worth it, try on the degree field by earning an associate degree. You can always continue on to a bachelor’s degree later if you wish.

Having an associate degree in hand demonstrates to employers that you are serious about your education. It makes you more competitive in the job market. Most of all, earning an associate degree is a great way to try out an academic field in a meaningful way without the up-front commitment of four-year degree.

Read more about why an associate of science degree might be the right choice for you. 

Marie Morganelli, PhD, is a freelance content writer and editor.

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