What Is an Associate Degree in Science?

If you'd like to pursue education in a medical or science-related field, but are unsure how to begin, you might consider earning an associate degree in science. This degree is designed to provide you with foundational knowledge and prepare you to transfer to a 4-year institution.

Associate Degree in Science Overview

An Associate of Science (AS) is a 2-year degree offered by most community colleges and some 4-year colleges. As opposed to the Associate of Applied Science degree, which prepares you to enter a career immediately after graduation, most AS degrees are transfer degrees and provide an academic foundation, but not specific career training. To make the transfer process easier, many community colleges have transfer agreements with 4-year institutions in their states. These agreements often ensure that the credits you earn while completing your AS degree meet the general education requirements of the school to which you intend to transfer.

Typical Courses

You'll have to complete around 60 credit hours, or 20 courses, to earn an associate degree. Much of your coursework will fulfill general education requirements, which will probably include math, English composition, social science and humanities courses. After completing general education courses, you'll fulfill your concentration or take electives in your preferred area of study. The number of required courses and course distribution will vary between schools, so check with an adviser at your school to determine the exact requirements.

Concentrations

When you enter a general associate degree in science program, you may want to select a concentration. Depending on your interests and goals, you could choose between computer science, physics, biology, engineering, chemistry, health sciences and more. Some programs are specialized, such as dental hygiene, emergency medical services and nursing, although in many cases these are offered as Associate of Applied Science degrees. These specialized programs often take longer to complete and allow you to transfer to a bachelor's degree program or find jobs upon graduation.

Associate Degree vs. Bachelor's Degree

Although you could enter a science program at a 4-year school without first earning an AS degree, attending a community college offers several advantages. You could cut down on your educational costs, receive personal attention in smaller classes and build your academic success to better your chances of acceptance to a 4-year school. Even if you decide not to pursue a bachelor's degree after completing an AS degree, you'll still meet with an improved career outlook. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2012 that earning an associate degree can lead to a higher-paying job that doesn't require additional training (www.bls.gov).

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