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What Is the Difference Between an Associate of Applied Arts and an AAS?

by Adam Jefferys

Both the Associate of Applied Arts and the Associate of Applied Science, or AAS, degree are occupational degrees, which prepare students to work immediately after graduation, unlike transfer degrees, which focus on preparing students to move into bachelor’s degree programs. The Associate of Applied Arts, as the name implies, tends to focus on artistic or design fields, whereas the Associate of Applied Science focuses on technical or business fields.

Coursework

Both the Associate of Applied Arts and the Associate of Applied Science require that students complete around 60 college credits, which is about 20 courses. Students are required to take general education classes, such as writing, mathematics and communications, in addition to courses specific to their major. Courses for an occupational degree tend to emphasize practice and hands-on learning in addition to basic principles. For an Associate of Applied Science degree, hands-on practice might involve learning to operate specific machines and technology used in the field. For an Associate of Applied Arts, such hands-on learning might involve guided studio work or completing a design project using commercial design software.

Majors

Associate of Applied Science degrees offer a wide variety of occupational majors, such as human services, health occupations, industrial education, office or business administration, agriculture, manufacturing technology, criminal justice, electronics, computer science and security. The Associate of Applied Arts degree focuses more narrowly on artistic professions, while still retaining a commitment to occupational training. Desktop publishing, multimedia, graphic design and web design are among the fastest growing Associate of Applied Arts degrees. Some Associate of Applied Arts programs focus on studio art; in this case, the Associate of Applied Arts is considered a terminal degree, whereas the Associate of Fine Arts is for those intending to later transfer to a four year college or university.

Career Opportunities: Associate of Applied Arts

Depending on your major, an Associate of Applied Arts degree can lead to a career, such as webmaster, animator and interior designer. Entry-level positions in industrial design, fashion design and set design are also possible, though there is often stiff competition in these fields, and prospects improve for students who have taken classes in drafting and computer-aided design. Engineering courses are often necessary for industrial design positions. An Associate of Applied Arts degree in studio art can lead to careers as an artist, artist assistant or entry-level art instructor.

Career Opportunities: Associate of Applied Science

As with the Associate of Applied Arts, career opportunities for graduates with an Associate of Applied Sciences degree depend on your major, but can include jobs in agriculture, landscaping, business administration, computer networking and programming, law enforcement, fire safety, construction and metal trades, drafting and education and childcare. Paralegals, library technicians and science and health technicians often hold Associate of Applied Science degrees, and an associate degree is the most significant source of training for computer support technicians, engineering technicians, funeral directors and semiconductor processors.

About the Author

Based in Chicago, Adam Jefferys has been writing since 2007. He teaches college writing and literature, and has tutored students in ESL. He holds a Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing, and is currently completing a PhD in English Studies.

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