An A.A. degree stands for an Associate of Arts degree. It’s an undergraduate degree typically awarded at a 2-year school such as a community college, business college, or junior college.

However, many online programs and some 4-year universities also offer A.A. degrees as well.

If you’re an adult student with little time on your hands, but you want to earn a degree to increase your earning potential, an A.A. degree can start you on that path.

Have questions about earning an A.A. degree in 2024? Don’t worry, we’re about to answer every possible question you may have and we’ll cover some best practices to potentially lower the cost of your AA as well.

Let’s dive in.

How Do You Earn an A.A. Degree?

To earn your A.A. degree, you will first need a high school diploma or GED. After that, each college will have its own specific admission requirements whether it’s a community college or 4-year university.

Full-time students can expect to earn their degree in two years. Part-time students may take a bit longer, but that’s dependent on whether they have previous school or life credits that can be applied to their current program. (we’ll get to credits in just a little bit!)

What Courses Will I Need to Take for an AA Degree?

Students opting for an A.A. degree will usually be required to take general education courses and electives, in addition to courses in their preferred area of focus. The logic is that students are far more dynamic and educated by learning a broader set of information as opposed to a singular topic.

If one were to just major in Accounting for example, they might find themselves limited in their career since they lack the information and knowledge on other topics that are important to complement one’s skillset (writing, etc.).  Instead, by covering a diverse set of courses and knowledge, one is more well-rounded and far more prepared for dynamic career needs.

As a result, universities will normally require you to take general education courses in addition to the degree-specific courses you’ll need for your major.

For example, an A.A. degree in graphic design will have a student apply almost half of their credits to general studies and the other half to their chosen field.

In this case, roughly half of your courses would be in topics such as math, English, writing, social sciences, or arts and humanities, and the remaining half specifically focused on graphic design and technology.

What Can You Do with Your Associate of Arts (AA) Degree?


There are many different reasons students choose to start their higher education journey with an A.A. For starters, in addition to being an outright degree itself, you can eventually transfer those credits and apply them to earn a bachelor’s degree.

When you do this, you will be allowed to jump right into upper-level courses and complete your bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degree much faster. So essentially, your A.A. degree replaces your first two years of your 4-year degree.

Another reason to earn your A.A. degree is to help you land a good-paying job. For instance, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates the minimum education required for a job as a paralegal or legal assistant is an A.A. degree.

They can also help you enhance skills in your current field. So if you are currently working in an entry-level position that does not require a degree, by obtaining your A.A., you may have an advantage over coworkers when it comes time for a raise or promotion.

What Kind of Job Can You Get with an A.A. Degree?

According to the BLS, the median salary for someone with “some college or associate degree” was $938 per week in 2020. Doing a little bit of math, that number turns into an annual salary of $48,776, assuming 52 weeks of pay.

Statistics show that high school graduates with no degree earn a median salary of $781 a week, which turns into an annual salary of $40,612. So looking at these numbers we can see there is more income potential with an A.A. degree than without.

But what kinds of jobs exactly will require an A.A. degree?

Here is a list from the BLS of potential top-earning careers you can pursue with an associate degree in hand:

Air Traffic Controller

Without air traffic controllers, we would all have to drive everywhere. Good luck going abroad! These professionals earn, on average, $130,420 a year and the job outlook estimates 3% growth over the next few years.

Computer Programmer

As technology has become ever-present in our lives, computer programmers have become even more important. The annual salary for these professionals is $89,190 and with technological advancements becoming the norm, the pandemic forcing the shift towards virtual presence, online workplace, and online delivery of services in every industry and sector, there will be no shortage of job opportunities for computer programmers playing an important role in making it happen!

Radiation Therapist

These professionals treat patients with cancer and other diseases using radiation therapy.

With an annual salary of $86,850 and excellent expected job growth, this is a solid career path to pursue for those interested in science and helping others.

Nuclear Technician

Talk about a fascinating job! These highly-trained professionals assist in nuclear research and energy production. While the BLS only projects minimal growth for this field, those who do pursue this career path can expect to earn an annual salary of $84,190.

Dental Hygienist

As long as people have teeth, they will always need them cleaned. For this reason, there will always be a need for dental hygienists. With an annual salary of $77,090 and a projected job growth of 20% over the next six years, this is a fantastic career to pursue. Open wide!

Nurse Anesthetist

Registered Nurse

While many nurses obtain a bachelor’s degree, there is an Associate Degree in Nursing, or ADN, which is a faster and more affordable option for landing a great job in the workforce.

The ongoing pandemic as well as expanding vaccination drives have increased the demand for nurses. The BLS projects a 15% increase in job growth and a yearly salary of $75,330.


Aerospace Engineering Technician

If you love the idea of using automation, robotics, and computer-based modeling to maintain equipment that is used in air and spacecraft all while earning $68,570 a year, then this could be the career for you! And as a bonus, the expected job outlook is 7% growth.

While this list is not an exhaustive job list by any means, it gives you an idea of the kind of career opportunities that are available to those who’ve completed their Associate’s.

How Many Credits Do I Need to Earn My A.A. Degree?

An Associate of Arts degree requires at least 60 credits to complete. Some A.A. degrees may require additional credits to finish special requirements, but generally speaking, the 60-credit base is standard at colleges and universities across the country.

Most A.A. programs are designed to be completed in two years by taking a full-time course load from the Fall semester through the Spring semester each year. But the reality is, that few community college students graduate on time.

What’s the reason behind this?

Many students earn their A.A degree is for adult students who have other work-life responsibilities and may be cost-sensitive.  It’s an unfortunate reality that community colleges don’t always offer flexible enough programs for busy adults.

Does this relate to your situation? If so, keep reading: we’re about to share some ways you could earn your A.A. degree quicker and for less money.

How Could I Save Time & Money on my A.A. Degree?

As mentioned above, the primary issues for busy adults to obtain their degree is due to a lack of flexible scheduling, and cost.  That’s exactly why I created

It’s our mission to make college more affordable and accessible for everyone.  Anyone can quickly register without entrance exams or interviews, and take as many online college-level courses as they’d like at their own pace, schedule, and 24/7 online…all for FREE.

Yep, really…you can see how it all works here. We offer courses in marketing, computer programming, psychology, education, and much more from excellent professors around the country.

Now here’s where the good news gets even better…

We’ve gone ahead and built relationships with universities around the country that can give you credit for the free courses you’ve completed. Not only does this give you the ability to save thousands on your degree, it also allows you to potentially earn your degree much, much sooner. 

We’ve worked hard to make our courses super interesting, and the ability for those to apply as requirements toward your general education, elective, or degree-specific courses.

Check it out to see how we could help you save >>

Here are a few other ways you could also help lower the time and cost:

Life Credits

If you’re an adult going back to school, chances are you have racked up some valuable real-world experience. Many colleges and universities recognize this experience as far more valuable than typical introductory-level courses and may award credits for your experience.

Military Training

Some institutions may also offer credits to students with military experience or time spent abroad.

CLEP Exams

The College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) helps students earn college credit for what they already know. Simply take the exam and demonstrate your mastery of college-level material and earn credits. There is a ~$80 fee per course, and you may have to take some prep courses, but it’s still a better option than paying full-price tuition at a university.

Finally, make sure to check out our article on how to Pay Less for College.  It gives you all of the great ways to save.

4 Great Reasons to Earn Your A.A. Degree

If you’re still not sure that an A.A. degree program is right for you, here are 4 compelling reasons to earn your degree:

1. Earn More

For those students with little time or money, an A.A. degree is a great way to start your path of higher education (especially with the free help from Obtain your degree, and instantly increase your value and earning potential.

2. Transferring to a 4-Year School or Degree is Easier

An A.A. degree is essentially the same thing as having already completed your first two years of a bachelor’s degree. When you find you’d like to return to school to earn your BA or BS, increasing your value and earning potential even more, you’ll already be halfway to your degree!

3. It’s a Fresh Start

Not everyone had a GPA or SAT scores that were very impressive. That’s okay, most community colleges, junior colleges and online programs have an open enrollment policy, which means all are welcome to come and experience a fresh start and build on your skills and confidence.

4. You’ll Receive More Personal Attention

Whether you obtain your A.A. degree through a community college or online curriculum, you’ll find class sizes are much smaller. Consider that most larger universities have general education classes with roughly 300 students in them!

You’ll find with many community colleges and online programs the class size can be smaller than 50 students. This allows for more one-on-one attention, and that can ONLY help you succeed.

5. You Can Enter the Workforce Faster

Many students, particularly adult students, have a great desire (or need) to enter the workforce as fast as possible. You may have bought into the idea that a 4-year degree is absolutely necessary to stand a chance in today’s workforce, but that’s simply not the case. An A.A. degree can absolutely help you get into a great career. And the faster you get into this career, the sooner you can begin earning!

What Is an Accelerated Associate’s Degree?

An Accelerated Associates degree online program is a course of study that offers students the potential to earn their degree in less than two years. Now you may be wondering what’s the catch.

Well, there’s no catch, it’s just these programs have been designed for students who have previous college credits already that can be transferred – cutting down the time to earn the degree as well as the cost.

What’s the Difference Between A.A., A.S., and A.A.S Degrees?

You now know that A.A. stands for an Associate of Arts degree. This degree is great for those who plan to later pursue a four-year major that falls under Liberal Arts, such as art, art history, psychology, history, English, philosophy, and theater.

This degree will help you get your core and general education courses (English, science, math, etc.) completed. You can then, if you choose, transfer to a four-year university with only two years left to complete your bachelor’s degree.

Associate of Science (A.S.)

Similar to an A.A. degree, an A.S. degree is typically completed in 2 years and you can then, if you choose, transfer credits to complete a Bachelor of Science degree.

An A.S. degree is ideal if you plan to major in something like math or astronomy, biology, engineering, computers, chemistry, physics, or other sciences.

Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.)

Many adult students are interested in an A.A.S. degree because it is considered a career degree that prepares them to enter skilled occupations such as nursing, accounting, machining, computer networking, welding, etc.

Unlike the A.A. and A.S. degrees, the A.A.S. degree is not intended to transfer into a 4-year program.

Are You Ready to Get Started on Your Path to Higher Education?

No matter how you look at it, college is a huge benefit both personally and professionally.  It can help you feel better about yourself, grow as an individual, and potentially earn far more money.

Check out our article on Why Go To College? The Top 13 Benefits to see all of the reasons why.

So what are you waiting for??

Remember, everyone here at is here to help you as well. Our mission is to help adult students afford college. We know that the majority of adult students often run into roadblocks when it comes to earning their degree through a traditional learning environment. That’s why we created our platform.

Whether you decide to earn an A.A. degree an A.S. degree, or a bachelors, could help you reach your goals.

Register today. It takes less than 60 seconds and you can be on your way to earning your degree and living your best life!


About the Author
Grant founded with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.