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Associate Degrees

An associate degree award normally requires at least two, but less than four years of full-time equivalent college work.

Students typically complete 60 credit hours of study.

Associate degrees are awarded as:

  • Associate of Arts (AA)
  • Associate of Science (AS)
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

Which Associate degree should you get?

If you want to transfer to a university to earn a Bachelor’s degree . . . . . you should pursue an Associate of Arts (AA) or an Associate of Science (AS) degree. These degrees are designed to transfer. This means the credits and classes you take (if following a Tennessee Transfer Pathway) will transfer seamlessly to a bachelor’s degree program at Tennessee public universities and many private colleges. Through these degree programs, you get the core course requirements (Communication, Math, Sciences, Humanities, etc.) that every college student must complete. When you transfer to a four-year university, you will have two years remaining to complete the courses required in your field of study.

What’s the difference between an AA or AS degree?

If you are considering a four-year degree program that falls under the Liberal Arts, Humanities or Social Sciences areas (Psychology, History, English, Political Science, Social Work, etc.) you should consider an AA degree program path.  The AA degree is the most transferrable program offered.

If you are considering a four-year Business or STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Math) degree program, you should choose an AS degree path.

If you want to join the workforce immediately upon graduation . . . . . an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree is the program for you. These programs are technical/vocational in nature and prepare students for entry-level career positions within a specific field. Some programs also provide the educational background necessary to be eligible for credentialing exams in some career fields.  

For students who initially earn an AAS degree and decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree later in their career, it’s important to note that some AAS courses are not granted transfer equivalency credit, nor will they fulfill the general education requirements of a bachelor’s degree program.


A.A. and A.S. University Parallel Degrees

An Associate of Arts (A.A.) University Parallel degree is a two-year community college degree program comprised primarily of general education courses which are not specific to a major or vocation. A.A. degrees are designed for transfer to a four-year university. 

An Associate of Science (A.S.) University Parallel degree is a two-year community college program that is more narrowly focused than an A.A. degree and includes additional math and science course requirements. The A.S. degree is also designed for transfer to a four-year university for further specialization. 

General Education Core

All colleges in the Tennessee Board of Regents System share a common lower-division general education core curriculum of forty-one (41) credit hours for an Associate degree. Lower-division means freshman and sophomore courses. 

The purpose of general education core courses is to ensure that college students have a broad knowledge and skill set necessary to become lifelong learners in an environment of continued technological and social change. "Gen Ed" courses emphasize a breadth of understanding and not a set of skills, techniques or procedures associated with a specific occupation or profession.   

Students select general education core courses (41 credit hours) from the following six categories for an A.A. or A.S. degree. A total of 60 credfit hours (unless otherwise specified) is needed for associate degree completion.

  • Communication - 9 credit hours
  • Humanities/Fine Arts - 9 credit hours
  • Social/Behavioral Sciences - 6 credit hours
  • History - 6 credit hours
  • Natural Sciences - 8 credit hours
  • Mathematics - 3 credit hours

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

An Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) is a two-year terminal degree program offered by community colleges. The A.A.S. degree is designed for students planning to enter the job market immediately upon graduation. An A.A.S. degree is not designed for transfer to a four-year university. 

TN eCampus offers numerous courses that fulfill A.A.S. degree requirements for:

  • Business
  • Computer Information Technology
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Criminal Justice

Tennessee Transfer Pathways

If you follow a Tennessee Transfer Pathway (TTP), the courses in your path will seamlessly transfer to many public and private Tennessee institutions. Visit http://www.tntransferpathway.org/ for more information.

All of the core courses (41 semester hours) and most of the emphasis courses (19 semester hours or more depending upon the Transfer Pathway chosen) are available via TN eCampus.