Associate of arts (AA) and associate of science (AS) degrees are college-level degrees awarded at community and junior colleges, universities and online schools. Earning an associate degree can help you qualify for a job or career, or it can be a first step toward a bachelor's degree. Although an AA or AS both require the same amount of credit hours, there are distinct differences in the curriculum of each.

Associate of Arts Degree

To earn an AA degree, be prepared to take a course of study in liberal arts, science and the humanities. The AA will be your choice if you plan to transfer to a four-year college to pursue a bachelor's degree in English, history or the arts. Before selecting your AA curriculum, you should check with the four-year colleges you wish to apply to and make certain that your AA credits are transferable and that they satisfy that schools' admission and degree requirements. If you opt to seek a job or career instead of a bachelor's degree, you can take appropriate technical or vocational electives concurrent with the required courses to complete your AA degree.

Associate of Science Degree

An Associate of science degree program emphasizes a course of study in math and science, with liberal arts and humanities classes included. If you want to transfer to a four-year college in pursuit of a bachelor's degree in business administration, engineering or science, seek to earn an associate of science degree. Before choosing your AS curriculum, check with the four-year colleges you wish to apply to in order to learn if your AS courses are transferable and meet with the schools' admission and graduation requirements. As with an AA program, if you wish to earn an AS degree to qualify for a job or career, you can take targeted technical and vocational electives in addition to your other courses.

AA Curriculum

It will take two years or four full-time semesters to complete the 60 hours of required and elective courses needed to earn your AA degree. Although schools awarding AA degrees differ in their curriculum requirements, the following courses as well as other related courses are required at most schools: humanities, sociology, U.S. history, algebra, psychology, English and speech. Elective classes offered include topics such as political science, microeconomics, philosophy and women's studies. Contact your school of choice to get a definitive list online or by mail of courses required for earning your AA degree.

AS Curriculum

The associate of science degree curriculum also requires 60 hours of study and two years of full-time work. Contact schools that you might like to attend by mail or online for a definitive list of their course offerings. Some of the required courses for your AS degree are likely to include: microbiology, chemistry, physics, anatomy, algebra and probability and statistics. Elective courses include: art, literature, psychology and the history of technology.