The predominate difference between the degrees of Associate of Applied Science (AAS) and Associate of Arts (AA) involves the goals of the individual. Knowing future career goals dictates which associate's degree to pursue.


Two-year institutions such as community or vocational colleges most commonly award associate's degrees.


The AAS degree and AA degree offer distinctly different educational tracks. The AAS degree prepares students to join the workforce immediately upon completion of the program. Conversely, the AA degree prepares students to enter a four-year baccalaureate program at the third-year level.


An AAS degree concentrates on an emphasis area (for example, AAS in Computer Technology or Aviation Mechanics) with some elective coursework. In contrast, the AA generally focuses upon those courses required at the freshman and sophomore levels at a four-year university.


Graduates with an AAS degree enter fields as diverse as health care, hospitality and criminal justice (among many others). Most individuals who earn an AA transfer their credits to a four-year institution where they complete a baccalaureate degree.


Some two-year institutions require placement exams for individuals entering any degree program. These exams assist students with choosing the best course of study to achieve career goals.