An Associate of Arts degree prepares students for careers in a variety of fields.

The long list of degree initials can be confusing; do you want to get an AA or a BA, an AOS or an AAT? An Associate of Arts (AA) degree is typically earned within two years of full-time enrollment at a community college. This transfer associate degree prepares students to continue their education if they choose to earn a bachelor’s degree at a four-year institution or to enter the workforce directly. An AA degree can focus on many fields of study including psychology, philosophy, history, literature, physical science, life science, math and statistics. Entry-level salaries for AA degree graduates vary depending on the industry.

Jobs and Skills

An AA degree curriculum enables students to develop a wide range of skills in preparation to join the workforce. Through required AA degree courses vary by institution, students may obtain writing and interpersonal skills, critical thinking skills and knowledge from core classes and courses within their chosen focus field. Employers value these skills as preparing students for a number of careers upon graduation. Possible careers for AA graduates can include management, health care, sales, marketing and education. Hourly rates vary depending on the student’s area of focus and any certificate programs also completed.

Why An AA Degree?

Not all high school graduates choose to move on to a four-year degree program. The traditionally two-year AA degree can be a good option for students wanting to take their core classes locally at a lower cost than a four-year degree. Students that have a specific career path in mind that don't want to wait four years to go to work also might choose an AA degree option. Many states across the country now offer free tuition for two-year programs at community colleges which makes an AA degree a cost-effective educational option. Occupational degrees are focused only getting specific work place skills. An AA degree is known as a transfer degree which means it has more of a focus on academics and is tailored to be transfer credits into a four-year program if the student chooses that route.

Highest Paying Jobs

The highest paying jobs for AA graduates are in the health care industry. Nuclear medicine technologist and medical sonographers can initially earn over $50,000 a year. Outside of the medical field, aerospace, aviation or electrical engineers graduating with an AA can initially earn in that same salary range. Paralegals and court reporters earn just less than $50,000 per year. Additional high paying jobs for AA graduates include occupational therapists and dental hygienists managers.

Liberal Arts

An AA degree from a liberal arts institution can provide a solid foundation in writing if the student chooses a writing-based major. As these students graduate and enter the workforce, they may be best-suited for jobs that showcase their writing skills. The largest employer of students with liberal arts AA degrees are the advertising and marketing industries.

Criminal Justice

Criminal justice is another popular area in which a student can earn an AA degree. Popular careers in criminal justice include corrections officer, police officer, airport security, bailiff and bodyguard. When earning an AA in criminal justice, students are trained in their specific field of interest so they are ready to enter the job market upon graduation in fields like policeman. Students that decide to move on to a four-year program in criminal justice