Applied Arts & Science: Bachelor, Associate & Online Degree Info

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What will you learn in an applied arts and science degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate and bachelor degree and potential careers.
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Studying Applied Arts and Science: Degrees at a Glance

Undergraduate degree programs in applied arts and science are general education degrees that allow for tailored, vocation-focused coursework. The programs often seek to combine vocational training with humanities, science and math electives. The goal of these programs is to serve as an educational platform for a range of different career paths.

At both the associate and bachelor's degree levels, these programs look to grant course credit for work experience, vocational training and military experience. Once you enroll in either degree level, you choose a concentration that allows you to focus your studies. These concentrations include a wide range of career possibilities, from accounting to welding. Because of the inherent flexibility of these degrees, they can be the ideal choice for individuals of non-traditional college age seeking a degree, as well as for those who are returning to college because they are changing careers.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Those interested in entry-level jobs for which an associate degree is necessary People interested in switching careers or who need a bachelor's degree for advancement
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Hotel manager ($55,000)*
- Event planner ($50,000)*
- Computer support technician ($52,000)*
- Food service manager ($53,000)*
- Mechanical drafter ($52,000)*
- Forester ($56,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full time 4 years full time (may be less depending on transfer credits)
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures)

Associate Degree in Applied Arts and Science

In this degree program, applicants are expected to choose a concentration for their degree and design their curriculum around that concentration. Your coursework will consist of the classes needed to satisfy your concentration requirement as well as other electives. These other electives will consist of courses designed to test your proficiency in certain key educational areas. These areas will likely include math, science, oral and written communication and computer technology.

As has been stated previously, this degree can serve to fulfill the academic requirement for a wide range of careers. However, these degree programs often offer vocational concentrations for careers that require more than an associate degree. As an example, accounting is often offered in this degree format. Accountants are usually required to have a bachelor degree, if not a master's. That isn't to say that you can't get a job in accounting with this degree. Your position will be something akin to assistant auditing clerk, not accountant.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • With flexible class schedules, including evening, weekend and online offerings, this can be an ideal degree choice for working professionals
  • You'll be done with your degree in 2 years or less of full time study
  • Many programs are offered at community colleges, making the tuition more affordable

Cons

  • May not prepare you for the same range of careers as a bachelor's degree
  • Some jobs for which this degree prepares you, such as corrections officer, often require only a high school diploma
  • Because this degree is vocationally focused, it may not provide you with the same well-rounded education as other degree types

Courses and Requirements

Owing to the varied nature of this degree program, the exact courses you take will depend on your vocational goals and the topic of your concentration. For instance, if your goal is to become a corrections officer, you may wish to study criminal justice, criminology and emergency medical procedures. Obviously, the training for an accountant would be much different. Listed below are a few of the topical concentrations you can choose to focus on within your associate degree.

  • Communication design
  • Marketing
  • Pastoral studies
  • Computer information
  • Electronics
  • Landscape design

Online Degree Options

There are online associate degree programs available in the applied arts and science field. These programs come in a number of varieties, including completely online and hybrid programs. Hybrid programs feature a blend of distance-learning and traditional classroom-based instruction. Either program should afford graduates the same opportunities as campus-based programs.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

How to separate yourself from the herd of other job applicants will depend on what career you are pursuing. However, in nearly all vocational fields, technology is king. With this in mind, you should try to absorb as much technological knowledge that pertains to your field as you can. If you're thinking about becoming a landscape design assistant, try to master the latest in landscape designing software. If electronics is your field, gain an understanding of the latest software and hardware platforms used in your industry.

Bachelor's Degree in Applied Arts and Science

Programs such as these are often designed for working professionals or students who have already accrued college credits. Similar to the associate degree, these programs offer flexibility along with course credit recognition for work experience as well as vocational and military training. Depending on the concentration of your program, you could be eligible to pursue employment in fields as diverse as public office, government work, corporate management and industrial management.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Upon graduating, you'll be able to pursue graduate studies in your field
  • Will qualify you for more jobs than an associate degree
  • Programs are often geared toward the working adult with flexible class schedules

Cons

  • May not provide you with the same exposure to liberal arts and humanities topics as a traditional bachelor's degree
  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, some jobs that this program prepares you for (such as forester) are expected to experience slower-than-average growth over the coming decade

Courses and Requirements

The exact nature of the courses you take in this program will depend on several factors. Chief among these is the concentration of your studies. Another factor will be the amount of transfer credits you are bringing with you from other institutions. Most programs will insist that you take a minimum number of courses from the institution that is awarding you your diploma. This number will vary between colleges. There will also be general education requirements to fulfill in subjects such as English, history and the social sciences.

Online Degree Options

Online bachelor's degree programs in the applied arts and sciences are widely available. You can find programs that are offered completely online. These programs allow you to pursue your studies with the highest degree of flexibility. Other programs combine state-of-the-art online courses with campus-based classes. This second option might be a better choice for students who feel they need more interaction with teachers or an academic community.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Standing out with this degree will vary from career to career. In some fields an internship will help you stand out. These probably will not be offered by your college or university, owing to the vast range of possible careers afforded by this degree. If you think you are in the right field for an internship, you can begin by searching for one in the employment section of your local news source. These are most often listed online also. Another avenue for internships is professional or trade organization affiliated with your field. You can use a search engine to find these. Or contact the relevant department of your college.

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