Degrees and Degree Tracks

In previous editions, I have tried to explain the differences between the various undergraduate degrees you can earn -- A.A. A.S., A.A.S, B.A., BS, etc. This attempt taught me something. The community college system needs to standardize the names of their degrees. The meanings can change from school to school, state to state and region to region. It is without doubt the thing that I was “corrected” on the most. I put “corrected” in quotes not because the person doing the correcting wasn’t right, invariably they were. But they, and I, would both need to be “corrected” again in the next school, state or region. So when I talk about Associate’s degrees, I am being purposely vague about their names. It’s the only way to be “correct.”

About fifty percent of you will start at a community college. A community college offers two types of Associate’s degrees, both of which you need to know about. One type of Associate’s degree is transferable and one type is not. You want to make sure, if you are planning on getting a four year degree, that you can transfer your degree to another school. I don’t care what they call it, but check with your counselor or trusted faculty administration member. Just make sure that you can transfer the degree.

Before we move on, I want talk about these degrees that don’t transfer. They come in two types. One is a quick, mini degree-like certificate. Certificates basically just say that you took X number of hours in something, like Cosmetology or Computer networking. Often they can require as little as six classes. I mention Cosmetology specifically because a friend of mine, who runs a Cosmetology program, told me a great story that I want to pass along to you. The school where she teaches is just down the road from a big state research school. This big state research school prides itself on the reputation of its business program. Well, a small part of that reputation and pride can be credited to my friend. She regularly has a few graduates of that business program in her course learning to cut hair. Why? Because that big state school business degree is even more valuable when it is tied to a practical skill like cosmetology . . .