A Tangled Knot of Career and Credential: The Associate in Applied Science Degree as Career Preparation and Transfer Catalyst

A Tangled Knot of Career and Credential: The Associate in Applied Science Degree as Career Preparation and Transfer Catalyst

Andrew J. Ryder (University of North Carolina Wilmington, USA), Bethany D. Meighen (University of North Carolina Wilmington, USA), Jaime L. Russell (University of North Carolina Wilmington, USA), Crystal E. Hollenbaugh (University of North Carolina Wilmington, USA), John E. Lothes II (University of North Carolina Wilmington, USA) and Ezekiel W. Kimball (University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0034-6.ch085
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Abstract

In this chapter, we explore the potential of the Associate in Applied Science as both a terminal and a transfer degree. We first contextualize AAS degrees by examining their place in the development and missions of community colleges and their current purpose and prominence. We then review recent U.S. employment data and wage dividends for individuals with AAS degrees as well as those graduates with AAS plus baccalaureate degrees. Initially intended as a terminal credential leading directly to employment, a subset of students is likely to utilize the AAS degree for transfer and additional preparation leading to significant economic benefits and career mobility. We suggest that this phenomenon — presently understudied — is likely to increase in frequency as the United States becomes an increasingly credentialed society. Using North Carolina as an example, we document the state's workforce needs for AAS and AAS plus baccalaureate degrees and conclude by examining the implications for policy and practice created by the hidden transfer function of the AAS degree.
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Background

In this section, we contextualize the AAS degree in broader historical and societal trends. This discussion makes it clear that, although the philosophical purpose of the AAS degree has always been clear, its practical purpose has been diffuse. This analysis is presented in four sections: 1) a discussion of community college history and the advent of associate degrees, including early efforts to distinguish four-year transfer from professional degrees; 2) an exploration of the transfer function of community colleges; 3) an examination of the prominence and purpose of the AAS degree; and 4) a discussion of recent trends in earned AAS degrees.

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