The associate of applied science degree differs from the traditional associate degree. Unlike the associate of arts degree or the associate of science degree, in which you usually attend school for two years, then transfer to a four-year university, the AAS degree is not considered transferable as a whole in higher-degree pursuits. The AAS is also considered a two-year degree, but those who pursue the AAS degree usually go to work after graduation and immediately apply the skills learned in school. Before choosing a field, you should pay close attention to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It recently has published its list of the fastest-growing careers. Of the 30 listed, a chosen few represent the AAS degree and give you the opportunity to become certified or licensed in your field. The areas are diverse. In two years, depending on your choice, you could end up helping a variety of populations -- from people to puppies.
The veterinary technician assists the veterinarian by prepping animals for surgeries and observing their behavior when brought in for treatment. She also performs lab tests and takes X-rays. The veterinary technician performs emergency first-aid and must feel comfortable around wounded animals. The degree track for this career includes internships and cannot be done entirely online. You might, however, be able to find a hybrid program that offers some online classes mixed in with the traditional classroom structure. Once you complete your program, you should be eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam. Pay for this career can range from $20,500 to more than $44,000 annually.
The dental hygienist cleans teeth, but the job is more detailed than some might think. The dental hygienist scrapes plaque and tartar from teeth, applies sealants and teaches patients how to better manage their oral hygiene. She also monitors patient care and ensures patients are meeting the requirements of their treatment plans. This is another career field that requires hands-on learning through external rotations outside of the classroom. Schools in this field can get quite competitive, but they fully prepare you for your state's licensing exam. There might be some prerequisites before core classes can begin, and some schools even require you to pass a background check before you can begin your studies. Pay for this career can range from $45,000 to more than $93,000 annually.
Physical Therapist Assistant
The physical therapist assistant helps patients with exercises. She uses a variety of techniques during patient treatment, including massage and stretching. The PTA uses medical devices and equipment regularly. The AAS program for PTAs includes internships and a licensing track. This is a highly rigorous program that requires you to place a priority on your studies. The curriculum also prepares you for your licensing exam. As a licensed PTA, you can work in a variety of settings, from hospitals to sports teams. Pay for this career can range from $31,070 to more than $68,000 annually.
The medical sonographer uses sound wave equipment to see inside a patient's body. She gives preliminary diagnoses on various conditions. She uses a gel material to enhance the effectiveness of the sound wave equipment. The medical sonographer can distinguish between normal and abnormal images. The AAS curriculum for this job includes clinical practice and lectures. Once you complete this degree, you can work in either a hospital, clinic or imaging center. A license might not be required by all employers, but it increases your chance of getting hired. Check with the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography for more information. Pay for this career can range from $44,900 to more than $88,000 annually.
Continuing Your Education
In some cases, those who receive the AAS change their mind. They decide to further their studies instead of going directly into the work force. Some even decide to work while going to school in pursuit of their bachelor's degree. It is important to note that the AAS degree is not a waste of time in furthering your education. The AAS as a whole may not transfer, but many of the classes you've taken might transfer as individual credit. Check with an admissions adviser at your chosen four-year university. You might be further ahead than you think. And who knows? Your next job post-AAS degree might involve achieving a higher degree.
- College of the Mainland: Workforce Programs -- Associate of Applied Science
- Genesee Community College: What's the Difference between the AS and AAS Degree?
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Employment Projections - Fastest Growing Occupations
- Lonestar College System: Dental Hygiene AAS
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Dental Hygienists -- Summary
- Front Range Community College: Veterinary Technician Degree
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Veterinary Technologists and Technicians -- Summary
- U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics: Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides - Summary
- Polk State College: Physical Therapist Assistant -- AAS
- The College of Health Care Professions: Diagnostic Medical Ultrasound -- AAS Degree
Michelle Dwyer is a U.S. Army veteran writing fiction and nonfiction since 2003. She specializes in business, careers, leadership, military affairs and organizational change and behavior. Dwyer received an MBA from Tarleton State University/Texas A&M Central Texas and an MFA in creative writing from National University in La Jolla, Calif.