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Two-Year Associates Degrees

Overview - Degrees on Offer - Choosing a Two-year College - Applying - Transferring to a Four-Year University

At the undergraduate level, the US offers both two year associate's and four year bachelor's degrees. The type of degree that is best suited for you depends entirely on your individual needs and strengths. Along with reading the information below, you may wish to download EducationUSA's handout on Two-Year Colleges.


Two-year colleges in the US offer associate’s degrees, which are an alternative to the more traditional four-year bachelor’s degree programmes. Known as community, technical or junior colleges, these two-year institutions offer study in a wide range of subjects to post-secondary students of all ages and academic levels.  Students studying at a community college may either receive a stand-alone two-year qualification, the associate's degree, or transfer to a four-year bachelor’s programme in a 2 + 2 format. In addition to educational flexibility, two-year colleges are also known for their affordability with relatively low tuition rates in comparison to four-year institutions. According to The College Board, the average two-year community college charged approximately $6,700 (£5,162) in tuition per year for 2015-2016, as opposed to $23,893 (£18,384) charged per year for out-of-state students at public four-year institutions and $32,405 (£24,933) per year at private four-year institutions. In the 2012-13 academic year, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Centre, 36 percent of all students who completed a degree at a four-year university had previously been enrolled at a two-year institution. To further investigate the benefits of a community or junior college, have a look at this webinar.

Degrees on Offer

These institutions are referred to as two-year colleges as this is the normal amount of time needed to complete the associate degrees they award. The Associate of Arts (AA) and the Associate of Science (AS) degrees are offered in a wide variety of subjects designed to ensure that students acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to either continue toward a bachelor’s degree, transferring for their final two years to an accredited four-year university, or to competitively enter the workforce.

An Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree is awarded for more practical programmes of study designed to prepare students directly for employment or to assist those already employed to update their skills. Additionally, certificates of completion are also awarded in specific programmes that typically require less than two years of study.

Choosing a Two-Year College

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are over 2,000 two-year colleges in the US. With so many colleges on offer, narrowing your search is no easy task. However, it can be an exciting and surprising process.  

Begin by reviewing the choosing universities section of our website. It is advisable to begin by weighing factors such as academic programmes offered (in particular 2 + 2 transfer options if applicable), class size, atmosphere, location and cost when narrowing down your choices of two-year colleges.

Keep in mind that as many students attending two-year colleges are residents of the local community, the majority of community colleges do not offer on-campus student housing. Although some institutions will offer on-campus accommodation for international students, it is more likely that you will have to find local accommodation with the assistance of a housing office or an international student adviser.


Entrance requirements are much less competitive than four-year degrees and admissions deadlines may be later (though you would still need to apply in time to apply for a visa). In addition, some community colleges may not require SAT/ACT scores. 

Community colleges can be a good option for students with vocational qualifications or GCSEs only, students who have not done well on the SAT/ACT or their UK qualifications, students seeking to minimise the cost of their higher education and students interested in pursuing more practical or vocational training. Students unsure of whether they want to complete a four-year bachelor's programme may also be attracted to the two-year associate degree, as it allows them the option to stop study after two years and receive a full qualification or to transfer to a four-year bachelor's programme.

Transferring to a Four-year University

Students with an associate's degree may decide to transfer to a four-year bachelor’s degree programme after completing two years of study at community college. This process is made possible through articulation agreements between particular institutions which guarantee that courses taken at a specific accredited two-year college will transfer into credit at a particular four-year college.

It is important to note that articulation agreements are more likely to occur between institutions within a state university system (i.e. a community college in Ohio and a four-year university in New York are less likely to have a reciprocal agreement than two institutions in the same state). For information about whether an institution in which you are interested participates in articulation agreements, you may wish to visit the institution’s website or contact the admissions office directly.