I have an AA in Liberal Arts and am one semester away from an AS in Computer Programming and Analysis. I will have to double check the numbers but I will have around 140 credit hours which is similar to the number required for a Bachelor's degree. Is this equivalent somehow to a Bachelor's? In general, do two lesser degrees equal one higher degree (e.g., do two BA degrees equal a MA or two MS degrees equal a PhD)? Is there any number of lesser degrees that would equal a higher degree? Why or why not?

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    I'm not overly familiar with the US system, but I would imagine that a certain number of your credits would have to be in one subject or the other eg "Liberal Arts" credits would not contribute to a Bachelor's degree in Computer Programming or vice versa. Apr 14, 2017 at 20:25
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    Please clarify in what context. Meaning, are you asking in the context of a job application where if it lists a Bachelors degree as a requirement, you could truthfully answer 'Yes'?
    – Michael
    Apr 14, 2017 at 20:29
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    No. Simply "no". I understand some companies are swamped with resumes and may be "filtering", but don't try to game things. What you have are academic credentials you have been awarded. Allow your prospective employer to draw conclusions that you've persisted, grown, etc. If you really want to differentiate yourself, go after that "or equivalent experience". It costs you nothing in money to find an Open Source software project that appeals to you, and contribute (in public!) your support for it. This also can allow employers to view your code quality, tool mastery, and teamwork.. Apr 15, 2017 at 0:44
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    No. There are substantial differences between 1st/2nd year college courses, community college courses, and 3rd/4th year courses. Apr 15, 2017 at 4:38
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    I added a "united-states" tag, because your mention of the term "community college" plus your not thinking to add a country tag makes this likely - but if you are not in the US, please change it. The answer to this kind of question can and does vary dramatically by country.
    – Flyto
    Aug 2, 2019 at 18:02

8 Answers 8


Is experience in two different entry level jobs equivalent to experience in one management position? Is reading the preface of two books the same as reading one book?

Lower-level degrees don't add up to a higher level degree. This can be confirmed by simple logic: If they did add up, what would be the point of offering higher-level degrees? People could just take many lower-level degrees instead.

Breadth of learning is not interchangeable with depth, and when advanced degrees are required it is because the latter is wanted. Number of credit hours is not the only requirement for a BS degree, it also requires covering key courses in the field at an advanced level and sometimes an internship and/or graduation project. This is something that can't adequately be substituted with an associate's degree in liberal arts. This is also why virtually every BS will have several required course chains, you usually cannot complete a BS by simply taking many introductory courses in lots of different subjects.

If you are applying to anything that requires a BS, and you claim you qualify with two associate's degrees, you should not expect them to buy it. You could argue that even though you don't fulfill the requirement you would still be a good candidate due to your two lower level degrees. But keep in mind that if for example the BS requirement is legally mandated you may be out of luck. Although for many jobs, degree requirements are flexible.

In your situation, the logical thing is to apply for a BS degree, and then have as many of your past credits as possible be counted towards the BS requirements so you don't have to re-take the same courses. You might even be able to convert your in-progress AS to a BS, you should speak to your university's advisor about this. But if you graduate with a degree that says AS, then you have an AS, not BS, regardless of how many credit hours you took.

  • Thank you Trusly. I appreciate your use of analogies. Also, I like how you described the situation as Breadth vs Depth. Incidentally, since writing this I began working on a bachelors degree and am about to complete it this fall. Aug 6, 2019 at 4:14
  • @takintoolong Always happy to hear someone enjoyed my post! And best of luck with your bachelors degree!
    – Trusly
    Aug 7, 2019 at 6:59
  • While I also enjoyed your post, I don't understand your "simple logic". It looks like you assume that lower degrees are alwqys easier then higher degrees, which is in my opinion not the case.
    – user115896
    Nov 29, 2019 at 9:29
  • @user115896 Well, it seems a bit of a moot point because you can't take the higher degree without first taking the lower degree anyway. What I meant is that there wouldn't be a need for universities to offer higher courses, they would just have only 101 courses that students can take as they wish. Those 101 courses could be designed to be easy or hard as desired. But obviously you cannot just teach 400-level content in a ostensibly prerequisite-free course and expect it to work.
    – Trusly
    Apr 29, 2020 at 2:44
  • I still think you explained this well. I have since completed my bachelors and know now from experience how content in courses is taken to a new level. In particular, papers get harder and longer. But, I did notice a lot of content overlap, which is sort of what spurred my original question. I feel like you could theoretically take related associates degrees to the point of having at least learned the same content. I don't think anyone would count it as such though. May 26, 2020 at 0:23

From an educational perspective, community colleges usually do not offer courses beyond a sophomore level. Therefore, the bachelor's degree will probably contain more depth than an associate's degree. For example, an AA in economics will probably stop with intermediate microeconomics, but a BA may include advanced courses in microeconomic theory.

  • That makes sense. I wonder if it has any weight in from a hiring perspective. Apr 14, 2017 at 20:55
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    It probably varies depending on the field. There are too many scenarios to list completely, but I will give a few examples. 1) If the employer insists on its employee having a BA then having two associate's degrees will not be useful. 2) If the employer asks for a set of skills that are well represented by your degrees, then I don't think your lack of a bachelor's degree will matter much. For example, a QA job at a software development house will probably not need the skills gained from taking advanced CS courses. Apr 14, 2017 at 21:01
  • Ok, interesting, maybe I will try applying to some QA job postings. Thanks. Apr 14, 2017 at 21:03

From my experience, in the UK at least. It's irrelevant how many qualifications that you have at any particular level, they never add up to the level above.

For instance, you could have 20 GCSEs, but someone with 1 A Level would still be considered qualified to a higher level than you.

The same goes for degrees, you can't add up Bachelors degrees to make a Masters or Masters degrees to make a PhD.

However, that being said, in Europe we have a system known as the European Credit Transfer Scheme, where you study modules worth a certain number of points (these also have associated levels) and should you change institutions, you can carry over any of these that haven't been assigned to a particular qualification.

Thus, if you studied for two associate degrees and two different institutions but never got awarded them, you might have enough credits to be awarded a bachelors. However, it is doubtful that you would have sufficient credits at the right levels.

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    That makes sense. It is similar I think to Jarrod Z.'s answer. Apr 14, 2017 at 20:53

Employment: I recommend that you make some appointments with people in your computer programming department for career counseling. If your community college has a person who coordinates Co-op Education, that person would probably be a good starting point.

Of course you can apply for jobs with an Associate's. You won't know for certain how you will fare until you do. (Do take a close look at the requirements for the jobs you are interested in.) But two Associates are not equivalent to one Bachelors. You are missing all or almost all the upper level classes. In addition, some community colleges' courses are not well aligned with those of the state university in the same state. You can find out more about the alignment in your state by asking for a pre-transfer transcript evaluation (note you may do this whether or not you will actually transfer to that school), or by speaking with the person in the state university's computer science department who evaluates transcripts.

Academically: you can't apply for a graduate program without a Bachelor's degree.

Note: Liberal Arts study makes you a good reader, thinker and writer. Your programming classes make you a programmer. The programming classes prepare you for programming (and related) jobs. The liberal arts classes are great for personal growth, but they don't directly strengthen your technical skills.

Take a look at the program of studies in Computer Science in your state university, and you'll see that there's plenty of worthwhile work ahead of you in the second half of your undergraduate studies.


I understand this is Academia.SE, but I wanted to address both areas OP has inquired about.

It all depends on how the job description is written. For example, if the job description clearly states "Bachelors degree in XYZ" then the two Associates degree won't count and you wouldn't be able to truthfully fulfill the requirement. However, if the job description states "Bachelors degree and/or equivalent experience and/or education" then you could argue that you fulfill that requirement. (Having worked in HR, those requirements are very real because employers now recognize that the best person for the job may not have a Bachelors degree.)

In regards to furthering your education, you would never be accepted into a Masters or PhD program without having at a minimum a Bachelors degree. This is because Bachelors degrees often end with a capstone or thesis, which sets the foundation for the research skills needed to complete graduate level courses. Associate degrees don't offer the same rigor.

But at the end of the day, no, two associates degrees do not equate a Bachelors degree. Associates degrees equate to the first two years of a Bachelors degree, so it is missing out on the upper level classes, capstones, theses, etc.


To answer your question are any combination of lower degrees equivalent to a higher degree, the answer is no. As to why it has to do with how the degrees are designed.

Associates degrees are designed to convey technical specialization in a very narrow area. It emphasizes training over education. It tends to emphasize foundational skills in a profession with the goal of mastery. A bachelor's degree, in contrast, tends to emphasize education over training. The first two years tend to provide a broader base of skills, including skills far afield from the profession implied by the major chosen. This allows a person with a bachelor's degree to integrate their skills into other industries. The second two years are about developing expertise within the field along with some increased depth outside of the primary field.

A person with a bachelor's degree has met just enough education to say they have a basic level of expertise in a topic. This contrasts with a master's degree. The goal of the master's degree is to provide sufficient technical expertise in the field so as to be capable of teaching it without supervision. The master's degree emphasizes depth over breadth. The job of the undergraduate degree is breadth. The job of the master's degree is to convey depth. The courses are not designed to add new information, they are to add knowledge from that information. Within the field, it conveys how the world works to the current level of knowledge.

The doctorate exists in two forms, the professional doctorate and the doctor of philosophy. A good example of a professional doctorate is the MD. This differs from a physician's assistant, which is basically a master's degree, in that a PA learns hundreds of algorithms to treat a patient. The MD learns enough to understand why the algorithms the PA uses work and when the algorithm fails, will have learned the underlying biological principles to design a new algorithm to fit the very specific needs of a patient where the general rules are failing them.

The doctorate in philosophy has an opposite goal. The job of a Ph.D. is to figure out what we believe to be true is actually false. It is to research how the world works. The job is to understand the implications of ways of thinking about problems. It's important to remember that if there is something that we believe that is actually false, it is understood in such a way as that it makes perfect sense for it to be true.

In fact, you can't make a mistake by believing you are making a mistake. You have to do it by believing you are not making a mistake. Everything has to make perfect sense. The job of the Ph.D. is to notice when mistakes are happening when they are not supposed to be happening and that are actually systematic mistakes and not just one-off mistakes. Your Ph.D. is awarded after you have completed research that extends the frontiers of knowledge.

The training of doctorate isn't like the master's training. The master's is not like the bachelor's and the bachelor's is unlike the associate's. They don't combine. You should contact a bachelor degree granting institution and see what could transfer into a bachelor's program. You should see how far you are from a BA or a BS degree. It will pay better and will probably not require a mountain of additional work.


No, you can't sum up several basic degrees to get an advanced one. Educational system is organised sequentially for a reason.

On each educational level people are supposed not just increase their knowledge about the subject, but organise it differently. For example, at introductory level more emphasis can be on understanding and remembering, later on advanced level people start to combine methodologies, evaluate results, choose appropriate solution strategies, and in more advance stages they can suggest new strategies, develop new methodologies, etc. Spending 1000 hours on remembering facts do not necessarily makes you any better in critical analysis and reflection or creative synthesis in the area of study. That's why you can't take a hundred of trained puppies and make them into a Professor of Canine Studies.


I believe it comes down to what type of an Associate’s degree do you have or trying to obtain. I have an associate in science and arts. Needless to say, I’ve taken more harder classes than some people have taken to achieve their Bachelor’s degree. An associate in science has more complex classes than an ADN (2 year nursing degree for RN’s). So, all associate degrees aren’t created equal.

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