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Associate Degree Requirements in California 2023 | ICOHS College

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Are you thinking about joining an associate’s degree program? If so, you may be wondering what you need to do to secure your place. In addition to preparing for the financial aspect, you’ll need to understand the requirements necessary for enrollment. These prerequisites vary from state to state, so it’s important to do your research based on where you are located.

If you’re applying to schools in the Golden State, keep reading. We’ve outlined all associate degree requirements in California, from information on admissions to stipulations for graduation. We will also discuss requirements associated with the newly introduced Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT). Now, let’s review what it takes to get an education out west.


What is an Associate’s Degree?

Associate degrees provide the technical knowledge and skills necessary to break into a specific field. These programs typically take two years to complete and are commonly offered at trade schools and community colleges.

They also often apply to professions that exist outside of the normal 9-5. For instance, nurses, electricians, mechanics, and chefs may all be associate degree holders.

While many students rely on associate degree programs for help breaking into the workforce fast, others pursue the credential in preparation for more advanced education. These programs offer students the opportunity to earn a foundational technical, arts, or science degree. You can use an associate’s degree as an opportunity to collect general education credits while waiting for the next enrollment period at your target school.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), graduates from associate degree programs earn more money and experience lower levels of unemployment than individuals with just a high school diploma.

California Requirements for Associate Degrees

associate degree requirements California

Whether you plan on pursuing an associate’s degree from a California community college or a more traditional university, there are a few requirements that all students must abide by. Read on below to learn more about what it takes to get accepted, and what marks you need to hit before graduation.

Admissions Requirements

Requirements for admissions vary from institute to institute, but there are some general stipulations you must meet to get accepted.

To pursue an associate degree in California, you have to be 18 years of age or older on your first day of class and have a high school diploma or GED (General Education Development).

All programs must contain a minimum of 60 credit hours and all students must submit an official transcript along with their application.

Graduation Requirements

After getting accepted, students must meet some additional requirements to maintain their status as full-time students. To graduate, all students have to maintain a minimum grade point average of 2.0 (a “C” or better). They must also complete the required 60 semester units.

Students must complete at least 18 credits related to their chosen major. Students must also complete a certain amount of general education courses. While the number of credits may vary, most schools set their minimum at 24 semester units.

Do Requirements Vary by School? If So, How?

Requirements do vary from school to school. For instance, Santa Monica College requires students to complete at least 50 percent of their courses in residence. Meanwhile, San Diego Community College requires students to complete just six units from their major at the campus.

What is an Associate for Transfer?

California has recently introduced the Associate Degrees for Transfer. The program comes in two varieties. There’s the California Community Colleges (CCC) Associate in Art for Transfer (AA-T) and the Associate in Science for Transfer (AS-T).

Both degrees take two years to complete and run no longer than 60 semester units. So long as graduates meet the minimum eligibility requirements, they will be guaranteed priority admission to any California state university.

While students won’t be able to request admission to a particular campus, they will be able to earn both an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree with just 120 credits.

The program students want to transfer into must be similar to the one in which they earned their associate degree. Admission requirements are as follows:

  • You must have earned an approved Associate Degree for Transfer (AA-T or AS-T) by the time you submit your application.
  • You must have completed a minimum of 18 semester units in a major of concentration in addition to an approved set of general education requirements.
  • You must submit your application to California State University campuses by their stated deadline.
  • You must submit all requested transcripts and documents by their stated deadline.
  • You must meet all eligibility requirements for the program which you want to pursue.

In addition to these guidelines, STEM students must complete:

  • All courses in Areas 1, 2, and 5 of the traditional IGETC
  • Two courses in Area 3 and two courses in Area 4

These stipulations allow students preparing for a major in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics to defer to lower-division general education courses until after the transfer.

What’s the Difference Between an Associate’s Degree and an Associate for Transfer?

The Associate Degree for Transfer is intended for students who want to transfer to a four-year college or university for a bachelor’s degree. So long as they meet all eligibility requirements, students will be guaranteed priority admission with junior standing to the CSU system.

The credential is best suited for individuals looking to pursue an arts degree or gain additional education in the natural sciences.

Meanwhile, a student with a traditional associate’s degree will likely enter the workforce immediately upon graduation. This marks a significant difference from those following general education patterns. This degree type is well suited for individuals interested in the skilled trade, criminal justice, information technology, and nursing.


An associate degree provides a great foundation for a number of lucrative careers. If you’re interested in information technology, look to ICOHS College for help breaking into the field. Our associate degree in information technology can be completed online and in as little as 18 months.

Students attending ICOHS College will have full access to our career counseling program. They’ll also receive lifetime job placement assistance after graduation.

Scholarships and title IV funding are also available to help students cover the cost of tuition. Call us to speak to one of our representatives (858) 581-9460 or contact us via email for more information on financial assistance. Financial aid is available to those who qualify.  

ICOHS College is accredited by the ACCET (Accrediting Council for Continuing Education, To learn more about ICOHS College accreditations and licenses, visit our accreditation page.


How many credits do you need for an associate’s degree in California?

To receive an associate’s degree in the state of California, students must complete a minimum of 60 units. 18 of these units must be related to their chosen major while the rest may count as general education courses.

What are the requirements for an AA degree in California?

To get accepted to an associate’s degree program in California, students must be 18 years of age or older on their first day of class and have a high school diploma or GED (General Education Development). To graduate, they must complete a minimum of 60 units and maintain a GPA of 2.0 higher.

What classifies as an associate’s degree?

An associate’s degree is an undergraduate degree awarded after a post-secondary program that lasts approximately two years. The credential is considered above a high school diploma, and below a bachelor’s degree.

What are the benefits of an AA-T degree?

AA-T degree benefits include the ability to complete both an associate’s and bachelor’s degree level education in just 120 units, or four years. Students who graduate with an AA-T and meet eligibility requirements are also guaranteed priority admission to any CSU college.

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