What Are the Differences between AOS, AAS, and AA
When you’re choosing a culinary school, one of the things you want to be sure and look out for is the type of degree or diploma awarded upon graduation. Many culinary schools don’t offer traditional degrees at all, instead opting for certificates of completion or diplomas.
These types of awards can be useful in the culinary setting, but are rarely recognized in the real working world. (This doesn’t make them less valuable—it just means you should be aware of the differences.)
Some schools do offer degree programs, which you can usually determine by the initials AOS, AAS, or AA. Respectively, these designations stand for: Associate of Occupational Studies, Associate of Applied Science, and Associate of Arts. Although these all take the same amount of time to complete (usually about two years), they mean very different things.
The AOS Degree- When you earn an Associate of Occupational Studies, your education is based primarily on vocational-level training. In other words, you’re there to learn a trade and land a job—and you may get to avoid quite a few core curriculum classes because of it. Because of the nature of culinary school, many degree programs take this approach.
The AAS Degree- The Associate of Applied Science is designed primarily for students who want to go on and get even more education after the first two years are completed. Most students in these programs choose a major, and can then later transfer that major to a Bachelor’s level course in the same field.
The AA Degree- The Associate of Arts is very similar to the AAS degree, in that it prepares students for future educational goals. However, unlike the AAS, the AA focuses less on scientific studies and more of the arts. This can be tricky in the culinary world, since cooking is both a science and an art. Depending on your career goals, you may want to focus either aspect. (And in most cases, it’s a good idea to check with other school programs you want to apply to later to determine which degree they prefer.)
Your success as a chef or cook isn’t 100 percent dependent on which degree program you choose, but it is a good idea to know what you’re getting into before you put in all the time and effort associated with getting a degree.