Policy 301.12, approved by the Montana Board of Regents in May 2005, sets out the guidelines and expectations for certificate and associate degree programs in the Montana University System.

Three kinds of two-year, associate degree programs are recognized by the MUS: an Associate of Arts degree, an Associate of Science degree and an Associate of Applied Science degree. The Certificate of Applied Science credential, offered at some units of the Montana University System, is very much like the Associate of Applied Science degree described below, but with fewer technical credits and substantially fewer general education credits.

The Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees are designed for students who want to transfer to a four-year degree program.

  1. They contain a significant amount of general education coursework; and once the degree is awarded, students are not required to take additional general education classes at the 100- or 200-level when they transfer to another campus.
  2. These degrees typically do not include a designated or specialized field of study. In other words, students completing the degree would not receive an Associate of Science degree in Business or Computer Technology, but just an Associate of Science degree.
  3. The degree includes enough free or elective credits, however, to permit students to concentrate their coursework in a particular discipline or field. Hopefully, those courses will satisfy some of the freshman and sophomore-level requirements in a four-year, bachelor's degree.
  4. A small number of Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees in the Montana University System DO include a designated field of study (the most common example is the Associate of Science degree in Nursing). Students need to be aware that those specialized two-year programs do not include a significant number of general education credits and the degree will probably not satisfy the general education requirements set out in Policy 301.10, subsection II. D.

The Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree is not designed for students who want to transfer, with one exception . The degree is ordinarily considered a terminal degree, and is intended to prepare students for immediate employment, usually in a technical or occupational field.

  1. The A.A.S. degree includes a designated field of study, such as Surgical Technology or Plumbing.
  2. Approximately two-thirds of the classes are devoted to a technical or occupational field, with minimal general education coursework.
  3. Students who decide to work on a four-year degree after completing an A.A.S. degree will have their coursework analyzed, on a class-by-class basis, to see how it fits into the bachelor's degree program. Some classes may satisfy the specific requirements of a major, minor, option or certificate, or fulfill some part of the general education program. But since the A.A.S. degree is not meant to be a transferable degree, students should not be surprised if most classes are accepted just as free or elective credits.
  4. The exception: The following four-year campuses in the Montana University System have designed a four-year, Bachelor of Applied Science degree that uses the Associate of Applied Science degree as the first two years of coursework for the bachelor's degree: