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What is an Applied Baccalaureate (AB) Degree?

Degree program emphasizing applied coursework and applied learning at the upper division or throughout the entire collegiate pathway, which often begins with an applied associate degree.

Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS)

Bachelor of Applied Technology (BAT)

The word “applied” in relation to degree programs has often been used to connote the importance of applied learning . often through contextualized instruction, that encourages direct applicability to the workforce (Pedrotti & Parks, 1991; Perin, 2011).

What Qualifies as an Applied Baccalaureate Degree?

While the degree categories and descriptions provided above appear straight-forward, applying them in practice can be challenging. Differences in perception abound, and are ingrained in terminology, state policy, degree classifications titles, and stated personal and institutional preferences. Seeking to understand AB degree pathways using only the applied degree designations of credentials (e.g. AAS, BAS) as indicators for inclusion, is quite limiting because degree titles are not standardized across states, institutions or disciplines.

For OCCRL’s initial research on AB degrees, funded by the Lumina Foundation, we devised the following definition of applied baccalaureate degrees:

The applied baccalaureate degree is defined as a bachelor’s degree designed to incorporate applied associate courses and degrees once considered as “terminal” or non-baccalaureate level while providing students with the higher-order

thinking skills and advanced technical knowledge and skills so desired in today’s job market. (Townsend, Bragg, & Ruud, 2008, p. iv)

An intriguing characteristic of many AB degrees is that they accept the transfer of all, or nearly all, credits from applied associate degrees that, in the past, have been considered terminal. This notion of transferring terminal coursework to create pathways for advanced degree attainment where none existed previously has been a defining feature and continues to be an important aspect of AB degrees.

How Are Applied Baccalaureate Degrees Understood in Practice?

In OCCRL’s research, funded by both the Lumina Foundation and the National Science Foundation, we present participants the definition of AB degrees provided above that stresses both the applied nature of courses and the importance of quality outcomes (higher-order thinking skills and advanced technical knowledge and skills). We also respect participants’ understandings and definitions by welcoming their perceptions of which degrees and degree pathways fit the AB designation.

As a result, we have learned about a variety of AB degree pathways.

In the first case, applied associate degrees transfer to AB degrees. This is the “purest” form of AB degree pathways, which emphasizes applied coursework and applied learning throughout the entire collegiate pathway.

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