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Santa Monica College|Enrollment Development|International Education Center|Degree and Certificate Options at SMC

Degree and Certificate Options at SMC

Differences Between an AA Degree and Certificate

SMC offers the Associate in Arts (AA) degree which requires a minimum of 60 degree applicable units and generally takes approximately two to three years to complete.  A unit reflects the amount of credit earned for completing a course.  It is closely related to the number of hours that the class meets per week. 

Students desiring a shorter program of study focusing on a specific discipline may pursue a Certificate of Achievement or Department Certificate.  In general, Certificate programs require students to take courses specific to a major but eliminates the general education courses.  Students earning Certificates are not eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training.  A list of AA degree majors and Certificates can be found in the SMC Catalog.

Degree and Certificate Requirements

There are basically three types of courses that make up the AA degree requirements; general education, major and elective courses.  General education courses are the foundation courses that consist of a variety of disciplines in the arts, humanities, social science, science, math and English.  All students take general education regardless of their major.  The second type of courses is the major courses that specifically relate to a student’s chosen discipline.  The third type of courses is elective courses which are basically courses of self-interest that students select themselves.  To view the general education and major requirements for the AA degree go to the SMC Catalog.  Elective courses for the AA degree consists of courses other than those considered basic skills.

Use of Foreign Course Work

Courses from an appropriately accredited foreign university may be applied towards the AA degree at SMC.  The courses must first be evaluated by an off-campus approved credential evaluation agency and then reviewed by our Admissions Office for applicability towards general education and elective units.  Courses related to a student’s major will be reviewed by the academic department chairpersons based on course syllabi or outlines.  Students should consult with an international counselor before applying for a credential evaluation.   

Can I study at SMC even if I have a Bachelor’s Degree?

Yes, SMC does accept students who have a Bachelor’s degree from their country as long as SMC has a program to meet their needs.  Some transfer schools, however, will not admit students with a recognized Bachelor’s degree.  These students may be advised to consider applying for a Master’s degree at the university.  Students with foreign degrees need to discuss their transfer options directly with the four-year universities to which they plan to transfer.  SMC is unable to advise the student on how their degree or foreign course work will be used by the universities.

What are the maximum number of units I can take each session?

F-1 visa students are required to complete a minimum of 12 units each fall and spring semester to maintain lawful status.  A maximum of 16 units is allowed without special approval from an academic counselor.  Attendance in summer and winter sessions is not required for lawful status, however, students choosing to enroll for these sessions may take a maximum of 8 units since they are intensive, short-term classes. Students who are on academic probation are limited to 12 units each semester.   

When do I apply for graduation?

Upon completing the course requirements for the AA degree or Certificate, students need to petition for graduation during their final semester when all requirements will be met.  Graduation petition forms are available at the Admissions Office and must be submitted to the Admissions Office by the established deadlines. Students who are eligible to graduate are invited to participate in the yearly Graduation Commencement ceremony held in June.   

Students are not required to attend the ceremony to receive their AA degree but it is recommended that students take advantage of this recognition ceremony.  Graduation takes place on the last day of each spring semester.  Students wear the traditional cap and gown and are honored for their accomplishments.