Degrees, Certificates, and Diplomas

Section: III.  STSV - 207
Approved By: Dr. Ivan L. Harrell, 06/23/22
Last Review: June 2022
Last Revision: 06/23/22
Prior Revisions: 1/28/04, 11/16/11
Initial Adoption: Unknown


To identify credentials offered by the college and general credential completion and graduation requirements.

To Whom Does This Policy Apply

All individuals registered for classes at Tacoma Community College.



Applied Science: Courses and awards that focus on practical application of skill. Generally found in professional-technical programs

Associate Degree: A lower division undergraduate degree that requires no fewer than 90 quarter hour credits.

Award: A mark of recognition for an achievement

Bachelor's degree: An undergraduate degree that includes upper and lower division courses and requires no fewer than 180 quarter hour credits, 60 of which must be upper division.

Certificate: A credential awarded for completion of competencies and requirements for an occupational program.

Credential: A degree, certificate, or diploma

Declared (the credential): Officially chose the degree/certificate through advising and was placed in the appropriate program plan stack in the student management system.

Lower Division: Lower Division includes courses at the 200 level and below.

Professional-technical: A professional-technical program prepares students for employment in a specific industry.

Related instruction: Courses in Communications, Computations, and Human Relations

Upper division: includes courses at the 300 and 400 level.


RCW 28B.50.140(1) grants Tacoma Community College the authority to grant diplomas, degrees, and certificates under the rules of the state board for community and technical colleges.

RCW 28B.50.090(7)(c) requires the content of the curricula and other educational training programs and the requirements for degrees, certificates, and high school diplomas awarded follow guidelines established by the State Board

Tacoma Community College offers the following credentials: associate degrees, bachelor degrees, certificates, and high school diplomas. All degrees and certificates above 20 credits must be approved by the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) prior to program implementation. All approved courses will be recorded on TCC’s program inventory. Degrees and certificates for which there is specialized accreditation may have additional requirements as necessitated by the accrediting body.

Types of Credentials

Tacoma Community College grants the following college degrees, certificates, and high school diplomas:

Transfer Degrees

Transfer degrees are lower division undergraduate degrees that require a minimum of 90 college level quarter-hour credits. They include Direct Transfer Agreements (DTAs) and Major Related Programs of Study (MRPs).

  • Associate of Arts (AA/AA-DTA)
    • Awarded for completion of an approved transfer curriculum paralleling the first two years of university study.
  • Associate of Science (AS/AS-T)
    • Awarded for completion of an approved science transfer curriculum paralleling the first two years of university study with a specialization in biology, chemistry, computer science, earth science, engineering, environmental science, or physics.
  • Associate in General Studies
    • Awarded for completion of an approved two-year academic program designed to meet a particular educational goal.

Statewide Agreements

  • Direct Transfer Agreement (DTA)
    • The Direct Transfer Agreement (DTA) is a statewide agreement. It is an Associate of Arts degree awarded by a community or technical college to students who have completed a general education transfer curriculum.
  • Major Related Programs (MRP)
    • Major Related Programs (MRP) are intended to help students prepare to transfer into high demand bachelor’s degree programs that require specific courses in the first two years. Each MRP is based on one of the statewide transfer agreements: Direct Transfer Agreement (DTA) or the Associate of Science-Transfer (AS-T).

For a full listing of approved DTA/MRPs and AS-T MRPs see SBCTC:

Professional-Technical Degrees

Awarded for completion of an approved TCC Professional/Technical program.

  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS)
    • Awarded for completion of an approved TCC Professional/Technical
  • Associate of Applied Science-Transfer (AAS-T)
    • Awarded for completion of an approved TCC Professional/Technical program and as preparation for applied bachelor of science Includes college-level general education courses.

Bachelor Degrees

An undergraduate degree that includes both upper and lower division coursework and includes a minimum of 180 college level quarter hour credits.

  • Bachelor of Applied Science Degrees (BAS)
    • RCW 28B.50.810 grants the State Board authority to approve Tacoma Community College to offer Bachelor of Applied Science degrees.
  • Bachelor of Applied Science degrees are upper division undergraduate degrees that require a minimum of 180 quarter-hour credits. They are applied science degrees that build upon the education and training from an associate of applied science degree.
  • A minimum of 60 quarter hour credits must come from upper division


Certificates are awarded for completion of the competencies and requirements of an occupational program of fewer than 90 credits.

  • Certificates may be upper or lower division
  • Certificate categories
    • Less than 20 credits
      • Does not require SBCTC approval
    • 20-89 credits
      • Requires SBCTC approval
    • Certificates may be designed as standalone or build upon each other and eventually lead to a long-term certificate or degree

Distinction Pathways

Distinction Pathways are AA degree designations that include at least 20 credits of approved courses, combining to form a meaningful and significant focus of studies. Distinction Pathways are typically interdisciplinary in design.


Specializations are AA degree designations that include at least 20 credits of approved courses, combining to form a meaningful and significant focus of studies.

Specializations are typically designed to model degree majors offered at 4-year institutions.

High School Diplomas

RCW 28B.50.535 confirms the authority for Tacoma Community College to issue a high school diploma or certificate.

TCC shall award a high school diploma to individuals who satisfactorily meet the requirements for high school completion subject to the rules adopted by the superintendent of public instruction and the state board of education.

Individuals sixteen years or older who satisfactorily complete an associate degree through Tacoma Community College shall be awarded a diploma upon written request.

Requirements for All Credentials

In order to be awarded a credential from Tacoma Community College, a student must meet the following requirements:

  • A combined cumulative grade point average of 2.00 in the coursework that is applied to the credential
  • A minimum of 25% of the total applicable credits for the specific credential must be earned at Tacoma Community College
  • Specific degree and program requirements are published in the catalog.

Multiple Credentials

Students may be awarded multiple credentials for which they have fulfilled the curricular requirements.

Changing Credential Requirements

In order to keep programs and coursework relevant, curricular and non-curricular credential requirements are regularly updated. In the event that degree requirements change after a student enrolls at Tacoma Community College, TCC will adhere to the following policy:

  • If the credential is completed within five years, the student who initially declares the credential (as noted by assignment into the credential plan stack in ctcLink) and enrolls in the coursework specific to the credential at TCC may graduate under the provisions of the TCC credential in effect when they originally declared the credential.
    • Students with extenuating circumstances may petition to extend this time period if longer than five years is required
    • Students may be required to take courses added to the credential requirements that are reflective of critical industry changes or accreditation requirements
  • TCC encourages all students to fulfill the credential requirements in effect at the time of their most recent enrollment as those reflect the best practices for the credential
  • Students who do not complete the credential requirements within five years must fulfill the requirements in effect when they graduate.

Graduation and Commencement

Credentials are conferred at the end of each quarter. Commencement ceremonies are held annually at the end of spring quarter. All students who have earned credentials in the current academic year are invited to participate in the June Commencement.

Students who are expected to complete their credential in summer may participate in commencement.