2024-2025 Catalog and Handbook 
    May 20, 2024  
2024-2025 Catalog and Handbook

Understanding Program Options and Curriculum Requirements

Degrees & Certificates

Mountain Empire Community College offers two-year associate degrees, one-year certificates, and career studies certificates. The requirements for these awards for completion of curricula are determined by the College faculty and are intended to meet the requirements specified by the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and certain specialized accrediting agencies.


Unless otherwise noted, the term program refers to an associate degree with its own curriculum code and all related specializations, certificates, and career studies certificates. The Virginia Community College System defines a major as a grouping of 100- and 200-level courses that define a discipline or interdisciplinary specialty. A degree program is a broadly structured curriculum leading to the award of an associate degree and is listed on a student’s diploma. A specialization is an area of concentration within an approved major that varies from the parent major by 9-15 credits. A certificate is awarded for the completion of an approved non-degree curriculum consisting of 30-59 semester credit hours, usually in a career area; a minimum of 15 percent of a certificate’s credit hour requirement will be in general education including one three-credit-hour English class. A career studies certificate is awarded for the completion of an approved non-degree curriculum of 9-29 semester credit hours in length.

Associate of Arts Degree (AA)
The AA degree is designed for those who plan to transfer to a four-year college or university.

Associate of Science Degree (AS)
The AS degree is designed for those who plan to transfer to a four-year college or university.

Associate of Applied Science Degree (AAS)
The AAS degree is for students primarily interested in acquiring technical skills that lead directly to employment after graduation. Associate of Applied Science degrees are not intended for transfer.

Certificate (C)
Certificates are awarded for career-technical programs, usually two semesters in length. Certificates are not intended for transfer.

Career Studies Certificate (CSC)
Career Studies programs are designed for enhancement of job/life skills, retraining for career changes, and/or investigating new career possibilities. Career Studies certificates are not intended for transfer.

State and Regional Cooperative Programs
In the Virginia Community College System, certain highly-specialized curricula, though designed to serve all Virginia residents, are offered only in selected locations. These curricula generally reflect geographic, demographic, or economic considerations which preclude extensive statewide offerings, and therefore, usually are approved for not more than three community colleges to meet state or regional requirements. As changing circumstances warrant and additional state and regional needs are determined, specialized curricula may be located in other community college regions.

Transfer Virginia
Transfer Virginia is a VCCS initiative that embraces the growing need for seamless transfer among the Commonwealth’s institutions. Transfer Agreements University partners, in consultation with VCCS partners, develop guidelines, processes, and supporting policy for transfer tools that best serve our collective students. This is through program level articulation agreements, reverse transfer agreements, and guaranteed program admission agreements with the aspiration for regionally created agreements to be more universally applicable across the Commonwealth (see advisor).

The Passport is a 16-credit hour community college block of courses in which all courses are transferable and shall satisfy a lower-division general education requirement at any public institution of higher education. Being passport certified means the student completed 16 credits of guaranteed transfer courses over 5 specific academic areas. This is not a credential (see advisor).

Virginia Dual Enrollment Plan between Public Schools and Community Colleges
Dual enrollment allows qualified high school students to enroll in college coursework while still in high school. Courses are taught by full or part-time faculty who meet VCCS credentialing requirements and credit for dual enrollment courses is generally accepted at all Virginia private and public colleges. It’s important that students and their parents understand that the amount of work necessary to succeed in dual enrollment courses is greater than in high school courses. In addition, dual enrollment courses become part of permanent college transcripts so it’s essential that students do well in these courses to realize all the benefits of dual enrollment which include:

  • A quality, affordable education close to home
  • Enriched course opportunities for outstanding high school students both in academic coursework and in career and technical education
  • Students enter college with credits applicable to their degree program
  • Students gain understanding of the rigor of college work as well as college faculty expectations
  • Access to college resources, facilities and services such as advising and career counseling

Interested students must first take the College placement exam. They must also meet the following criteria:

  • High school juniors or seniors attending a public or private school (exceptional freshman and sophomores may be eligible with approval from both high school principal and college president)
  • Meet or exceed college placement requirements
  • Receive a recommendation from a high school official
  • Parental consent provided prior to student enrollment

Home-schooled students are also eligible for the program. These students are urged to contact MECC to discuss the options available to them.

Dual enrollment courses may be used to satisfy degree requirements of an Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees with MECC or transfer in most cases directly to a four-year college or university. Credit for Career Technical Education courses is available that may be used to begin a certificate or Associate of Applied Science degree with MECC.