Online Associate’s Degree Overview

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An online associate degree is an undergraduate degree that requires approximately 60 credit hours and two years of study, though some schools offer accelerated programs that can be completed in as little as one year.

Online associates degrees provide convenient, accessible, and affordable options whether you’re seeking to get on the fast-track for a career, or you’d like to begin working toward a bachelor’s degree while saving money on your general education. Community colleges, technical schools, and a wide range of innovative new educational institutions offer online associate degree programs in an ever-growing number of subjects. This means that you have the opportunity to earn your online associate degree in a diverse array of fields, without being held back by factors such as income, geography, disability, busy work schedule, and important personal responsibilities.

If you already know what you’re looking for, check out the 50 Best Online Colleges for 2019. Many of these schools offer excellent and competitive two-year degree programs.

You can also start your search by checking out The 50 Most Affordable Online Colleges for Associate Degrees or you can jump straight to our rankings of associate degrees by program.

Otherwise, read on to learn more.

Online Associate Degree Basics

Online associate degree programs provide students with quick, flexible options for earning a foundational undergraduate education. Requiring two years of study or less (approximately 60 credit hours), an online associate degree provides a basic general education alongside introductory courses in a focus area. An associate degree can significantly expand upon the professional opportunities available to those holding a high school diploma or GED.

An online associate degrees can provide a quick path to job qualifications and professional experience for students who are eager to get started on a career path, such as in nursing or social work. Online associate degree programs provide an affordable option for accelerated professional advancement.

The credits from your accredited online associate degree can usually be applied toward a bachelor’s degree at a four-year institution, either on-campus or online. An online associate degree may allow you to knock out the first two years of college at a lower cost and with greater scheduling flexibility. Whether you are looking to jumpstart a career or cut down on the cost of a bachelor’s degree, an online associate degree program may be an affordable and flexible option.

Three Reasons to Get an Associate Degree Online

An online associate degree provides significant advantages over the traditional on-campus two-year degree. Among them:

  1. Professional advancement on your own time — An online associate degree gives you significantly greater professional opportunity than a high school diploma alone. With two years of study or less, your earning potential and ability to secure higher-level jobs will increase dramatically. An online associate degree lets you pursue professional advancement on a schedule that works for you, instead of having to turn your life upside down to attend classes on campus.
  2. Personal growth without the stress — Earning an online associate degree can be a great step in your personal development. Features like flexibility and affordability are major stress-reducers, the kind that can allow you to pursue your dream with focus and enthusiasm.
  3. Jumpstart your way to a bachelor’s degree — Online associate degrees provide a great path toward earning a bachelor’s degree on terms that fit your needs. Why pay for a full four-year program when you can knock out the first two years at a fraction the cost with an online associate degree?

Read here to learn more about transferring credits, whether you’re moving from online to on-campus education, or from traditional school to an online college.

Types of Online Associate Degrees

Online associate degree programs, like their on-campus counterparts, come in four varieties: Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS), Applied Associate of Arts (AAA), and Applied Associate of Science (AAS).

  • AA and AS degrees take a more traditional approach to learning, focusing on theory and general education alongside analytical and critical approaches to a subject. AA degrees tend to fall into liberal arts and humanities fields and include general liberal arts courses in addition to concentration-specific courses. AS degrees typically utilize general coursework in hard sciences alongside concentration-specific courses. Both types of degrees are recommended for students earning an associate degree as a stepping-stone to a bachelor’s degree.
  • On the other hand, the applied degrees take a more technical and career-focused approach to education, developing specific knowledge and skills necessary for entry into corresponding professions. This shift in focus makes AAA and AAS degrees more desirable for students who plan to earn an associate degree as a way to enter a profession. Both types correspond to AA and AS degrees in general areas of specificity, but combine coursework with practical, hands-on experience and technical training.

Are Online Associate Degrees Respected?

Yes! Accredited online associate degree programs are respected just as any other college degree. Your diploma doesn’t indicate online study, only that you completed a full associate degree program of study. Moreover, employers have come increasingly to view online degrees as carrying equal merit to those earned on traditional campuses. When it comes to identifying a high quality associates degree program, accreditation remains the most important factor. Whether you plan to ultimately transfer to a four-year program or enter the job market, universities and employers alike will be far more concerned with the validity of your school’s accreditation than whether or not you earned your associate degree online.

This means that an accredited associate degree in any of the following fields could help improve your earning potential or give you a boost on the way to a four-year degree:

Admission Requirements

Online associate degree programs are very accessible for most prospective students, as their admissions requirements are typically less rigorous than those of bachelor’s degree programs. All online associate degree programs require a high school diploma or GED, though many do not have GPA requirements. Most online associate degree programs use ACT or SAT scores for course placement, but do not require them for admission, meaning low test scores will likely not prevent you from getting admitted. These reasons combine to make the online associate degrees a viable option for many students. This option can also provide a path toward earning a bachelor’s degree from a more competitive public or private university by allowing you to build up your GPA and other admission qualifications.

Online Associate Degree Costs

Like any other degree, the cost of an online associate degree can vary due to a number of factors. As a general rule, public schools cost significantly less than private schools; in-state tuition costs significantly less than out-of-state tuition; and community colleges cost significantly less than four-year universities. Moreover, it is uncommon for students to earn an associate degree from a private school, and we typically recommended that students earn it in their state of residence from a public college or university.

Online associate degrees should not be expensive; their major appeal is that they can provide students with a foundational education at a low cost. Even the most expensive community colleges still keep the price of an online associate degree under $10,000, but most cost less than that. To learn more, check out our list of The 50 Most Affordable Online Colleges for Associate Degree.

Featured below are the top 10 online associate degree programs in the most popular areas of study.

Top 10 Online Associate of Business Administration Degree Programs

  1. Penn State World Campus
  2. Florida Institute of Technology
  3. Liberty University Online
  4. Campbellsville University
  5. Bethel University
  6. Saint Leo University Online
  7. Southern New Hampshire University
  8. Limestone College Online
  9. Notre Dame College
  10. Columbia College

Top 10 Online Criminal Justice Associate Degree Programs

  1. Pamlico Community College
  2. Northeast Community College
  3. Hutchinson Community College
  4. Indiana Wesleyan University
  5. Shoreline Community College
  6. South Texas College
  7. Southern New Hampshire University
  8. Bucks County Community College
  9. Bismarck State College
  10. Keiser University

Top 10 Online Associate in Human Services Degree Programs

  1. Madisonville Community College
  2. Bismarck State College
  3. Northwest Iowa Community College
  4. Gateway Community and Technical College
  5. Alexandria Technical and Community College
  6. Genesee Community College
  7. Niagara County Community College
  8. Thomas Edison State University
  9. Hagerstown Community College
  10. Northcentral Technical College

Find the Best Online Associate Degree for You!

Online associate degree programs continue to grow in popularity. An online associate degree can be earned at a much lower cost than its on-campus counterpart, and without the hassle of having to attend classes on campus at specific times. However, it is important that you choose wisely. Seek a school that works for you and is compatible with your career ambitions and educational goals..

Start your search by checking out our Associate Degree Rankings, our list of The Best Online Degrees, or the 50 Best Online Colleges for 2018.

And if you’re looking to save money by earning an online associate degree in-state, check out the Best Online Colleges By State .

Take the next step towards your future with online learning.

Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.

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TheBestSchools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured programs and school search results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other information published on this site.
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