Best Online Associates Degrees

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The ability to earn online associates degrees has made it easier than ever for adult students to find entry-level employment fast, without putting work or family obligations on hold.

While most associate programs require a 2 year commitment, online learning can potentially speed up the process, give you flexibility in your schedule, and possibly save you tons of cash.

Online Associates Degrees

If you’re looking for a way to stand out in today’s competitive job market and want to earn a degree fast, without a 4 year commitment, then earning an associate’s degree online can help fast-track your new career! Earning this degree will still be an investment of time, money, and effort, though.

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We’ve gathered a wealth of information to help you decide whether an online associate degree is the right choice for your future!

Best Online Associate’s Degrees

You can select the program that most interests you to jump to that section of the guide:

All of these fields typically offer plenty of opportunities for growth, job prospects, and job security.

Online Associates Degree in Accounting

accountant working on a balance sheet

Associate in Accounting degree programs typically offer courses in accounting, finance, business, taxation, and mathematics.

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They may also focus on the technology used in the field. This can help prepare you for entry-level careers. such as bookkeepers, accounting assistants, payroll clerks, tax preparers, and administrative assistants.

Online Associates Degree in Business Administration

business managers discussing annual reports

An Associate in Business Administration degree program will likely cover business fundamentals. This can help to prepare you to work in entry-level positions—and maybe even some management positions—in a wide variety of industries.

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You might choose to work as an assistant manager, an office assistant, or a sales assistant or pursue further education.

Online Associates Degree in Criminal Justice

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As a criminal justice student, you will likely learn about law and ethics, criminal investigations, corrections and probation, juvenile justice, homeland security, and much more.

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Your associate degree will allow you to pursue exciting entry-level positions. You might become a police officer, a detective, a paralegal, a forensic science technician, or a probation officer.

Online Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education

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An associate degree program in early childhood education can help you learn how to shape the cognitive, emotional, and social development of children from infancy through around third grade. It will likely encourage you to explore the larger social context of childcare as well.

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With your Associate in Early Childhood Education, you could pursue a career as a childcare worker, a preschool teacher, a childcare center director, or a teacher’s assistant.

Online Associates Degree in Healthcare Management

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The healthcare field is booming, and this degree can help you get your foot in the door fast! You’ll likely learn about healthcare technology, medical terminology, marketing, healthcare laws and ethics, administrative skills, and more.

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Common entry-level positions you might consider pursuing with this degree include medical secretary, medical assistant, and medical records technician.

Online Associates Degree in Information Technology

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Information technology involves installing, organizing, and maintaining computer systems and designing and operating networks and databases.

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With an associate degree in this field, you could pursue a career as a computer support specialist, network systems administrator, computer systems analyst, or database administrator.

Online Associates Degree in Social Work

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If you’re interested in working closely with individuals, groups, families, and communities and helping people resolve problems, an Associate in Social Work may be a great choice for you.

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This degree can help open the door to entry-level positions, such as case management aides, intake specialists, probation officers, substance abuse counselors, victim advocate associates, and more.

What Is an Online Associates Degree?

college student checking e-mails on laptop

An online associate degree is the same as a traditional associate degree. It just means that the student has completed some or all of the coursework online.

An associate degree, sometimes called a 2 year degree (though it can take longer to earn), is the undergraduate degree between a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree. These programs can be found at community and technical colleges, vocational schools, and some 4 year colleges and universities.

Associate degrees can typically be used in two different ways. They can provide an educational foundation, a stepping stone from which you can transfer to a bachelor’s program.

Or, they can potentially allow you to begin your career quickly in a technical or skilled-labor industry, in positions such as cosmetologist, computer programmer, or licensed practical nurse (LPN).

Why would someone choose to earn this degree online?

Well, there are a number of advantages, including:

  • Accelerated programs that can help you graduate faster
  • Flexible class schedules that can fit your busy schedule
  • Not limited to schools only in your area and don’t have to move to attend
  • Reduced tuition costs (depending on the program)
  • Access to virtual student services and online resources
  • Ability to connect with a diverse group of students and instructors worldwide

If you are self-disciplined enough to stay on task, the benefits of online learning can be tremendous!

Are There Different Types of Online Associates Degrees?

university students preparing for online class

Once you have decided to pursue an online associate degree, the next step is deciding which type of degree is right for you.

There are three main categories of associate’s degrees. The best choice for you depends on your future career goals and whether you plan to transfer to a bachelor’s degree program after graduation or move straight into the workforce.

Let’s look at the options.

Online Associate of Science (A.S.) Degree

Associate of Science degree programs are typically designed to prepare students for transfer into bachelor’s degree programs. During the course of your 2 year program, you will likely concentrate on completing core education courses that will lay the foundation for your future bachelor’s degree.

Examples of A.S. concentrations include:

  • Computer Science
  • Physics
  • Biology
  • Engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Health Sciences

Online Associate of Arts (A.A.) Degree

Like Associate of Science degree programs, online programs for Associate of Arts degrees are typically designed to lay the foundation for moving into bachelor’s degree programs after graduation.

Along with career-specific training, your A.A. degree program will likely cover a core liberal arts curriculum that is intended to give you a broad knowledge base of several essential subjects.

Examples of A.A. concentrations include:

  • Business
  • Computer Science
  • English
  • History and Government
  • Computer Information Systems
  • Psychology
  • Physics
  • Education

Online Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S) Degree

While the A.A. and A.S. degrees are designed to give students the foundational skills needed to transfer to 4 year programs, online Associate of Applied Science degree programs usually offer something different.

In one of these degree programs, you will likely take career-specific courses that offer a well-rounded education to help you directly enter the workforce after graduation.

Examples of A.A.S. programs include:

  • Administrative Studies
  • Applied Computer Studies
  • Applied Health Studies
  • Criminal Justice
  • Mechanics and Maintenance
  • Construction and Facilities Support

Are Online Associate Degree Programs Credible?

Student studying in the library with laptop

Earning degrees online can be just as credible, legit, and respected as those earned on campus. The key—for online and traditional programs alike—is accreditation. The best online colleges for associate degrees, just like those offering online bachelor’s degrees, are those that are regionally accredited!

To be regionally accredited, schools must meet very strict standards established by a board or agency.

To find accredited programs, you can search the US Department of Education’s database. It’s also worth noting that unless your degree is earned from an online-only school or you specify it in your resume, employers will likely not know you earned your degree online.

How Long Does It Take to Earn an Online Associates Degree?

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If able to attend full-time, it usually takes 2 years to earn an online college associate’s degree, which is the same amount of time it usually takes someone to earn one on campus. Some schools offer accelerated online programs where it is possible to earn an associate degree in as little as one year!

How Much Does an Online Associates Degree Cost?

The cost of your online associate degree will depend on many factors, including the type of school and the major you pursue.

Most schools charge the same tuition rate to online and on-campus students, but occasionally, the online programs are cheaper. There are a few reasons they might be cheaper.

Often schools don’t charge out-of-state tuition fees to online students. At these schools, you’ll pay the same rate whether you live across the street or across the country.

Online students don’t typically don’t have as many additional expenses, like campus fees, commuting costs, and parking fees, either and often don’t have to purchase expensive textbooks and course materials.

Your online degree will likely cost the same or less than it would cost to earn the same degree on a college campus.

How Much Money Can I Make with an Online Associate Degree?

Earning an associate degree is about more than getting a piece of paper showing that you graduated college. It can potentially be the ticket to a high-paying career!

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workers with associate degrees earn a median weekly salary of $963. Compared to the $809 median weekly salaries earned by those with only a high school diploma, associate degree holders make on average $8,008 more each year!

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are some of the highest-paying jobs you could pursue with an associate degree.

Careers Median Annual Salaries Projected Job Growth
Radiation Therapists $82,790 9%
Nuclear Medicine Technologists $78,760 8%
Dental Hygienists $77,810 11%
Web Developers and Digital Designers $77,200 13%
Computer Support Specialist $57,910 9%

As you can see, these are growing fields with impressive salaries! There are many other fields that may be available to you when you obtain an associate’s degree.

While some of the top-paying degrees may not be able to be pursued exclusively through online education, many schools offer hybrid programs and other flexible alternatives designed for working adults.

What Is the Application Process Like for an Online Associate Degree program?

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Typically, the only academic requirement for enrolling in an online associate’s degree program is a high school diploma or the equivalent. Even if you did poorly in high school, many community colleges have open-door enrollment policies that will allow you to get a fresh start by enrolling in a low-cost, online degree program.

When you’re ready to enroll, it is a good idea to take the time to meet with an academic advisor at your school of choice. They can help you understand the different degree options available and advise you on the best course of action to meet your future goals.

From there, you will need to fill out a college application. The process for this can vary based upon the type of college in which you are enrolling, but typically, you will need to submit your high school diploma, transcripts, and other school-specific requirements.

If you are interested in receiving financial aid—and why wouldn’t you be?—the first step is to fill out the FASFA online. This will connect you with federal financial aid resources, including grants and loans, which may cover a significant portion of your costs.

Other financial aid options may be available through scholarships or school-based aid, and your college advisor can direct you to the right programs for your needs.

Can I Transfer Credits I Already Have to Use Toward an Online Associate Degree?

If you started a degree program at an accredited institution—recently or years ago—your credits are more likely to transfer to the accredited college or university of your choice. But ultimately, it will be at the school’s discretion which credits are accepted and how they apply toward your degree.

If you do have credits you wish to transfer, it’s important to check your school’s transfer policy and speak to an academic advisor to make sure you will get credit for the work you’ve completed.

What Is the Difference between an Online Associate Degree and a Traditional Degree?

college students doing online activities

The primary difference between online learning and traditional, in-the-classroom learning is the way the material is delivered to students. The best learning format for you will really be up to your personal preference and learning style.

Below we’ve listed some of the important differences to consider.

Online Associate Degrees Programs:

  • Allow you the flexibility to study anywhere with an internet connection, often at any time
  • Often allow you to work at your own pace so you can fly through your degree program or scale back when life gets hectic
  • Make it possible to attend without having to move
  • May cost less than traditional programs
  • Don’t subject you to long commutes or parking hassles
  • Connect you with students around the world

Earning an online associate’s degree requires self-motivation and discipline. You will have to stay on top of things and keep yourself organized so you don’t fall behind!

Traditional Associate’s Degree Programs:

  • Provide a structured schedule
  • Allow you to interact face-to-face with professors and classmates
  • Have more safeguards for keeping you on track, such as reminders for assignments and exams

These factors are important for some students. However, traditional, in-the-classroom learning often lacks flexibility. You are limited to schools in your proximity or having to move to attend and must deal with obstacles, such as childcare, work schedules, commute, and illness, that may make it difficult to attend classes.

As you can see, there are pros and cons to both. You will have to figure out which format works best for you, fits within your lifestyle, and will help you achieve your goals.

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Elizabeth Abner
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.