Accelerated associate’s degrees online can be an efficient, cost-effective way for you to earn a degree that pays-off quickly without taking up too much of your time. In many cases, you can earn college credit for what you already know.
People who hold a college degree make significantly more money over their lifetimes than people who don’t hold a degree. It may take more time, money, energy and effort right now to earn a degree, but the payoff is clear. A minimum of an associate’s degree is required for many high paying and exciting careers. Careers (rather than jobs) are often more long-term, offer more benefits, and usually have more overall job security.
How fast can I get my Associate’s Degree Online?
With a bit of effort, you can go from zero college credits to an associate’s degree in as little as one semester. In order to do this, you will need to use a combination of the following methods to finish your associate’s degree quickly.
- Select a college that offers fast online courses.
- Take a few 90-minute multiple choice exams for college credit. Most universities will give you between one semester (15 college credits) to one year (30 college credits) using this credit by exam method. Over 2,000 accredited universities accept this means of earning college credit. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert. Just borrow a study guide from the library, take a few practice tests, and then take the exam.
- Get college credit for your life experience, work experience, and/or military experience.
Using these 3 methods, the answer to your question – how fast can I get my associate’s degree online – is fast, very fast!
How Many College Credits is an Associate’s Degree?
At most colleges, an associate’s degree program is 60 semester credits (or 90 quarter credits, if the school is quarter-based).
Since the majority of entry-level classes are worth 3 credit hours, 60 credit hours is the equivalent of about 20 college classes.
How Long Does it Take to Get an Associate’s Degree?
In a traditional, campus-based setting, it will take about 2 years to complete your associate’s degree. To finish in 2 years, you will need to take 10 college classes each year.
If you want to finish your associate’s degree in less time, you can enroll in accelerated classes offered online and test out of some of your general education requirements. Together, these two strategies can help you complete your associate’s degree in 1 year or less.
Can you earn an Associate’s Degree online?
Yes, you can earn an associate’s degree online in a wide-range of subjects including business administration, liberal arts, criminal justice, accounting, psychology, and sociology, among others.
If you want to finish at a faster pace, you will likely be interested in accelerated associates degrees online.
Accelerating Your College Degree
Earning your associate degree online and through a fast track program will be a bit different from earning it in a more traditional setting, so here’s the important stuff you need to know.
There are three main types of fast track formats:
- Accelerated degrees
- Degree completion programs
- Accelerated courses
Each format is designed for students who are in different places in their educational careers. If you have no college experience, for example, you’ll want to find a program that offers a fully accelerated associate’s degree from start to finish. If you have some college experience and had worked toward a degree in the past, you can enroll in a fast track degree completion program. These programs allow you to use credit you’ve earned in another degree program to accelerate your degree completion process. In as little as a few class sessions or semesters, you can be holding your associate degree.
Accelerated courses are a bit different in that they are not full degree or degree completion programs. You can find accelerated courses through accelerated programs or through a regular online program. These courses enable you to take classes that meet for five to eight weeks (instead of the traditional 16 week semester schedule) so that you can complete more credits per year. With this format, you can complete enough credits to earn your entire degree in a single year if you were to consistently take classes each time a new session rolls around. If these classes sound scary because so much is crammed into so little time, then you could sprinkle in a fast track class when you need or want one. Summer is a great option for these formats.
Types of Associate Degrees
There is not one singly type of associate degree that everyone earns. These degrees are catered to your interests and future career options.
There are three main types of associate degrees:
- AA (Associate of Arts)
- AS (Associate of Science)
- AAS (Associate of Applied Science)
The first two degrees listed (AA and AS) are usually pursued by students who intend to go on and earn a bachelor’s degree (whether on campus or online), though it’s not required. You can find a job with an AA or AS. An AA degree can land you a position in general education as a teaching aid or assistant, for example, without the requirement of holding a bachelor’s degree.
Students who pursue an AAS in various fields typically go on to the workforce right away. Many can enter into high paying career opportunities immediately. For example, paralegals make an average of $49,500 per year, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Paralegal work is a career opportunity that is available to those who earn a paralegal AAS, which is available in an accelerated associate’s degree format online.
No matter the degree you pursue, you will be able to choose from a variety of concentrations, including business, communication, accounting, criminal justice, information systems, and human services. Basic core courses will be required in addition to courses that address your specific field. A typical associate degree takes two years to complete, but an accelerated associate’s degree can be completed in half the time.
What to Expect from an Online Accelerated Program
Earning an accelerated associate’s degree won’t be easy and can’t be done with little to no effort. You will be required to cover the same amount of material as a degree program that’s not accelerated, which means you’ll have less time to learn the information. Don’t let this scare you, though. Many people who work and care for families successfully complete accelerated degrees and go on to find rewarding positions in their fields that pay well. Know what to expect before going in, though, and try to mentally plan ahead. Think right now about where in your schedule you would fit in online lectures, assessments, and reading. Do you usually watch TV on the weeknights? You may have to substitute it with study time. Sacrifices will most likely have to be made to complete your degree, but the long term payoffs far outweigh those short-lived inconveniences.
If you’ve never taken courses in an online program before and aren’t sure what to expect, here’s a brief overview.
All of your course material and lectures will be made available to you online through a platform that the college chooses its students to use. You may be required to watch lectures and then take online quizzes or exams. You can usually do all of this work when it’s convenient for you, as long as you submit work by the announced deadlines each session. In other words, you can watch lectures and learn the material in the middle of the night if that’s convenient for you. Online programs are quite flexible and allows you to choose when and where (your home, a local library, your workplace while on break) you want to work toward your degree.
Salary Boost and Career Possibilities with an Associate Degree
In today’s job market, people are wondering if it’s really worth it to get a degree. The simple answer is yes.
The U.S. Department of Education and the National Center for Education Statistics found that for workers between the ages of 25 and 34, the average annual salary for someone without a high school diploma was $22,900. If a worker has a high school diploma, the average annual salary gets bumped up to $29,950. If a worker holds an associate degree, however, the average annual salary is $37,000.
In other words, if you earn an associate degree—which, in a fast track format can take you less than two years—then you will earn, on average, almost 30 percent more than someone who only has a high school diploma. It may not even cost you the difference in pay to earn your associate degree, which means you could start benefiting from that pay increase the first year you’re in the workforce with an associate degree.
All of the research points to the fact that people who hold degrees are more likely to make a higher salary than people who don’t. The financial advantages are easy to see. What might not be as obvious to some people is that by simply holding an associate degree, your career and job opportunities increase as well. Many job positions will only consider candidates with an associate degree or higher. It’s easy to understand why: During an associate degree or accelerated associate’s degree program, you will be trained in a specific field and will be able to demonstrate desired skills when you go on the job market. Since a high school diploma only indicates general knowledge and little to no relevant training for the job market, you won’t be as appealing of an applicant as someone with an associate degree.
Choosing an Accelerated Program
With so many online educational choices out there, it can be overwhelming to sit down and research programs before deciding which ones to choose. These categories or considerations are going to be the most important to you right now and in the future. They are not the only ones and if you’ve identified other considerations that are make or break for you, don’t leave them off your research list.
Associate’s Degree Programs you can finish in 1 year or less
Some of the most popular associate degrees and programs that can be earned online and in an accelerated format include:
- Business Administration
- Child Development
- Computer Engineering
- Computer Information Systems
- Computer Programming
- Computer Science
- Criminal Justice
- Culinary Arts
- Design Studies
- Early Childhood Education
- Electronics Engineering
- Emergency Medical Services
- Fire Science
- General Studies
- Graphic Design
- Health Informatics
- Health Information Technology
- Health Sciences
- Healthcare Management
- Homeland Security
- Hospitality Management
- Human Resources
- Human Services
- Information Technology
- Insurance Billing and Coding
- Legal Studies
- Liberal Arts
- Management Information Systems
- Mechanical Engineering Technology
- Medical Assisting
- Medical Coding
- Medical Office Administration
- Medical Transcription
- Network Administration
- Network Security
- Physical Therapist Assisting
- Public Safety Administration
- Retail & Sales Management
- Software Application Development
- Small Business
- Special Education
- Surgical Technology
- Web Development
- Web Programming
- Wind Energy Technology
You can find almost any major or specialization that might be of interest to you in an accelerated format online. Many times, if you develop appropriate and relevant skills in one degree field, you are eligible for a job in a related degree field. With the online format, though, the choices that are available to you are vast since there’s no need to move or travel to take classes.
Financial Aid and Tuition
Let’s face it, many people choose an accelerated associate’s degree program because it usually costs less than a more traditional platform. That is not a given, though, so be sure to understand all the costs and fees associated with the program you’ve chosen. Many programs like to sneak in fees like “registration” fee or “proration” fee that can add up to hundreds of dollars each class session. If tuition and fees aren’t clearly stated on the program’s website, get in touch with someone and inquire. There may also be hidden fees for actions like if you drop a class after registering for it.
Most associate programs will require you to have a high school diploma or GED. Some, though, will have other requirements that may not be as obvious. Some of these may include:
- A certain GPA
- A minimum age to get started
- Specific technology to complete coursework online
- A fee to apply
These requirements should be clearly listed on the program’s website. If not, get in touch with someone at the college and ask.
If you’ve spent any amount of time on our website, you’ve probably seen this buzz word come up a number of times. It’s a very important word and one that is easily forgotten when searching for accelerated programs. Look for either regional or national accreditation when choosing a program. If you select a field that has a national or regional accrediting agency specific to that field, only select programs that have gone through the accreditation process.
Earning Credit Before Getting Started
You probably don’t know that the knowledge, skills, and life experiences you already have might earn you credit toward your degree, making your time to completion even shorter. You can earn credit toward your accelerated associate’s degree in these ways:
- Military service or training
- EMT or Fire and Rescue training (or similar)
- Certain scores on exams like AP or IB exams in high school
- Credit by Exam via CLEP, DSST, or DANTES exams
- Certification or licensure (RN, or EMT, for example)
Many people overlook the exam possibilities listed here. For example, you can sit for a CLEP exam in 33 different core subjects, like History and Literature. If you pass any of those 90 minute exams, you can earn up to six hours of credit toward your core requirements for each one.
Transfer Credits into a Bachelor’s Program
One of the best parts of online degrees is that they offer you the ability to easily transfer credits into Bachelor’s degree programs.
For example, if you earned your Associate’s in Human Resource Management, you could easily transfer credits into an accredited online bachelor’s degree program. Then, you only have to complete 2 more years of college to get your bachelor’s degree.
List of the Best Online Schools that Offer Online Degree Programs
The following list of online schools that offer associate degrees will help you narrow down your choices based on degrees offered, accreditation, and even tuition costs.
|University||Online Degree Programs|
|Amarillo College|| |
|Ashford University|| |
|Baker College|| |
|Bethel University|| |
|Campbellsville University|| |
|Central Georgia Technical College|| |
|Central Texas College|| |
|Cincinnati State Technical and Community College|| |
|Clarion University of Pennsylvania|| |
|College of Southern Idaho|| |
|College of Southern Nevada|| |
|Colorado Christian University|| |
|Columbia College|| |
|Columbus State Community College|| |
|Crown College|| |
|Dakota College at Bottineau|| |
|Davenport University|| |
|Daytona State College|| |
|Embry Riddle Aeronautical University|| |
|Fayetteville Technical Community College|| |
|Florida State College at Jacksonville|| |
|Foothill College|| |
|Forsyth Technical Community College|| |
|Great Basin College|| |
|Guilford Technical Community College|| |
|Gulf Coast State College|| |
|Hawaii Pacific University|| |
|Idaho State University|| |
|Indian River State College|| |
|Indiana Wesleyan University|| |
|Jackson College|| |
|Keiser University – Fort Lauderdale|| |
|Laramie County Community College|| |
|Liberty University|| |
|Limestone College|| |
|Metropolitan Community College|| |
|Miami Dade College|| |
|Northeast Community College|| |
|Northwest Iowa Community College|| |
|Odessa College|| |
|Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology|| |
|Ozarks Technical Community College|| |
|Peirce College|| |
|Penn State World Campus|| |
|Purdue University Global|| |
|Rasmussen College|| |
|Southern New Hampshire University|| |
|Southwestern Assemblies of God University|| |
|St. Petersburg College|| |
|Stanly Community College|| |
|State Fair Community College|| |
|Strayer University|| |
|Three Rivers Community College|| |
|Trinity Valley Community College|| |
|Truckee Meadows Community College|| |
|Tulsa Community College|| |
|Tyler Junior College|| |
|University of Alaska – Fairbanks|| |
|University of Alaska – Southeast|| |
|University of Delaware|| |
|University of Maine at Augusta|| |
|University of Northwestern Ohio|| |
|University of Phoenix|| |
|University of the Cumberlands|| |
|University of the Incarnate Word|| |
|University of Toledo|| |
|Vincennes University|| |
|Wake Technical Community College|| |
|Wayland Baptist University|| |
|Weber State University|| |
|Western Kentucky University|| |
Didn’t see an online school offering the associate degree you are looking for? Drop us a comment below and we will give you a hand!
Other Benefits of an Accelerated Online Degree Programs
So, we’ve mentioned the potential salary and career benefits of earning an online degree, but there are some other benefits that may seem less obvious. Online learning allows you to get your degree when it’s most convenient for you. And, if you want to continue by earning your bachelors degree at an online college, that option is also available to you.
For one, completing a degree demonstrates to future employers that you are dedicated to learning. It also indicates that you are trainable, a quality most employers look for in potential job applicants. Completing a fast track degree means that you can learn a wealth of information in a short amount of time, a valuable skill in the workforce. Additionally, now that even the most prestigious online colleges are offering online degrees, you may even be able to earn your degree from a well-respected and top-ranked college or university. Lastly, you may not be on the market for a bachelor’s degree right now, but credits from your associate degree can transfer toward a bachelor’s degree down the road. And if you choose an accelerated format for your bachelor’s degree, you will be well on your way to holding that degree in your hands, too.
Of course, the online aspect of a fast track online degree program is it offers flexibility and convenience. Plus, they usually save you money. The online format also affords you the opportunity to network with students and instructors from around the country, an advantage when you go on the job market with your new degree. Networking is especially important, sine Business Week reports that the best way to find and secure a job is through word of mouth and through the social and business connections you have made.
Inside Higher Education reports that more than 14 million jobs are held by people who hold associate degrees in this country. An associate degree is a valuable asset when searching for jobs and accelerated associate’s degree programs can give you a convenient, affordable way to attain that asset.