30 Best Online Associates Degree Programs [2020 Guide]

We’ve identified the 30 best online associates degree programs. Compare top areas of study and see which schools are offering the degree you want.

Online Associates Degree

You can earn your first college degree by signing up for an online associate’s degree program. Requiring roughly two years of study, or less through an accelerated associates degree online, these programs will equip you with marketable skills and get you ready to make a real difference in your industry, your community, and your personal financial stability.

Types of Associate Degrees

You can earn your associate’s degree in a wide variety of disciplines. Click on the area of study you’re interested in to jump to that section.

Each of these degree possibilities are in-demand and offer much better job opportunities than having your high school diploma alone.

Accounting

accounting associate working in an office

Do you have a knack for math and numbers? If so, you could do well in an accounting career. Keep in mind that it’s also important to be organized and detail-oriented in this job. If you fit those qualifications, consider earning your associate’s degree in accounting.

This is a business program, so you can expect to take business classes during your studies. These may include business law, management, and economics.


Your accounting-specific courses may cover topics like taxation, financial accounting, and payroll. You may be able to choose a specific type of accounting to focus on during your degree program. For example, some schools offer associate degrees in tax preparation or forensic accounting.

An associate’s degree can prepare you for assistant or clerk positions. You could provide supportive services for a Certified Public Accountant, be in charge of a company’s payroll, or keep track of accounts receivable.

Animation

junior animator being assisted by a senior in the office

Perhaps you’ve been watching animated movies since you were young and have always been fascinated by the magic of bringing still pictures to life. You might want to begin creating some of that magic yourself by studying for an associate’s degree in animation.

Natural artistic ability and a willingness to improve your talent are helpful characteristics for someone interested in this field.

Your coursework will focus heavily on artistic disciplines. You’ll study art history and cultural stories. In classes like Drawing Fundamentals, you’ll practice your artistic skills.


The curriculum will then teach you to turn your drawings into moving pictures. You may learn about using digital animation tools and producing videos.

With this associate degree program, you might be able to get an entry-level position in a field like advertising, television, movies, or video games. Titles might include junior animator or technical assistant.

Business Administration

sales manager having a meeting with her colleagues

Business is an enormous field that boasts many different career paths. Whether you’re interested in finance, management, public relations, sales, or human resources, a business career can be for you. To get started, pursue an associate’s degree in business administration.

An associate’s degree program will give you a broad overview of many different business topics. For example, you can expect to study accounting, business law, and global finance. You may find marketing, taxation, leadership, and team dynamics as other topics that you’ll cover.


You may have opportunities to try out some of the software programs and other technology tools that can streamline productivity for business professionals.

Having an associate degree in business may help you get a job in retail, such as a store management position. If you’d prefer office work, consider being an administrative assistant or a help-desk support professional. Other career options may include banking or sales.

Child & Adolescent Psychology

school psychologist talking to a young student

Working with kids and youth can be a rewarding career path because you’ll be contributing to the development of the next generation.

Whether you want to work with children and teens directly or would prefer to operate behind-the-scenes in program administration, an associate’s degree in child and adolescent psychology can help you get started.

Courses in this associate degree program may include Human Lifespan Development and Introduction to General Psychology. You’ll study the relationships between children, their families, and the communities around them.


Other classes may address feeding nutritious meals to kids, teaching them through developmentally appropriate methods, responding to child abuse, and working among culturally diverse groups.

Graduates with an associate’s degree in child and adolescent psychology often work in educational or child-development settings. For example, you could become a caregiver at a daycare or serve as a classroom aide at an elementary school. You could also serve as an aide to a therapist, such as an occupational therapist.

Computer Science

web developer working in an office

If you spend a lot of time working with computers, you might find that computer science is a good degree program for you. Having strong math, science, and problem-solving skills can help you succeed in this area.

One of the most important skills that you’ll learn during your associate’s program is how to use programming languages. For example, you may study C++ and Java. You’ll also learn how the various components of a computer, including hardware and software, work together.


Other important topics include cybersecurity, databases, algorithms, and networks. You may have opportunities for hands-on practice with programming tools.

An associate’s degree can help you get a job as a computer support specialist who helps others set up their computer systems or troubleshoot problems. You may also be ready to offer your services as a web developer after graduation. A small business may hire you as the IT coordinator.

Criminal Justice

police officers entering a building

Do you care deeply about making sure that society is safe and fair for everyone? You can put that passion to work in the field of criminal justice. This degree program benefits those who want to work in law enforcement or the court system.

The curriculum for an associate’s degree program in criminal justice will address criminology, which is the study of why crimes occur and how they affect individuals and society. You’ll also learn about the various components of the American criminal justice system; these include local police departments, correctional facilities, and courts.


Criminal justice in foreign countries may be covered as well. You may take additional classes like Juvenile Offenders and Forensic Investigations.

With your associate’s degree, you could work as a security, police, parole, or corrections officer. You might hold a job in the court system, like being a bailiff or a paralegal.

Education

preschool teacher assisting the kids during playtime

If you’re good at working with young people, consider putting that skill into practice with a career in education. With this degree, you can play a role in helping kids or teens learn new things and prepare for their futures.

Associate degrees in education will introduce you to learning theories and teaching methods. You’ll learn to present materials in ways that are appropriate for a learner’s age and development. Additionally, you’ll study child development, psychology, classroom management, and education law. The curriculum may also focus on the importance of building literacy and language skills.


Your associate’s degree in education might allow you to become a preschool teacher, a teacher’s aide, or a daycare worker, but it won’t be sufficient for becoming a licensed K-12 teacher.

Your credits may transfer smoothly into a bachelor’s program so that you can earn your state teaching credentials.

Electrical Engineering

electrical engineer fixes cables in a modern factory

Are you looking for a hands-on career that will give you opportunities to work with tools or technology each day? Think about going into electrical engineering.

Earning this associate’s degree will give you skills that much of the general population doesn’t have, and that’s great for your employability.

To get ready for this career path, you’ll study electronic components and structures, such as circuits. The classes will teach you how to practice safety when working with electronics and how to perform troubleshooting when things aren’t working correctly.


You may get to use computer programs to help you design electrical systems. You may find math and science classes included in your curriculum as well.

With this associate’s degree, you can look for work in many different industries. For example, your skills will come in handy for car manufacturing, HVAC installation, or computer repairs. You may enter these fields as a technician or a tester.

Engineering

mechanical engineer working on machines

If you’re looking for a degree program that offers high-salary jobs for those with an associate’s degree, consider studying engineering. This field of study also gives you plenty of opportunities to advance your career through further education. It’s a good choice for those who are math- and science-minded.

In fact, you should expect to take plenty of math and science courses during your associate’s degree program; these may include algebra, precalculus, chemistry, and physical science. Other classes will cover various technologies used in engineering, such as AutoCAD drafting systems.


You’ll also study mechanical processes and machining, and you may discuss ways to ensure that work meets quality standards.

This associate’s degree can help you enter many different engineering disciplines, including civil, mechanical, or electrical engineering. You won’t be eligible for licensure, but you can serve as an assistant or a technician. Getting your bachelor’s degree in engineering will help you advance.

Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneur explaining the product to a customer

Perhaps you’re one of those people who always has an exciting new idea. Do you want to turn those ideas into successful companies? Earning your associate’s degree in entrepreneurship can equip you with the business know-how you’ll need.

One of the first courses that you take for this associate degree program may be Introduction to Business. That class will teach you some of the foundational concepts that you’ll need throughout your business studies and your professional career.


Other important things you’ll cover during your entrepreneurship program include sales, marketing, human resources, accounting, and customer service. You may talk about managing teams, thinking creatively, overseeing projects, and improving communications.

This associate degree program will teach you to grow a business and provide excellent customer service. You can use that knowledge to help you start your own business or provide leadership in an established company. Industries to consider include retail, hospitality, food service, and entertainment.

Fashion

fashion designer talking to a client on the phone

Does wearing the latest styles or helping others look their best fill you with excitement and enthusiasm? Your passion can set you up for success in the world of fashion. To learn more about turning your hobby into a career, pursue an associate’s degree in fashion.

Fashion students learn about textiles and their applications. You may explore patterns, textures, and colors and discuss how fabric technologies are moving the industry forward. You’ll learn to create pieces that are works of art with visual appeal.


Because fashion is a business, you’ll need to take classes in accounting, databases, marketing, and management as well. Retail and merchandising skills may be other important emphases of this program.

After graduation, you could work in a retail environment as a sales associate, a buyer, or even a store owner. An associate’s degree in fashion may also open opportunities in fashion design, tailoring, textile manufacturing, or clothing production.

Fire Science

firefighter in action standing near a firetruck

Like many others, you may have dreamed of becoming a firefighter since you were a small child. In some municipalities, though, competition for firefighting jobs can be tough. You can set yourself apart from other candidates by getting your associate’s degree in fire science.

As the name implies, fire science is a scientific discipline, and you’ll need to study the reasons that fire behaves the way it does. For that reason, you’ll study combustion, heat release, chemistry, and the spread of flames.


In addition, your courses will also give you information on preventing fires, staying safe as a firefighter, and investigating the causes of fires. It’s also important to study the laws and ethics that should guide your work as a firefighter.

Most people who pursue this associate’s degree want to become firefighters or fire investigators. The skills you learn may also transfer over to EMT work or other first-responder roles.

Graphic Design

graphic designer checking images on her camera

Do you want to use your impressive artistic skills to communicate important messages? An associate’s degree in graphic design will help you learn to do this effectively. You’ll develop marketable skills that are applicable in many industries.

This is an artistic discipline, so you’ll learn about arranging colors and designs in visually appealing ways. Learning to use digital tools to create images, layouts, and animations will be an important part of your degree program.


Graphic designers usually use their work to persuade or influence others, so you’ll also need to study human psychology, consumer behavior, marketing, and advertising. By the end of your program, you may have compiled an impressive portfolio of your work.

An associate’s degree can help you get an entry-level job in graphic design, such as being the assistant to a senior designer. Going on to earn your bachelor’s degree can help you move into more advanced roles.

Health Services

medical assistant assisting a doctor

Have you ever thought about working in the medical field, but you’re not sure that becoming a doctor or a nurse is the right fit?

Studying for an associate’s degree in health services might be a good alternative for you. Like doctors and nurses, health services professionals play an essential role in the medical field.

For any healthcare job, it’s important to know the basics of medical care and terminology, so your curriculum will include classes like Healthcare Foundations and Human Anatomy.


Health services professionals often work in administrative positions, so you’re sure to study topics like billing, medical coding, and accounting. You’ll also need to learn about healthcare laws, including those that govern patient privacy.

Associate degree programs in health services can help pursue office jobs as a care coordinator, a medical transcriptionist, or a medical biller. You could also provide direct patient care as a medical assistant in healthcare clinics.

Healthcare Management

front desk personnel of a nursing home talking to an elderly man

If you care about people’s health and want to do a behind-the-scenes job that supports doctors and nurses, consider a career in healthcare management.

This associate’s degree program is often similar to health services but may include more classes that are specifically focused on the administrative side of healthcare.

For example, you’ll study medical terminology, coding, billing, reimbursement, and patient confidentiality. You’ll need to learn how to use databases and other records-management tools.


Your coursework will also equip you with human resources skills like managing teams, overseeing employees, and resolving conflict. Striving to consistently deliver high-quality health services will be another focus of this program.

After graduation, you can get started with an entry-level healthcare administration job like working at the front desk of a medical office, coordinating billing services, or managing patient files.

Work settings may include hospitals, doctor’s offices, dental offices, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and nursing homes.

Homeland Security

police patrol on standby in a train station

You care about your community and your country. Help keep them safe and secure by studying to earn an associate’s degree in homeland security.

When you think about homeland security, the first thing that comes to mind may be protecting the country from outside threats, but this discipline also addresses issues in local communities.

In your associate’s program, you’ll study criminal justice topics, including the court system and law enforcement. You’ll learn how to prepare communities for natural disasters and other emergencies so that plans are in place ahead of time.


Other aspects of your studies will focus on terrorism and the methods and weapons that are used. You’ll learn what is currently being done to address terrorism and start exploring ways you can contribute.

This homeland security associate degree can help you get a job in security or police work. You might pursue employment in an area like border patrol, immigration, or customs.

Hospitality Management

hotel manager talking to hotel's kitchen staff

If you enjoy making others feel welcome and comfortable in your home, then you might want to pursue a career along those lines. With an associate’s degree in hospitality management, you can learn to create environments or offer services that appeal to guests and visitors.

Your classes will help you learn what it takes to manage facilities so you’ll be prepared to offer leadership and supervision to a team of employees. Another course may teach you about various laws or regulations that apply to the hospitality industry.


In case you want to run your own business, you may take a class on buying food service or lodging establishments. You’ll also need to learn tips for marketing and advertising your business.

Restaurant and hotel work are popular options for graduates; other industries to consider include tourism and entertainment. You might be ready to hold a management role or work in a guest-relations department.

Human Services

psychologist talking to a patient in his office

People going through hardships need the support of community resources and programs. You can help administer these programs when you pursue a career in the field of human services, and your work may give you the satisfaction that comes with knowing you are helping those in need.

Associate degree programs in human services will address some of the struggles and crises that people commonly experience. These may include abuse and addiction.

You’ll learn how to provide effective and ethical supports through programs, counseling, or case management and also how to set healthy boundaries.


During your human services career, you’ll work with many different people, so it’s important to understand psychology, cultural diversity, and clear communication.

You may work one-on-one with people as a caseworker or a direct support professional. Supervisors may depend on you to serve as a liaison between clients and the service programs in your community.

Information Technology

web developer working on her computer

Understanding IT equipment and systems will give you marketable skills that can be applied in nearly any industry. If you’re interested in computers, databases, and networks, then consider enrolling in school to earn an associate’s degree in information technology.

The curriculum you’ll study for this associate’s degree will include courses on network components and designs, including ways to protect network security. You may practice using programming languages and designing simple programs.


It’s also important to discuss how to evaluate the systems that you create. Because IT is a business discipline, you can expect to take basic business classes and learn about project management. You may need to take advanced math courses as well.

Web developers often earn a decent salary with an associate’s degree in IT. Other career possibilities include working as a network specialist or a computer support representative. You could be a consultant or get a job in a company’s IT department.

Marketing

marketing team working on a project

Do you feel like you have a good handle on how people think and what motivates their behaviors? Those skills can give you an advantage in the world of marketing. This exciting field needs trained professionals, such as those with an associate’s degree in marketing.

The curriculum may include classes like Consumer Behavior, Introduction to Retail and Selling, and Public Speaking. You’ll learn to evaluate audiences and create messages that will resonate with their needs and wants.


These skills are useful for brainstorming advertising strategies and public relations campaigns. In this business-focused area of study, you’ll also take one or two classes like Business Communication or Business Law.

An associate’s degree can help you get entry-level jobs in marketing, such as being an assistant to a public relations manager or a market analyst. Managing a retail sales team is another job that you might be able to do right away.

Medical Assisting

medical assistant working on her laptop

Doctors and nurses need strong teams of medical support professionals around them. With an associate’s degree in medical assisting, you can learn to perform basic services for the patients in your clinic. This is a hands-on career path that will allow you to have contact with a variety of people.

The classes in your degree program will introduce you to some of the fundamentals of medicine and the healthcare system. You’ll study anatomy and medical terminology.

Learning about healthcare laws as well as insurance coding and reimbursement will help you operate within the U.S. healthcare system. You may also practice using technology systems for recording and organizing patient data.


It’s common for schools to require students in this associate’s degree program to earn clinical practicum hours.

After graduation, look for medical assistant jobs in doctor’s offices, hospitals, dental offices, or other healthcare facilities. You might perform direct patient care or do office work.

Medical Coding

medical coder working on her laptop

Are you interested in a flexible job that you can work around your schedule? An associate’s degree in medical coding could be your ticket to this type of career. In fact, many medical coders can work from home.

Students in this discipline learn how to do medical billing and coding, and they may also gain medical transcription skills.

If you decide to pursue this associate’s degree, you should plan to take classes in human anatomy and physiology so that you’ll have a better understanding of the terms used in medical settings.


Additionally, you’ll work with systems that are used for entering, recording, and organizing medical data. Your coursework may prepare you to take a certification exam after graduation.

With this associate’s degree, you could get a job as a medical coder who works with inpatient or outpatient files. You could also become a records specialist who maintains medical databases.

Medical Office Administration

medical receptionist talking to a patient in a clinic

As a medical office administrator, yours might be the first face that patients see when they arrive for a medical appointment. Your professional competence may help reassure them about the exam or procedure that they’re about to have.

Getting your associate’s degree in medical office administration can also prepare you to take a behind-the-scenes role in keeping a medical office running smoothly.

To earn this degree, you’ll need to become familiar with medical terminology, coding, billing, and insurance. You must learn about the laws that govern patient privacy and become familiar with data-entry software systems.


Because you’ll be working on the business end of medical care, you’ll need to learn some basic finance and business communication skills.

As a medical office administration professional, you could work in a physician’s office, a dentist’s office, a hospital, or another medical center. Common job titles include medical secretary, records technician, or medical receptionist.

Network Administration

network administrator talking to a colleague in a database

If you’re a computer whiz who wants to make a living by working with tech, consider starting with an associate’s degree in network administration. Not everyone has computer skills, so those who don’t will depend on you to take care of their systems.

You’ll be able to put your know-how to work in a variety of different industries.

This degree plan may include classes like Introduction to Network Systems, Computer Hardware and Software, and Routing and Switching.


Your courses will cover different types of networks, including those that are contained within a single office building and those that span the globe. There may be lab experiences that you need to complete as part of your studies.

These associate degrees will prepare you to answer questions and troubleshoot problems for computer users. You could be a network support technician or manage an organization’s databases.

Paralegal

paralegal assisting a lawyer

If you aren’t sure about setting your sights on law school but like the idea of working in a legal environment, think about becoming a paralegal. In this career, you’ll take on responsibilities like researching legal statutes, preparing reports, and organizing evidence files.

With this associate’s degree, you’ll start your studies by learning the fundamentals of paralegal work and gaining a basic overview of the U.S. legal system. After that, you’ll enroll in classes on conducting legal research and preparing legal reports.


You’ll also learn about the similarities and differences between civil and criminal law and get an overview of specific law disciplines, such as family law and contract law.

As a graduate of a paralegal program, you can use your degree to obtain work as a paralegal, a legal secretary, or a legal assistant. You might work in the office of a single attorney or be part of a larger law firm.

Pharmacy

pharmacist checking a medicine on her computer

As long as people need medications, pharmacy professionals will be in demand. You can fill this need as a pharmacy technician, and an associate’s program will help you gain the necessary skills.

To earn your degree, you’ll need to study the basics of how drugs work in the body and interact with one another. You’ll learn to read prescriptions, provide proper doses of medications, and maintain computer-based records.

Your coursework will introduce you to privacy laws and professional ethics for pharmacy work.


With a pharmacy technician associate’s degree, you can work under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist to fill prescriptions. Another career option is working for a medical supply company as an inventory or records specialist.

But if your eventual career goal is to become a pharmacist, it’s better to look for a two-year pre-pharmacy degree program rather than an associate’s degree in pharmacy technician.

Photography

photographers working in a studio

Do you enjoy the art of taking photos? Do you have a knack for lighting and composition? You may have what it takes to become a professional photographer. An associate’s degree in photography can help you refine your skills and learn to become a successful businessperson.

Color theory will be an important part of your curriculum, and you’ll learn to create eye-pleasing layouts. Other classes may focus on using effective lighting or communicating a message through photographs.


Associate’s degree programs often focus on digital photography, but you may learn about working with film as well. You also may have courses on using editing software or running a photography business.

Photographers can go into business for themselves, do freelance jobs, or work for an employer. You might specialize in taking pictures of commercial products, families, children, weddings, or sporting events, or you could focus on creating photos for display in galleries.

Public Safety Administration

police mobile patrolling in a university campus

You care about the safety and wellbeing of the people around you. An associate’s degree in public safety administration will equip you to serve your community well.

You’ll learn to provide leadership in agencies committed to public safety, including police departments, security agencies, dispatching centers, and fire departments.

The courses for this associate’s degree program will introduce you to the criminal justice system so that you’ll become more knowledgeable about the people and procedures that protect the public. You’ll explore ways to prepare for emergencies and plan how to respond when disasters strike.


Other topics may include communicating with the public, supervising teams, and maintaining ethical practices.

You can use your training to get a job as a police officer, a firefighter, a 911 dispatcher, a security guard, or an emergency-management professional. Having a college degree may help increase your chances of being promoted to supervisory positions.

Retail and Sales Management

store manager talking to a client on the phone

If you thrive in a store environment, think about becoming a retail manager or a sales supervisor. This could be a good college path for you if you currently work on a store sales floor and want the skills to advance your position.

An associate’s degree in retail and sales management can help you turn your entry-level job into a lifelong career.

Store managers have many responsibilities, so you’ll study marketing, procurement, inventory, and sales. Other areas of focus will include bookkeeping, payroll, and accounting, so you’ll be able to keep track of your store’s finances.


It’s also a good idea to work on your skills in customer service and employee management.

This degree may help you get a promotion to store manager, district manager, or regional manager. You could also become a sales representative who manages customer accounts, or you could open your own store.

Small Business

small business owner checking orders on her phone

Although the skills learned in a business administration program will transfer over to many settings, small businesses have unique needs, challenges, and opportunities.

In an associate’s program for small business studies, you’ll specifically focus on the skills and knowledge that you’ll need in startups or local companies.

Like most business students, you’ll study accounting, management, business law, and marketing. These courses will help you become a well-rounded leader who can take charge of the many daily tasks that need to be handled in a small business.


To further help you succeed in this realm, you’ll take classes in entrepreneurship and learn how to design a workable business model that can grow with you.

You may want to pursue this associate’s degree in preparation for launching your own small business. If you’re already a small business owner, this course of study may help you improve your operations.

Associates of Arts Degree vs Associates of Science Degree

Associates of Arts Degree vs Associates of Science Degree

When you pick out your degree program, you’ll have two main types of associate’s degrees from which you can pick: Associate of Arts (AA) or Associate of Science (AS).

Many schools offer a mix of these two programs. You may even have the opportunity to choose between the two types within a specific field of study; for example, your school may offer both an AA and an AS in Business Administration.

Before exploring the differences between these degree types, it’s worth noting that they have a good deal in common. Both are intended to give you a solid start for your career and your education.

Each requires around 60 credit hours, covers the core subjects needed for a college education, and should readily transfer into many bachelor’s programs.

When deciding which degree to get, it can help to consider your future work and school plans. The following table highlights some of the distinctions.

AA Degree AS Degree
Emphasis Social sciences and liberal arts Math and science
Electives May give you more options to choose your own electives May be more specific about the exact classes you need to take
Transferability Will fully transfer to many four-year colleges Will fully transfer to many four-year colleges but may need additional prerequisites for some programs
Popular Future Degree Options Liberal arts, such as English, history, and psychology Technical studies, including math, science or healthcare

It’s important to note that an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree is different from either an AA or an AS degree.

Getting an AAS is specifically for workplace preparation. The goal is to get you ready for a career in your chosen field right after graduation. If you decide to go back to school for a bachelor’s degree later, only some of your AAS credits may transfer into the program.

Associate Degree vs Bachelor Degree

Associate Degree vs Bachelor Degree

When you first enroll in college, you’ll work toward an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. These are both types of undergraduate degrees.

Associate degrees usually take about two years to complete. They typically include the general education classes that are considered essential for a well-rounded college education.

These degree programs also include classes that focus on a specific discipline, such as health services or retail sales.

Bachelor’s degree programs are about twice as long. To earn a bachelor’s degree, you’ll take a core of general education courses as well as a good number of classes that focus on your particular area of study.

Associate degrees are fairly equivalent to the first two years of a bachelor’s degree program. As a result, you can often transfer your associate’s degree into a four-year school.

You may be able to start your bachelor’s program as a junior and have only two years of study remaining. During that time, most of your classes will be upper-level courses that are specific to your major.

Associate’s Degree Bachelor’s Degree
Length Approximately two years Approximately four years
Credit Hours Around 60 Around 120
Cost Fewer credit hours means lower overall cost Higher credit-hour requirement increases the total cost
Depth of Study Basic education courses plus a few introductory classes in your field of study Follows up basic and introductory classes with a few years of in-depth coursework in your field of study
Next Steps Enter the workforce or transfer into a bachelor’s program, which will usually take an additional two years to complete Enter the workforce or apply to grad school for a master’s degree

Earning an associate’s degree provides a great way to try out your chosen field with an affordable course of study that you can complete in two years or less. You can add on bachelor’s studies later if you’d like.

Associate’s Degree Requirements

Associate's Degree Requirements

To graduate with an associate’s degree, you’ll need to earn about 60 credit hours. Each school and program sets its own degree plan, but you can typically expect to take a mix of general education courses and major-specific courses.

You may also have opportunities to customize your associate’s degree plan by selecting a handful of electives.

Core Curriculum (30 Credits)

In your first two semesters of college, you can expect to take a good number of general education classes. The exact number of core credits required can vary greatly from school to school. Some colleges require as few as 24, and others require as many as 42.

For an online associate’s degree, one of the first classes you take may serve as an introduction to the online college format. This usually counts toward your total credit hours.

You can expect to take general education classes like the following:

  • College Mathematics
  • Composition I
  • Composition II
  • Critical Thinking
  • Economics
  • Foundations of Online Study
  • Physical Science
  • Speech and Public Speaking
  • Statistics
  • S. History

Each of these courses may be worth three credits. Some, such as the introductory course, may carry lower weight, and those with lab components, such as Physical Science, may be worth more credits.

If you’ve already taken some college classes, you may be able to get credit for those. This can reduce the total number of general education credits that you’ll need to earn for associate degrees.

General Electives (6 Credits)

Your school may give you the option to select some of your general education credits.

General electives are often available in the following areas:

  • Fine arts
  • Foreign language
  • History and government
  • Science
  • Social sciences and humanities

Some colleges suggest preferred classes but allow you the freedom to substitute other courses to fulfill that requirement. Others may let you choose between two different options.

Major Courses (21 Credits)

During the first half of your associate’s coursework, you may take a few classes that are specific to your area of study. Once you reach the second half, the majority of your courses may center around your major.

These classes will equip you with the skills and knowledge that you’ll need for an entry-level job in your chosen field.

For an associate degree in business, the curriculum may include:

  • Accounting
  • Business Law and Ethics
  • Human Relations
  • Introduction to Business
  • Global Business
  • Principles of Marketing
  • Taxation

Each class may be worth three credits. Other disciplines will feature different classes, of course.

Major Electives (3 Credits)

You may have the opportunity to take one or more credits related to your concentration area. These may help you earn a specialization in your field of study. The choices available to you will depend on what you’re studying.

Jobs You Can Get with an Associate’s Degree

Jobs You Can Get with an Associate's Degree

Even though an associate’s degree may take you two years or less to complete, it can still lead to a successful career. In fact, there are even jobs that pay 50k a year with an associate’s degree.

The following table outlines some career paths to consider, beginning with some of the highest paying jobs with an associate’s degree.

Job Median Annual Salary Relevant Associate’s Degree(s)
Radiation Therapist $82,330 Radiation Therapy
Nuclear Technician $79,140 Nuclear Technology
Nuclear Medicine Technologist $76,820 Nuclear Medicine Technology
Dental Hygienist $74,820 Dental Hygiene
Registered Nurse $71,730 Nursing
Web Developer $69,430 Computer Science or Information Technology
Medical Sonographer $67,080 Sonography
Aerospace Engineering Technician $67,010 Engineering
Electronics Engineering Technician $64,330 Electrical Engineering
Police Officer $63,380 Public Safety Administration
 Network Support Specialist $62,770 Information Technology
Sales Representative $61,660 Retail and Sales Management
Fire Inspector $60,200 Fire Science
Funeral Service Worker $57,580 Mortuary Science
Food Service Manager $54,240 Hospitality Management
Computer Support Specialist $53,470 Computer Science or Information Technology
Lodging Manager $53,390 Hospitality Management
Paralegal $50,940 Criminal Justice or Paralegal
Firefighter $49,620 Fire Science
Bailiff $42,960 Criminal Justice
Dispatcher $40,660 Public Safety Administration
Medical Records Technician $40,350 Health Services, Healthcare Administration or Medical Office Administration
Financial Clerk $39,570 Business Administration
Administrative Assistant $38,880 Business Administration
Photographer $34,000 Photography or Small Business
Human Services Assistant $33,750 Human Services
Medical Assistant $33,610 Medical Assisting
Pharmacy Technician $32,700 Pharmacy
Preschool Teacher $29,780 Education
Bank Teller $29,450 Business Administration
Receptionist $29,140 Business Administration or Medical Office Administration
Security Guard $28,530 Criminal Justice or Homeland Security
Occupational Therapy Aide $28,160 Child Psychology
Teacher Assistant $26,970 Child Psychology or Education
Retail Sales Worker $24,340 Fashion or Retail and Sales Management
Childcare Worker $23,240 Child Psychology or Education

Gaining experience or going back to school for more education can help you move up in your field. You may be given positions of greater responsibility, or you may receive a higher salary.

Accreditation for an Online Associates Degree

logos of the 7 regional accreditation boards

An associate’s degree will only help you land a good job if it comes from a reputable school that holds regional accreditation.

The seven regional accreditors in the U.S. are:

  • Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

Colleges that have received approval from one of these organizations offer academic programs that meet national standards, so you can count on getting a solid education.

Financial Aid for Students in an Associates Degree Program

screenshot of FAFSA website

Some people hesitate to jump into higher education because they don’t know if they’ll be able to afford the cost of tuition. Although school can be expensive, there are ways to make it more affordable.

Financial aid comes in many forms. Federal financial aid may be the most common. The government hands out grants and low-interest loans to those who qualify.

To learn what you’re eligible for, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You may find out that you can get grants or loans or that you qualify to participate in the Federal Work-Study Program.

Your state may distribute similar assistance, and it’s a good idea to use both state and federal help if you can. The FAFSA results may determine your eligibility for state aid as well as federal aid.

Other assistance may come from private sources. These sources may include:

  • Payment plans from your university
  • Scholarships from local or national organizations
  • Tuition-reimbursement programs from your employer

You can use a mix of government and private assistance to help you cover the cost of your tuition.

Questions Related to Earning an Online Associates Degree

Here are our answers to a few more questions you might have.

What Is an Associate’s Degree?

Like a bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree is an undergraduate college degree. It is sometimes known as a two-year degree because, traditionally, it takes about two years of coursework to finish the program.

The curriculum for an associate’s degree usually includes general education courses in writing, math, science, and other basic subjects. The remaining classes are related to a specific area of study, which may be referred to as a major.

This well-rounded education may demonstrate to employers that you are a knowledgable individual who can handle a variety of tasks and challenges.

Can You Get Your Associate’s Degree Online?

Yes, schools often offer associate degree programs online. Enrolling in an online associate’s degree program can be an excellent way to take college classes while still holding a full-time job or taking care of your family.

You can expect the coursework for an online associate’s degree program to be similar to on campus classes. You’ll complete reading assignments, turn in papers, and even engage in discussions with your classmates.

To ensure that you’re receiving a quality online education, always select a school with regional accreditation.

How Long Does It Take to Get an AA Degree Online?

Traditional associate’s degrees take two years to earn. Students attend school for four semesters, and they may take a few summer classes as well. For online colleges that rely on this format, full-time enrollment is likely to take 2 to 2.5 years.

Other online schools offer the same amount of learning, but they do it in less time. These colleges typically hold short class sessions that are offered one after another.

After eight weeks or so on a topic, you’ll move on to the next course. With this approach, you may have your degree in just 12 to 20 months.

Can I Get My Associate Degree in 6 Months Online?

There are a good number of online associate’s degree programs that dedicated students can finish in around 12 months. These usually rely on accelerated schedules with classes that last just a few weeks each.

If you begin a program with college credit, you can cut that time down even shorter — perhaps to as little as six months. Your school may give you credit for work experience, previous college classes, or CLEP testing.

What Is the Cheapest Online Associates Degree?

To earn an associate degree online cheaply, look for schools with low tuition rates. Community colleges and in-state schools often have more affordable prices compared to out-of-state or private institutions.

Additionally, the fewer classes you have to take, the lower your tuition will be. You may be able to reduce your class load by getting credit for what you already know.

Ask whether a school will accept your professional experience or previous college courses in place of a portion of the prescribed curriculum.

You can demonstrate your proficiency by passing CLEP exams. Good scores may exempt you from certain classes and earn you low-cost college credits towards your associate’s degree.

What Jobs Can You Get with an Associate of Arts Degree?

There are many jobs that you can do with an Associate of Arts degree. You could be a store manager, an office administrator, a restaurant manager, or a concierge. You could pursue an artistic job in animation, photography, or fashion.

There’s even the option to open your own business. Just keep in mind that Associate of Arts degrees come in many forms, and your specific major will help determine which jobs you should pursue.

Are There Any Online Associates Degrees That Pay Well?

Many jobs that require associate degrees command a decent salary. With an associates degree in nursing, you might be on your way to earning $71,730 per year as a registered nurse. Earning a computer science associate’s degree could help you pursue a good-paying job as a web developer.

Other promising educational paths for associate degrees include electrical engineering, information technology, dental hygiene, public safety administration, and criminal justice.

How Much Does an Online Associates Degree Cost?

The base price of an associate’s degree is usually $7,000 or more, but some online schools offer lower tuition. To find the most affordable rate, it’s usually smart to enroll in the online associate degree program of a community college or an in-state school.

If the tuition still seems daunting, be sure to apply for financial aid. Also, consider choosing a school that will give you credit for your work experience or your CLEP exam scores. Investigating these options is free, and can potentially result in a more affordable rate.

What Is the Easiest Degree to Get Online?

Associate degrees are one of the quickest degrees that you can earn online, but that doesn’t automatically make it easy.

Some people claim that associate’s programs that don’t require specific technical skills are among the easiest. These may include business administration, criminal justice, education, or psychology.

Really, though, what’s easy for one person may be challenging for another. If you want to find a degree online that will be easy for you, choose a major that plays to your strengths.

List of Schools Offering Online Associates Degree Programs

Rankings Methodology

Each of these colleges is properly accredited and offer associate-level degrees that can be completed online.

  1. Allen County Community College
  2. Barton County Community College
  3. Bismarck State College
  4. Bucks County Community College
  5. Central Texas College
  6. Cerro Coso Community College
  7. Cincinnati State Technical Community College
  8. Coastline College
  9. College of Southern Nevada
  10. Copiah-Lincoln Community College
  11. Eastern Gateway Community College
  12. El Paso Community College
  13. Fayetteville Technical Community College
  14. Georgia Military College
  15. Great Basin College
  16. Harrisburg Area Community College
  17. Highland Community College
  18. Hutchinson Community College
  19. Ivy Tech Community College
  20. Lone Star College
  21. Metropolitan Community College
  22. Minnesota State Community & Technical College
  23. Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College
  24. Northwest Mississippi Community College
  25. State Fair Community College
  26. South Texas College
  27. Tulsa Community College
  28. Vincennes University
  29. Western Wyoming Community College
  30. Williston State College

These are some of the best colleges for online associates degree programs.

Is an Associates Degree Worth It?

Associates Degree graduates

Do you want to get started on your career quickly? Are you interested in a good-paying job that doesn’t require years of schooling? Do you want to try out the college experience before committing to a four-year program?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then consider an online associate’s degree.

Associate’s programs will equip you with employable skills, and many can set you up for high-paying positions in fields that require no further education. An associate’s degree can also serve as a stepping stone to bachelor’s studies. Get started by applying to online associate’s programs today.

Isaac Collins
WRITTEN BY
Isaac Collins