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Overview of an Associate's in General Health

An online or traditional associate degree focused generally on healthcare, health science, or a similar field can get you into a surprising number of medical careers, mostly assistant positions with general physicians or specialists. While an associate in general health sciences may earn you those spots, you might also need to work on certificates toward a specialization, especially if you know there’s one that you’re interested in. Having that, along with your degree, can earn graduates a place in a hospital or similar medical facility as health information technicians, healthcare management, patient health or patient safety managers, community health services, and others that work with allied health professionals. Additionally, once you have some experience under your belt, you’ll be in the perfect position to return to school and quickly earn a bachelor’s health sciences degree online or in person in order to shift your career path or simply advance to leadership in your current one. With an online or on-campus associate degree in helath science already completed, you could earn your bachelor’s degree in as little as two years of full-time attendance or three years attending part-time.


  • Earning a health science associate's gives you an advantage over those who haven't completed any degree program
  • An associate health science program teaches you the skills you need for many entry-level jobs for healthcare professionals
  • It only takes about two years to complete an associate-level program if attending full-time, though if you attend part-time online it can take longer
  • You will likely gain some required experience during completion of your program, not to mention the skills and knowledge you will have after in medical terminology, allied health science, public health, human anatomy and the human body, health insurance, patient care and patient education, disease prevention, healthcare services, and various helath professions
  • You will be able to help improve patient health once you are out into the medical field, even if your focus is medical records and medical billing
  • Even if your job focus is medical records rather than patient care, your position will be vital


  • If you attend online or on-campus part-time, it will take you around four years rather than two years to complete your associate degree program
  • Someone who holds a bachelor’s degree may be chosen before you when applying to positions and will be able to move into higher education toward career opportunities as medical assistants and more in the health field
  • It costs less to get a certificate and work with healthcare information systems - and general studies don't offer the job options that specific studies in the medical field might

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Certificate Vs. Associate's

Earning a certificate differs from an online associate degree program in that, when completing traditional or online programs at an associate degree level, you will have to take general classes such as math, history, and writing, as well as the courses for the area you are focusing on, where taking a course to earn a certificate prepares you for a specific occupation only.

While studying to earn an online general health degree, you don’t have to choose an occupation of interest right away, so you are basically open to almost any field. However, if you know what field you’re looking to enter, you can enroll in an online certificate program where you will learn the skills needed to pursue that occupation specifically.

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Both require at least a high school diploma and can take up to two years to complete. However, most certificate programs can be completed in a year or less and cost much less than an associate degree. If you attend an online program part-time, it can take longer, and online certificate programs may have a time limit, which will only give you so long to complete the online program.

What General Health Associate Degrees are Available online?

  • Associate of Science (AS)
    An AS is an academic transfer degree, designed specifically for students who are interested in pursuing a four-year health science bachelor's degree at a college or university. Students who successfully complete the course will be eligible to obtain the associate of science degree.
  • Associate in Applied Science (AAS)
    The AAS degree program is typically designed for mid-career adults to select a major or option that matches their profession or expertise from a wide range of applied fields.
  • Associate of Arts (AA)
    An AA is an academic undergraduate degree that is earned by completing courses in business fields, humanities, and social sciences. Unlike the AS or AAS degree programs, which are more tailored to a specific field or area of interest, students enrolled in an AA degree program are likely to take more general education classes rather than those specific to a vocation or major.
  • Associate of Applied Business (AAB)
    While AS and AA degrees are basically designed to specifically prepare students for transferring to an institution where they will continue through a 4-year bachelor degree program, AAS and AAB degrees are career-oriented programs that prepare students for employment.
  • Associate of Applied Arts (AAA)
    The AAA is a specialized degree program designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to enter the workforce as soon as they graduate.

Online Admission Requirements

Prerequisites and requirements to enroll in an online associate degree courses vary from school to school and between on-campus and online programs, but they are all similar. This is partially due to the accreditation process and the knowledge that certain things are required to prove that students are capable of completing the content of their main courses. The most commonly shared requirement of all schools is a high school diploma or equivalent; however, there are some community and online colleges that offer open admissions, meaning no restrictions are enforced to attend. Depending on the program of interest, other common requirements may include a background check, a minimum age, and the following:

  • A minimum grade point average
  • Minimum standardized test scores (SAT or ACT)
  • Passing grades in certain courses
  • Statement of purpose or goals
  • Letters of recommendation

How long does it take to earn a General Health Associates Online?

Most traditional online associate degrees can be obtained in two years by students who are studying full-time. However, there are also many online fast track programs that can be completed in as little as 12 months for those who want to skip the campus experience, complete courses through online asynchronous courses, and move right into a job. For those who wish to attend classes on a part-time basis, it can take up to four years to complete an online associate degree program.

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Potential Careers in General Health with a Associate

  • Physical Therapy Assistant
    Median Salary - $50,600

    Physical Therapy Assistants are medical aides who help patients to recover from accidents or illnesses by training and fitting them for supportive devices like crutches, prostheses, orthopedic braces, and more. They also document the progress of treatment observed, monitor and record use of equipment, assist in providing patients with procedures and therapy treatment, and lift and transport patients, according to requirements, onto therapy equipment as well as transport them to treatment areas and back.

  • Dental Hygienist
    Median Salary - $60,100

    Dental hуgіеnіsts work within a dental office rather than a medical office, where they perform a number of duties. They are responsible for cleaning patient’s teeth, noting signs of oral disease, and educating patients on preventative care. Some specific tasks they perform include:

    • Clеаning stаіns and plaque buildup from teeth
    • Clеаning аrоund and under gums
    • Sеаrсhing for оrаl disease іndісаtоrs, such as swelling
    • Applying sealants, dental prophylaxis, and topical fluorides when required
  • Respiratory Therapist (RT)
    Median Salary - $55,800

    RTs work with patients who experience breathing and other respiratory issues. Their patients may consist of prematurely born infants whose lungs weren’t fully developed at birth, as well as children and adults with asthma, cystic fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). These therapists often meet with and examine patients, then, after discussing the results with a physician, put a treatment plan together that may involve putting a ventilation tube down a patient's throat to connect a machine that delivers oxygen or removing mucous from the patients' lungs.

  • Cardiovascular Technologist
    Median Salary - $59,700

    Cardiovascular technologists provide support to a doctor and assist in the diagnoses of children and adults with heart problems. Some procedures that a cardiovascular technologist may perform include a stress test, EKG, and pacemaker monitoring. They may also troubleshoot the testing equipment to check for problems, then fill out the required paperwork for repairs and work with engineers in the cardiac department as well.

  • Occupational Therapy Assistant
    Median Salary - $46,000

    Occupational therapy assistant’s works closely with patients, to assist them with completing daily exercises according to their treatment plans. Not only do they show patients how to use and maintain the special equipment, but they also help them directly in doing so if they need to use the equipment to overcome disabilities. The assistant will also record the patient's progress and assist the therapist in determining the efficacy of the treatment regimen.

Options to Advance

Depending on the position, there are numerous avenues that someone in health sciences can explore and the education that they already have may even be sufficient to advance their career. However, even if you have to continue your education for one year, five years, or ten years, there are a lot of opportunities to advance to in the health sciences field.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, health sciences occupations are expected to grow 18% between 2016 and 2026, which is much faster than average for all occupations. In addition, roughly 2.4 million jobs in healthcare will be added to the workforce industry, more than any other jobs of all the occupational groups. In May 2018, the median annual wage for technical occupations and healthcare practitioners such as dental hygienists, registered nurses, physicians, and surgeons was $66,400 which was higher than any other occupation in the economy, where the average is $38,600.

Best online Associate of Science in General Health Programs

  • Maria College
    Albany, NY

    Maria College offers associate’s programs and more for those who want a career in providing direct care to patients or prefer a management role in healthcare. Moreover, they have small classes to give students more personal attention and a strong curriculum to help prepare students for a job in healing where the outlook is good, and the demand is high.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Occupational Therapy Assistant AAS
    • Nursing AAS
  • Manor College
    Jenkintown, PA

    The associate’s degree’s programs at Manor College allow a student to gain technical knowledge and competency in their areas of interest. Students can then use their degree to join the workforce, or as a stepping stone to further their education and take on an online bachelor’s degree.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate in Dental Hygiene/Hygienist
    • Associate in Expanded Functions Dental Assisting (EFDA)
    • Associate in Veterinary Technology/Assisting
  • Washington State Community College (WSCC)
    Marietta, Ohio

    WSCC began in 1971 when their first graduating class consisted of only four students, but today they have over 10,000 alumni. They are a two-year college that offers more than 50 associate degree and certificate programs committed to fueling the future of the community through workforce development, education, community service, and cultural enrichment. The school takes pride in offering a dynamic learning experience with small class sizes, hard work, encouragement, and dedication.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Nursing Associate Degree
    • Associate in Health and Wellness
  • Remington College
    Baton Rouge, LA

    Remington College offers many associate programs in health sciences and more. Their career staff works with students and supports their careers while assisting them in their job search. From writing resumes and interview techniques, to connecting with the right employers and holding job fairs, all students and graduates are supported. They also have financial aid representatives available to help students during the enrollment process to ensure they know all the options available to them.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate in Health Information Technology (Online)
    • Associate in Medical Assisting
    • Medical Assisting with X-Ray Tech (Limited Scope)
    • Associate in Pharmacy Technician
    • Physical Therapist Assistant

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  • The College of Davidson & Davie Counties (DCCC)
    Mocksville, NC & Thomasville, NC

    DCCC offers a number of associate degree program options and programs that touch numerous health science fields, both inside and outside of hospitals. The healthcare industry is the most diverse and includes exciting opportunities for students such as human and social services, pharmacy, health info. management, physical therapy assistants, paramedic, healthcare facilities management, health education, medical assistants, pubic health, licensed practical nurses, medical office administration, medical lab technicians, and more healthcare support jobs.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate Degree Nursing - LPN to ADN
    • Associate Degree in Nursing
    • Associate in Cancer Information Management
    • Associate in Health Information Technology
    • Nurse Aide
    • Associate in Pharmacy Technology

Traditional Schools Offering an AS in General Health

  • Los Angeles Pacific University (LAPU)
    Los Angeles, CA

    LAPU is one of the most affordable online universities in the nation here to help those interested in advancing their career, starting a new one, or achieving another goal in life. Their motto is, “You don’t ever have to choose between finishing your degree and having a life, you can do both”.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Humanities (AA)
    • Health Sciences (AS)
  • Bryan University Online
    Tempe, AZ

    Bryan University has a 78-year, excellent track record and has a position in the higher education spectrum that is unique. Graduates are prepared with the productive skills and the knowledge that directly lead to professional careers and employees hire them because they are intelligent, productive, and dedicated in the workplace.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associates Degree in Health Information Management
    • Associate Degree in Electronic Health Records
    • Associate Degree in Health Info Technology
  • Excelsior College
    Albany, NY

    Excelsior College is a regionally accredited, not-for-profit, online institution that has helped over 170,000 students earn their online associate, bachelors, or master’s degrees. The mission of Excelsior College is to provide adult learners with an educational opportunity, emphasizing historically underrepresented areas in higher education.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Applied Science in Nursing
    • Associate of Science in Nursing
  • Ashworth College

    The benefits of online learning should be accessible to all, as they can be life-changing, which is why Ashworth offers affordable programs designed with their students in mind. At Ashworth, they empower students to learn in a way that will fit into their very busy, very real, life.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associates in Veterinary Technician
    • Associates in Healthcare Administration
  • Pima Medical Institute
    Las Vegas, NV

    Pima Medical Institute has been dedicating themselves to healthcare education for over 45 years. They want their students to be the best that they can be. The instructors and staff at Pima are dedicated to providing hands-on, in-demand education that employers expect, so that every student can thrive in their profession.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate in Healthcare Administration
    • Associate in Dental Hygiene
    • Associate in Nursing
    • Associate in Radiography
    • Associate in Respiratory Therapy
    • Associate in Surgical Technology
    • Associate in Veterinary Technician

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there negatives to earning associate health science degrees?

The cons of earning a health science degree are probably what you would expect. That is, you are likely to earn less than those with a bachelor’s in health sciences, even if you end up in the same position. You are also less likely to be moved into higher-level positions and it will take longer to get out of entry-level roles. You’ll need to have as much as twice the experience as someone with a bachelor’s degree to be considered over them for the same role. Now, these may seem like deal breakers, but the positives for earning health science degrees are that you can start gaining experience right away. If you can transfer all your credit hours, you may only need another two years (or three if you work and attend part-time), your associate's in health sciences should have included all the general education courses you will need, and you will save money overall if you complete your associate degree from a community college with lower tuition costs. Your bachelor’s will be from your four-year institution, even if you only attended that school for two years, and you’ll be ready for supervisory roles right out of your bachelor’s degree because you will already have experience to back it up.

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