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Overview of an Associate's Degree in International Business

International business is a field that is continually growing as the world becomes more interconnected. Businesses are seeking to grow by shipping their products and services overseas. Businesses also seek to outsource labor and resource acquisition to offshore sources. This shift toward a global business perspective requires that businesses hire experts who understand the issues that come with international commerce.

Community colleges have been addressing this need by adding associate degrees in international business. Students now can complete a degree and join an international firm in as few as two years. These degrees may not allow the depth and detail of a bachelor’s degree in international business, but graduates can take their degrees and gain real-world experience while their peers toil in classrooms.


Requirements of an Associate Degree?

An associate degree is a two-year college degree that is typically offered by a publicly funded community college. These degrees can run the gamut from humanities subjects to strictly career-focused degree programs. Most four-year institutions offer an associate degree option, as well. This may not be explicit in their student handbooks, so students who are curious should inquire with their academic adviser. Community colleges may also offer certificate programs that are focused on the workplace more than academia.

During the course of an associate degree, students are required to complete the core college curriculum that any bachelor’s degree student must take. Thus, they take general, introductory courses in mathematics, composition and literature, social sciences, and hard sciences, including a laboratory course. After students pass those courses they proceed into a major degree program, including international business, accounting, or another business specialty area. One thing to know about this is that, if you’ve completed an associate degree, you may be able to jump halfway through a bachelor’s degree in the same field since you will have finished both your general education courses and at least some core courses.

Associate degrees typically require 60 credit hours to complete, which students can complete in two years of full-time study. Some students finish earlier if they are able to take courses through the summer term or make other arrangements with their academic adviser. In order to ensure that they can quickly progress into their career or a full bachelor’s degree, students should do what they can to maintain a full-time course schedule.

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Top 10 Best Online Associate in International Business Programs


Santa Barbara City College

Score: 79.73

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $1,234
    • Out-of-State: $10,186
  • Net Price: $14,180
  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Retention Rate: 68%
  • Graduation Rate: 40%
  • Total Enrollment: 12,675
  • Undergrad Students: 12,675
  • Graduate Students: N/A
  • Grads Salary: $42,800
  • Student-to-faculty: 37:1
  • Santa Barbara City College

Berkeley College-Woodland Park

Score: 77.63

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $28,600
    • Out-of-State: $28,600
  • Net Price: $17,068
  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Retention Rate: 64%
  • Graduation Rate: 44%
  • Total Enrollment: 2,078
  • Undergrad Students: 1,944
  • Graduate Students: 134
  • Grads Salary: $35,900
  • Student-to-faculty: 14:1
  • Berkeley College-Woodland Park

Dallas College

Score: 76.69

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $4,050
    • Out-of-State: $6,000
  • Net Price: $2,743
  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Retention Rate: 48%
  • Graduation Rate: 35%
  • Total Enrollment: 64,156
  • Undergrad Students: 64,156
  • Graduate Students: N/A
  • Grads Salary: $32,500
  • Student-to-faculty: 22:1
  • Dallas College

Cuyahoga Community College

Score: 76.44

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $4,622
    • Out-of-State: $8,736
  • Net Price: $5,928
  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Retention Rate: 57%
  • Graduation Rate: 26%
  • Total Enrollment: 15,764
  • Undergrad Students: 15,764
  • Graduate Students: N/A
  • Grads Salary: $37,200
  • Student-to-faculty: 11:1
  • Cuyahoga Community College

Rio Hondo College

Score: 76.19

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $1,388
    • Out-of-State: $9,884
  • Net Price: $6,099
  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Retention Rate: 89%
  • Graduation Rate: 25%
  • Total Enrollment: 16,139
  • Undergrad Students: 16,139
  • Graduate Students: N/A
  • Grads Salary: $37,400
  • Student-to-faculty: 29:1
  • Rio Hondo College
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Illinois Central College

Score: 74.35

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $9,900
    • Out-of-State: $11,700
  • Net Price: $11,559
  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Retention Rate: 70%
  • Graduation Rate: 32%
  • Total Enrollment: 7,044
  • Undergrad Students: 7,044
  • Graduate Students: N/A
  • Grads Salary: $34,800
  • Student-to-faculty: 15:1
  • Illinois Central College

SUNY Broome Community College

Score: 68.05

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $7,470
    • Out-of-State: $12,942
  • Net Price: $8,572
  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Retention Rate: 47%
  • Graduation Rate: 22%
  • Total Enrollment: 5,409
  • Undergrad Students: 5,409
  • Graduate Students: N/A
  • Grads Salary: $35,400
  • Student-to-faculty: 19:1
  • SUNY Broome Community College

Inver Hills Community College

Score: 67.87

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $6,007
    • Out-of-State: $6,007
  • Net Price: $10,496
  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Retention Rate: 53%
  • Graduation Rate: 18%
  • Total Enrollment: 3,459
  • Undergrad Students: 3,459
  • Graduate Students: N/A
  • Grads Salary: $38,600
  • Student-to-faculty: 19:1
  • Inver Hills Community College
  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $28,600
    • Out-of-State: $28,600
  • Net Price: $23,301
  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Retention Rate: 57%
  • Graduation Rate: 35%
  • Total Enrollment: 1,882
  • Undergrad Students: 1,818
  • Graduate Students: 64
  • Grads Salary: $36,900
  • Student-to-faculty: 22:1
  • Berkeley College-New York
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Schiller International University

Score: 63.19

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $13,680
    • Out-of-State: $13,680
  • Net Price: $23,042
  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Retention Rate: 50%
  • Graduation Rate: 13%
  • Total Enrollment: 43
  • Undergrad Students: 23
  • Graduate Students: 20
  • Grads Salary: $45,400
  • Student-to-faculty: 10:1
  • Schiller International University

Where Do You Earn an Associate-Level Degree?

Most students earn their associate degree through a local community college. These colleges are often cheaper to attend than a four-year institution and are more convenient than moving away for a bachelor’s degree program. These days students are afforded even more convenience if their desired associate business degree program is offered online from a community college on the other side of their state.

Students choose associate degrees for many reasons. One of the chief reasons is that community colleges are often smaller and more manageable than large universities. Thus, some students prefer to start their college career in more intimate surroundings. These degrees are also a great way to get started quickly in a career. Often, graduates will apply their associate degree in an entry-level position, earn a few years' worth of experience, then return to a four-year institution for a bachelor’s degree. Not only can students use that time to gain experience, but they can also pay for most of their associate degree in that time. Some may even find employers who will reimburse them for the remainder of their bachelor’s degree.

Online Vs. Traditional Education in International Business

The debate over whether students should seek an online or a traditional education in international business is still going strong. Many feel that online education is lacking, and that traditional campus work is more valuable. However, that‘s not necessarily the case. In fact, it's been shown that online students see the same outcomes as their on-campus peers.

Some point out that traditional students may have more access to their instructors and thus may be able to ask more questions or otherwise have a higher quality classroom experience. That is not always the case, however, as many four-year colleges and universities have very large, auditorium classrooms where students don't have easy access to their professor, who may also have packed office hours making it difficult to get ahold of them at any time. While they often have study groups with a teaching assistant, the level of instruction may not be quite as high as with a seasoned PhD. Meanwhile, online students all have equal access to their instructors via online tools such as email or chat interfaces. Some may even use a video chat interface such as Zoom or Skype.

As for post-college life, an online degree will look exactly the same as one earned in a classroom. In fact, employers may be more impressed with a student who had the dedication and discipline to complete an entire online degree. After all, time management is even more of an issue for online students who don't have structured class times to meet.

It should be noted that not every degree translates to the online medium. Laboratory sciences, for example, are still best pursued on a college campus. Students also need in-person time for things such as internships, co-op working opportunities, or supervised work experience requirements.

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What are the Admission Requirements?

Admissions to most community colleges is, thankfully, rather easy. In fact, most don't require exam scores or even a certain high school GPA for admission. Many students are admitted with nothing but proof that they have passed a General Equivalency Exam, or GED. That is, everyone must have completed high school or the equivalent.

The downside of these open admission standards is that many students may not be yet fully prepared for college-level work. To remedy this, most community colleges offer remedial courses to help students get up to speed. After all, many associate degree candidates have spent a number of years outside of the classroom and need a refresher before launching into full coursework. Students may appreciate this opportunity to revisit those math and English lessons they may have forgotten over the years.

Nevertheless, community colleges offer students the opportunity to start accruing college credits in schools that are affordable, local, and which understand their needs. After two years of full-time work, students can take their transcripts and enroll in a four-year college or university and complete a bachelor’s degree if they choose.

Why Earn an Online International Business Associate Degree?

There are many reasons to earn an associate international business degree. After all, an international business degree helps students earn a solid academic foundation that can help launch a brilliant career. A large part of this benefit comes from the fact that an associate degree includes the core college curriculum that is the backbone of every bachelor’s degree. In fact, these days many community colleges are coordinating with their state's universities to ensure that their associate degrees include all the courses required to prepare for a four-year degree.

Community colleges are also far more prevalent than four-year colleges and universities. Most states have around four or five campuses for their university system. Thus, it might not be a sustainable choice for a student to move across the state for a four-year degree. An associate degree allows them to stay close to home while gaining valuable college credits.

Those credits are also rather affordable, when compared with those at pretty much any four-year institution, including a public university. Thus, many students opt for a two-year community college degree as a way to cut their overall educational costs. There are even associate degree programs that are coordinated with their four-year equivalents so as to ease the academic transition to the last two years of a four-year degree.

Why an Online Degree in International Business?

International business is an extremely valuable degree. This is because the world of business is increasingly dependent on international supply chains, overseas manufacturing, and even international banking. Professionals who are trained with the knowledge it takes to thrive in the international environment are sure to find long-term success.

A degree in international business not only covers how to conduct business across borders, but it includes the fundamentals of business itself. An international business student will thus graduate with knowledge that covers marketing, accounting, business communications, finance, and more. Because of this, graduates can find positions in firms that don't even have strong ties overseas.

However, there are many who earn an associate degree in international business who are able to jump directly into a career in the field. For instance, an international business student who has strong language skills may be able to dive directly into a position with an import/export firm. They might even be able to start a small importing firm themselves once they get a handle on how the business works.

Another benefit to an associate degree in international business is that it allows students the time to evaluate their academic path. Upon graduating, they can find an entry-level position and begin to make a more informed decision about their future degree(s). They may even work for an employer who offers tuition reimbursements so that their final two years of a bachelor’s degree are very affordable, if not free.

What’s Involved in an International Business Associate Degree?

An associate degree in international business covers many concepts fundamental to business, both foreign and domestic. The specific topics covered by any one international business degree program will depend in large part on the individual department. Some may focus more on language, while others may emphasize finance and the laws that govern international business.

Most will provide students with a core business background that they can build on in the working world or in a university. For instance, most international business students are sure to take courses in accounting. After all, accounting is fundamental to every business transaction. It's also likely that they will take courses in marketing, supply chain management, and intercultural relations.

While many community colleges don't support internship programs, students may inquire of their international business department to see if they can set one up. This may involve a good deal of legwork on the part of the student, but success will yield great returns in the long run.

Common Courses

  • Introduction to International Business
  • Introduction to Business
  • Financial Accounting
  • International Supply Chains
  • International Business Law
  • Cross Cultural Management
  • Introduction to Macro Economics
  • Global Economics
  • Managerial Accounting
  • Business Ethics
  • International banking
  • International Organizational Behavior
  • Principles of Management
  • International Business and Globalization

What to Consider When Choosing an Associate Program for International Business


Accreditation is one of the primary things for associate degree students to consider. If their associate degree in international business is not accredited, it's likely that neither employers nor four-year degree institutions will recognize the work they've done. There are many different accreditation agencies, but most are either regional or programmatic.

Regional accrediting bodies should all be approved by CHEA. Since community colleges are typically public institutions, they should have at least a regional accreditation. When it comes to evaluating the business programs, not only should students investigate their regional accreditation, but they should look for programmatic accreditation.

Community college business departments often have accreditation from independent agencies that specialize in accrediting the very best business programs. These credentials are recognized nationwide and thus put the student's degree in high esteem. For international business, programmatic accreditation can come from either the AACSB, ACBSP, or IACBE. Students from such accredited programs should have no problem advancing into a terrific entry-level position or a top tier university.

Further International Business Education

Online Bachelor’s Degree in International Business

A bachelor’s degree in international business is a step above an associate degree. It takes two more years to complete and involves higher level coursework. Where courses for an associate degree end at the 200 level, bachelor’s degree students take courses at the 400 level. Bachelor’s degree students many also have departments that support and encourage internships or study abroad opportunities.

A bachelor’s degree is also very valuable when it comes time to land a job. Most employers will favor a four-year degree over an associate level diploma. A full undergraduate degree is also a requirement for any advanced degree.

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Online Master’s Degree in International Business

A master’s degree in international business is sure to help the holder advance their career. At the master’s level, students are sure to find that each program has its own special focus. Some may steer students toward international finance and banking, whereas others may focus on the more cultural aspects of international business, such as international law and communication.

Students who complete an MS in International Business will surely find that their horizons broaden greatly. In fact, a graduate degree is a defacto requirement for many, if not most, C-level positions.

Online MBA in International Business

An MBA is one of the most prized graduate business degrees available. It is perfectly designed to not only help students focus on their specialty area, but also to help them understand other parts of their business. This is because the first year of an MBA is taken up with general business courses that take learning far beyond the undergraduate level. The second year is devoted to a concentration area, such as international business or a subset of that field, like international finance. Given that an MBA covers not only general business concepts but also a specialty area, it's often considered a ticket to the C-suites. An MBA holder can manage their specific department while having an informed view of the rest of the business.

Online PhD in International Business

A doctorate or PhD in international business can open up many new opportunities. While the business community doesn't place a top priority on this degree level, it certainly has a place in the boardroom. Given that international business is inherently interdisciplinary, it may be worthwhile to earn a PhD in sociology or cultural anthropology to augment one's work in business. Professionals with this sort of background might conduct specific research that can support a career in consultation. Since consultants need strong credentials to attract clients, a PhD will certainly attract attention, and lucrative business contracts.

Online International Business Certification

Professionals often seek to distinguish themselves in the business community by earning special certificates from professional organizations. These credentials are typically highly specialized to reflect the holder's career focus. Since they are not academic in nature, certificates need to be renewed on a regular basis. To keep one's credentials current, it may be necessary to continue taking courses or engaging in other enrichment activities including writing papers or teaching courses oneself.

There are certifications in areas such as business analysis, project management, supply chain management, and team leadership. While these may be somewhat generic and not specific to international business, each will help the holder succeed in business and advance up their firm's corporate ladder. Indeed, these certifications may even be more impressive than a degree for some. This is because, the longer a professional holds their certificate, the more people understand that they've been dedicated to advancing their knowledge and skills in that specific area.

Certifications also tend to offer holders the chance to progress their credentials over time. That is, once a businessperson has held their credential for, say, five years, they may qualify for the next level up. This naturally confers more prestige to the holder since everyone in their field will acknowledge that their certificate stands for years of dedication and hard work. In some fields, especially more high-tech fields, these certificates are seen as almost more important than an academic degree. This is because certifications are focused on the career itself and not scholarship.

Potential Careers for Graduates

  • Importer:
    These business people often travel abroad to find goods that are unique and can be sold in their home country. To succeed in this position, importers need to have strong communication skills, including knowledge of other languages. They will also need to have a strong ability to negotiate. Then they'll need to work with the applicable laws that bear on their specific product line(s).
  • Management Analyst:
    These workers are consultants to both domestic and international businesses. Analysts take all of the relevant data from their client and then crunch all the numbers to help them understand how to become more efficient and profitable. The outsider view a management analysts has to offer can be invaluable.
  • Marketing Manager:
    Every successful marketing department needs a strong manager. Marketing managers are able to work with both their data analysts and their creative team to yield the best marketing strategy for their firm. Marketing managers can come from either the creative or analytical side of marketing but must have a strong working knowledge of both. An MBA will be very helpful for a marketing manager.
  • Human Resources Specialist:
    A specialty in international business will come in handy when hiring and otherwise working with personnel in other nations. Human resources specialists in international firms will need to have a strong grasp of each country's employment laws, which can vary widely.
  • Financial Analyst:
    These international businesspeople need a strong grasp of the global economy, including how each country approaches monetary policy. Highly skilled financial analysts can charge a large sum for their consultations.

Salary Expectations

Students who graduate with an associate degree in international business will likely start out with entry-level positions. Though these positions may not offer spectacular salaries, those who dive into their work will have two additional years of experience compared to their peers who went into a four-year program. Some positions may also involve sales, which are often additionally compensated with commissions.

For salary positions, the website shows that the average salary for a person with an associate business degree is around $14/hr. However, that rises to $16/hr. for those who specialized in international business. Employers are sure to add more compensation for those who bring special skills to the table, as well. For instance, someone who does extra work in international finance or accounting may be able to command more money or will be able to rise through the corporate ranks faster than someone who starts work as a generalist.

Those who are passionate about international business can also improve their resumes with language skills. This will facilitate positions with international firms that have offices all over the globe. It may be beneficial to learn Spanish, for instance, since that language dominates South and Central America, thus enabling work with a wide variety of firms. Note that some languages may limit one's opportunities. German, for example, is spoken in very few countries, though Germany itself is an economic powerhouse with loads of opportunities to offer.


The outlook for international business professionals is bright. Even in down-markets, firms need experts who can negotiate their way to profit from offshore interests. Even those who have a two-year degree in international business can gain a toehold in the industry and begin to thrive after gaining some experience. For example, many who sell or purchase goods on the international market will find that their skills are well-compensated either with a yearly salary or sales-based commissions.

There are also positions, such as customs broker, which will always be in demand when firms wish to import to export items across international borders. This position is licensed and well-suited to a person with a two-year associate degree in international business. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, some customs brokers say that they would have earned a degree in international business had they known that they'd be working in the field of international trade.

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