Best Online Associate Degrees for 2022

Find The Best Colleges and Highest Paying Associate Degree Positions

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An Associate degree can be an important educational tool for individual advancement and a higher salary. It's the quickest post-secondary degree to achieve and the lowest in terms of cost, whether you gain the degree on-campus or online. There are three types of associate degrees and the differences reflect the purpose of the education. Some online degrees prepare the student to go to work as skilled employees in their fields. Other associate degrees prepare students for work but also for further education. If you choose an online associate degree when you begin college, you can still look forward to high level academics, receiving financial aid, and access to all the campus amenities such as the library, alumni programs, a diverse catalog of majors, well-trained faculty, athletics, and a packed events and academic calendar to support your student life.


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What are the Best Online Associate Programs?


1

Purdue University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $9,992
    • Out-of-state: $28,794
  • Net Price: $12,294
  • Retention Rate: 93%
  • Graduation Rate: 83%
  • Total Enrollment: 46,655
  • Undergrad Students: 35,706
  • Graduate Students: 10,949
  • Diplomas Awarded: 50
  • Student-to-faculty: 13:1
  • Purdue University
    Top 3 Online Degree Programs:
  • Associate Degree in Business Administration
  • Associate Degree in Health Science
  • Associate Degree in Criminal Justice
2

Brigham Young University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $5,970
    • Out-of-state: $5,970
  • Net Price: $13,150
  • Retention Rate: 92%
  • Graduation Rate: 75%
  • Total Enrollment: 36,461
  • Undergrad Students: 33,376
  • Graduate Students: 3,085
  • Diplomas Awarded: 1,662
  • Student-to-faculty: 21:1
  • Brigham Young University
    Top 3 Online Degree Programs:
  • Associate Degree in Business Management
  • Associate Degree in Applied Health
  • Associate Degree in Applied Technology
3

The Pennsylvania State University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $18,898
    • Out-of-state: $36,476
  • Net Price: $25,548
  • Retention Rate: 87%
  • Graduation Rate: 73%
  • Total Enrollment: 89,816
  • Undergrad Students: 74,446
  • Graduate Students: 15,370
  • Diplomas Awarded: 568
  • Student-to-faculty: 15:1
  • The Pennsylvania State University
    Top 3 Online Degree Programs:
  • Associate Degree in Business Administration
  • Associate Degree in Criminal Justice
  • Associate Degree in Information Sciences & Technology
4

University of St. Thomas-Houston

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $31,560
    • Out-of-state: $31,560
  • Net Price: $19,940
  • Retention Rate: 83%
  • Graduation Rate: 66%
  • Total Enrollment: 3,692
  • Undergrad Students: 2,411
  • Graduate Students: 1,281
  • Diplomas Awarded: NA
  • Student-to-faculty: 14:1
  • University of St. Thomas-Houston
    Top 3 Online Degree Programs:
  • Associate Degree in Cybersecurity
  • Associate Degree in General Business
  • Associate Degree in Drug and Alcohol Counseling
5

Florida Institute of Technology

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $43,246
    • Out-of-state: $43,246
  • Net Price: $33,313
  • Retention Rate: 82%
  • Graduation Rate: 60%
  • Total Enrollment: 6,775
  • Undergrad Students: 3,475
  • Graduate Students: 3,300
  • Diplomas Awarded: 23
  • Student-to-faculty: 15:1
  • Florida Institute of Technology
    Top 3 Online Degree Programs:
  • Associate Degree in Business Administration
  • Associate Degree in Computer Science
  • Associate Degree in Liberal Arts
6

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $28,960
    • Out-of-state: $28,960
  • Net Price: $21,827
  • Retention Rate: 81%
  • Graduation Rate: 72%
  • Total Enrollment: 3,108
  • Undergrad Students: 2,677
  • Graduate Students: 431
  • Diplomas Awarded: 550
  • Student-to-faculty: 13:1
  • Indiana Wesleyan University
    Top 3 Online Degree Programs:
  • Associate Degree in Business Administration
  • Associate Degree in General Studies
  • Associate Degree in Pastoral Studies
7

National University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $13,320
    • Out-of-state: $13,320
  • Net Price: $21,363
  • Retention Rate: 45%
  • Graduation Rate: 47%
  • Total Enrollment: 18,070
  • Undergrad Students: 8,441
  • Graduate Students: 9,629
  • Diplomas Awarded: 229
  • Student-to-faculty: 16:1
  • National University
    Top 3 Online Degree Programs:
  • Associate Degree in Business Administration
  • Associate Degree in General Studies
  • Associate Degree in Human Biology
8

Ohio University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $12,840
    • Out-of-state: $22,810
  • Net Price: $23,307
  • Retention Rate: 81%
  • Graduation Rate: 66%
  • Total Enrollment: 25,714
  • Undergrad Students: 19,284
  • Graduate Students: 6,430
  • Diplomas Awarded: 118
  • Student-to-faculty: 16:1
  • Ohio University
    Top 3 Online Degree Programs:
  • Associate Degree in Business
  • Associate Degree in General Studies
  • Associate Degree in Humanities
9

Northwest Nazarene University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $34,390
    • Out-of-state: $34,390
  • Net Price: $21,616
  • Retention Rate: 79%
  • Graduation Rate: 62%
  • Total Enrollment: 2,109
  • Undergrad Students: 1,389
  • Graduate Students: 720
  • Diplomas Awarded: 3
  • Student-to-faculty: 18:1
  • Northwest Nazarene University
    Top 3 Online Degree Programs:
  • Associate Degree in Accounting
  • Associate Degree in Business
  • Associate Degree in Liberal Studies
10

Diablo Valley College

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $1,312
    • Out-of-state: $9,012
  • Net Price: $8,369
  • Retention Rate: 74%
  • Graduation Rate: 48%
  • Total Enrollment: 18,693
  • Undergrad Students: 18,693
  • Graduate Students: 0
  • Diplomas Awarded: 2,208
  • Student-to-faculty: 25:1
  • Diablo Valley College
    Top 3 Online Degree Programs:
  • Associate Degree in Business
  • Associate Degree in Computer Science
  • Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education
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What is an Associate Degree?


An associate degree is the first level of college education that high school graduates can pursue. Earning an on-campus or online associate program can be a building block for further education, and it can still be a door into a high paying trade or vocation. Online associate degrees may be more accessible to students because they are relatively short programs; an online associate’s degree, similar to an on-campus program, can take two years to complete (4 semesters), or even less time if students are able to take classes beyond a full-time course load. With online associate degree programs and flexible learning available, some students can complete an associate degree in 18 months. The time and costs involved make this the most flexible way to achieve higher education and increase current and future salary earnings.

Why Choose an Associates Degree?

An on-campus or online associate program represents an academic achievement that sets a graduate apart from those with no education, high school education, or certificates only. An associate degree may be the end of the educational experience or it can be a springboard to an on-campus or online bachelor’s degree and graduate school.

The cost of education is also a factor for most students, and an associate degree can save thousands for students that complete this degree before entering a four-year institution. The costs of an associate degree at a community college or online program tend to be far lower than the two-years of attendance at public or private four-year, bachelor's degree offering institutions.

The achievement of an associate degree speaks to the student’s determination to improvement and excellence. In many cases, this degree can start a graduate on the path to the desired career as an entry-level employee. Work experience will be a helpful asset in any future education and career development.

Associate degree online programs take about two years to complete and is available at community colleges and some four-year institutions. An associate degree typically requires about 60 to 72 semester hours of study and students can take courses on-campus or, in some cases, can complete fully online associate degree programs. There are two types of associate degree. The first type is the college preparatory degrees; the Associate of Arts and Associate of Science each have general education requirements and are designed to transfer to a four-year bachelor’s program. The second type is the Associate of Applied Science degree. These associate degree programs that focus on vocational readiness.Online students spend most of their coursework on subjects directly related to on-the-job performance. For example, an Associate in Aviation Management prepares graduates to work as Air Traffic controllers and related jobs in managing the national airspace.

The Associate of Arts (AA) or Associate of Science (AS) Degree

associate_of_science_degree Arts and Science online associate's degree provide general education in addition to some focused coursework; both of these degrees, whether online or not, can be a foundation for further education. Many students will be able to transfer their entire academic achievement in their associate degree program toward bachelor’s degrees of whichever type they choose. The difference between the AA and the AS associate degree is in the curriculum. Both associate degrees require some general education like writing, reading, English, and a foreign language. The AS degree adds science, math, computer science, or a physical science to the curriculum. Both online programs provide a foundation similar to two years of work towards nearly any bachelor’s degrees.

Types of Associate Degrees:

What is the difference between an AA vs. AS vs. AAS?

The general difference between an AA, AS, and AAS relates to the curriculum content for each online degree. The AA and AS prepare students for a four-year college education. The courses are meant to broaden the student’s knowledge of English, literature, cultures, and world languages. Educational goals include insight, analysis, and critical thinking.

  • AA associate degrees resemble the first two years of a four-year liberal arts program in a humanities discipline. Students take general education courses and then focus on social science, cultural studies, and life sciences.
  • AS associate degrees resemble the first two years of a four-year science or math-based program, such as physical sciences or environmental studies. Students get a range of general education courses and some focus on science and mathematics.
  • AAS associate degrees reduce the general education to a minimum and gives maximum time to a specialized area such as accounting, automotive mechanics, computer technology, nursing, and electronics. Many of these are not best learned 100% through online learning because of the hands-on component, though they can all include online courses.

What is the Difference Between an Online Associate's Degree and Bachelor’s Degree?

Associate degrees usually take less time than bachelor's degrees (usually about half the hours and years to complete) and require fewer courses. An associate degree generally follows a two-year plan, 60 credit hours, and preparation for work or school. A bachelor’s degree is usually considered the full entry-level degree to a wide range of occupations. Bachelor’s degree programs prepare students for the expert levels of online master’s degrees. Both of these can be sped through online, flexible learning.

How to Choose a 2 Year Program?


Students should choose an accredited school that offers majors consistent with the student’s career plans. The costs of education should be a second level factor, and the available financial aid is part of that.

What is an Associate of Arts (AA) degree?


An AA degree is a general education that is ideal for students interested in the humanities fields. This is a liberal arts type curriculum that does not center on math and science and adds instead, the social sciences, literature, art, and cultural studies. The AA provides an entry-level qualification for a wide range of occupations including sales, graphic arts, and design.

The AA degree is a typical 60 credit hour course of study. The schools usually set 36 hours as general education and 24 hours as major and related electives. The course resembles the earliest phase of a four-year liberal arts degree, and it is an ideal foundation for the pursuit of a bachelor’s degree.

  • Average Cost to Get an Associate of Arts (AA) Degree is about $3,500 at public two-year institutions and about $14,500 at private two-year programs.
  • Time to Completion - Most students can complete an AA degree in 4 semesters. The trend is towards later completion, in about 5-6 semesters.

What is an Associate of Science (AS) degree?


An Associate of Science (AS) is a liberal arts foundation with a tilt towards science and math coursework. By adding the math and science major and electives, students can transfer credits towards a bachelor's degree program at a four-year school.

An AS degree is similar to an AA. The difference is the addition of five or more courses in math, science, or a related subject. Students get 36 hours of general education and the balance of 24 semester hours in math and science-based coursework, which can prepare them for a four-year degree.

  • The average cost to earn an associate degree, either AS or AA, is about $3,500 at a public two-year institution and about $14,500 at a private two-year program.
  • The expected time to completion for an online associate's degree is 4 semesters (two years) for an on-time graduation.

What is an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree?


An AAS equips graduates to go to work in a specific field or occupation. This degree is ideal for students that know what they want to do. The applied science course of study pares down the general education and focuses on the specifics of a trade or occupation. The AAS is not designed to work with other degrees or to form the basis for a bachelor’s degree. AAS curriculum has its smallest concentration in general education, and the largest focus on the specific trade or vocational category with electives that add a specialization or depth of knowledge.

  • The average cost to get an AAS degree is about $3,500 at a public two-year institution and about $14,500 at a private two-year program.
  • The normal time to completion for an AAS is 4 semesters. There may be longer programs that require a cooperative assignment or other practical training such as internships in real-world environments.

What Can I Do with an Associate Degree?

Associate degrees can improve your income substantially over earning a high school diploma. Some associate degree positions are in highly technical fields such medical technician professions, avionics, and healthcare. Associate degrees that prepare students for four-year degree programs can boost income to further heights. An associate degree can be a stepping stone to nursing, engineering, and writing positions.

An associate degree is a two-year college degree that sets the foundation for a four-year university degree. Many nurses, engineers, and businesspeople have launched thriving careers with an on-campus or online associate degree, associate in science, or an applied arts or science degree. Those that start work with a lower-cost associate degree can gain experience on their peers who opted to start with a four-year diploma. A two-year associate degree is also helpful in that students who use a community college to complete their core curriculum can apply those credits toward a higher online program level such as a bachelor’s degree at a four-year institution.

In fact, this can be a money-saving strategy since most community colleges are far less expensive than a public university. When students' associate degree credits transfer to a university, they can then expand on their learning with two years of intensive focus on their chosen field. Not only are community college credits cheaper, but class sizes are often smaller than those in a large university. Thus, students dispense with their composition 101, algebra, and other general education core classes with lower bills and potentially better instruction. Associate degrees are a win-win for students and here some potential careers you can pursue with an associate degree diploma.

Most Popular Jobs and Careers for AA, AS, and AAS


Top AA jobs:


  • Computer Programmers : Programmers create apps, software, and other basic computer assets. As the world becomes even more digitized, these specialists are more and more necessary for small and large companies alike.
  • Pharmacy Technicians : Pharmacy techs assist patients who bring in their prescriptions by explaining dosages and use of medications.
  • Graphic Designers : Designers use graphics software and design skills to help create ad campaigns, company logos, and other visual aids for companies and individuals.
  • Technical Writer : Wordsmiths can find AA associate degrees that are tailored to technical communications. When paired with a few courses in the sciences or technology, budding technical writers can arm themselves with the core knowledge they need to succeed.
  • Pre-School Teacher : An online associate's degree in early childhood education is the perfect foundation for a rewarding career taking care of very young students. This credential sets teachers apart from the pack and gives parents the confidence they need when they drop their little ones off for their first day out of the home.
  • Set Designer : An associate degree in theatre arts can help a student launch a career designing sets for Broadway shows, amusement parks, or even Hollywood blockbusters. Theatre art degree holders might also specialize in costuming, acting, sound, or lighting design.

Top AS jobs:


  • Nuclear Technicians : These specialists provide support for operations at nuclear-powered facilities, research functions, and academic research institutions.
  • Radiation Therapists : They use their knowledge and skills to deliver radiation doses to support a plan of medical care.
  • Dental Hygienists : These professionals require accredited education and a state license in most states. Dental hygienists usually work in dentists’ offices and clinics. They can examine teeth, perform cleanings, and advise the patients on better dental care.
  • Electrical Engineering : Students with an online associate's degree in electrical engineering can pursue careers that may find them monitoring high-tech equipment for microchip makers or repairing heavy equipment in the manufacturing sector. Many community colleges are accredited by ABET, the gold standard for engineering degrees.
  • CAD Technician : A two-year online associate degree program in architectural design and drafting helps students understand how to realize ideas as three-dimensional realities. Graduates find work with engineering firms, with home builders, construction firms, and surveyors, among many others.
  • Marketing Professionals : These business professionals are trained to analyze the market so that their firm's services or products can find the audience they deserve.

Top AAS Jobs:


  • Air Traffic Controllers : These individuals have the weight of responsibility for using electronic controls to monitor simultaneous flights of scores of commercial aircraft. They keep air traffic safe and guide landing and departure procedures.
  • Web Developers : Developers design, create, and improve websites. Websites are the primary means of interacting on the Internet. Websites are key elements of eCommerce, and they contain graphs and other information along with written content.
  • Aircraft and Avionics Technicians : These techs are the specialists that check every aspect of commercial aircraft to make sure that parts and systems are in flight condition. These positions may need FAA certification and testing, and they are essential to safe air travel. Aircraft and avionics technicians perform safety checks, check repair record, and follow up on any in-service complaints or incidents.
  • Research and Development – Medical Devices : An online associate's degree in Bioscience is on the cutting edge that sets students on track to design state-of-the-art medical devices. Bioscience graduates also work in pharmaceutical manufacturing and other fields.
  • Addictions Counselor : This career is in high demand, thanks to the opioid crisis. Many states confer licenses to those who complete an AAS in Addictions Counseling, or the equivalent.
  • Paralegal : An online associate program in Paralegal Studies is exactly what top firms are looking for when they need a new paralegal. Students should look for an AAS program that has been approved by the American Bar Association.

Frequently Asked Questions


How will an associate degree help me vs. a high school diploma?

It’s true that you can find a job with just a high school diploma. Some people start their own business and do well for themselves without any formal education. However, that is not the norm and a degree can help you go much further with a career, even if you only earn an associate’s. This is especially true if you earn a focused associate degree, such as a degree in nursing or air traffic control. These will gain you access to a career in which you can earn $70,000 or even over $100,000 per year once you have some experience under your belt.

How long does it take to earn an associate degree online vs. on-campus?

Students can earn associate degrees online or on-campus in four semesters or two calendar years. Students that wish to speed up the process can get earlier completion by taking a full course load each semester and in the summer sessions. By taking the maximum level of online courses per semester and summer sessions, some students can complete the online degree in 18 months.

What are the admission requirements for an associate degree?

Admission requirements for associate degrees are relatively low when compared to requirements for a bachelor’s degree. Many associate degree programs are open enrollment, which means that all you need to do is send in your high school transcripts or GED information in order to gain access to an associate degree program. A more exclusive associate degree program may want you to send in ACT/SAT scores, but they will have more flexible minimum required scores. Overall, gaining access to an associate degree program is significantly easier than access to other formal education. The typical credit hour requirements for an associate degree is 60 to 72 credit hours.

How much does an online vs. on-campus associate degree cost?

The prices for an associate degree program vary by institution. However, on-campus rates are typically the same as online rates, excluding room and board. Students save on costs such as residence in a dormitory and food expenses but will still need to purchase books and other supplies. The on-campus school may be located in a higher priced area than the student’s home area. Also, as usual, if you attend an out-of-state associate degree program, the online cost will likely be the same as in-state students pay, while attending on-campus, out-of-state would be a much more expensive proposition.

What kind of accreditation does the associate degree program hold?

The schools can have regional accreditation, programmatic accreditation, and national accreditation for associate degree programs. The regional and programmatic are the most powerful types. These accreditations have wide acceptance among employers and educational institutions. Regional accreditation, as authorized by the US Department of Education, is the first type of accreditation students should seek. Your particular field of study may also have a programmatic, or specialized, accreditation. The combination of regional and specialized accreditation is very strong. National accreditation is not as widely accepted, and credits with national accreditation don’t always transfer.

Accreditation affects later employment and further education. It also affects eligibility for student loans, grants, and scholarships. Students attending nationally accredited schools should check to see if the accreditation is by an agency under the DOE or CHEA list of approved accreditors.

What are the admission requirements for an associate degree?

Admission requirements for associate degrees are relatively low when compared to requirements for a bachelor’s degree. Many programs are open enrollment, which means that all you need to do is send in your high school transcripts or GED information in order to gain access to programs. A more exclusive associate degree program may want you to send in ACT/SAT scores, but they will have more flexible minimum required scores. Overall, gaining access to an associate degree program is significantly easier than access to other formal education. The typical credit hour requirements for an associate degree is 60 to 72 credit hours.

Why is online college accreditation important?

Accreditation is an important part of selecting an Associate degree program. Accreditation affects the acceptance of the associate coursework by employers and other educational institutions. Regional accreditation of the whole institution and special accreditation of the particular program will impact career and salary for students. The lack of accreditation has immediate impacts such as not participating in federal student financial assistance programs. The lack of access to federal loans, grants, and scholarship can affect the cost of a two-year program and put it out of reach for many students. For employed students that may be eligible for employer-funded tuition assistance, they too look for accredited schools.

The impact on a career is also immediate and long-term. Employers rely upon accreditation to assure them that the student has a quality education and can perform as expected. If the career plan includes further education such as nursing school, then other schools must rely upon indicators of quality education; strong accreditation opens up a wider range of employment and educational opportunities for the associate degree holder.

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