Earning an online associate degree can help recent high school graduates and working professionals increase their career and salary potential. Associate degree programs feature a mix of general education and major courses. Coursework trains students for specific careers while imparting transferable skills in communication, writing, and research. Associate programs typically last 1-2 years, depending on the student’s enrollment status.
Online degree programs offer benefits including affordability and flexibility. Many programs deliver online classes asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at convenient times. This scheduling flexibility is ideal for learners with personal and professional obligations. Also, online students usually avoid costs associated with meal plans, campus housing, and commuting.
Most online associate programs use the same admission requirements as on-campus programs. However, admission requirements vary by school. Learners should contact their prospective college for details regarding admission requirements and the application process.
What Can I Do With an Associate Degree?
Individuals often enroll in associate degree programs to qualify for entry-level positions or promotions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), associate degree-holders earn a median of $141 per week more than individuals with only a high school diploma.
Colleges that offer associate programs typically provide students with helpful career resources. Learners can often access job boards, mock interviews, and career planning guides. Degree-seekers may also take advantage of individual counseling appointments to help them identify potential career paths based on their passions, skills, and life goals.
Accreditation for an Associate Degree
Colleges and universities that offer online associate degrees should hold accreditation. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) charters six regional accrediting agencies to review postsecondary institutions. To earn and maintain regional accreditation, schools must meet specific criteria and undergo regular evaluations. Many employers and bachelor’s programs only recognize degrees earned from regionally accredited institutions.
Schools that offer online programs should also possess national accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). DEAC accreditation signifies that the school’s online programs deliver the same academic rigor and learning outcomes as its on-campus programs.
Finally, some online associate degree programs feature programmatic accreditation. This field-specific accreditation demonstrates that the program provides students with an excellent education that prepares them for careers in the discipline. Prospective students can research approved programmatic accreditation agencies using the ED’s searchable database.
What kinds of jobs can you get with an associate degree?
An associate degree may qualify graduates for entry-level positions or promotions. Associate degree-holders typically earn higher salaries than workers with only a high school diploma.
What is the difference between an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree?
Associate degree programs require approximately half as many credits as bachelor’s programs. Bachelor’s-level curricula include in-depth major courses and electives.
What are the benefits of earning an associate degree?
Professionals with an associate degree typically qualify for more positions than workers who possess only a high school diploma or some college education.
Should I get an associate degree before a bachelor’s?
Prospective students who are unsure about their career plans or academic interests often earn an associate degree before pursuing a bachelor’s. Two-year schools generally offer lower tuition rates than four-year colleges.
What Are the Requirements for an Associate Degree?
Although admission requirements for associate degree programs vary by school, applicants typically need a high school or GED diploma. Some schools also accept HiSET or TASC exam results. Prospective students typically submit FAFSA results, which schools use to determine financial aid eligibility.
Typical graduation requirements for associate degree programs include a minimum GPA. Professors often require students to contribute to online discussion boards and meet assignment deadlines.
Courses in an Associate Program
Associate-level curricula typically include general education courses in areas such as the humanities and natural sciences. This coursework helps learners hone transferable skills they can apply to nearly any career. Degree-seekers also take specialized courses based on their major.
The following courses represent a sample associate degree curriculum. Course titles and class requirements vary by school. Learners can research major requirements on their prospective school’s website, and admission counselors can provide additional details.
Study, Organize, Succeed
Online associate degree programs often help first-time college students develop academic success skills. Learners typically take this course during their first semester. Topics include learning strategies, research skills, and career awareness. Degree-seekers work to align their academic and career goals. Schools may exempt students with college experience from this course.
Many careers for associate degree-holders require strong written communication skills. This class covers various forms of writing. Programs may also require courses in rhetorical writing, which train learners to write persuasively, and expository writing, which prepare students to present information in an understandable way. Learners typically perform original research and write one or more research papers. Students apply the skills they learn in this course to upper-division courses.
Modern World History
General education requirements typically include at least one history course. Modern world history covers world history from approximately 1500 A.D. to the present day. Students analyze the social, economic, cultural, and political impacts of historical events. This class may focus more on Europe and North America, and learners may need prerequisite coursework in early world history.
Students earning an online associate degree in business or accounting usually take at least one course in quantitative literacy. The class introduces degree-seekers to topics including personal finance, economic growth, and numeracy. Learners develop the tools necessary to interpret large data sets and reach logical conclusions. Although learners typically take this course during their first year of studies, they may need prerequisite coursework in integrated reading.
Child Development 1
Aspiring early childhood educators generally take this class during the first year of their associate program. Students analyze children’s physical and mental development from birth to age four. Additional course topics include environmental factors that influence development, disabilities that appear in early childhood, and various cognitive domains. Although this class does not require prerequisites, some schools may require a corequisite in integrated reading and writing.
Certifications and Licensure for Associate Degree Students
After earning an online associate degree, graduates may need to obtain additional credentials to qualify for certain careers. Some positions require a state-issued license or certification from a professional organization. Typical licensure and certification requirements include a degree, experience, and passing scores on one or more exams. Individuals must often complete professional development courses to renew their credentials.
CompTIA Network+ Certification
CompTIA offers this in-demand certification to IT professionals who work as technicians, consultants, or engineers. Candidates for certification must pass a 90-question exam. CompTIA recommends but does not require 9-12 months of experience. Professionals maintain the certification by taking professional development courses through CompTIA.
Registered nurses (RNs) need a state license to practice. Licensure requirements vary by state but typically include completing an approved program and passing the NCLEX-RN exam. Aspiring RNs may also need to pass a background check and physical examination. Many states require RNs to complete professional development requirements to renew their license.
Society for Human Resource Management Certification
This credential demonstrates human resources expertise and leadership skills. Candidates with an online associate degree in human resources need three years of experience to qualify for the initial certification. Candidates must also pass an exam. Professionals renew their certification every three years and must earn at least 60 continuing education credits to qualify for renewal.
Professional Organizations for Associate Degree Students
Associate degree-seekers can join a professional organization to access membership benefits such as professional development opportunities, exclusive scholarships, and networking events. Many organizations charge student members a low introductory rate. Additionally, some organizations offer mentorship programs, private job boards, and career resources.
Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda
Accounting, business, and economics students can join FBLA-PBL to network with peers and learn about potential employers. In addition to undergraduate students, the organization admits high school and middle school students. Members receive access to discounts, exclusive scholarships, and the FBLA magazine. Individuals can continue their membership after graduation.
National Student Nurses' Association
Associate-level nursing students can join NSNA to access professional liability insurance, NCLEX-RN exam preparation resources, and discounts. Members can use the association's career center to research local job openings, and prospective nursing students can view information on the nation's top programs.
National Education Association
NEA advocates for K-12 public school teachers at the local, state, and federal levels. Students training for careers in early childhood education can join the association for a low introductory rate. Benefits include liability insurance, professional publications, and retirement planning tools. The NEA website provides educators with information on the latest teaching best practices.
Phi Theta Kappa
PTK recognizes high-achieving students pursuing degrees from two-year colleges. The honor society awards millions of scholarships each year to members, and PTK provides opportunities for members to obtain leadership and service experience. Other benefits include access to a career training program and assistance applying to bachelor's degree-completion programs.
Scholarships for Associate Degree Students
Applying for private scholarships can help online learners minimize student debt. Many scholarship programs, including those below, accept applications from associate degree-seekers. Students should research each scholarship program’s requirements and deadlines before applying.
Who Can Apply: This scholarship from the American Association for Women in Community Colleges supports women enrolled in two-year associate programs. Candidates need a minimum 2.75 undergraduate GPA and must submit a recommendation letter and a 250-word essay. AAWCC also considers each applicant’s financial need. Amount: $500
Who Can Apply: The American Association of Geographers awards 2-4 scholarships each year to community college learners studying geography. Candidates must plan to transfer to a bachelor’s program. Applicants must submit the online form and undergraduate transcripts by December 31. The association notifies recipients within six months of the application deadline. Amount: $1,500
Who Can Apply: The Horatio Alger Association awards more than 1,000 scholarships each year to community college students enrolled in technical programs. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and must be younger than 30. Recipients may only apply funds toward tuition, and recipients cannot reapply the following year. Amount: Up to $2,500
Who Can Apply: Women who are at least 35 years old and who demonstrate financial need can apply. Applicants must attend a technical or vocational associate program. The scholarship renews for up to five years as long as the recipient continues to meet eligibility requirements. The foundation accepts applications from November 2 to February 26. Amount: Varies
Who Can Apply: The United Negro College Fund awards numerous scholarships each year to African American students. Applicants must be pursuing a two-year or four-year degree and must submit FAFSA results. The organization maintains a list of scholarship opportunities and deadlines on its website. Some scholarships require applicants to have a minimum undergraduate GPA and submit an essay. Amount: Varies
IECC offers eight online associate programs in areas like accounting, certified medical assistant, health information technology, and sports management.
IECC promotes flexibility by offering most online courses asynchronously. The IT Help Desk provides 24/7 assistance to learners experiencing technical trouble. Degree-seekers with financial need can access free academic assistance through the federal TRiO program.
Prospective students need a high school or GED diploma. Incoming learners without ACT or SAT scores must take the ACCUPLACER exam to determine their first English and mathematics courses. Degree-seekers can check the school's website to learn about the latest institutional scholarships.
Situated in Kenansville, North Carolina, James Sprunt features online associate degrees in business administration, early childhood worker, and general occupational technology. The college's hybrid programs train the next generation of accountants and agribusiness professionals. The school's transfer degrees offer numerous electives, making the college an attractive option for learners who want a customizable educational experience.
The James Sprunt Student Toolbox website provides numerous resources, including the Career Center, career coaches, and Just Ask Tech Support. Online learners can also access the Student Success Center's free tutoring resources. Library services help students with research and proper citation.
Applicants must take placement tests and submit transcripts. Learners who graduated high school with a minimum 2.6 GPA do not need to take placement tests. In-state students pay the most affordable tuition rate, and institutional scholarships require a separate application.
Roane State's online degree-seekers can select from four associate programs in areas like geographic information systems and health information management. Students who learn on the college's Harriman, Tennessee, campus can supplement their education by taking some online courses.
Online students can use the same student services as their on-campus peers, including the college's mobile app, job-placement services, and learning center. Other resources include success coaches who work exclusively with nontraditional learners.
Prospective learners must complete the New Student Checklist to determine what application materials they must provide. Tennessee residents who submit FAFSA results receive free tuition through the Tennessee Promise scholarship. Students can research and apply for institutional scholarships by logging into RaiderNet.
A quarter of WCC degree-seekers complete their program entirely online. Online associate degrees that align with in-demand careers include business administration, computer science, and business management. Additionally, learners can complete an online certification in one of over a dozen fields.
Each degree features a four-semester plan that allows learners to stay on track for graduation. Academic advisors work with students one-on-one to hone transferable skills and develop an academic portfolio that degree-seekers can present to potential employers.
The college exempts some new students from placement testing based on standardized test scores or high school GPA. The college website offers videos covering the FAFSA and how to apply for financial aid.
Located in Sylva, North Carolina, SCC features nine associate programs for online learners in areas such as cybercrime technology and medical office administration. Business administration students can concentrate in entrepreneurship or office administration. Online diplomas in subjects such as accounting and business administration give degree-seekers other options to advance their education and career.
Resources for online learners include IT support, library databases, and new student orientations. The college's Career Services professionals maintain the SCC Job Board and critique degree-seekers' resumes and cover letters.
SCC's six-step admissions process asks applicants to submit high school or GED transcripts, take placement tests or meet the exemption requirement, and apply for financial aid by submitting FAFSA results. Out-of-state learners pay approximately 300% more in tuition than in-state students. However, SCC considers all incoming learners for Foundational Scholarships.
Madisonville Community College offers five online associate programs in areas like energy management, human services, and surgical first assistant. These degrees transfer seamlessly to many in-state public colleges that offer bachelor's degree-completion programs.
MCC caters to a diverse student body by providing academic success resources to veterans and learners with disabilities. Career coaches work directly with degree-seekers and offer the Workforce Connections program. The college also maintains a job board that features local and national career opportunities.
Application requirements include high school or GED transcripts. Incoming students must submit ACT scores or take the COMPASS placement test. All online students pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency. New students can apply for institutional scholarships by submitting a financial aid application by April 15.
RCC offers online associate degrees in areas such as accounting and finance, business administration, and early childhood education. Students use Moodle to access asynchronous course content and interact with professors and peers. Learners in transfer programs take a college transfer success course in the first semester. This course helps degree-seekers create an academic plan and make long-term goals.
All new online students complete an in-depth virtual orientation before registering for courses. Orientation covers library research tools and other student services. Learners who live near RCC's Hamlet, North Carolina, campus can enhance their resume by signing up for the college's work-study program.
RCC's four-step application process involves determining residency, applying for financial aid, and submitting official high school or college transcripts. Out-of-state students spend approximately four times more on tuition than North Carolina residents. However, the college's more than 100 institutional scholarships help learners who live throughout the country reduce their tuition.
MPCC offers online associate programs in areas like criminal justice, library technical assistance, and business administration. All programs run asynchronously. MPCC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Students gain access to free tutoring sessions and success coaches who help them with job-hunting strategies and networking skills. Other resources include counselors who help degree-seekers manage stress and other psychological issues.
Prospective students can apply online in just a few minutes, and MPCC does not charge an application fee. The college's financial aid specialists help incoming learners complete the FAFSA. New degree-seekers with a minimum 3.8 high school GPA or a 25 ACT score receive automatic full-tuition scholarships.
Prospective online learners planning to earn a four-year degree should research SCC's online AA (university transfer) programs. All tracks require general education courses in the humanities, mathematics, and English, and prepare students to transfer to bachelor's programs in various fields.
Students can prepare for life after graduation by attending career fairs, performing mock interviews, and researching potential jobs. Enrollees who need academic assistance can turn to the Learning Center to receive free 30-minute tutoring sessions in core academic subjects, including Spanish and accounting.
SCC uses different admission requirements for first-time college students, transfer learners, and nontraditional degree-seekers. New students whose ACT or SAT scores exceed the cutoff do not need to take the ACCUPLACER.
Situated in Las Vegas, New Mexico, LCC offers a single fully online associate program in business administration. Students use Blackboard to access online course content. LCC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
LCC provides online learners with an informational guide covering general study habits, time management skills, and note-taking skills. The Student Success Center offers short English and mathematics courses that prepare students for the COMPASS placement test. Degree-seekers can receive additional academic assistance at the LCC Writing Center.
Full-time out-of-state students pay approximately double the in-state tuition rate, but all degree-seekers may qualify for one of six institutional scholarships.
Penn Highlands' online associate programs train the next generation of business managers, medical billers, and entrepreneurs. Students can also earn an associate in art for transfer that offers five concentrations, such as biology and history. Other online opportunities include a certificate in bookkeeping.
The Student Success Center (SSC) website offers access to the student handbook, free tutors, and disability services. SSC also offers private counseling sessions for learners experiencing depression, anxiety, or chemical dependency. Students nearing graduation can contact Career Services to receive a resume critique and learn more about upcoming job fairs.
Cambria County residents pay approximately half of what the school charges out-of-state students. Most of the school's institutional scholarships award $500 per semester, and degree-seekers should apply by June 12.
Located in Morganton, North Carolina, WPCC features online associate degrees in three areas: business administration, information technology, and paralegal technology. All online programs run asynchronously, giving students the flexibility to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations.
WPCC student success tools include an online readiness assessment for prospective degree-seekers. Learners who need help with a course can register for free one-on-one tutoring sessions. Degree-seekers can also take advantage of study materials that assist with English, mathematics, and time management skills.
Applicants must submit transcripts and take a placement test or submit standardized test scores. New students must meet with an academic advisor before registering for courses. Although out-of-state students pay more in tuition, they receive a modest discount if they study full time.
OTC's online associate programs attract learners who want to transfer to a four-year college or university, as well as those planning to enter the job market immediately after graduation. Transfer degrees include criminal justice, business and marketing, and English. OTC's interdepartmental studies program allows learners to create a custom major.
Degree-seekers access all student services through their myOTC account. Through this account, students can make an appointment with an academic advisor and learn how to make the most of their advising sessions. All enrollees complete an in-depth orientation covering financial aid, graduation requirements, and self-placement into English and mathematics courses.
Foundation Scholarships provide funding to approximately 900 students each year. Awards range from $250 per semester to full tuition.
At HCC, students can complete online associate programs that prepare them for jobs such as accountant, human resources professional, and office systems manager. The college also offers five associate degrees that qualify learners for entry-level positions in information technology and computer science. HCC also features unique degree options for learners planning to enter the U.S. Navy or Merchant Marine after graduation.
Students can use the school's Visual Schedule Builder to create an academic plan that meets their unique needs. HCC also helps Kentucky residents find a job by offering Work Ready Kentucky. This service provides funding to learners training for in-demand careers in areas such as information technology and manufacturing.
Freshman applicants do not pay an application fee. They must submit high school or GED transcripts. Institutional scholarships accept applications in the spring and fall and award up to full tuition.
Based in Sanborn, New York, NCCC features online associate programs in accounting, business administration, and psychology. The college offers online degrees through Blackboard, and students benefit from an asynchronous learning format.
New online students can visit the NCCC Getting Started website to review online learning best practices. Career and Transfer Services advisors work with learners to explore jobs, determine course placement, and access disability resources.
All incoming learners submit FAFSA results. The college does not use a GPA cutoff for transfer credit. Students can pay tuition online and apply for institutional aid by creating an AwardSpring Scholarship System account.
HCC students can complete online associate programs in one of two ways. Students who enroll in the Learn on Demand track take courses at their own pace, and new courses start every week. Learn by Term degree-seekers follow a traditional semester format while enjoying the flexibility of asynchronous coursework.
HCC's Student Support Services provides free tutoring and guidance to learners with financial need. The college's advisors help students perfect their resumes, hone interviewing skills, and explore online job-hunting resources. The Office of Veterans' Services assists veterans with transitioning back to civilian life and using federal tuition benefits.
Admission requirements for online learners include submitting high school or GED transcripts, taking placement tests if necessary, and registering for courses. Students who live in a county bordering Kentucky pay a discounted out-of-state tuition rate. HCC reserves institutional scholarships for learners who study full time, earned a minimum 2.5 high school GPA, and excelled on the ACT.
Located in Batavia, New York, GCC offers fully online associate degrees in criminal justice and business administration - supply chain management. Numerous other online programs provide an optional hybrid format. Some online courses use synchronous learning, and students and professors use Zoom to interact in real time.
New online degree-seekers take the GCC remote learning and online student success course shortly after enrolling. This course introduces students to Blackboard and online learning best practices. Other helpful resources include guides covering time management, online student expectations, and online readiness.
GCC's new student enrollment checklist includes submitting the college application, providing high school or GED transcripts, and applying for financial aid. New York residents must submit a Certificate of Residence to qualify for in-state tuition.
Northeast State's partnership with TN eCampus allows learners to complete one of many associate programs in a hybrid format. TN eCampus offers over 100 asynchronous courses each semester, but some courses require learners to visit an authorized proctoring site to take exams. Online courses use the Desire2Learn learning management system.
Northeast State offers a new student orientation entirely online. This process introduces learners to the school's student services, advisors, and student life activities. Additionally, the advising website provides in-depth information regarding how students can prepare for advising sessions.
Prospective students must submit high school transcripts or GED/HiSET scores, complete the FAFSA, and place into English and mathematics courses. Tennessee residents pay the lowest tuition rate, and in-state learners who recently graduated from high school qualify for the full-tuition Tennessee Promise scholarship.
Co-Lin offers online associate degrees that prepare students for jobs such as athletic trainer, elementary educator, and accountant. Online associate degree students can also major in political science or Spanish. Each online program runs asynchronously and does not require on-campus visits.
The Office of Student Services provides online learners with the same resources as their on-campus peers, including library databases, academic advising, and counselors who work exclusively with veterans. Degree-seekers can make a virtual appointment with a Writing Center advisor to receive feedback and discuss the writing process.
Office of Enrollment Services counselors guide applicants through the admissions process. Co-Lin requires the ACCUPLACER test for freshmen who did not take the ACT. The college awards $350-$1,650 per semester to incoming students who excelled on the ACT.
Students need not relocate to Henderson, North Carolina, to enroll in one of VGCC's associate programs. The school offers fully online degrees in areas like accounting, business administration, and criminal justice. All online programs run asynchronously. Students planning to transfer to a bachelor's degree-completion program can select either an associate in art or associate in science for transfer.
The Student Learning and Success Center (SLSC) offers psychological counseling, career advising, and free tutoring sessions. Nontraditional learners can enroll in the SLSC's college and career readiness course to hone academic skills that they may have forgotten since leaving school.
All new students must meet with an academic and career coach before registering for courses. The college awards numerous institutional scholarships. Degree-seekers must apply for scholarships by the annual April 29 deadline.
LCCC offers fully online associate programs in elementary and early childhood education, cybersecurity, and computer information systems. All courses run asynchronously. The school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The LCCC Student Hub website offers access to student services such as tutors, career advice, and financial aid guidance. The college library offers virtual research guides and databases. Students who are part of a minority group or from a disadvantaged background can enroll in the TRiO program to receive specialized one-on-one academic, financial aid, and transfer assistance.
LCCC's application process includes an online orientation and academic advising session. All new learners apply for financial aid. Incoming degree-seekers with a minimum 3.0 high school GPA receive the $800 Presidential Scholarship.
SCCC offers online associate degrees in general studies, biology, business administration, and chemistry. Learners in all programs remain in good academic standing by maintaining a minimum 2.0 undergraduate GPA.
Students who sign up for an academic advising appointment complete a questionnaire before meeting with an advisor. The information they provide ensures that the advisor provides them with appropriate advice and resources.
Prospective SCCC undergraduates must take the ACCUPLACER exam if they do not submit ACT or SAT scores. Out-of-state students pay approximately 40% more in tuition than Kansas residents. Degree-seekers can research and apply for the latest scholarships on the SCCC Scholarship Manager website.
UAHT offers Arkansas and out-of-state students one online associate program in general education. The degree provides a custom curriculum that helps students prepare for one of many bachelor's degree-completion programs. The degree transfers to any in-state, public four-year school, and students can choose from more than two dozen online courses each semester.
The Purtle Advising Center (PAC) website contains numerous student services that include academic and transfer advising, supplemental instruction, and career coaches. PAC also publishes articles concerning the latest scholarship opportunities and new courses. Learners can visit the Career Services website to find links to top job-hunting resources.
Applicants must submit high school or GED transcripts. Graduating high school seniors can receive $3,000 per year in scholarships if they earned a 25 or higher on the ACT.
Situated in Plattsburgh, New York, CCC features six entirely online associate programs in areas such as computer information systems, business administration, and health services management. The college also offers nearly a dozen hybrid programs wherein 50-75% of coursework occurs online.
Campus resources for online learners include the Tutoring Center, Career Services, and the Douglas Library. The library features an online catalog and multiple free guides that help students perform research. CCC academic advisors post resources regarding course selection, GPA calculation, and registration questions and answers.
The college exempts new freshmen who earned a minimum 21 ACT or 1000 SAT score from placement testing. CCC Foundation Scholarships require a separate application.
KCC's online associate programs attract nontraditional learners who want to save money on a degree. Each of the college's six online degrees runs asynchronously. Majors include IT generalist, cybersecurity, and business administration. Some programs require hybrid coursework on one of three of KCC's Michigan campuses.
The KCC Student Central website features all of the college's resources, including a Canvas guide, career counseling appointments, and specialized services for learners with disabilities. KCC's Virtual Writing Center allows students to work with a tutor over Zoom or a similar platform.
Applicants must submit high school or GED transcripts. Incoming students who excelled in high school can receive up to $2,000 per year in automatic scholarships.
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