online associates degree

Online learning is one of the most affordable, flexible, and well-respected methods of education. You can earn any level of degree online, from an associate’s to a doctorate.

Just about every college and university has online programs. In some cases, these programs are synchronous, meaning you take courses at a specific time and in a specific order. In other cases, your studies are asynchronous, which allows you to complete your studies in a more flexible format at your own pace.

These kinds of offerings meet the needs of a diverse number of students. Whether you’re a single parent, a hard-working professional, a non-traditional student, or something in between, earning your associate’s degree online is one of the most efficient ways to accelerate your learning and gain the skills you need to meet your occupational goals.

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What is an Associate’s degree?

An associate’s degree is an entry-level program for high school graduates or students with a GED. These programs typically take two years to complete if you study full-time (or longer if you study part-time). Most associates programs are about 60 semester credits and include general education requirements and major-area coursework.

General education refers to courses that all students must take, regardless of the field of study. For example, suppose you enroll in an associate’s degree program in social science, yet you have a friend in an associate’s degree program in biology. In that case, you’ll likely take many of the same courses. The general studies online classes include, but are not limited to:

  • Arts and humanities
  • Mathematics
  • Social Science
  • Communications
  • Physical Education
  • Natural Science

Many associate degree programs also require learners like you to take courses in diversity, such as a world language.

In addition to general studies courses, you’ll also complete entry-level studies in your chosen major. Using our social sciences example from before, you might take classes in American history, world history, sociology, and psychology.

By and large, associate degrees are conferred by community colleges. However, some four-year colleges and universities also offer associate degree programs. These programs might require in-person learning, but as we’ll see in the rankings below, many associate’s programs are offered by online schools that specialize in interactive education.

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What Type of Associate’s Degree Can I Get?

There are three common types of accredited online associates degree programs: Associate of Science (AS), Associate of Applied Science (AAS), and Associate of Arts (AA).

An Associate of Science is usually conferred if you major in a math or science-related area, like chemistry or statistics.

An Associate of Applied Science is reserved for technical programs that ready you for entrance into a specific career field. For example, you might enroll in an AAS program in paralegal studies, computer science, or welding, to name a few. These programs focus heavily on helping you get real-world work experience as you complete your degree. Once you get your AAS, you can begin work in your chosen field with little to no additional education required for an entry-level position.

An Associate of Arts degree is commonly reserved for social sciences, humanities, and arts majors. In most cases, an AA (and an AS, for that matter) is a stepping stone from a high school diploma to a four-year degree. It’s common for students to complete an AA or AS at a community college, then transfer to a four-year university to finish their major studies.

For example, you might attend a local community college and graduate with an AA in Social Science. Then, you might transfer to a public or private four-year university to complete the requirements for further education, like a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology or a Bachelor of Arts in History.

Unlike an AAS, an AS or AA degree usually does not qualify you for entry-level jobs in your chosen career field (though there are some exceptions). Instead, it’s best to consider AS and AA programs as the midpoint of your undergraduate studies.

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Why Get an Associate’s Degree?

An online accredited associates degree is a building block for success for a variety of reasons.

First, getting a degree helps you advance your knowledge and skills and improves the likelihood of success in future programs of study, such as an online bachelor degree program. Likewise, an AAS program helps you develop the requisite skills to enter the workforce and have the competencies needed to excel in your chosen career.

Second, an associate’s degree helps you build skills that are applicable in daily life. Your coursework will help you become a better problem solver, improve your analytical skills, and foster the ability to meet deadlines. You’ll learn how to become a good consumer of information, how to conduct research, and find value in learning from and with people very different from you.

Third, there’s something to be said for the personal satisfaction you can gain from getting an associates degree. Whether you’re just out of high school or you’re returning to school after being in the workforce for a while, an associate’s degree can be a point of pride that gives you a sense of accomplishment.

College degrees generally represent excellence. You can take the first step toward meeting your educational and personal goals through an online associate degree program like those included in this ranking.

Determine the educational, financial, and logistical aspects of managing work and family as you complete your degree. Boost your annual salary by earning more than just a high school diploma. You may later decide to enroll in a four-year college. But earn the necessary fundamentals to start a successful career now with an accredited associate degree online!

What are the Best Online Associate’s Degree Programs?

This list of the best online associate’s degrees includes programs that represent the best in affordability, academic quality, and selection of majors. Furthermore, many of the schools we’ve selected rank among the best online programs according to US News and World Report.

Some of these schools have received awards for excellence in program development. Others have faculty members who have received distinguished teaching awards. Yet others offer excellent retention and graduation rates.

Our methodology also looks at three key criteria:

  • Breadth of programs (the number and variety of degrees offered by the school)
  • Student-to-faculty ratio
  • Quality value (tuition costs weighted against the average net price for a degree)

In other words, don’t waste your time Googling “online associate’s degree accredited.” Instead, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you!

You can learn more about our system of ranking programs on our methodology page.

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1. UMassOnline

UMASS Online

UMassOnline is part of the University of Massachusetts’ multi-campus presence. The online program started in 2001 in response to the need for accredited, quality education in a flexible forum.

With thousands of online classes, you can complete your associate’s degree program while exploring electives that give you a well-rounded education.

UMassOnline offers one of the best accredited associates degree online programs. You can choose from three highly popular majors:

  • Associate of Science in Business Administration (65 credits)
  • Associate of Science in Information Technology (60 credits)
  • Associate of Science in Sustainable Food and Farming (60 credits)

The information technology degree is particularly intriguing. Information technology is a rapidly growing field with many exciting and well-paying jobs awaiting you upon your graduation. Better still, you can use your information technology skills in many different fields, from healthcare to education to engineering.

UMassOnline is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Learn more about accredited online associate degrees from UMassOnline.

2. Columbia College

Columbia College

Next on our list of the best associate degree colleges is Columbia College. Founded in 1851, Columbia College has certainly changed with the times. This school prides itself on offering affordable education in an online setting.

Many instructors at Columbia College who teach online courses also teach on-campus classes. This means you’ll get the same high-quality education whether you’re physically in class or studying remotely.

Columbia College has various associate’s degrees from which to choose. This includes majors in:

  • Business Administration
  • Arts
  • Environmental Studies
  • Criminal Justice
  • Human Services

You can also choose to major in Health Services. This clinically-focused program requires 60-62 credits to complete. You can transfer up to 45 credits to help meet the requirements for graduation. You’ll study topics related to addictions, sociology, and psychology. Additionally, you’ll take classes in demographics, human behavior, and medical technology.

The online format of this program offers flexibility for completing your studies whether you’re a working adult, someone with family responsibilities, or someone in the military.

Columbia College is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission. 

Learn more about Columbia College’s associate degree programs.

3. Penn State World Campus

Pennsylvania State University World Campus

Penn State World Campus understands what it means to be flexible. This school was one of the pioneers of distance learning, offering its first correspondence class in 1892.

In 1998, Penn State World Campus was one of the first accredited universities to advance into online learning. As such, Penn State understands what it takes to provide quality instruction without being in a physical classroom.

There are seven accredited online associate degrees from which to choose. In each case, you’ll benefit from the same curriculum taught on campus. Degree options include:

  • Business Administration
  • Criminal Justice
  • Human Development and Family Studies
  • Information Sciences and Technology
  • Labor and Human Resources
  • Multidisciplinary Studies
  • Turfgrass Science and Management 

The Associate of Science in Criminal Justice is an especially popular option. This 64-credit program includes coursework in criminology, ethics, and policing. You’ll also take courses in corrections, statistics, and cultural implications for criminal justice.

By completing this program, you can pursue employment in local and state law enforcement agencies or get a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field.

Penn State World Campus is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Learn more about the associate’s programs at Penn State Online.

4. Keiser University

Keiser University

Keiser University believes in laying the foundation for academic excellence. Its step-by-step approach to learning allows you to complete your courses with flexible schedules.

Additionally, Keiser’s curriculum has the unique distinction of being reviewed by employers in related industries. This helps ensure that your education aligns with important facets of your chosen career path.

Keiser has accredited online associate degree programs in seventeen areas. This includes:

  • Fire Science
  • Homeland Security
  • Criminal Justice
  • Medical Assisting Science
  • Paralegal Studies

Another option is Keiser’s Associate of Arts in Accounting. This 60-credit program takes two years to complete. You’ll gain basic accounting knowledge and skills that you can build on in a bachelor’s degree program in accounting. Coursework includes:

  • Business Law
  • Financial Management
  • Microeconomics
  • Macroeconomics
  • Introduction to Computers

Keiser University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Learn more about Keiser University’s accredited associate degrees.

5. Baker College

Baker College

Baker College is a small private institution founded in 1858. It prides itself on small classes and providing individual attention to you as a student.

If you enroll at Baker, you’ll join other students that seek to improve their academic standing. Among the school’s alumni are Rhode Scholars and Pulitzer Prize winners, so your education is in good hands!

Baker College’s online programs have the same expectations as the programs on campus. There is a commitment to developing well-rounded students that contribute to society. This is evident in the faculty’s personal approach to academics.

You can choose from associate’s degree programs in:

  • General Studies
  • Criminal Justice
  • Health Information Technology

The Associate of Applied Science in Health Information Technology prepares you for entering the workforce immediately after graduation. It’s a 60-credit program with classes in anatomy, healthcare delivery systems, and coding, to name a few.

You can take advantage of cutting-edge learning tools in this program. The Extended Reality (XR) platform offers immersive, hands-on experiences that help you hone your skills.

Baker College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Learn more about Baker College’s associate degree programs.

6. Liberty University

Liberty University

Dr. Jerry Falwell founded Liberty University, a Christian institution, in 1971. The university created a distance learning program in 1985 and has been a leader in online education for decades.

The university strives to develop Christ-centered students ready to emerge as leaders in their field upon graduation. If this sounds like the path you wish to take, you can choose from 20 online associate degrees, including:

  • Accounting
  • Criminal Justice
  • Psychology
  • Information Systems
  • Early Childhood Education

The Associate of Arts program in Early Childhood Education is a popular option. This degree features eight-week intensive courses that allow you to concentrate on one subject at a time. You must complete 60 credits to graduate, which you can do in as little as 1.5 years. You can graduate even more quickly by transferring credits – up to 75 percent of the total needed to complete the program!

This university offers variety and flexibility for your studies. You can even roll your associate’s degree into one of Liberty’s bachelor’s degree programs.

Liberty is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Learn more about the online associate’s degrees available at Liberty University.

7. American Public University

American Public University

American Public University was founded in 2002, making it a relatively young school. It was founded under the flagship institution of the American Public University System, American Military University.

Despite its young age, American Public University boasts nearly 90,000 students. The university strives to offer relevant courses and majors that satisfy current private and public sector needs, which speaks to the popularity of its programs with online learners.

American Public University provides viable career paths and instructors with real-world experience who teach you practical and relevant information. There are several associate degree paths available, including:

  • Management
  • Criminal Justice
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction Preparedness
  • Data Science
  • Health Sciences

You can also choose to pursue an Associate of Arts in History. This program requires 60 credits to graduate, of which 45 can be transfer credits. You’ll explore many different realms of history, including pre-history, the Medieval period, and contemporary American history, among others. Classes are 8-16 weeks in length and begin monthly.

American Public University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Learn more about American Public University’s associate degree programs.

8. Northern Virginia Community College

Northern Virginia Community College

Northern Virginia Community College was founded in 1964 and has established itself as a center for quality education at an affordable price.

NOVA’s online component adds to its appeal by adding convenience and flexibility to your studies. This includes offering multiple AA, AS, and AAS degrees that ready you for transferring to a university or entering the workforce.

Online students like you can consider these among the best associates degree online:

  • Computer Science
  • Business Administration
  • Accounting
  • Cybersecurity
  • Criminology and Criminal Justice

The Associate of Applied Science in Cybersecurity is a two-year, 65-credit program that prepares you for immediate employment upon graduation. You’ll study telecommunications, software design, and UNIX. Additionally, you’ll take classes in networking, programming, and Linux.

NOVA is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Learn more about the associate degrees at Northern Virginia Community College.

9. Purdue University Global

Purdue University Global

Purdue University Global was created to make it easy to get a quality degree from a trusted university system. The programs at Purdue are designed to be flexible to meet the needs of working adults who wish to advance their careers.

The academic advisors at Purdue University Global will help you find the fastest, most affordable way to complete your degree. They can also help you with transfer credits to reduce the time you need to complete your program of study.

Purdue University Global offers more than a dozen online associate’s degrees. These include:

  • Associate of Applied Science Degree in Legal Support and Services
  • Associate of Applied Science Degree in Fire Science
  • Associate of Applied Science Degree in Early Childhood Development
  • Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Science in Professional Studies

Purdue Global also has an online Associate of Applied Science in Nursing. This 77-credit program has 10-week-long courses that require 15-18 hours of study per week. You’ll explore topics related to pediatric nursing, pharmacology, and mental health nursing. Additionally, your studies prepare you to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam to become a registered nurse.

Purdue University Global is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Learn more about Purdue University’s associate degree programs.

10. University of Arkansas Grantham

University of Arkansas Grantham

The University of Arkansas Grantham was founded in 1955 as an offshoot of its flagship institution, the Grantham Radio License School. In the years since, the school has grown, including expanding its online degree offerings in 2002 to keep pace with evolving national requirements.

UA Grantham provides degree programs aligned with society’s current needs that are relevant and accessible for working adults. There are nearly a dozen online associate degree programs available, including:

  • Business Administration and Management
  • Engineering Management Technology
  • Medical Coding and Billing
  • Paralegal Studies
  • Healthcare Administration

The Associate of Arts program in Paralegal Studies helps you develop the analytical and research skills demanded by law firms. You’ll build these skills over two years by completing 60 credits of coursework. This includes studies in:

  • Civil Litigation
  • Torts
  • Contract Law
  • Ethics
  • Office Management and Technology

There is no application fee, and you can transfer up to 75 percent of the required credits to graduate.

UA Grantham is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.

Learn more about Grantham University’s associate degree programs.

11. Lone Star Community College

Lone Star Community College

Lone Star Community College is one of the fastest-growing community colleges in the United States. It is an open enrollment institution, which means they accept all applicants with current admissions applications.

As a Lone Star Community College student, you can enjoy an easy transfer process to a four-year university because the college has partnerships with many other institutions. This is especially true of universities in Texas.

Taking classes online at Lone Star Community College means you have the opportunity to participate in fully online or hybrid classes. Either way, you’ll benefit from a dynamic learning environment that ensures quality, affordability, and excellence.

Lone Star offers a range of online associate’s degree programs, including:

  • Administrative Services, AAS
  • Computer Programming Specialist, AAS
  • Logistics Management, AAS
  • Health Information Technology, AAS
  • Biomedical Engineering, AS

The Biomedical Engineering Associate of Science degree is a two-year transfer program that leads to a Bachelor of Science. In addition to general course requirements, you’ll take classes in chemistry, physics, and electrical engineering. Once you complete your bachelor’s studies, you can work in areas like medical instrumentation, biomechanics, or sports medicine.

Lone Star Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Learn more about Lone Star Community College’s associate degree programs.

12. Utah State University

Utah State

With many award-winning online programs, Utah State University knows what it takes to offer an online degree. With multiple start dates, a 100% online curriculum, and affordable in-state tuition, Utah State makes it easy to get an associate’s degree.

Utah State offers the following online associates degrees:

  • Associate of Science in Agricultural Science
  • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Applied Science in General Technology

The AAS in General Technology requires 30 credits and 11 courses beyond the general education requirements for your associate’s degree. You can use this program as a springboard for continuing your education in one of two bachelor’s programs: Agribusiness or Technology Systems. After completing this degree, you will be eligible for entry-level career opportunities as well.

Utah State University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Learn more about online associate degree programs at Utah State University.

13. Eastern Kentucky University

Eastern Kentucky University

Eastern Kentucky University has earned more than its share of awards. Among them is the distinction of being one of the top higher learning institutions for veterans, with consistently high rankings as a military-friendly school.

EKU’s flexible scheduling is designed to help you achieve your academic goals by providing the same curriculum for online learning as is provided on campus. The same distinguished instructors also teach both formats of instruction.

Eastern Kentucky University offers four options for the best associate degrees online:

  • General Studies
  • Paramedicine
  • Paralegal Studies/ Paralegal Science
  • Police Studies

The police studies option is a 64-credit-hour online program that allows you to transfer up to 49 credits. With eight-week terms, you cover the material more quickly yet maintain a good level of depth by taking just one class at a time. Courses begin six times a year to offer additional flexibility.

Furthermore, EKU doesn’t charge for textbooks and there is no application fee!

Eastern Kentucky University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Learn more about Eastern Kentucky University’s associate’s degrees.

14. Post University

Post University

Post University signifies evolution. The school has been around for over 120 years, but it always offers a diverse curriculum relevant to the times. More importantly, Post University officials are forward-thinking, which is why the university provides a robust online learning platform.

The online experience at Post allows you to connect with professors and advisors who assist you in working toward your goals. Courses are offered in eight-week sessions six times a year, which gives you more flexibility in completing your studies.

Online associate’s degrees at Post University include:

  • Accounting
  • Criminal Justice
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Legal Studies
  • Management
  • Marketing

The Associate of Science program in Management offers an interdisciplinary focus that introduces you to marketing, management, and leadership, among many other important areas of business. You’ll explore business ethics, conflict resolution, and organizational leadership topics. You’ll also learn how to work as part of a team, manage human capital, and improve profits.

Post University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Learn more about Post University’s two-year degree programs.

15. Tarrant County College

Tarrant County College

Tarrant County College was founded in 1965 on the belief in helping students turn academic success into gainful, fulfilling employment. With tens of thousands of students enrolled, Tarrant County College is one of the largest colleges in the nation.

Tarrant County College offers affordable classes to enhance job skills and career building. This means you can get your associate’s degree, learn valuable skills that will help you get a job, and do so without paying an arm and a leg.

TCC offers many accredited associate degrees online, including:

  • Accounting
  • Human Resources Management
  • Information Technology: Cybersecurity
  • Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management

The Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management program is an Associate of Applied Science that requires 60 credits to graduate. This degree is in the business and industry pathway and prepares you for continuing your studies in a business-related undergraduate program.

Courses include Elementary Statistical Methods, Business Law, and Public Speaking. You’ll also take classes highlighting state and federal laws pertaining to business operations. TCC also offers certificates and opportunities for continuing education.

Tarrant County College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. 

Learn more about Tarrant County College’s associate’s degree programs.

Other Online Colleges that Offer Associate Degrees

You might wonder about other online colleges offering associate degrees. Additional options include the following:

  • Southern New Hampshire University
  • DeVry University
  • Ashworth College
  • South Texas College
  • Seminole State College
  • Ball State University
  • Taylor University
  • Strayer University
  • University of the Cumberlands

Frequently Asked Questions About Accredited Online Colleges with Associates Degree Programs:

How Much Can I Make With an Associate’s Degree?

As noted in the introduction, most associate’s degree programs prepare you to continue your education at a four-year school or for entry-level work. This being the case, the salary associated with most associate’s degrees is relatively low – the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that the median weekly earnings for someone with an associate’s degree are $963.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, US News & World Report lists air traffic controller as the highest-paying job with an associate’s degree at $130,420 per year. Radiation therapists are second on the list, earning $86,850 per year. Third on the list is nuclear technicians, who make $84,190 per year with an associate’s degree.

As with any job, what you earn depends on factors other than your level of education. Your level of experience, the career field in which you work, and even your employer all have much to do with your earnings. Even the geographic location in which you work can affect how much money you make.

What are the Most Popular Online Associate Programs?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the most popular college major is, by far, business. In fact, in 2020, nearly 400,000 business degrees were conferred in the United States. Health sciences-related programs have grown rapidly in the last ten years to become the second-most popular college major, with more than 250,000 degrees awarded in 2020. Other popular options include:

  • Social Sciences and History
  • Engineering
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • Psychology

This data is for all college majors, though – not just associate’s degree programs. Still, since many people begin their studies in an associate’s program, the majors listed above are likely among the most popular two-year degree programs as well.

Indeed lists several other possibilities among the best associates degrees online. Liberal arts and sciences top its list, followed by nursing, business administration, and computer science. Interestingly, these fields of study result in an AAS, which may indicate that school-to-work programs are gaining popularity over programs that prepare you to continue your education in a bachelor’s degree program.

Other common associate’s degree programs include:

  • Early Childhood Education
  • Human Services
  • Web Development
  • Information Systems
  • Criminal Justice

What is the Importance of Accreditation?

Getting an online associates degree accredited by a regional or national accrediting agency is critically important. On the one hand, an accredited college must meet strict standards of academic excellence to maintain its accreditation. This ensures that your education is as high-quality as possible and that your courses prepare you well for the next step after graduation, whether that’s in the workforce or in another degree program

Another benefit of studying at an accredited college is that your credits are far more likely to transfer. This is especially true if you attend a regionally-accredited institution.

Regional accreditation is the gold standard and ensures the greatest likelihood that another school recognizes the coursework you’ve already completed. Not only do credits earned at a regionally-accredited institution typically transfer to other regionally-accredited schools, but nationally-accredited schools also accept them. The inverse is not necessarily true.

Accreditation can also impact your financial aid. For example, Federal Pell Grants are only available to students enrolled in an accredited school.

Each of these factors is vitally important to your education and your future. Before enrolling in a program, check whether it’s accredited by searching for it in the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

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