Guide to Associates Degrees Online

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An associate degree is a step up from a high school diploma in the direction of academic pursuit. It not only opens new windows of opportunities but also according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics increases a student’s earning from $37,488 to $45024. Which is a rise of as much as 20 percent. Hence, it is good to invest in an associate degree first before getting into the bachelor’s bandwagon. An associate degree is a two-year program that offers students the ability to enter a career immediately after graduation or to pursue more advanced degrees. Before pursuing a career, it can be helpful to review what types of associate degrees are available. In this article, we explain what are associates degrees online, give a list of associate degrees, compare an associate to a bachelor’s degree and discuss career options for those who have an associate degree. An associate degree is a two-year college degree at the undergraduate level. Associate degrees are available at many universities, colleges, technical colleges, and community colleges. Students in an associate degree program often study general education requirements and courses specific to their area of study. Certain careers only require an associate degree to begin working, so unless you decide to change careers or receive advanced certification, you may not need to pursue additional education. For others, an associate degree is one step toward further education, which can include pursuing a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or a doctorate. 


What is an Associate
Degree Online?

An associate degree is typically a two-year degree and is offered by community colleges. In fact, in the 2018-2019 school year, two-thirds of associate degrees were awarded at public, two-year colleges. Other private for-profit and nonprofit institutions, including some vocational schools and technical colleges, also offer associate degrees. In some cases, the associate degree is the end goal for a student’s education. In other cases, students enroll at a community college to earn credits towards a bachelor’s degree and increase their chances of acceptance at a four-year institution.

Many students choose to complete the first two years of requirements toward their bachelor’s or advanced degree at a community college to save money on their overall education costs. For example, in the state of Oregon, In the 2020-2021 school year the average tuition cost to attend a community college was $5,962, compared with $11,306 at one of Oregon’s public universities and $37,258 at a private college in Oregon.

In addition, many students enroll at community colleges to acquire further skills and facilitate a change in an academic or occupational field. Other students attend community colleges to pursue opportunities for promotion, advancement, or a higher salary. Some students enroll for personal interest or leisure.

Why get Associates Degrees

There are many reasons to consider earning an associate degree. First and foremost, it can lead to expanded and better job prospects, as well as a higher salary. Second, an associate degree can provide the occupational training that may be required of you if you wish to enter a specific field of business. Here are just a few of the reasons to earn your associates degree:

An associate degree offers a recognized degree in several career areas for a reasonable tuition.

Most credit hours earned through an associate degree program can be transferred to a four-year educational institution if you choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree program after concluding your associate degree.

Given the choice, employers will often choose to hire applicants with an associate degree over applicants who have lesser educational or professional qualifications.

In only two years, you can acquire the necessary training to enter some of the fastest-growing career fields or advance in your current field.

Holding an associate degree is an advantage in the job market both in the short term and long term. Candidates with this degree will nearly always have an edge over candidates who only hold a high school degree or who have no formal training in the field they are entering. Young job seekers just entering the workforce will have a distinct asset on their resumes as they look for jobs. This advantage continues even well after launching a career – with better education comes also future opportunities for promotion, career growth, and considerably higher earning potential.

Online education is no longer just an option for many students – it has become the norm. Out of necessity, virtual learning has grown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even as institutions plan to resume on-campus instruction, experts say colleges are poised to offer more online degree programs and develop new ones to boost enrollment. Advancements in technology, course design, high-speed internet availability and more are moving online learning forward. One reason students enroll in online degree programs is for the flexibility to study from anywhere. Students with family responsibilities or full-time jobs may also be able to work around their schedules. Online students need to have good time management skills and be able to overcome distractions in their environment. Earning your associate degree is typically more affordable and takes less time than earning your bachelor’s degree. It can also help you forge new career paths in professional fields such as medicine, engineering, and computer science. Among job openings anticipated in the next 10 years, openings requiring an associate degree to be competitive in the workforce are anticipated to make up about 8%. More workers may benefit from an associate degree as one stop on their path to a bachelor’s or advanced degree – openings where a bachelor’s or advanced degree is the competitive education level account for another 22% of projected job openings between 2019 and 2029.

Occupations that require an associate degree to be competitive are projected to have just over 216,000 job openings between 2019 and 2029. Not many of these job openings are anticipated due to businesses opening or expanding over this period; a significant number of job openings are projected due to the need to replace workers leaving their occupations. More than nine out of 10 of these job openings are expected due to the need to replace workers who retire or otherwise leave their occupation, with the remaining openings due to new or expanding businesses.

Thus, looking at all the data that has been shown above, it is clear that getting an associate degree now will make a good investment for the future.

Associates Degrees Online Vs On-Campus
Associates Degrees

Experts say accredited online programs at reputable schools are generally just as rigorous as the on-campus options. The difference is mainly the format, with students completing individual and group assignments remotely. Classes and programs may be held either fully online or in a blended format, meaning partially online and partially on campus.

But online courses aren’t right for everybody. Without constant in-person guidance from a teacher, students need greater self-discipline and time-management skills. Some students may also prefer a traditional face-to-face classroom environment where they can interact with classmates more frequently. In this section we would underline a few major points of differences between the two modes of studying an associate degree:

Online On-Campus
Location NeutralStudents can pursue a master’s degree on their laptops from the comfort of their homes.You must travel to the campus, stay on location, and attend classes physically to pursue an on-campus master’s.
Career AdvancementOne of the most important reasons why students take up an online master’s is because students can keep working while also pursuing a master’s program. But when pursuing an on-campus master’s does not give you the flexibility to pursue any other engagements while studying full-time on-campus.
FlexibleOnline courses can be asynchronous- meaning you can “attend” class at any time by watching recorded lectures at your convenience and hence more flexible. This works great for working professionals and working parents whose time is at a premium and they can work according to their available time. Traditional on-campus courses are subject to strict timelines. Though it has its benefits like it is very interactive and students can learn from discussions in the classroom, they are not very flexible per the students’ requirements.
Discussion ForumsStudents have an online forum of online degrees, which can pull in information across the globe and can cut access to working professionals, full-time students etc., which in turn brings in a lot of different perspectives. On-campus courses would be a bit binding to the class and its student teacher’s forum as these are general classes of just full-time students.
TimeOnline classes cut that commute time to zero. If mobility or transportation is a challenge for you, going to school online completely removes this obstacle—plus it significantly increases your choices for where to go to school. You could live on-campus or outside, and it takes time for you to commute and attend classes.
CostIn online courses, you just pay for tuition, which keeps the cost significantly lower. On-campus courses have a lot of cost components like lodging in dorms, parking, gym subscription (even if you don’t use them), etc. These are significant costs as much if not more than tuition. This shoots up the cost of your degree.
Lab FacilitiesThis mode of study will lack lab facilities and hence a lot of STEM courses cannot be run using this mode of study.It would have the state-of-the-art lab facilities
College libraryDigital libraries are helpful when you need peer-reviewed articles for your research paper. But libraries can get complicated too—there’s an entire field of library science dedicated to organizing massive amounts of information. If you get stuck online and have trouble finding something, it is difficult to navigate if you don’t have technical support, which is rare for schools to have. Physical libraries have a few big benefits you won’t get from the comfort of your computer:
1. People who can direct you to the exact resources you need.
2. Books and resources that only exist in print.
3. The ability to borrow textbooks you need for class instead of buying them.
Quiet places to study.
Course selectionTo make a fair point for online courses, nowadays, more and more courses are available online. And the only hindrance would be to get them accredited by authorities. The courses available will always be more than the ones available online. The primary reason being all online courses need to be filmed and put up online. There is a huge cost component to it. The second reason is, some STEM courses need lab time, which is not available online hence that is one hindrance as well.
Teaching StaffIn online courses, students don’t have direct physical access to teachers. Also, online courses might have different instructors than the same on-campus course. You get the best of the faculties on-campus. They are at your disposal physically in the classes as well as online like in class chat rooms and emails. So, the accessibility of teaching staff is great.
Group ProjectsOnline courses lack the facility of group projects. Students have their own time to work on their course and they work on projects on their own as well. The on-campus course has the advantage where you can take up student group projects, wherein students form a group, and they have a teacher who guides them till the completion of the project. This gives a lot of exposure to teamwork coordination and networking skills.
NetworkingOnline courses have subject forums, but they lack the networking community required to connect for jobs and opportunities. On-campus courses allow students to network with the subject community and make the contacts and links which helps beyond one imagination.

How long are Associates
Degrees Online?

It generally takes full-time students about two years to earn an associate degree, though it can take longer for part-time students. If you prefer to work while earning your associate degree, you’ll be in good company. More than four million community college students attended part-time in 2021 (compared to 2.4 million full-time attendees) and 72 percent of them worked.

The classes you need to take to earn your degree will vary based on the academic program you choose to enroll in. Regardless of your field of study, you will need to take around 60 credit hours of classes (2 calendar years) to complete your associate degree. Each academic program will have some unique requirements you need to complete to graduate. Some programs, especially those in the liberal arts, require only coursework. However, programs that have a vocational focus, like nursing or information technology, will typically require field experiences like an internship or practicum.

A student who is taking 2 classes per term and who doesn’t repeat any classes or take any terms off can complete her associate degree in a little more than a year and a half. Many online programs also accept transfer college credits from other on-campus or online institutions. This is particularly helpful if you had to pause your education years ago. There are still other ways to obtain credit and reduce the time it takes to graduate if you haven’t completed any college courses. Criminal justice majors, for example, are often able to receive credit for police academy training. You can also choose to take a College Level Equivalency Program (CLEP) exam in a particular subject area to test out of college courses, specifically certain prerequisites, and receive college credit for those classes.

How to choose an Associates
Degree Online?

We will discuss the below examples to explain how to choose an associate degree. One significant consideration is the school’s accreditation. It is essential to select a school that is respected and accredited by the proper institutions or accreditation commissions.

  • If you are a professional working in the field of accounting, then an associate degree in accounting would be your choice of subject.
  • If you have left your studies years back for some reason and want to revisit it, then you might want to start with the subject you had initially started with.
  • If you are looking to move ahead in your career, then choosing the right subject (as in the subject of your practice) might be the right choice for you. Or,
  • If you are a student, looking to get into college with an associate degree, then choose your subjects depending on your liking of a subject, the student’s aptitude in that subject, the quality of teaching, and the ranking of the institution. 
  • The costs of tuition and fees, along with your ability to pay through financial assistance such as work, work-study, scholarships, grants, or loans
  • The applicability of the degree to possible professional fields etc.

As can be seen from the above examples, the right is depending on the individual and his requirement. Depending on which of the above categories a student fits into, decides his/her choice of an associate degree. Students need to understand that no one program is superior to the other, but if one program fits your needs and requirements, then that is the best available program for you.

How to apply for Associates
Degrees Online?

The application process for an associate degree is straightforward. Below are the different scenarios and their respective application process detailed:

New Application

1. Submit an application form: Apply online for your chosen college/university. Applications must be received before the published deadlines, along with a nonrefundable application fee. Applications submitted after the published deadlines may not be processed by the beginning of the semester. 

2. Submit transcripts: Most applicants to associate degree programs are not required to submit high school, GED, or college transcripts, but all are strongly encouraged to do so. Transfer students who want to receive credit for prior work must submit official transcripts.

3. Submit official test results: Associate degree applicants must submit the results of the ACT, SAT, or ACCUPLACER test taken within the last two years for English and composition placement. Students will also need to submit ALEKS test scores taken within the last year for placement into math, or any course that requires a math prerequisite.

Transfer Students

1. Transfer students are eligible for admission if they left their previous accredited institution(s) in good standing. Admission status will be determined on an individual basis if a student attends an unaccredited/nonregional accredited post-secondary institution.

Readmission of Former Students

2. Undergraduate degree students who choose not to enroll for a semester or more may be eligible to re-enroll in their original degree program without reapplying for admission. Students remain eligible to register for classes if

  • they have not been academically disqualified,
  • their lapse in enrollment is less than two years, and
  • they are continuing with the same degree program.

Hence, the above discussed are the typical application process for an associate degree.

Cost of Associates Degrees

The cost of an associate degree varies per college, programs, public/non-public institution, profit/nonprofit institutions, etc. But, according to a survey and research by the College Board, the average tuition for one year in an associate degree program is $3,800 in 2021.

Compare that with the average tuition for a year in a bachelor’s degree program, which is $10,740 for public in-state schools, $27,560 for public out-of-state schools, and $38,070 for private nonprofit schools.

Between 1991-92 and 2021-22, the average tuition and fees increased from $2,310 to $3,800 at public two-year, from $4,160 to $10,740 at public four-year, and $19,360 to $38,070 at private nonprofit four-year institutions, after adjusting for inflation. In 2021-22, the average published tuition and fee price at public two-year colleges is 35% of the average price at public four-year institutions, hence, it is more prudent to taste the waters with an associate degree before students jump into bachelors or masters.

Thus, you can see that education requires a serious investment of time and money. Hence, it is of utmost importance that students make sure that the investment of time and money that they put in in the form of an associate degree, pays them back the most and that is what our next section would talk about, which is how to fund your education.

Financial Aid for Associates
Degrees Online

Considering getting an associate degree from a community college? Or maybe just want to save some money on your first two years towards a bachelor’s? The good news is that student loans are available, just as they are at four-year schools.

The average community college tuition which is around $3800 currently is significantly lower than the price for an in-state public university which is around $10,560, or almost triple, or a private university which is around $37,650, or almost 10 times more. An associate degree is significantly cheaper, but students might still need a student loan. Below we discuss the same.

While you have a lot of options, getting a loan for community college or other associate degree programs should ideally follow these three steps:

Fill out the FAFSA

Your first step in the loan application process should be to fill out the FAFSA for the community college you plan to attend. The FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, will determine how much assistance you’re eligible to receive from need-based financial aid, including grants, work-study programs, and subsidized federal student loans. It will also allow you to qualify for loans that aren’t based on need, like unsubsidized federal student loans.

Turn to Federal Student Loans first

Filling out the FAFSA allows students to qualify for federal student loans, both subsidized and unsubsidized. These loans should be your first choice for community college financial aid before taking on private student loans. That’s because federal student loans offer a range of benefits, including a fixed interest rate that is often lower than that of private loans, alternative repayment plans like income-driven repayment, and the option to pause your payments if you’re experiencing hardship like a job loss or an illness. Federal student loans also don’t require students to have a cosigner to apply, as many private loans do. Students can know more about loans here.

Shop around for private student loans for your associate degree next

If the federal student loans for a community college that you qualify for aren’t enough to cover the total amount students need to borrow, your next option is to turn to a private lender. Because there are a wide variety of private lenders — and not all lenders will offer private loans for an associate degree — students will need to spend time shopping around and comparing lenders. As you’re looking at private student loans, make sure to compare:

  • Interest rates (and whether they’re fixed or variable) as well as any fees
  • Eligibility requirements and whether students will need a cosigner, which students may if they have limited or bad credit
  • Repayment terms and whether you’re required to begin repayment while in school

Depending on the lender, you may not have the loan protections that come with federal loans, like deferment, multiple repayment options, and loan forgiveness, so carefully weigh the pros and cons of taking on a private loan before you borrow money.

Careers and Pay for Associates Degrees
Online Graduates

An associate degree can put a student on a path to earning above the median household income level after completing two years of coursework. Annual tuition and fees at a public two-year community college also cost substantially less than at a four-year school. Many of the career opportunities that pay the most for an associate degree are in the health care sector, per salary figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as listed below:

Degree Occupation Job Description Median Annual SalaryJob Growth (2018-2028)
Associate degree in GeologyGeological and hydrologic techniciansGeological and hydrologic technicians support scientists and engineers in exploring, extracting, and monitoring natural resources, such as soil, natural gas, and water. Geological and hydrologic technicians typically specialize either in fieldwork and laboratory study or in analyzing data. However, technicians may have duties that overlap in multiple areas.
In the field, geological and hydrologic technicians use equipment, such as seismic instruments and depth sensors, to gather data. They also use tools, such as shovels and gauges, to collect samples for analysis. In laboratories, these technicians use microscopes, computers, and other equipment to analyze samples for problem-solving and other purposes.
Geological and hydrologic technicians work on teams under the supervision of scientists and engineers. Geological technicians help with tasks such as exploring and developing prospective sites or monitoring the productivity of existing ones. Hydrologic technicians assist with a variety of projects, such as providing information for negotiating water rights.
Civil Engineering Technology associateCivil Engineering Technologists and TechniciansCivil engineering technologists and technicians help civil engineers plan, design, and build highways, bridges, utilities, and other infrastructure projects. They also help to plan, design, and build commercial, industrial, residential, and land development projects. Civil engineering technicians typically install, troubleshoot, and maintain designs created by engineers. They may work under the direction of engineers or engineering technologists.$54,0802%
degree programCivil engineering technologists typically help licensed engineers improve designs or incorporate new technology. They may be team leaders, instructing civil engineering technicians on installing equipment, systems, or structures.
These technologists and technicians observe progress on a job site, collect data, and complete reports to document project activities. Because they are not licensed, civil engineering technologists and technicians cannot approve designs or supervise the overall project.
Associate in Applied Science in Drafting and Design TechnologyDraftersDrafters use software to convert the designs of architects and engineers into technical drawings. Most workers specialize in architectural, civil, electrical, or mechanical drafting and use technical drawings to help design everything from microchips to skyscrapers.
Architectural drafters draw structural features and details for buildings and other construction projects. These workers may specialize in a type of building, such as residential or commercial. They may also specialize in the materials used, such as steel, wood, or reinforced concrete.

Civil drafters prepare topographical maps used in construction and civil engineering projects, such as highways, bridges, and dams.

Electrical drafters prepare wiring diagrams that construction workers use to install and repair electrical equipment and wiring in power plants, electrical distribution systems, and residential and commercial buildings.

Electronics drafters produce wiring diagrams, assembly diagrams for circuit boards and layout drawings used in manufacturing and in installing and repairing electronic devices and components.
Associate in Electronics Technology & Electronics EngineeringElectrical and Electronics Engineering Technologists and TechniciansElectrical and electronic engineering technologists and technicians help electrical and electronics engineers plan and develop communications equipment, computers, medical monitoring devices, or other equipment that is powered by other electricity or electric current. They often work in product evaluation and testing, using measuring and diagnostic devices to test, adjust, and repair equipment. They are also involved in assembling equipment for automation.

Electrical engineering technologists and technicians install and maintain electrical control systems and equipment and adjust electrical prototypes, parts, and assemblies to correct problems. When testing systems, they set up equipment and evaluate how the parts, assemblies, or systems perform under simulated conditions. They also analyze test information to resolve design problems.
Associate in Biomedical Equipment TechnologyMedical Equipment RepairersMedical equipment repairers install, maintain, and repair patient care equipment. Medical equipment repairers, also known as biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs), repair a wide range of electronic, electromechanical, and hydraulic equipment used in hospitals and health practitioners’ offices. They may work on patient monitors, defibrillators, ventilators, anesthesia machines, and other life-supporting equipment. They also may work on medical imaging equipment (x rays, CAT scanners, and ultrasound equipment), voice-controlled operating tables, and electric wheelchairs. In addition, they repair medical equipment used by dentists and eye doctors. Medical equipment repairers use a variety of tools. Most use hand tools, such as screwdrivers, wrenches, and soldering irons. Others use electronic tools, such as multimeters (an electronic measuring device that combines several measures) and computers. Much of the equipment that they maintain, and repair uses specialized test-equipment software. Repairers use this software to calibrate the machines.$51,6107%

FAQs about Associates
Degrees Online

Is it worth getting an associate degree?

If you’re deciding between no higher education degree at all and an associate degree, the answer is, quite simply, ‘Yes; getting an associate degree is worth it!’ If you are hoping to break into a professional field and want to raise your job prospects, getting an associate degree is going to serve students much better.

Does having an associate degree help transfer?

Can an associate degree get you a job?

Do associate degrees have majors?

Is it better to get an associate degree first?

Can you skip your associate degree and go straight to a bachelor’s?

Is an associate degree two years?

Can I change my major to Associate?

How many credits do you need for an associate degree?

How do you get an associate degree?

Additional Resources for Associates
Degrees Online Students

An associate degree puts you in towards a career in your chosen field. But getting to know your peers in the industry and connecting with them with discussions and brainstorming sessions brings in far-reaching knowledge-sharing experiences which can help students in their professional careers. Taking those factors into account it would not be a bad idea to be associated with such organizations and bodies which are an amalgamation of like-minded professionals. Listed below are a few such organizations.

Organization/Certification Description
American College of RadiologyThe American College of Radiology, founded in 1923, is a professional medical society representing nearly 40,000 diagnostic radiologists, radiation oncologists, interventional radiologists, nuclear medicine physicians, and medical physicists.
The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA)The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) is a non-profit organization that represents 31 radiologic subspecialties from 145 countries around the world.

We provide high-quality educational resources, including continuing education credits toward physicians’ certification maintenance, host the world’s largest radiology conference and publish five top peer-reviewed journals: Radiology, Radiographic, Radiology: Artificial Intelligence, Radiology: Cardiothoracic Imaging and Radiology: Imaging Cancer.
American Design Drafting AssociatesThe American Design Drafting Association is an international non-profit, professional membership, and educational organization born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma in 1948. The organization was conceived by a dedicated and enthusiastic group of oil and gas piping drafters who were involved in various phases of design drafting. This group consisted of highly specialized industry drafters, educational instructors, piping designers, and engineering personnel. In 1948, this group was incorporated in the State of Oklahoma as the Bartlesville Draftsmen’s Club. This is the earliest known drafting club, association, or society. This group is considered our founding association.
The National Association of Legal AssistantsThe National Association of Legal Assistants was founded in 1975 to provide continuing education and professional development to paralegals and other legal professionals. NALA provides various certifications and educational opportunities, including conferences, self-study, and webinars, for paralegals.