Accredited Online Associate Degrees

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An associate degree is a versatile credential that’s typically completed in two years. Students earn associate degrees at junior colleges, community colleges, technical or trade schools, and, on rare occasions, four-year universities. The schools may be public or private, for profit or not-for-profit, on campus and online. Degree programs include a core undergraduate liberal arts education as well as specialized courses in a direct path to careers, such as nursing or criminal justice.

Best Online Associate Programs 2018-2019

Methodology
2-Year Colleges

An online associate degree program allows students to pursue their education in a way that best fits their schedule. Upon successful program completion, students may be eligible to begin an entry-level career or continue their education at a four-year institution. To help students kick-start their education, we have analyzed schools across the country based on factors such as average class size, financial aid opportunities and access to student services. Explore the best schools that offer online associate degree programs for 2018 below.

Filters
Rank University Title Tuition # of Online Programs Expand Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Description
1 Georgia State University-Perimeter College $2,181 2 9% - Yes No Yes

From business administration to film and media studies to sports management, Georgia State University's Perimeter College is host to 13 online associate degree programs. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Perimeter College's programs follow the on-campus semester schedule. Students earning their 2-year degree can easily transfer to Georgia State University for work toward a bachelor's degree. Curriculum is implemented through the web platform iCollege, and a semi-structured format requires students to check in often, stay engaged with discussion forums and meet assignment deadlines. The Student Toolkit can assist in students in their studies by providing a large number of supports, including career, health, disability and mental wellness services, as well as access to math, writing and science centers. Although online students will be required to pay a technology and institutional fee, online studies avoid a number of other costs associated with residential learning. On top of this, the school awards a variety of need-based, merit-based and service-based scholarships.

2 Lone Star College System $2,736 10 8% 10% Yes Yes Yes

For students seeking to complete their education in a fully online format, Lone Star College has 15 associate degree options in subjects such as teaching, accounting, business administration and computer programming. All coursework is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and students generally complete their required 60 credit hours in 2 years or less. Due to the school's open-enrollment policy, the majority of prospective students are accepted following the application process. Upon admission, there are a number of resources to support each student's educational experience, including field-specific scholarships and access to the Virtual Learning Assistance Center, which provides academic advising, technical support and tutoring. Students will also be provided with a free guidebook, 5 Tips for Successful Online Learning. If a student is unsure about taking an online class, they can access the school's SmarterMeasure assessment to determine if distance education is going to be the right fit.

3 Hutchinson Community College $2,688 9 33% 66% Yes Yes Yes

The online student checklist at Hutchinson Community College makes it easy for students to get started on their distance education journey. Prospective students will be linked to a virtual campus tour, admissions application, scholarship and financial aid information, and placement testing. Fully online programs, which are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, lead to an associate degree in science, the arts or applied science. Additional online courses can be used to earn certificates or to supplement desired specializations. Though online students are learning from afar, instructors at HCC provide one-on-one communication as well as assist in navigating the web platform Canvas. Most programs take 2 years to complete and require 64-77 credit hours to graduate. Flexible start dates and semi-structured courses, however, allow students to build a schedule that meets their needs. Access to the school library, bookstore, academic advising and technical support are additional resources available to assist in online studies.

4 San Joaquin Delta College $1,104 38 31% - Yes Yes Yes

Anthropology, art, chemistry, horticulture, Italian and psychology are just a handful of courses that are available in an online format at San Joaquin Delta College. Credit hours can be used toward a number of 2-year associate degrees that are available on campus or for transfer to another higher learning institution. Onsite instructors deliver all curriculums, which are accredited by the Commission for Community and Junior Colleges/Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Students will access the web platform Canvas in order to view lectures, work on assignments and engage in discussion forums. For assistance in online classes, students can utilize academic advising, an online library and bookstore, as well as counseling services. The Career Transfer Center and Workforce Development Center aim to make each student's transition into the workforce successful and effective. To cut down on the cost of tuition, there are scholarship and aid opportunities for economically disadvantaged students, those in the health professions, veterans and California residents.

5 Garden City Community College $1,824 42 31% 44% Yes No Yes

Garden City Community College, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, provides a number of opportunities for students who need to earn a degree from afar. Distance learners can earn an associate degree in science, the arts or general studies as well as choose from additional online course offerings to supplement their interests or areas of specialization. Sixty-four credit hours are required for graduation, and 16 of them must be from Garden City. Although the school is a member of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, prospective students should be sure to check with an online advisor to ensure that their degree program is recognized in their state of residency. Semi-structured classes are conducted through the platform Canvas, and students are encouraged to reach out to their instructor or Canvas administrator for technical questions. The Online Campus webpage links distance education students to an array of free utilities and programs, including an application for creating PDF files, Microsoft Office compatibility packs, media players and photo editing software.

6 Central Texas College $2,940 24 9% 19% Yes Yes Yes

Over 25 associate degrees at Central Texas College can be completed 100% online. Programs prepare students to transfer an average of 60 credits to a 4-year university or enter the workforce in the fields of business, education, human services, technology and health care. Courses have multiple start dates throughout the year and last for either 4 or 8 weeks. Certain classes are completely self-paced, while others are more structured and require students to meet specific deadlines. On the school's distance education webpage, students can demo a Blackboard Learn course as well as take a quiz to assess for online readiness. The CTC Distant Learner Handbook highlights important information for accessing curriculum as well as outlines the resources available to support students in their studies. These resources include math and writing tutoring, disability and veteran support services, and academic advising. All degree programs are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

7 Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College $2,800 13 28% 42% Yes Yes Yes

Students have the option to enroll in 1 of 12 fully online associate degree programs at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Subjects range from American studies to business education to elementary education. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges accredits coursework at MGCCC, which is delivered in both structured and self-paced formats through the online platform Canvas. Semesters run for 4, 8 or 15 weeks, allowing students to further tailor their schedules. Online students pay the same tuition rates as on-campus students, and the school awards multiple scholarships, financial aid opportunities and military benefits to assist in funding. Distance education students are encouraged to participate in the textbook rental program, which also helps in cutting down costs. As students near the completion of their 2-year program, they can access the Mississippi Articulation and Transfer Tool to ensure that their credits will transfer to another learning institution for further education options.

8 Williston State College $3,399 3 41% 91% Yes No Yes

Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, Williston State College provides fully online options to complete a 2-year associate degree in science, the arts, business management or speech language pathology paraprofessional. Using Blackboard Learn and Interactive Video Networking, students can engage in self-paced coursework as well as real-time interaction with their instructor. In order to graduate, students must fulfill 62 credits, and some programs mandate that a certain number of credits be completed on campus. Prospective students can check here to determine if their program of choice is authorized in their state of residency. Tuition rates are the same for both distance education and residential courses, and the school awards several scholarships and military benefits to help fund education. Students can use the online library and bookstore to support their studies and purchase class materials. The virtual career center features a number of assessments to explore employment options, find resume and interview assistance, and apply for work through a job board.

9 Ivy Tech Community College $4,055 20 11% 11% Yes Yes Yes

From accounting, to cyber security, to library technical assistance, students can work toward 16 different online associate degrees at Ivy Tech Community College. There are also options to enroll in a hybrid program for early childhood education, human services or paralegal studies. Students generally complete the required 60 credits in 4 semesters. All coursework is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is delivered via the Canvas learning platform. Online studies can also utilize includED, a system allowing students to access digital books, which are included in the cost of tuition. Once enrolled in courses, students can take advantage of the online library, tutoring and academic advising services. Also available to students is the Workforce Excellence Program, which is an online, self-paced class teaching skills for job interviews, resume writing and oral communication. Graduates of Ivy Tech programs have entered the workforce as professional tax preparers, health care administrators and library technicians.

10 Coastline Community College $1,104 11 26% - Yes Yes Yes

Students at Coastline Community College can choose from over 30 fully online options to complete an associate degree in subjects such as taxation, gerontology and retail management. Programs, which are accredited by the Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, take an average of 2 years to complete and require 60 credits for graduation. Twelve of these credits must be from the school's course offerings. Students will want to check with an advisor regarding class format, as some necessitate participation in labs or exams on campus. Classes are implemented in 8- or 16-week formats through the web platform Canvas. Although there are deadlines, students can access coursework at a time that's convenient for them throughout the week. Distance curriculum maintains the same tuition rates as on-campus courses, and students can apply for the school's scholarships to assist in costs. On top of online bookstore and library programs, students can find support from academic advisors, the career center and distance tutoring.

11 Barton Community College $2,304 23 29% 69% Yes Yes Yes

Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and recognized within the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, students at Barton Community College can earn an associate degree in science, general studies, applied science or the arts through a fully online format. Classes are offered in 9- and 17-week blocks. Although it is necessary to access courses each week using the online platform Canvas, students can choose the days and times to complete readings and assignments. Most students take 2 years to finish the average 64 credits required for graduation. Academic advisors are available to guide students through registration as well as in transferring any earned Barton credits to another institution following degree completion. The career center can help in finding employment and internships while enrolled in school as well as upon graduation. Many students will use their program to work toward a bachelor's degree, while others enter the workforce as bookkeepers, event coordinators and infant/toddler teachers.

12 State Fair Community College $3,600 18 22% 20% Yes Yes Yes

State Fair Community College partners with the Community College of the Air Force to provide military personnel with a fully online route to earning their Associate of Applied Science. For non-military students, there are a number of additional online programs, including associate degrees in the arts, business management and health information technology. Programs, which are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, are delivered through the online platform Blackboard Learn. They require an average of 60 credits to graduate with a 2-year degree. Students who run into issues during their online experience can access 24/7 technical support, tutoring services, disability resources and the library. Students are also matched with a personal student success navigator to assist in academic or career planning. In addition to providing academic and career supports, navigators direct students to financial aid opportunities, including military discounts, scholarships and the Missouri A+ program, which provides free tuition to students who have graduated from an A+ high school in the state.

13 North Hennepin Community College $3,922 9 13% 3% Yes Yes Yes

At North Hennepin Community College, students enrolled in online studies can expect to be supported through counseling services, career guidance, financial aid, tutoring and web access to the bookstore and writing center. The school's 11 online associate degree programs, which are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, include mostly business-centered options, with the exception of liberal arts and computer science degrees. Although all coursework is delivered through the web platform D2L Brightspace, classes vary in structure. Some are recorded live, requiring students to be online at a specific time, while others are completely self-paced. A select few are now using telepresence technology to offer a virtual reality experience, which allows students to feel as if they are in the classroom. Depending on a student's customized schedule, degrees take around 60 credits and 2 years to complete. Students can get a taste of the online experience by demoing a course through the school's webpage.

14 Copiah-Lincoln Community College $2,390 30 33% 35% Yes Yes Yes

Copiah Lincoln Community College collaborates with Mississippi Virtual Community College to offer students 33 fully online programs for earning an associate degree in subjects such as English, pre-law, speech pathology, elementary education, accounting or business management. All coursework, which is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, is delivered through the online platform Canvas. Most programs take 2 years and an average of 63 credits to complete. Classes, however, run for 4, 8 or 15 weeks, allowing students to further customize their schedules. Distance education students can take advantage of online tutoring, bookstores and the library. In order to register, students must first speak with an academic adviser who assists in developing a program of study. Students who are whether online schooling is the right choice for them can take the school's READI assessment, which highlights individual students' strengths, as well as provides resources to develop any areas of improvement.

15 El Paso Community College $2,256 7 13% 3% Yes Yes Yes

El Paso Community College prides itself on its ability to provide accessible education to its community. The school also values diversity and is military friendly, with over 1,400 military and veteran students. EPCC is a leading community college in awarding associate degrees to Hispanic students and in 2013 received the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. The college's goal is to help students improve their quality of life by preparing them for the workforce and further education. The school does this by offering more than 130 degrees and certificates in various fields of study such as business, education, health sciences and public service. By providing innovative learning opportunities, many of the courses for an associate degree can be taken online through the college's distance learning program. The EPCC academic counseling office also helps online students to work toward their educational goals just as they do with on-campus students.

16 Northwest Mississippi Community College $2,800 17 22% 21% Yes Yes Yes

Northwest Mississippi Community College excels in preparing students for both the workforce and continued education in a 4-year baccalaureate program while offering extensive student resources for academic success. There are over a dozen associate degree "academic pathways" offered completely online. Examples of programs online students can pursue include marketing and communications, criminal justice, social work and education. Each program has unique targeted goals that will lead students to a career. For example, the criminal justice program offers coursework that can be focused on careers in areas such as law, law enforcement or social services. Marketing and communications students can expect to gain skills that can be applied to advertising, marketing and media. The programs also help guide students to the best educational outcomes, which often includes pursuing a 4-year degree. Academic advisors are also available to help students ensure they are taking the right courses to pave the way toward their educational goals.

17 Tulsa Community College $2,327 23 14% 44% Yes Yes Yes

Tulsa Community College in Tulsa, Oklahoma has a mission to make education accessible. The school does this not only by offering a variety of pathways for student scholarships through the TCC Foundation, but also through its online degree programs. By offering nearly a dozen associate degrees within the School of Business Administration and Information Technology, the School of Liberal Arts and Communication, and Science and Mathematics, TCC is making the achievement of a degree more accessible to students, regardless of their stage in life and location. Full-time programs will take at least 2 years to complete and require between 60 and 63 credit hours to graduate. TCC offers extensive support to online students, including online learning orientation, online tutoring, library resources and academic support services. TCC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, with some programs receiving accreditation from additional organizations and agencies, and strives to ensure its rigorous programs prepare students to successfully enter the workplace.

18 Tarrant County College $2,544 4 12% 13% Yes Yes Yes

Tarrant County College has a goal of providing its students with the necessary education and skills for successful integration into the workforce. The college prides itself on being a "Student Ready" institution, which is described as providing a streamlined and easily navigable process for students to complete their degrees efficiently and effectively. This also involves creating learning spaces that meet the needs of all students, including those hoping to earn an online associate degree. TCC offers 5 different degree programs in the subject areas of accounting, business administration and office technology. To help aid students in the degree process, TCC provides comprehensive online academic advising, which includes one-on-one live chats, degree planning, course selection and registration, new student orientation and assistance with the Texas Success Initiative (TSI), a program designed to improve college success for Texas students. All degree programs require the completion of 60 credit hours and take 2 years to complete.

19 Eastern Gateway Community College $3,510 20 19% 22% Yes No Yes

The Associate of Arts degree from Eastern Gateway Community College in Steubenville, Ohio, is designed to provide an affordable springboard for students' entry into higher education. The minimum 60 semester hours required for an associate degree can be transferred directly to a 4-year baccalaureate program. With a faculty advisor, students can ensure that their coursework follows the Transfer Assurance Guides (TAGS) for transfer to Ohio state institutions. With advanced skills in critical thinking, reading, writing and analyzing and discussing complex subjects, a graduate from Eastern Gateway will be well-prepared for a 4-year institution. The Associate of Arts transfer degree can be completed 100% online. Many degree programs at Eastern Gateway offer occasional online courses, but other degree programs with fully online offerings include business management and internet and interactive digital media. Teacher education programs can be completed online as well, but do require in-person experiential education requirements.

20 Metropolitan Community College $2,625 8 13% 31% Yes Yes Yes

Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Nebraska, is one of the fastest growing postsecondary institutions in Nebraska. While it has continued to expand on-campus facilities, it has also grown its online associate degree offerings to over 20 options. In 2018, MCC also released an economic impact study that analyzed the economic impact on Nebraska and the return on investment for its graduates, both online and on campus. Findings included $1.2 billion added to the state's economy because of the "brain gain" from MCC students; $11.90 accrued to benefit Nebraska for every dollar invested in MCC education; and 18,268 jobs across the state with direct and indirect support by MCC. Students hoping to earn an online associate degree at MCC can choose from program areas including accounting, business, computer technology, criminal justice, health information management systems, information technology, liberal arts for academic transfer, office technology and versatilist information technology. Students can earn their degrees through either 1- or 2-year degree programs that prepare them to jump into the workforce or move on to a 4-year degree program.

21 Western Wyoming Community College $2,136 23 38% 72% Yes Yes Yes

Students can choose from over 50 programs to receive an associate degree at Western Wyoming Community College, which is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Of these, 8 are available in a fully online format, including criminal justice, social science, social work, sociology, office information systems, accounting, business administration and computer information systems. In order to graduate, students are required to maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA throughout the 2 years it takes to complete 62-71 credits. Classes are implemented via the web platform Canvas, and follow a schedule that mirrors on-campus coursework. The ACE IT Center offers online academic advising, career assistance, and guidance for transferring to a 4-year program. NetTutor provides online tutoring services, and technical support is available 24/7 through Canvas Student Support. Veterans qualify for a number of financial aid opportunities, and everyone can access the school's many scholarships by signing into their AcademicWorks Scholarship System.

22 Fayetteville Technical Community College $2,432 16 12% 2% Yes Yes Yes

Fayetteville Technical Community College offers several 100% online associate degrees in a range of fields such as accounting and finance, business administration - marketing and fire protection technology, to name a few. Requirements and outcomes vary by program, but students will always receive a flexible education that will help them achieve their career goals. As an example, its accounting and finance associate degree takes 5 months to complete. The 66 required credits cover essential topics such as ethics, business law, computer applications and taxation. Students will develop skills in communication, computer applications, financial analysis, critical thinking and ethics, all of which will help them succeed as entry-level accountants and financial professionals in a variety of employment settings. FTCC has an open door policy, which means all interested students can attend. To apply, you will need to submit a current application, official transcripts and placement testing. Health programs, however, may have additional requirements.

23 Highland Community College $2,218 6 28% 66% Yes Yes Yes
24 Ozarks Technical Community College $3,564 10 24% 4% Yes Yes Yes
25 Northeast Community College $2,700 13 48% 40% Yes Yes Yes
26 Western Texas College $2,088 13 43% 44% Yes Yes Yes
27 Central Community College $2,520 6 32% 34% Yes Yes Yes
28 Kilgore College $2,640 25 20% 28% Yes No Yes
29 New Mexico Junior College $1,296 3 26% 31% Yes Yes Yes
30 Wake Technical Community College $2,432 12 16% 2% Yes Yes Yes
31 Chandler-Gilbert Community College $2,064 8 22% 18% Yes Yes Yes
32 North Central Missouri College $3,270 17 37% 30% Yes No Yes
33 Sinclair Community College $3,169 12 16% 44% Yes Yes Yes
34 Shoreline Community College $3,328 6 32% 30% Yes Yes Yes
35 Western Nebraska Community College $2,280 4 25% 73% Yes No Yes
36 Hinds Community College $2,640 11 18% 25% Yes Yes Yes
37 Craven Community College $1,824 9 14% 15% Yes No Yes
38 Southwestern Oregon Community College $4,092 15 29% 44% Yes Yes Yes
39 Columbus State Community College $3,808 15 15% 7% Yes Yes Yes
40 Washtenaw Community College $3,720 7 15% 16% Yes Yes Yes
41 Cochise College $1,896 8 21% 16% Yes No Yes
42 Jefferson College $3,504 4 26% 13% Yes Yes Yes
43 Ozarka College $2,112 10 24% 18% Yes No Yes
44 Carl Albert State College $2,177 11 34% 35% Yes Yes Yes
45 Albany Technical College $2,140 12 39% 6% Yes Yes Yes
46 Hillsborough Community College $1,931 4 30% 16% Yes Yes Yes
47 Itawamba Community College $2,500 4 37% 47% Yes Yes Yes
48 San Juan College $1,104 4 15% 33% Yes Yes Yes
49 National Park College $2,940 12 32% 27% Yes Yes Yes
50 Western Oklahoma State College $2,362 8 26% 67% Yes No Yes

Associate Degrees: The Basics

Students often choose an associate degree to either (1) reach a specific occupational goal or (2) earn introductory or general education credits more affordably before transferring to a university. Students who find it difficult to attend classes may prefer to enroll in online associate degree and career-training programs.

The table below serves as an introduction to associate degree coursework, combining general education classes with more advanced studies in a specific career field.

COURSE NAME DESCRIPTION
Basic Computer Literacy This course is to introduce first-year students to the use of digital resources to conduct online research, prepare written work for class, and protect their data.
Elementary Spanish Through the use of class discussions and foreign language laboratory hours, students learn Spanish language vocabulary, sentence structure, pronunciation and culture.
Introduction to Anthropology An introduction to human development in diverse biological or environmental conditions. Satisfies one social science requirement.
Early Childhood Education II Continuing from ECE I, this course includes a historical view of early childhood education, cultural diversity, classroom ethics, special needs, and teaching curriculum.
Advanced Managerial Accountig This class focuses on the interpretation of cost information and data used in planning or controlling business organizations. Instruction of accurate report formatting.

Does an Associate Degree Pay?

Salaries earned by associate degree holders vary considerably by their chosen career field, their experience, their employer, and the region in which they live and work. The value of the associate degree in financial terms can also be pegged to job growth and employer demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has reported a 2013 median weekly wage of $777 for workers with associate degrees. In contrast, employees who have not completed a post-secondary degree made only $651 per week in 2013. The BLS has identified 80 occupations with median annual salaries over $50,000. At the top end of the earning scale are many health care related jobs requiring two-year degrees, followed closely by occupations in electrical and mechanical engineering.

When an Associate Degree Makes Sense

An associate degree program is an attractive option for students who are not ready to commit to a four-year education, or for those who are still looking over their choices for a major field of study. Some students cannot compete academically for a bachelor’s degree program and find the associate degree a solid opportunity to raise their grades and acclimate themselves to the rigors of a college education. In many states, major four-year schools form partnerships with junior and community colleges to ensure that general education credit hours of their associate degree will transfer smoothly for students moving on to a bachelor’s degree. Finally, an associate degree program provides the direct training and credential for students to enter professions immediately upon graduation.

TWO YEARS TO A CAREER

Two-year associate degree programs offer a unique opportunity to take the fast track toward a first career or to train for a new profession. Rest assured, community and junior college courses are designed for college-level students and are not dumbed down for easy graduation. Students graduating high school or returning to college following experience in the workplace will find courses in associate degree programs structured to increase in difficulty from general overviews to more detailed studies in specific areas. Vocational or occupational-focused programs are often taught by professionals in the field. For example, nursing courses are led by experienced nurses in the varied specialties of in health care. In some cases, students in one field will add an associate degree that broadens their credentials.

Professional fields that hire entry-level graduates from associate degree programs include:

Health Care Office and Technical Support

Medical assistants, Medical Billing and Insurance Technicians, Dental Assistants, Physical Therapy Assistants and Aides.

Health Care Practitioners and Technicians

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, Dental Hygienists, Radiation Therapists and Registered Nurses.

First Response and Legal Professionals

Paralegals, Police Officers, Firefighters, EMTs, Court Reporters, Forensics Technicians, Homeland Security Officers and Correctional Officers.

Technology and Technical

Computer Support Specialists, Civil Engineering Technicians, Electronics Technicians and Construction Trades Technicians.

TRANSFER TO A FOUR-YEAR COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY

According to a Community College Research Center (CCRC) 2013 study, 45 percent of all undergraduate students were attending community colleges. In addition, the study found that 64 percent of community college students transferred to four-year colleges before completing their associate degrees.

Community and junior colleges offer such a solid cost-cutting option for students seeking to complete core general education requirements that many four-year college students are taking “reverse transfers” to finish their first two years. Depending on the institution, the general core classes are built on the same curriculum used at four-year institutions. Consequently, the CCRC found that 72 percent of students completing their associate degree and transferring to four-year schools completed bachelor’s degrees within six years.

Students must take utmost care before, during and after entering an associate degree program to ensure that their credit hours will transfer successfully if they go on to a bachelor’s degree program. They should interview academic counselors at their prospective community college and four-year transfer school to determine the classes that satisfy general education and major requirements. Counselors can map out course equivalencies. Colleges that share transfer agreements offer students the most academically (and financially) pain-free systems of credit transfer. Students would do well prior to enrolling to see if the target colleges or academic departments will offer written documentation on how the transfer will take place. The process of articulation completes the process when the registrar at the target school transcribes the associate degree courses into the four-year student transcript.

How Online Associate Degree Programs Work

Online associate degree programs are available almost everywhere in the country and accessible from any location that has a connection to the Internet. In addition to community colleges – the most common choice – students can participate in distance learning at private, for-profit colleges and trade schools. Transfer students considering private schools should be especially meticulous in searching for four-year schools that accept credits from those institutions.

All transactions at online colleges are completed on computers or smart devices, including applications, enrollment, registration, course selection, financial aid applications, tutoring, academic counseling, and posting of grades and transcripts. The courses themselves are customized for delivery online, mirroring on-campus curricula and academic quality but tailored for distance faculty/student interactions. Classes and course materials are presented and stored online for 24/7 access, allowing students to set the time and place for their studies.

Digital courses take advantage of well-tested, reliable technologies for course lectures, student participation, and research. Tools include an interface that works on all browsers and types of computers, providing email systems, chat rooms, instant messaging, conference calls and video programs such as Skype.

Online schools provide active technical support for students who need assistance using the interface, email, or a particular teaching tool. Some private and public colleges provide students with a laptop computer. Students can also log on from home computers, at work (where permitted), in public cafes and libraries.

Online Learning Q&A

How do students get hold of their professors when classes are not in session?

Many online schools require instructors to maintain daily contact with all students via email and discussion threads. Faculty members also establish regular online hours for student contact.

Is it necessary to be online every day when you’re in an online degree program?

Most online students dedicate a certain number of hours a day or week for logging into their classes. There may be required student discussions or conferences built into the schedule that all must join online. Students that maintain regular online hours have the best success.

How can online classes compare to the interactions students get in a regular classroom?

They compare favorably. For instance, students who are too insecure to share in a crowded classroom find it easier to participate. Students also work in peer groups or on collaborative assignments, communicating by email, chat, cell phones or conference calls. Many graduates form lifelong friendships and career mentors.

If online degree programs take less time to complete, are they inferior degrees?

Online degree and career programs are as strenuous and academically demanding as those of their campus cousins. A shorter time-to-graduation is typically accomplished by students enrolled in accelerated programs who have the drive and focus to succeed.

Are all online degree programs eligible for financial aid?

Formal accreditation is one way a college satisfies Federal and state requirements for offering financial aid. Public community colleges typically offer qualified students the full range of aid in Federal and private loans, grants and fellowships. Students that cannot otherwise afford to pay for tuition, fees and supplies should communicate with prospective college financial aid representatives as a key component in choosing a school.

Community College Accreditation

Accreditation is a voluntary system by which schools, colleges and universities set, regulate, and address academic policies and educational quality. Campus-based and online colleges offering associate degrees seek accreditation from national and regional agencies that make an independent, non-partial assessment of the school. All accreditation agencies must be approved by the U.S. Department of Education.

Most community colleges seek accreditation from one of seven regional accrediting bodies or commissions. In the Western part of the country, for example, associate-degree granting institutions typically volunteer for accreditation by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACCJC). Departments within two-year degree-granting schools may also seek accreditation for specialized programs. Nursing degree programs at community colleges typically seek programmatic accreditations from state boards of nursing.

Accreditation is the governing factor whether colleges may offer financial aid packages (loans, grants, work study) from the Federal government. Because of their unique course delivery system, online schools may also seek accreditation from agencies such as the National Distance Learning Association to vouch for the quality of their online degree programs.