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.

Top Online Programs

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Best Online Associate Programs

Rank School Location
1 Georgia State University-Perimeter College Atlanta, GA
2 Lone Star College System The Woodlands, TX
3 Hutchinson Community College Hutchinson, KS
4 San Joaquin Delta College Stockton, CA
5 Garden City Community College Garden City, KS
6 Central Texas College Killeen, TX
7 Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Perkinston, MS
8 Williston State College Williston, ND
9 Ivy Tech Community College Indianapolis, IN
10 Coastline Community College Fountain Valley, CA

Best Online Associate Programs


  • Methodology +

    METHODOLOGY

    For this year’s college rankings, our analysts carefully reviewed statistical data from multiple sources for more than 7,500 postsecondary institutions so that you could easily evaluate schools based on what matters most to you. For each school, we applied the eligibility criteria outlined below, then ranked schools and programs based on four ranking factors.Eligibility Criteria for All Postsecondary Institutions:

    • Must be a not-for-profit institution
    • Must be regionally or nationally accredited
    • Must offer at least one online program1
    • Must be located in a state (schools in US territories and Washington DC were not considered)

    Ranking Factors:

    Dozens of data points were used to calculate a weighted score for four ranking factors: quality, affordability, flexibility and program (in order of significance). To determine quality, which was the most important consideration for all AS Online rankings, the most impactful data points were acceptance and graduation rates; for affordability, tuition2 and grants; for flexibility, part-time enrollment offerings; and for program, degrees conferred in that program area.Data Sources:

    How to Read Our Rankings Tool:

    • A dash indicates IPEDS data was not available
    • Annual in-state tuition is displayed unless stated otherwise

    1 Our Best Vocational Programs rankings included data for both online and campus programs.

    2 Both annual in-state and out-of-state tuition rates were used in our methodology; however, our Rankings Tool currently only displays annual in-state rates.


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 below.

  1. Georgia State University-Perimeter College
    Location

    Atlanta, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Location

    The Woodlands, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Location

    Hutchinson, KS

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Location

    Stockton, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Location

    Garden City, KS

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Location

    Killeen, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Location

    Perkinston, MS

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Location

    Williston, ND

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Location

    Indianapolis, IN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Location

    Fountain Valley, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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.

Popular Online Associate Degrees

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 Accounting 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.

Popular Resources

Whether you’re looking to earn your online degree or you’re a parent looking for answers, you can find all of your questions covered here. Explore these resources to help you make informed decisions and prepare for whatever is thrown your way.


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