2021 Best Online Associate Degrees

Online Associate Degrees with the Highest Return on Investment

By Jennifer King Logan | Updated 5/24/2021
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Depending on your career goals, an online associate degree may be the right educational path for you. Many associate degree programs are designed to prepare graduates for specific vocations in a wide range of fields, such as technology, business, and healthcare. Associate degrees offer other benefits as well: They are often quite affordable, and because they typically take only two years to complete, you'll be able to enter the workforce sooner.

To develop our list of the best online associate degrees, we calculated a 10-year return on investment (ROI) value for every online associate degree program, then compared each value against those for similar programs to calculate an ROI percentile. For each school that offers online associate degrees in at least two subject areas, we then calculated an average ROI percentile and ranked the schools by this value. View our methodology for more details. We've also published an appendix that lists all of the program salaries and debt figures for these ranked schools.

Following this list, we provide more information on online associate degrees. We discuss costs, financial aid opportunities, transferring to bachelor's programs, and careers for associate degree holders.

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RankSchool Annual Tuition ROI Score
# 1 #1 Excelsior College $15,300 99.3%
# 2 #2 Weber State University $8,340 98.9%
# 3 #3 Southern New Hampshire University Online $9,600 98.2%
# 4 #4 Thomas Edison State University $9,278 97.7%
# 5 (tie) #5 (tie) Columbia Southern University $7,050 95.9%
# 5 (tie) #5 (tie) Quinsigamond Community College $12,741 95.9%
# 7 #7 Indiana Wesleyan University Online $8,970 95.6%
# 8 #8 Columbia College $11,250 94.8%
# 9 #9 American Public University System $8,550 94.7%
# 10 #10 Northland Community and Technical College $5,970 92.3%
# 11 #11 Minnesota State Community and Technical College $5,968 92.0%
# 12 #12 Rochester Community and Technical College $5,817 91.3%
# 13 #13 St Cloud Technical and Community College $6,333 90.8%
# 14 #14 Saint Paul College $5,598 90.6%
# 15 #15 Anne Arundel Community College $12,240 90.2%
# 16 #16 Dakota County Technical College $5,670 89.5%
# 17 #17 Bismarck State College $7,224 89.2%
# 18 #18 Middlesex Community College - MA $13,206 89.0%
# 19 #19 Austin Community College District $10,590 88.6%
# 20 #20 McHenry County College $3,791 86.6%
# 21 #21 Inver Hills Community College $5,212 86.5%
# 22 #22 Lake Superior College $5,653 85.3%
# 23 #23 University of Phoenix $11,940 84.7%
# 24 #24 Front Range Community College $12,037 83.1%
# 25 #25 Northern Virginia Community College $10,789 81.3%
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Best Online Associate Degrees Highlights

#1 Excelsior College

  • Annual Tuition: $15,300
  • Locations: Albany (NY)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Working a 40-hour work week and motivating myself to complete classwork and study for exams was challenging, but my professors were extremely patient, worked with my schedule, and encouraged me to succeed.

If you are not an independent learner it may not be the school for you.

At Excelsior College, students can complete any one of 11 Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science online degrees in business, nursing, technical studies, criminal justice, health sciences, and liberal arts. The degrees require between 60 and 66 credits, and students have many opportunities to earn credits through previous life experience, training, and exams.

Online coursework is completed through the Canvas learning management system, and coursework typically consists of assignments, readings, discussions, and quizzes. Students are eligible for various financial aid programs, tuition discounts, grants, private loans, and interest-free monthly tuition payment plans. Excelsior also provides a host of career development resources, including access to internships, a personal career portal, and practice interviews.

Excelsior’s open enrollment policy makes applying for college as simple as filling out an online application and submitting documentation for prior school, work, and military experience. Once admitted, the school’s academic advising team helps all online associate degree students map out a degree completion plan. Distance learners have access to academic resources, library services, and technical support.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 22,674
  • School Type: Non-Profit
Program Overview
  • Cost per Credit: $510.00
  • Program Count: 11
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $50
  • Requirements: Most programs only require a high school transcript; the nursing program requires prior work experience

#2 Weber State University

  • Annual Tuition: $8,340
  • Locations: Ogden (UT)
  • Accreditation: NWCCU

All the professors are very helpful and very enjoyable. I really love the online professors also. They will email you back and get back to you with in a few hours to a day.

Weber State University offers six Associate of Science and Associate of Applied Science online degrees. Enrolled students complete most of the coursework through Canvas, the school’s online learning management system. However, most of these associate degree programs require a minimal amount of coursework that can be completed on campus, at partner schools, or through internships at approved facilities. Weber’s online associate degree programs are designed to be completed in approximately two years.

Weber State University's tuition rates are lower than national averages, and the school is dedicated to helping students graduate debt free. Each year, the school awards about $90 million in scholarships. Additionally, WSU's associate degrees may cover the general requirements needed for a bachelor's degree.

To apply to Weber State University, prospective students should submit an online application, high school (or equivalent) transcripts, any prior college transcripts, and a $30 nonrefundable application fee. Although applicants are not required to submit SAT or ACT scores, it is recommended to determine the correct placement in math and English courses.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 3,009
  • Graduation Rate: 32%
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 91%
  • School Type: Non-Profit
Program Overview
  • Program Count: 4
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $30
  • Requirements: High school transcript or GED; ACT/SAT scores are accepted but not required

#3 Southern New Hampshire University Online

  • Annual Tuition: $9,600
  • Locations: Manchester (NH)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

The financial aid office was always able to assist with my concerns and charges. My academic advisor also would check up on me through-out the term.

My advisor has always been extremely helpful and has even rearranged my classes to fit a schedule that caters to my needs... My classes are difficult, but not impossible.

Southern New Hampshire University offers ten online associate degree programs: Associate of Arts in Digital Photography and Liberal Studies and Associate of Science degrees in Accounting, Business Administration, Computer Science, Criminal Justice, Data Analytics, Fashion Merchandising, Information Technologies, and Marketing. Most of these online associate degrees require 60 credits to graduate and are designed to be completed in two years.

While enrolled at SNHU, students will complete asynchronous courses through the Blackboard learning management system. Some courses will be taught by full-time faculty, while others will be led by adjuncts, who are typically employed in the field of study. All online degree students are assigned an academic advisor who can answer questions and offer assistance if needed. SNHU has a generous credit transfer policy that recognizes credits from other accredited degree programs and grants credit for prior military and professional experience.

To apply to enter one of SNHU’s online associate degree programs, prospective students should submit an online application, provide transcripts from their high school diploma or equivalent, and submit any relevant documentation on prior college, work, or military experience. SNHU does not charge a fee to process applications. Accepted students will find there are six eight-week undergraduate terms each year, so they can start their program when convenient.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 86,849
  • Graduation Rate: 44%
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 77%
  • School Type: Non-Profit
Program Overview
  • Program Count: 15
Admissions
  • Acceptance Rate: 78%
  • Application Fee: $0
  • Requirements: High school transcript or GED

#4 Thomas Edison State University

  • Annual Tuition: $9,278
  • Locations: Trenton (NJ)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

PRO: I like that a new semester start[s] every month, so it makes it [q]uicker to finish the program. CON: you only get a week off before you start another semester... PRO: A lot of the mentors are VERY flexible with the late policy.

This school was very military friendly and easy to navigate the portal, the coursework was challenging but didn’t provide a heavy load and worked well with my work schedule.

Thomas Edison State University offers more than a dozen Associate in Arts, Associate in Science, and Associate in Applied Science programs, especially in STEM subjects. The school prides itself on its online associate degree programs designed for busy, working adults, and 54% of the school’s students complete online associate degrees in three years or less.

Once students are enrolled, they can choose among a variety of types of courses, most of which are 12 weeks long. Students can opt for online classes, in which they interact with fellow students, or e-Pack or Guided Study courses, which offer more independent study. Graduation from any of these associate degree programs requires 60 credits, and the school has a generous credit transfer policy, as well as an evaluation program that recognizes prior military and professional experience as credit earned toward a degree. Students can pay per credit hour, although they will want to opt for the flat tuition rate if they take more than nine credits in a term.

TESU is open primarily to working adults 20 years old or older (18 for active U.S. military) who have earned a high school diploma or its equivalent. Prospective students who meet the admission requirements are encouraged to apply online and submit transcripts from previous schools. New undergraduate terms begin every month, 12 months a year, enabling students to start earning credits toward their online associate degrees right away.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 9,475
  • School Type: Non-Profit
Program Overview
  • Program Count: 13
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $50
  • Requirements: High school transcript or GED; 20 years or older, or 18 years or older and an active member of the military

#5 (tie) Columbia Southern University

  • Annual Tuition: $7,050
  • Locations: Orange Beach (AL)
  • Accreditation: DEAC

The school has really good teachers and the academics [are] tough, but the professors are easy to reach if you have any questions about a subject. The staff is very friendly and will call you to check on you, to see how you are doing in that particular class.

Columbia Southern University offers six online associate degree programs, which are all Associate of Science degrees. Areas of study include business, fire science, emergency medical services, criminal justice, occupational safety and health, and health information science. An online associate degree at CSU consists of 60 credits.

Online courses take place through the Blackboard Learning Management System. Students can choose to follow term dates or start when ready. Factors that make the school affordable include accepted transfer credits, military and veteran benefits, scholarships, learning partners discount, and textbooks included in the program cost. The school has a strong alumni program and offers career services.

To apply, students fill out an online application and provide academic transcripts. First-year students provide a high school transcript or equivalent, while transfer students submit transcripts from previously attended post-secondary institutions. The university offers an online library that gives 24/7 access to research resources. There is also a remote proctor for online exams.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 14,364
  • Graduation Rate: 22%
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
  • School Type: For-Profit
Program Overview
  • Cost per Credit: $235.00
  • Program Count: 8
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $0
  • Requirements: High school transcript or GED

#5 (tie) Quinsigamond Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $12,741
  • Locations: Worcester (MA)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

At Quinsigamond Community College, newly enrolled students can choose among seven 100% online associate degree programs. Some, like the Associate in Science in Business Administration Career, enable graduates to move directly into the workplace, while others, such as the Associate of Arts in General Studies or Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts, prepare students to continue working toward a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college or university. QCC offers many additional online courses and other associate degrees, although most of them require some on-campus courses.

Incoming students may be able to earn Credit for Prior Learning, or CPL. Interested students should provide the appropriate documentation to see if their prior competency exams, credentialing programs, or portfolio of work or military experience can be recognized as earned credits. As part of its mission to help graduates successfully transition into the workplace, QCC also offers a number of career services to help students identify career opportunities, obtain current information about trends in the local job market, and develop job search skills through workshops.

To apply to any of the online associate degree programs at Quinsigamond Community College, prospective students should submit an online application and high school (or equivalent) transcripts, and then contact an academic advisor to schedule a placement test.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 743
  • Graduation Rate: 19%
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 81%
  • School Type: Non-Profit
Program Overview
  • Cost per Credit: $411.00
  • Program Count: 8
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $0
  • Requirements: High school transcript or GED

#7 Indiana Wesleyan University Online

  • Annual Tuition: $8,970
  • Locations: Marion (IN)
  • Accreditation: HLC

I was pleasantly surprised with the help I received from my professors, the book store, and everyone else at the school.

Indiana Wesleyan University Online offers six online associate degrees, which are all Associate of Science programs. These degrees are in accounting, business, Christian ministries, computer information technology, criminal justice, and early childhood education. Typically, online associate degree programs at this school include 60 semester hours.

Classes do not have assigned times. Students participate by logging into online workshops through the school’s online learning system, engaging in discussions and team activities, and carrying out assignments. There is no fee to apply to these online associate programs. Additionally, scholarships, discounts, grants, military and veteran benefits, employer assistance, loans, and Indiana Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS) are available to qualified students. Graduates can stay connected and receive benefits through the alumni program.

There is no deadline for application. Admission requirements include a minimum GPA of a 2.6, a high school or college transcript, and a willingness to follow this Christian university’s personal behavioral and community expectations. Online students have access to advisors, librarians, and library services with journals, books, electronic materials, and more.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 6,185
  • Graduation Rate: 53%
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 93%
  • School Type: Non-Profit
Program Overview
  • Cost per Credit: $299.00
  • Program Count: 29
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $0
  • Requirements: High school transcript and minimum GPA of a 2.6

#8 Columbia College

  • Annual Tuition: $11,250
  • Locations: Columbia (MO)
  • Accreditation: HLC

You can keep your job and get a degree at the same time, Columbia College will help you with that.

This college was affordable, and I feel like I got an outstanding education. The professor's were top-notch, and help was always available. I thought the online process would be difficult, but it was very easy, from registration & ordering books, to submitting my assignments.

Columbia College offers nine online associate degree programs. These are Associate of Arts and Associate of Science programs that include studies in real estate management, computer information systems, health services, business administration, arts, and more. The associate degrees require 60 credits to complete.

Online courses have session start and end dates, but no set meeting times. Students submit assignments, use an online learning management system, take tests, write research papers, and participate in online discussions. Factors that make these programs more affordable are financial aid, accepted transfer credits, scholarships, and no added fees or book costs. The school has a strong alumni network with member benefits, and it offers career services.

Students apply by completing an online application, submitting transcripts or a high school equivalency exam, authenticating their identity, and submitting a financial aid form if applicable. The college offers in-person services that include a library, a computer lab, and tutoring. Students can also access online databases from off-campus.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 5,425
  • Graduation Rate: 28%
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 89%
  • School Type: Non-Profit
Program Overview
  • Cost per Credit: $375.00
  • Program Count: 9
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $0
  • Requirements: High school transcript or GED

#9 American Public University System

  • Annual Tuition: $8,550
  • Locations: Charles Town (WV)
  • Accreditation: HLC

I appreciated the flexibility and affordability. I found the people that worked at the campus that helped advise me and work through the financial aid process very helpful.

American Public University System has 26 online associate programs. These include a mix of Associate of Applied Science, Associate of Science, and Associate of Arts degrees. Some fields of study include health sciences, management, hospitality, business administration, criminal justice, and accounting. The associate degrees require 60 credits to complete.

The online courses are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework on their own schedules. Students log into a website to access course content, which includes visual presentations, videos, message boards, assignments, and forums. Transfer credits are accepted, and financial aid in the form of federal student aid (FSA), military tuition assistance (TA), veterans benefits, scholarships, loans, and employer benefits is available. The school has a strong alumni program with alumni services. Students can also take advantage of free career services, including a career coach.

To apply for an online associate degree, students fill out a 15-minute online application and choose a major. They are contacted by an admissions representative, who tells them the documents they need to provide. Application materials vary by program. These online associate programs have no application fee.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 37,335
  • Graduation Rate: 40%
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • School Type: For-Profit
Program Overview
  • Cost per Credit: $285.00
  • Program Count: 27
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $0
  • Requirements: High school transcript or GED and a copy of your government-issued photo ID

#10 Northland Community and Technical College

  • Annual Tuition: $5,970
  • Locations: Thief River Falls (MN) (and 1 other)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Northland Community and Technical College offers 14 online associate programs, including Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, and Associate of Applied Science degrees. Some areas of study include digital marketing, early childhood and paraprofessional, medical administrative assistant, medical coding specialist, and business transfer pathway. Most of the online associate degrees require 60 credits. The only exception is the dietetic technician degree, which requires 67 credits.

Students participate in courses through Desire2Learn Brightspace course management software, and the schedule is flexible. Classes include assignments, quizzes, tests, forums, and message boards. This college accepts transfer credits and offers military benefits, scholarships, and financial aid. It has an alumni program and an alumni LinkedIn group.

To apply, students submit an online application at any time. Requirements include sending transcripts, scheduling an Accuplacer assessment, and completing other applicable forms. Students are notified of their requirements after submitting an application. Online students receive resources that include free online tutoring and academic advising.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 859
  • Graduation Rate: 47%
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
  • School Type: Non-Profit
Program Overview
  • Cost per Credit: $199.00
  • Program Count: 14
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $0
  • Requirements: High school transcript or GED

#11 Minnesota State Community and Technical College

  • Annual Tuition: $5,968
  • Locations: Fergus Falls (MN) (and 2 others)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Minnesota State Community and Technical College offers 21 online associate degree programs, including Associate of Applied Science, Associate of Arts, and Associate of Science options. Areas of study include human resources, social science, arts, paralegal, digital marketing, and more. The associate degrees require 60 credits to complete.

This college uses D2L Brightspace as its online learning system. Students do not need to participate at certain times or days, but they have a weekly or bi-weekly schedule to follow. Generally, students participate through audio lectures, video, online content, quizzes and exams, and discussion boards. This school makes online associate programs more affordable by accepting transfer credits and offering scholarships, military and veteran benefits, and financial aid. M State provides career services and has a workforce development program.

Students apply to this college by submitting a free online application, according to the application deadline. Students must also submit high school transcripts (or GED) and/or college transcripts, as applicable. Support for online students includes tutoring services, online science labs, an online library, and advising services.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 1,291
  • Graduation Rate: 36%
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 87%
  • School Type: Non-Profit
Program Overview
  • Cost per Credit: $165.50
  • Program Count: 21
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $0
  • Requirements: High school transcript or GED

#12 Rochester Community and Technical College

  • Annual Tuition: $5,817
  • Locations: Rochester (MN)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Rochester Community and Technical College offers five online associate degree programs. Options include an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences and Associate of Applied Science degrees in Cancer Registry Management, Health Information Technology, Executive Office Professional, and Healthcare Office Professional. The online associate degrees require 60 credits to complete.

RCTC uses the D2L BrightSpace learning management system to deliver coursework. Students in the online associate programs typically complete reading assignments and activities, watch videos, and participate in discussion boards. The school accepts transfer credits and offers financial aid, loans, grants, and work-study. RCTC has a foundation and provides business and workforce education, study abroad programs, and an alumni program.

As an open-door institution, prospective students need only a high school diploma or GED. Applicants must fill out an online application. Certain programs have selective admission and require an additional program application. The admissions process involves placement testing and counseling. Online students have access to a learning advisor, a learning center, a literary center, and learning presentations.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 972
  • Graduation Rate: 22%
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 78%
  • School Type: Non-Profit
Program Overview
  • Cost per Credit: $193.90
  • Program Count: 5
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $0
  • Requirements: High school transcript, recommendation from high school counselor, interview, and personal statement

#13 St Cloud Technical and Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $6,333
  • Locations: St. Cloud (MN)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Admissions was very easy and it only took a day or two to get registered.

St Cloud Technical and Community College offers five online associate programs. These include Associate of Applied Science degrees in Finance or Health Information Technology, Associate of Arts degrees in Liberal Arts and Sciences or Psychology Transfer Pathway, or an Associate of Science in Business Transfer Pathway. The associate degrees require 60-65 credits to complete.

SCTCC uses the D2L Brightspace learning management system, and students interact through reading materials, discussion boards, and other components. Classes may also use Zoom for virtual class meetings. Transfer credits are accepted, and financial aid, scholarships, and work-study are available to qualified students. The school also offers workforce training.

To apply for an online associate degree program, prospective students fill out an online application, pay the application fee (currently waived), and take the AccuPlacer exam for placement. Alternatively, students can provide SAT, ACT, or MCA test scores. Online students have access to resources, including tech support, tutoring, and mental health support.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 691
  • Graduation Rate: 33%
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 84%
  • School Type: Non-Profit
Program Overview
  • Cost per Credit: $211.13
  • Program Count: 5
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $20
  • Requirements: High school transcript or GED

#14 Saint Paul College

  • Annual Tuition: $5,598
  • Locations: Saint Paul (MN)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Saint Paul College offers two online associate programs. One is an Associate of Arts and the other is an Associate of Science in Business Transfer Pathway. These programs each include 60 credits, and the transfer pathway is designed to transition the student to a four-year degree program.

Classes take place over the D2L Brightspace online learning management system. Students can choose from online or hybrid course delivery. They participate in class through videos, reading content, PowerPoint, discussion boards, and live online meetings (if applicable). Saint Paul College offers financial aid, free tuition programs, scholarships, veteran benefits, loans, and transfer credits. This school has a strong alumni program and offers workforce training.

Prospective students can apply by submitting an online application. To help determine course placement, they must also submit high school transcripts, ACT, SAT, or MCA test scores, or take the Accuplacer placement exam. They can also apply for financial aid during the enrollment process.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 875
  • Graduation Rate: 28%
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 87%
  • School Type: Non-Profit
Program Overview
  • Program Count: 2
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $0
  • Requirements: High school transcript or GED

#15 Anne Arundel Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $12,240
  • Locations: Arnold (MD)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

AACC is a wonderful school that focuses on all manner of students, be they high school graduates, ex-military, professionals seeking continuing education, etc.

Anne Arundel Community College offers 15 online associate programs. These include Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, and Associate of Applied Science degrees in many areas of study, including business management, psychology, information systems, and nursing. The associate degrees require 60 credits to complete.

This college offers fully online and hybrid course options. Coursework is delivered through the Canvas learning management system. Courses typically include videos and other content, assignments, and course discussions. Financial aid, scholarships, loans, grants, military and veteran benefits, and work-study are available. Transfer credits are also accepted. AACC offers job training, professional development, and career and employment services.

Prospective students can fill out an online application and apply for financial aid. There may be certain requirements depending on the type of student. Course placement will be determined by AccuPlacer exam results, standardized test scores, or high school GPA. Online students have access to tutoring and academic advising.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 2,458
  • Graduation Rate: 20%
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 43%
  • School Type: Non-Profit
Program Overview
  • Cost per Credit: $408.00
  • Program Count: 15
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $0
  • Requirements: High school transcript or GED

#16 Dakota County Technical College

  • Annual Tuition: $5,670
  • Locations: Rosemount (MN)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Dakota County Technical College offers 17 online associate degree programs, including Associate of Applied Science and Associate of Science options. Some areas of study include accounting, business management, digital marketing, general education, and construction management. Online associate degree programs at DCTC require 60 credits.

This college uses the D2L Brightspace learning management system to deliver its courses. Classes follow a regular weekly schedule but do not require live sessions. Students participate through assignments, reading content, online discussions, and other means. The school offers financial aid, scholarships, loans, student employment, and payment plans, and it accepts transfer credits. It also offers workforce solutions and has a strong alumni program.

To apply for an online associate degree, potential students fill out the online application and pay the application fee. They must take the AccuPlacer (or fill out an exemption form) and submit high school transcripts, a GED, or a college transcript. They can also apply for financial aid during the application process. Online students have resources available to them that include virtual advising, virtual registration and financial aid assistance, and free online 24/7 tutoring.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 303
  • Graduation Rate: 36%
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 77%
  • School Type: Non-Profit
Program Overview
  • Cost per Credit: $189.00
  • Program Count: 17
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $20
  • Requirements: High school transcript or GED

#17 Bismarck State College

  • Annual Tuition: $7,224
  • Locations: Bismarck (ND)
  • Accreditation: HLC

It has friendly and helpful staff and faculty...

Bismarck State College offers 21 online associate programs. Prospective students can choose from Associate in Applied Science or Associate in Arts options. Some of the available areas of study include power plant technology, business administration, cybersecurity and computer networks, and human services. The number of credits varies by associate degree program, but most require between 60 and 72 credits.

Students use the Blackboard learning management system to take their online classes. There is an academic calendar with specific deadlines to start the courses. Students participate in online discussions, follow course content, hand in assignments, and take quizzes and tests. Forty-four percent of the college’s students take courses entirely online. Affordability factors include military and veteran benefits, financial aid, payment plans, and scholarships. Students have access to CampusConnection, which provides 24/7 access to student information, academic support, and library services.

To apply, prospective students submit an online application and an application fee. They must also provide high school transcripts, GED and/or college transcripts. SAT, ACT, or AccuPlacer test scores will be used for placement. Student services include advising and counseling in person or by phone.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 1,212
  • Graduation Rate: 52%
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 80%
  • School Type: Non-Profit
Program Overview
  • Cost per Credit: $240.81
  • Program Count: 21
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $35
  • Requirements: High school transcript or GED and placement exam scores

#18 Middlesex Community College - MA

  • Annual Tuition: $13,206
  • Locations: Bedford (MA) (and 1 other)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

Middlesex Community College offers six online associate degree programs. These are a mix of Associate in Arts and Associate in Science programs, and fields of study include liberal arts and sciences, psychology, accounting, hospitality management, business administration, and liberal studies. These programs require 61-64 credits to complete.

This college uses the Blackboard learning management system to deliver its online associate degree programs. Students can choose between online courses and hybrid courses. Students engage in courses through a combination of assignments, web content, and communication. Affordability measures include financial aid, veteran benefits, grants, scholarships, loans, and student employment. The school has workforce training, study abroad opportunities, and an alumni program.

Application and start dates depend on the online associate degree. Prospective students apply online and provide evidence of a high school diploma or equivalent. Some programs have other prerequisites. Services available include online tutoring, academic advising, and career counseling.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 724
  • Graduation Rate: 19%
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 69%
  • School Type: Non-Profit
Program Overview
  • Cost per Credit: $230.00
  • Program Count: 6
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $0
  • Requirements: High school transcript or GED

#19 Austin Community College District

  • Annual Tuition: $10,590
  • Locations: Austin (TX) (and 2 others)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The Faculty go above and beyond to help the students out. The advisors and counselors are with you every step of the way.

If you have an interest in the class the professors make sure that you receive the knowledge you need to succeed... This is the right place to go if you don't know your major or have decided to change your career.

Austin Community College District offers 15 online associate programs, with Associate of Applied Science and Associate of Arts options. Some areas of study include sociology, web programming, geography, business administration, marketing, and criminal justice. ACC's online associate degree programs require 60-66 credits.

Online courses follow the same schedule as regular classes, and students are expected to adhere to due dates. Coursework includes a mixture of assignments, projects, tests, and other types of work. These courses use the Blackboard learning management system to deliver content. ACC offers financial aid, payment plans, loans, work-study, veteran benefits, and scholarships. The college accepts transfer credits, and its credits are also transferrable to a four-year university. Career services are provided to students.

Prospective students can apply to online associate degree programs at any time of year, but there are specific class start dates. Students fill out an online application, and there is no application fee. Applicants must provide transcripts from previous schools and test scores. Online students have access to free tutoring, advisors, and online library journals.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 5,227
  • Graduation Rate: 10%
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 57%
  • School Type: Non-Profit
Program Overview
  • Cost per Credit: $353.00
  • Program Count: 15
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $0
  • Requirements: High school transcript or GED

#20 McHenry County College

  • Annual Tuition: $3,791
  • Locations: Crystal Lake (IL)
  • Accreditation: HLC

I achieved my Associate in Science degree in 19 months and walk in the door at the University with Junior standing. MCC offered a cost-effective way for me to complete my Gen Eds while working part-time so that I could transfer to the University.

McHenry County College offers seven online associate programs, with Associate in Science, Associate in Applied Science, Associate in Arts, and Associate in General Education options. Areas of study include network security, arts, accounting, and business management. These online associate degree programs generally require 60-65 credits to complete.

MCC offers fully online and hybrid options, using Canvas as its learning management system. Students learn and interact through chat rooms, discussion boards, tutorials, course materials, papers, assignments, quizzes, and tests. This school offers financial aid in the form of scholarships, loans, grants, work-study, and veteran benefits. Transfer credits are accepted. It has a workforce development program, career services, and an alumni program.

Prospective students apply for online associate programs by submitting an online application with high school transcripts and test scores from the SAT or ACT. They also take placement tests in math, reading, and English. Online students have access to IT support, advising, and tutoring.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 579
  • Graduation Rate: 29%
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 43%
  • School Type: Non-Profit
Program Overview
  • Cost per Credit: $111.50
  • Program Count: 7
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $15
  • Requirements: High school transcript or GED

#21 Inver Hills Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $5,212
  • Locations: Inver Grove Heights (MN)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Inver Hills Community College offers four online associate degree programs. These include Associate of Arts, Associate of Applied Science in Contemporary Business Practice, Associate of Science in Contemporary Business, and Associate of Science in International Business. The associate degrees require 60 credits to complete.

IHCC follows a regular schedule, and students are expected to adhere to deadlines. Courses are offered in fully online and hybrid formats. Students use the D2L Brightspace learning management system to access course materials, quizzes, exams, assignments, and discussions. Financial aid, scholarships, and military and veteran benefits are available to qualified students. Transfer credits are accepted. Students have access to career and workforce services, and the school has a foundation and an alumni association.

Prospective students can apply online, pay an application fee, apply for financial aid, and submit transcripts (transfer students only). They must also take an assessment exam. Advising, access to library databases, and tech services are some of the resources offered to distance learners.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 860
  • Graduation Rate: 25%
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 68%
  • School Type: Non-Profit
Program Overview
  • Cost per Credit: $173.75
  • Program Count: 4
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $20
  • Requirements: High school transcript or GED

#22 Lake Superior College

  • Annual Tuition: $5,653
  • Locations: Duluth (MN)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Lake Superior College offers ten online associate degree programs. The options include Associate of Applied Science, Associate of Arts, and Associate of Science programs. Fields of study include computer and web programming, paralegal studies, and business administration. The online associate programs require 60 credits to complete.

Classes may be delivered entirely online or in a hybrid format. Some courses require synchronous attendance for live meetings, while others are offered asynchronously. Students learn and interact through the D2L Brightspace learning management system. Learning can include discussion boards, course content, assignments, quizzes, exams, and more. Financial aid and scholarships are available, and the school offers continuing education and customized training services.

To apply for online associate degree programs at LSC, prospective students fill out an online application, provide academic transcripts, and apply for financial aid, if applicable. School services available to online learners include a learning center, online library services, and advising services.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 959
  • Graduation Rate: 31%
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 77%
  • School Type: Non-Profit
Program Overview
  • Cost per Credit: $188.46
  • Program Count: 10
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $0
  • Requirements: High school transcript or GED

#23 University of Phoenix

  • Annual Tuition: $11,940
  • Locations: Nationwide
  • Accreditation: HLC

The enrollment reps and instructors are great along with the online format.

The University of Phoenix offers five online associate programs. These include Associate of Arts degrees in Criminal Justice, Business Fundamentals, Information Technology, or Information Technology with Information Assurance and Security certificate. The other option is an Associate of Science in Cybersecurity. The associate degrees require 60-65 credits to complete.

This school is designed for working adults and has classes available at all times, every day of the year. It offers fully online and hybrid options. Students log into an online classroom through a student portal for their studies. Learning includes readings, activities, assignments, and discussions. The school keeps costs affordable by accepting transfer credits and offering financial aid, scholarships, military benefits, credit for work experience, and more. UOPX has an alumni association and offers continuing education and career services.

To apply for online associate programs, prospective students must be at least 16 years old. An online application and a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent are required. Some online associate programs require specific work experience or the ability to earn the experience.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 72,096
  • Graduation Rate: 15%
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 81%
  • School Type: For-Profit
Program Overview
  • Cost per Credit: $398.00
  • Program Count: 5
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $0
  • Requirements: High school transcript or GED and applicants must not have been expelled from a previous school

#24 Front Range Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $12,037
  • Locations: Westminster (CO)
  • Accreditation: HLC

I am a physically disabled student who has many struggles however the disabilities office and teachers are very helpful in making sure I graduate... The tutoring program is great and they have many labs to help you.

Front Range Community College offers 29 online associate degree programs. There are options in Associate of Arts, Associate of Applied Science, and Associate of Science degrees. Areas of study include business, psychology, studio art, education, mathematics, economics, and criminal justice. The online degree programs at FRCC require 60 credits to complete.

The school uses the D2L Brightspace learning management system. Classes include a combination of course materials, discussion boards, assignments, exams, and more. The school accepts transfer credits and offers financial aid and military and veteran benefits. The school hosts an alumni association and offers graduation and career services.

Prospective students for online associate programs at FRCC need to be at least 17 years old to apply. They can submit an online application and fill out a form for placement; there is no application fee. Online students receive support that includes advising, academic assistance, tutoring, counseling, disability services, and a portal to connect with peers.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 3,252
  • Graduation Rate: 18%
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 67%
  • School Type: Non-Profit
Program Overview
  • Cost per Credit: $401.25
  • Program Count: 29
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $0
  • Requirements: High school transcript or GED

#25 Northern Virginia Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $10,789
  • Locations: Annandale (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The professors really know their material in their subjects... It's easy to register your classes, and the advisors and counselors there are helpful too.

Northern Virginia Community College offers 22 online associate degree programs, including Associate of Applied Science, Associate of Science, and Associate of Arts degrees. Areas of study include liberal arts, business management, cybersecurity, science, and many more. Online associate degree programs through NOVA Online require between 60 and 65 credits.

Classes follow sessions with specific start dates. Students participate in classes through online resources, textbooks, assignments, forums, and exams. Course formats can vary; some include live online meetings, or in-person meetings or labs, mixed in with online coursework. NOVA offers financial aid, including scholarships, loans, grants, and work-study. Transfer credits are also accepted and may further reduce program costs. Alumni services, including career development and resource materials, are available to graduates.

Students apply by filling out the outline application, picking their application term, and completing the financial aid form (if applicable). They must also take the Virginia Placement Test, provide a high school transcript or GED, or provide SAT or ACT scores. Transfer students must provide college transcripts. Online students receive free online tutoring, 24/7 access to technology, online library databases, and virtual advising. They can also utilize the college library.

School Overview
  • Undergraduate Online Enrollment: 5,027
  • Graduation Rate: 25%
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 59%
  • School Type: Non-Profit
Program Overview
  • Cost per Credit: $359.65
  • Program Count: 22
Admissions
  • Application Fee: $0
  • Requirements: High school transcript or GED

Overview of Online Associate Degrees

Can You Earn an Associate Degree Online?

Yes, you can earn an associate degree online at 197 accredited institutions, which includes both two-year community colleges and four-year universities. Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degree programs provide students with a broad education in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, as well as specific courses related to their chosen major and specialization.

You can earn an associate degree online at 197 accredited institutions.

There are also Associate of Applied Science and Associate of Applied Business programs. These are often more vocational in nature, still providing a broad educational foundation but with a heavier emphasis on skill development.

Any of these degrees can be considered terminal degrees that prepare students to move into the workplace, or they can be the foundation for further higher education, such as a bachelor's degree.

How Long Does It Take to Earn an Online Associate Degree?

Associate degrees typically require the completion of 60 credits. At many colleges and universities, students fulfill these requirements over the course of two years of full-time study. However, a few of the predominantly or exclusively online schools offer accelerated programs involving condensed courses taught in shorter, 6- to 10-week terms. Depending on the subject you want to study and the amount of time you have, you may be able to earn an associate degree in as little as 12 months.

Associate Degree Quick Facts
  • Typical time to completion: 2 years
  • Typical credits needed: 60

Accreditation

Accreditation is the process used to independently evaluate a college or university. By attending an accredited institution, you help ensure that you are getting a quality education at a school that meets high standards. It is also required if you intend to apply for financial aid or to transfer to another college in the future.

Two-year colleges will most likely be accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC). Four-year universities will most likely be accredited by one of six regional agencies or by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). To determine if a school is accredited, use the search tools on the U.S. Department of Education website or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation website.

Cost of an Online Associate Degree

The average cost per credit hour for an online associate degree is $353.83, and the average annual tuition for each year of a two-year program is $11,921.93, according to data we've collected from 687 schools offering online associate programs. Another important factor is the cost of books and supplies, which averages $1,460 per year.

Average cost per credit: $353.83

Average annual tuition: $11,921.93

Average cost of books and supplies, per year: $1,460

The remaining items that contribute to the overall cost of a college degree, such as housing, food, and other living expenses, can vary depending on your personal circumstances. If you're attending school online, you may not have any transportation expenses. However, if the online program you're enrolled in involves in-person training—such as a nursing practicum—you may have to allow for transportation expenses in your budget.

Financial Aid for Online Students

According to government data, 86% of all students receive some form of financial aid. Whether they're studying online or on-campus, students can apply for aid by submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. By applying, you'll discover if you're eligible for some of the $242 billion given out in financial aid each year, which could include grants and scholarships that do not have to be paid back. You may also be offered a student loan, but keep in mind that loans must be repaid with interest.

Because so many associate degree programs are designed to prepare students for specific vocations, which leads to a skilled workforce, a number of state and local governments provide additional financial support for these programs.

Online students who are eligible for some federal, state, or school-sponsored aid may also qualify for a state or local "promise" scholarship that covers any remaining tuition costs not covered by other forms of aid.

Examples of Promise Programs for Associate Degree Students

  • Future Ready Iowa
  • California College Promise Grant
  • Hawai'i Promise
  • (Louisiana) Taylor Opportunity Program for Students Honors Award

Some promise programs are need-based, while others are both need- and merit-based.

Outcomes of an Online Associate Degree

Students pursue associate degrees for a variety of reasons, but two common objectives include:

  • Enrolling in a bachelor's program after completing an associate degree
  • Entering the workforce and earning more than professionals who don't have a two-year degree

We explore each of these options below.

Transferring Credits From an AA Degree to a Bachelor's Program

After earning an associate degree, you have the option of transferring to a four-year university to complete the remaining requirements for a bachelor's degree, which should take approximately two years. There are a few potential advantages of doing this.

One major motivator in earning an associate degree before enrolling in a bachelor's program is the potential cost savings. You can often earn an associate degree at a more affordable price than a bachelor's degree, and doing so reduces the amount of time you'll be enrolled in a bachelor's program. Your cost could be further reduced with financial aid for your associate degree, as the average award of combined grant and scholarship aid for students attending two-year schools—an average of about $5,470—may exceed your school's tuition fees. These financial advantages may be one reason that 31% of college students earn a cost-effective associate degree first before moving on to a bachelor's degree.

One major motivator in earning an associate degree before enrolling in a bachelor's program is the potential cost savings.

Another benefit is extra time to explore your field. The curriculum for an associate program includes many general education courses that are also required in a bachelor's program. This will give you enough experience with your major to decide whether you want to continue to study that subject or pivot to something else.

With these potential advantages in mind, you should be aware that some of your credits earned for an associate degree may not be applied to the fulfillment of your bachelor's degree requirements. For example, a course you took in English literature may have met a requirement for your A.A., but it might not meet any of the requirements for your B.A. Thus, the sooner you decide if and where you want to earn a bachelor's degree, the sooner you can start preparing for this transition. Be sure to check the transfer policies at the four-year school where you intend to enroll, and then select courses at your two-year school that will be applicable to your long-term goals. If a transfer guide is not readily available on the university's website, contact the admissions office to be connected with an academic advisor. You may also want to seek advice from your two-year school's academic counselors to ensure a smooth transition.

Careers for Associate Degree Holders

An associate degree can prepare you for a wide range of career paths and may make you a more competitive candidate for professional positions. On average, associate degree holders earn $7,280 more per year than individuals with high school diplomas. There are several jobs where associate degree-holders can earn more than this average, many of which are in the medical and technology fields. For example, dental hygienist, web developer, and sonographer all have average salaries above $70,000 and demand for these positions is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations.

You are typically eligible for entry-level positions whether you earn your associate degree online or on campus, since a growing number of hiring managers attribute the same value to online degrees as they do to traditional degrees. Some of the occupations you can qualify for with an associate degree are shown below, along with median annual salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Median Annual Salaries of Jobs Available to Associate Degree Holders
  • Dental Hygienists: People are often surprised to learn that it's possible to become a dental hygienist online, but there are quite a few associate degree programs available. Dental hygienists earn median annual wages of $77,090, and the need for professionals is projected to grow by 6% throughout the next decade.
  • Licensed Practical Nurse and Licensed Vocational Nurses: Those who are interested in healthcare can prepare for a career in nursing by earning an associate degree. Licensed practical and vocational nurses, who must obtain licensure to provide basic nursing care in many types of work environments, earn median annual wages of $48,820.
  • Medical Records Specialists: One way to train to become a medical records and health information specialist is to earn an associate degree in medical records technology. An associate degree is not required to enter this growth field, which is projected to expand by 8% over the next 10 years, but it could increase your marketability and earning potential. Medical records specialists earn a median annual salary of $44,090.
  • Web Developers: Another high-growth occupation is web developer, with an expected increase of 8% in job openings through 2029. Web developers and digital designers, who design and maintain websites, earn a median annual salary of $77,200.
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