10 Best Colleges Offering Online Associate’s Degrees – 2023-24

October 9, 2023

best colleges offering online associate's degrees

Remote learning has opened up many avenues to students. In fall 2021, 4.4 million undergrads—28% of the total US undergraduate population—were only taking classes online. During this period, about 1.9 million students were pursuing online associate’s degrees, mostly at public institutions. And the popularity of associate’s degrees is steadily rising. According to the US Census Bureau, 10.5% of adults aged 25 and above had associate’s degrees in 2021, up from 9.5% in 2011.

With their flexibility and accessibility, online associate’s programs make it easier to get a degree, especially while balancing outside commitments. Tuition is usually more affordable than that of an in-person degree, and the main prerequisite is a high school diploma. Across about two years, students immerse themselves in the liberal arts and sciences or build trade, technical, or pre-professional skills, then graduate with a degree to match. Upon completion, they have the option of transferring to a four-year program or (re-)joining the workforce.

Associate’s degrees online are a stepping stone for students of all ages and stages of life—whether they’re teens fresh out of high school, immigrants whose degrees aren’t recognized in the US, or moms pivoting careers. The classroom is more diverse, with lots of potential to learn from peers’ experiences in a way that a conventional college classroom doesn’t permit. Lower tuition translates to comparatively less debt, even if students move to a bachelor’s afterward. For workers and caretakers, associate’s degrees online provide an increased ability to schedule around daily responsibilities. Not having to commute helps students facing a time crunch.

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Regardless of students’ backgrounds and motivations, online associate’s degrees are a low-risk way to invest in the future. Although students may need to strike a delicate balance between obligations, employers have a positive view of the independent time management and other study skills that they develop. Four-year colleges also recognize the commitment and ownership possible transfers demonstrate toward learning.

Unlike with other kinds of degrees, it is challenging to find an authoritative list of the best colleges offering online associate’s degrees. The US News ranking of the best four-year online colleges probably comes closest. The list below focuses specifically on two-year programs embedded in four-year, primarily public universities with good reputations and alumni networks. It is not meant to be exhaustive, but is rather an indication of available opportunities. The idea is that you treat it as a launchpad for further research.

Read on to find out about 10 of the best colleges offering online associate’s degrees:

1) Penn State World Campus

Penn State has been offering distance education for an impressive 100 years and online education for 25 years. The World Campus has 20,000 students, the second-highest enrollment out of all Penn State campuses. It has the resources to thoroughly support the student experience. Upcoming events are on topics such as navigating online learning, academic success, financial aid, and transferring credits. The average undergraduate student age is 30 and many are military veterans. Students can work towards AS degrees in Business Administration, Criminal Justice, Human Development and Family Studies, Information Sciences and Technology, Labor and Human Resources, and Turfgrass Science and Management. They can alternately opt for an AA in Multidisciplinary Studies, a student-designed major. Penn State World Campus is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

2) Purdue Global

Purdue Global offers prospective students the unique opportunity to try courses for 3 weeks for free before deciding to apply. Online associate’s degrees are available in the subjects of Business Administration, Accounting, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Development, Fire Science, Professional Studies, Human Services, Information Technology, Legal Support and Services, Nursing, Health Science for Military (AS and AAS), and Small Group Management for Military. In several majors, students can choose a specialized concentration (there are 11 concentrations in Business Administration alone). Purdue Global has career counseling to help students put their best foot forward professionally. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

3) University of Alaska Fairbanks

Students at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ eCampus can choose between majoring in Arts, Science, Applied Accounting, Applied Business, Early Childhood Education, Information Technology, and Paralegal Studies. The university touts its strong research focus and the chance to learn about living and working in the circumpolar North. Sounds pretty cool to me. A big advantage is that online students pay in-state tuition regardless of location. Curriculums are designed to prepare students for bachelor’s degrees so that they can transfer without a hitch. UAF is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

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4) UMassOnline

The University of Massachusetts system advertises itself as a “university without walls.” True to word, online associate’s degrees are available via UMass Amherst and UMass Lowell. Students can also pursue a degree through UMass Global, an affiliate program geared towards working adults. Online students at UMass Amherst can pursue an AS in Sustainable Food and Farming, which has solid testimonials from past students. At Lowell, they can work towards AS degrees in Business Administration and Information Technology. UMass Global provides a self-paced AA in General Business and an AA in General Education. UMassOnline is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

5) University of Arkansas Grantham

At the University of Arkansas Grantham, new students receive laptops when they begin classes. They can achieve associate’s degrees online in Business Administration and Management, Computer Science, Criminal Justice, Electronics and Computer Engineering Technology, Engineering Management Technology, Healthcare Administration, Medical Administrative Assistantship, Medical Coding and Billing, Multidisciplinary Studies, and Paralegal Studies. Previously known as Grantham University, the institution was absorbed by the University of Arkansas in 2021. It is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.

6) Ohio Online

Ohio University students can investigate fields both surprising and expected. Where else could you get an online associate’s degree in Equine Studies? Students can also major in Individualized Studies, where they craft academic paths to suit their specific goals. Other options are Social Sciences, Science, Arts and Humanities, and Business Management Technology. Students can avail of Ohio University’s complete slate of resources, including talking to a dedicated admissions advisor before applying. Ohio University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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7) Columbia College

Since 2000, Columbia College students have been able to learn online. Long ahead of the digital curve, they have a correspondingly broad range of study options. Students can pursue fully online associate’s degrees in Business Administration, Real Estate Management, Organizational Leadership, Computer Information Systems, Cybersecurity, Arts, General Studies, Health Services, Environmental Studies, Criminal Justice Administration, and Human Services. The university sustains employer partnerships, career advising, and military benefits. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

8) Southern New Hampshire University Online

Southern New Hampshire University gives students the opportunity to pursue several associate’s degrees online. There are AS programs in Accounting, Business Administration, Computer Science, Criminal Justice, Cybersecurity, Data Analytics, Information Technologies, and Marketing. Meanwhile, Digital Photography and Liberal Arts majors gain AA degrees. Student support is exceptionally robust, with an online wellness center, online clubs, and honor societies, and an online student council offering leadership opportunities. A private, non-profit university, it has financial aid as well as discounts for those who have been in the military. SNHU is accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education.\

9) Seminole Online

The remote arm of Seminole State College in Florida offers a wide array of associate’s degrees. Courses take place on Canvas, and the university supports students as they learn how to navigate the platform. Students can graduate with an Associate of Arts in General Education, or Associate of Science in Administrative Office Management, Business Administration, Computer Programming and Analysis, Entrepreneurship and Business Management, Health Information Technology, Information Systems Technology, Legal Assistant/Paralegal Studies, and Social Media and Marketing. Seminole Online is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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10) Ball State Online

The first American university to receive Learner Support Program Certification for online courses, Ball State University in Indiana offers two online associate’s degrees: Criminal Justice and Criminology and General Arts. Classes in the latter major overlap with Ball State’s core curriculum, making it easier for students to transfer to a bachelor’s. Teaching occurs asynchronously, so students can access recordings whenever convenient. They have access to all academic and personal support services at Ball State, and are assigned online academic advisors. Ball State Online is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

A small note of caution: along with much else on the internet, online degrees are not always the real deal. That’s why this list includes accreditation information in the program descriptions. Whenever you come across a program, you should search for accreditation. An online degree is legitimate if there is no pressure to register or to pay and no guarantees that sound implausible. Other good signs: an administrative department, student resources, and a website URL that ends with .edu.

In sum, getting an associate’s degree online is a means of taking charge of your future. Whether you wish to undertake a broad or specialized course of study—and no matter where you are located—there is an online associate’s degree that’s right for you!

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