How do I Earn an Associate's Degree Online?

by Maya Black, Demand Media

An associate degree can prepare you for a range of career opportunities or further undergraduate study. Although a few four-year colleges offer associate degrees, the majority of two-year associate degree offerings, including online options, are provided by community colleges. Whether you can earn the degree online depends on a range of factors including your location and desired major.

The Choice

The colleges to which you apply depend on your financial resources and where you live. Some private universities, such as University of Phoenix and Kaplan University, offer online associate degrees. Generally, you can enroll in these universities from anywhere in the world. Private universities cost substantially more per credit hour than community colleges and the associate degree offerings may be limited. If you apply to the state community college system where you reside, you'll most likely be able to enroll in online degree offerings at any campus within the state and pay in-state tuition rates.


Your desired major will determine whether you can earn your associate degree online. If you plan to earn an associate degree in a health care field, such as nursing, physical therapy assistant or respiratory therapy, or any field that requires hand-on training such as automotive technology or culinary arts, lab requirements will prevent you from completing all the coursework online. Majors like business and information technology, however, provide the best opportunities to pursue your associate degree completely online.

Online Learning

You'll complete your coursework in your college's e-learning environment regardless of the type of college you attend; many colleges use Blackboard to deliver online coursework. Each course in your associate degree program will be designated as asynchronous , meaning you can complete the coursework anytime before the deadline, or live, meaning you must be online at specific times to receive instruction. Your school will provide you with an online academic advisor to help you keep track of your progress toward your associate degree.


If your state's community college does not offer the online associate degree program you wish, you may apply to a community college in another state, but you could end up paying pricey out-of-state tuition rates. Unless you plan to attend a private online university that offers coursework exclusively online, you may be required take mid-term and final exams at your campus's testing center in the presence of a proctor.

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About the Author

Maya Black has been covering business, food, travel, cultural topics and decorating since 1992. She has bachelor's degree in art and a master's degree in cultural studies from University of Texas, a culinary arts certificate and a real estate license. Her articles appear in magazines such as Virginia Living and Albemarle.

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