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Online associate degrees provide learners with a strong academic foundation on which to build. These typically two-year degrees include general education and your chosen major's fundamentals.
Associate programs can also be more affordable and easier to access than online college degrees. Many schools offer open admission policies.
Opting for an online associate degree adds another layer of convenience. You'll enjoy more flexibility than on-campus programs offer. Online learning features fewer travel requirements and more scheduling options.
With an associate degree, graduates can access entry-level positions and transfer paths to bachelor's programs.
Here, we explore the best online associate degrees.
Per credit hour: $149.55 in-state
Application fee: Free
Per credit hour: $33 in-district
Application fee: $75
El Paso, TX
Per credit hour: $116 in-state
Application fee: Not publicly available
Cuyahoga Community College District
Per credit hour: $119.54 in-county
Application fee: Not publicly available
Northern Virginia Community College
Per credit hour: $180.40 in-state
Application fee: Free
There are many ways to cover the costs of an associate degree, including applying and qualifying for federal student aid via FAFSA. Active duty military and National Guard service professionals and their spouses may have access to military support funding, such as the GI Bill benefits. Some employers provide tuition reimbursement programs for employees to pursue education as well.
Other options include private loans and scholarships and grants. You can apply for scholarships through government agencies, schools, and private organizations. We've gathered dozens of scholarships at the links below. Make sure you review the requirements for each award before applying.
To determine the best online associate programs, we apply ZDNet's ranking methodology to our carefully curated school and program lists. We use federally reported and publicly available data from reputable sources.
Unless otherwise indicated, data is drawn from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Scorecard. Note that for public colleges, the average annual net price given is for in-state students.
1. Ivy Tech Community College
About the school: The online associate degrees at Ivy Tech Community College start every eight weeks. Some programs feature transfer paths to bachelor's programs at in-state institutions.
Accreditation: Ivy Tech Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
2. Houston Community College
About the school: The third-largest online community college in the country, Houston Community College features online associate degrees with 4-, 8-, 12-, and 16-week online courses.
Accreditation: Houston Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
3. El Paso Community College
El Paso, TX
About the school: El Paso Community College offers online course options for students pursuing associate degrees. The number of courses available online depends on the program.
Accreditation: El Paso Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
4. Cuyahoga Community College District
About the school: The Cuyahoga Community College District offers 100% online and blended online associate degrees featuring proctored exams and internship opportunities.
Accreditation: Cuyahoga Community College District is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
5. Northern Virginia Community College
About the school: Northern Virginia Community College enrolls more than 20,000 students annually in its online associate degrees. Online courses vary in length from 4-15 weeks.
Accreditation: Northern Virginia Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
6. Central New Mexico Community College
About the school: Central New Mexico Community College offers online associate degrees in business, liberal arts, communication, cybersecurity, and criminology.
Accreditation: Central New Mexico Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
7. Palo Alto College
San Antonio, TX
About the school: At Palo Alto College, learners have access to online associate degrees in applied science, the arts, and teaching.
Accreditation: Palo Alto College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
8. Copiah-Lincoln Community College
About the school: Online associate degrees at Copiah-Lincoln Community College are available in the humanities, business, social and health sciences, education, and career-technical disciplines.
Accreditation: Copiah-Lincoln Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
9. Lake Area Technical College
About the school: The online associate degrees at Lake Area Technical College feature a hybrid delivery format, which requires students to attend campus for certain courses and practical experiences.
Accreditation: Lake Area Technical College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
10. Eastern Gateway Community College
About the school: Eastern Gateway Community College provides online associate degrees in health, public service, engineering, business, and education departments. Classes typically run throughout eight-week sessions within 8- to 16-week semesters.
Accreditation: Eastern Gateway Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
The best online associate degrees position graduates to enter many professional fields and academic disciplines. Associate programs offer many of the same disciplines as bachelor's programs, though the training is more generalized and centered on fundamentals.
Because of their cost, accessibility, and structure, associate programs are excellent paths to entry-level careers and continuing education.