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Best online associate degrees: Our top picks for 2022

An online associate degree equips graduates with the skills, training, and credentials for many entry-level jobs and continuing education paths.
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Written by Doug Wintemute, Contributing Writer on
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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. 

Top 5 online associate degrees: Quick facts

College

Program stats

How much?

Ivy Tech Community College

Indianapolis, IN

  • Acceptance rate: 100%
  • Graduation rate: 18%
  • Transfer paths available
  • Free required textbooks

Per credit hour: $149.55 in-state

$292.57 out-of-state

Application fee: Free

Houston Community College

Houston, TX

  • Acceptance rate: 100%
  • Graduation rate: 17%
  • Hybrid programs with 15%-50% online study
  • Online workforce certificate programs available

Per credit hour: $33 in-district

$121 out-of-district

$151 out-of-state

Application fee: $75

El Paso Community College

El Paso, TX

  • Acceptance rate: 100%
  • Graduation rate: 22%
  • Hybrid programs include in-person classes and online work
  • All students complete an online orientation at the start of each program

Per credit hour: $116 in-state

$201 out-of-state

Application fee: Not publicly available

Cuyahoga Community College District

Cleveland, OH

  • Acceptance rate: 100%
  • Graduation rate: 28%
  • Blended degrees available with up to 15% in-person learning required
  • Internship opportunities are available in some programs

Per credit hour: $119.54 in-county 

$149.08 out-of-county

$286.19 out-of-state

Application fee: Not publicly available

Northern Virginia Community College

Annandale, VA

  • Acceptance rate: 100%
  • Graduation rate: 25%
  • Reciprocal agreements in place for out-of-state students
  • Hybrid programs available with up to 50% on-campus

Per credit hour: $180.40 in-state

$359.65 out-of-state

Application fee: Free

How can I afford an associate degree?

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.  

The best online associate programs

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

Indianapolis, IN

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.  

  • Acceptance rate: 100%
  • Graduation rate: 19%
  • Avg. annual net price: $7,669
  • Time to completion: Two to three years
  • Avg. SAT range for admitted students: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: 2.6
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Ivy Tech Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

2. Houston Community College 

Houston, TX

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.

  • Acceptance rate: 100%
  • Graduation rate: 17%
  • Avg. annual net price: $4,813
  • Time to completion: Two years
  • Avg. SAT range for admitted students: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous 

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. 

  • Acceptance rate: 100%
  • Graduation rate: 21%
  • Avg. annual net price: $3,848
  • Time to completion: Two years
  • Avg. SAT range for admitted students: No publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous 

Accreditation: El Paso Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

4. Cuyahoga Community College District

Cleveland, OH

About the school: The Cuyahoga Community College District offers 100% online and blended online associate degrees featuring proctored exams and internship opportunities.

  • Acceptance rate: 100%
  • Graduation rate: 28%
  • Avg. annual net price: $4,909
  • Time to completion: Two to three years
  • Avg. SAT range for admitted students: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous 

Accreditation: Cuyahoga Community College District is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

5. Northern Virginia Community College

Annandale, VA

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.   

  • Acceptance rate: 100%
  • Graduation rate: 25%
  • Avg. annual net price: $9,452
  • Time to completion: Two years
  • Avg. SAT range for admitted students: Not publicly available 
  • Minimum GPA: N/A
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

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

Albuquerque, NM

About the school: Central New Mexico Community College offers online associate degrees in business, liberal arts, communication, cybersecurity, and criminology.

  • Acceptance rate: 100%
  • Graduation rate: 26%
  • Avg. annual net price: $3,322
  • Time to completion: One to three years
  • Avg. SAT range for admitted students: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: 2.5
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

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. 

  • Acceptance rate: 100%
  • Graduation rate: 16%
  • Avg. annual net price: $5,601
  • Time to completion: Two years
  • Avg. SAT range for admitted students: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available 
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Palo Alto College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

8. Copiah-Lincoln Community College

Wesson, MS

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. 

  • Acceptance rate: 100%
  • Graduation rate: 34%
  • Avg. annual net price: $3,833
  • Time to completion: Two years
  • Avg. SAT range for admitted students: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

Accreditation: Copiah-Lincoln Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

9. Lake Area Technical College

Watertown, SD

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.

  • Acceptance rate: 100%
  • Graduation rate: 71%
  • Avg. annual net price: $13,301
  • Time to completion: Two years
  • Avg. SAT range for admitted students: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: Two
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous 

Accreditation: Lake Area Technical College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

10. Eastern Gateway Community College

Steubenville, OH

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. 

  • Acceptance rate: 100%
  • Graduation rate: 20%
  • Avg. annual net price: $2,543
  • Time to completion: Two years
  • Avg. SAT range for admitted students: Not publicly available 
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Eastern Gateway Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

In conclusion

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.

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