Complete Guide to an Online Associate Degree
50 percent of students who pursue online degrees elect to participate at the associate degree level. The majority of online associate programs require successful completion of 60 semester hours or 90 quarter hours spaced over a two-year period. Most programs are likely to require a certain amount of credits in the liberal arts. Coursework typically includes classes in the English language, literature, math, science, history, and geography, and are balanced with specialization requirements and electives.
There are many reasons students may choose to pursue an online associate degree. In addition to saving on tuition, application fees, physical textbooks and other incidental expenditures, the flexibility to complete courses at your own convenience is a major source of potential success for students who could not otherwise complete an on-campus degree.
Regardless of a student’s goals, it is paramount to ensure that a particular school or program, especially one offered online, is accredited. In addition to measuring academic capability and educational value, accredited schools are in a position to offer financial assistance at the federal government level to supplement aid offered by a state and the individual institution. Enrolling in an accredited instiution also ensures that your credits are applicable to transfer, should you decide to change schools.
Comprehensive List of Colleges & Universities for an Online Associate Degree
What is an Online Associate Degree?
As with associate degrees completed at brick and mortar institutions, online associate degrees have two overall categories: occupational and transfer. Occupational degrees focus on giving students the hands-on experience necessary to fulfill a certain role, such as nursing assistance, pharmacy technology, and dental assistance.
Students in possession of a high school diploma will find that the occupational avenue opens the door to higher paying positions. Research studies indicate a 21 percent higher income for associate degree holders. According to 2001 statistics for the U.S. Bureau of Labor, associate degree holders average earning a minimum of $100 per week more than those without a degree.
Students may also opt for an associate degree with the aim of eventually transferring into a bachelor’s degree program. Transfer degrees, typically in the form of an associate of arts or associate of science degree, tend to be more focused on providing students with a strong liberal studies background. As bachelor’s degrees usually have general education requirements in addition to the coursework required for a major, students can save a significant amount of money by completing these classes during the course of an online associate degree program.
Popular Online Associate Degrees
The Associate of Applied Science in Information Technology curriculum prepares for employment responsibilities involving computer and wireless network installation and management as well as database management, webpage development and the ability to analyze and resolve software and hardware issues. In addition to IT basics, classes center around software development, human relations and business systems.
Students of an online associate degree program in nursing may choose to pursue a career as an RN or continue on to complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Online nursing classes can be taken in conjunction with practical experience derived from a hospital near the student's residence, and prepare students for careers in nursing assistance or licensed practical nursing.
University College offers an online Associate of Science in Health Sciences degree with an emphasis in nursing. Students of this 70-credit degree will take classes such as human physiology, chemistry for the health sciences, and general microbiology; the program is structured to help students easily transition into a four-year nursing degree.
Columbus State Community College’s Associate of Applied Science in Nursing degree can be completed through a combination of online classes and labs, which need to completed on campus. Students will take classes such as human anatomy, human pathophysiology, and nursing concepts of health maintenance and restoration throughout the course of their program.
The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) are the two accrediting agencies for nursing programs. Graduating from an accredited nursing program helps ensure that students will qualify for national licensing exams, and are best prepared to work with patients.
One of the most popular online associate degree concentrations is criminal justice. The overall curriculum will focus on police duties and responsibilities, many facets of the court system, and preparation for careers in correctional and juvenile justice facilitiesm, criminal investigation, and parole and private security officers.
At the University of Phoenix, students can expect to complete the requirements for an Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice in about 25 months. Overall components of the course of study include criminal law basics, evidence guidelines and criminology.
Students of Liberty University Online's online Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice will graduate prepared for entry-level positions in areas such as corrections, social services, and probation and parole services. The 60-credit course is also designed to help students easily transition to a four-year bachelor's degree program.
For individuals who possess a good math background and who are detail and meticulous at record-keeping, an associate accounting degree affords the opportunity to learn and develop skills related to basic accounting, taxation, payroll and financial statement processing. Whether in an online or physical campus location, classes prepare students to evaluate business assets and liabilities, in addition to teaching students methods for successful problem resolution.
At Liberty University Online, the two-year Associate of Accounting requires 60 semester hours at a cost of $360 per credit hour. A minimum of 15 credit hours must be completed at Liberty. Credits, including those accepted by transfer, can also be applied to the pursuit of a Bachelor of Science in Accounting.
The Importance of Accreditation
Students should consider accreditation as one of the most important factors in selecting the right online degree program. By choosing to enroll in an accredited institution or program, you are making sure that the education you receive is up to national standards. In order to receive federal financial aid, and ensure that your credits are transferrable to another school, your degree must be accredited. Accreditation also signals to employers that you have graduated from an academically rigorous institution, and that your education is valuable.
Accreditation can either be programmatic or institutional. An accredited institution is one that has been reviewed by a regional or national organization; the quality of the educational experience a whole is deemed meets national standards. Regional accreditation is considered the more prestigious of the two. Programmatic accreditation can be conferred by one of several agencies, and is specifically focused on the quality of the curriculum. A degree with this type of accreditation may be required to earn licensing or certification for certain areas. The Distance Education Training Council is the premier accrediting agency for schools offering online degrees.
- Making the Grade: Online Education in the United States. Online Learning Consortium. November 2006. http://www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/reports/making-the-grade.pdf.
- Registered Nurses. BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook. Accessed October 11, 2015. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm.
- Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists. BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook. Accessed October 11, 2015. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/probation-officers-and-correctional-treatment-specialists.htm.
- Social and Human Service Assitants. BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook. Accessed October 11, 2015. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-and-human-service-assistants.htm.
- Accountants and Auditors. BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook. Accessed October 11, 2015. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm.
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