Online Associate Degree
An associate degree is a 2-year degree offered at colleges, universities or technical schools. The degree typically requires about 60 semester hours of education including general education requirements such as mathematics, reading, writing and science. In general, an associate degree can either prepare students for further education, such as earning a bachelor's degree, or may fulfill technical training such as an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN).
Many associate degrees can also be a profession's entry-level degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov/ooh), 40 professions, such as registered nurses and broadcast technicians, require an associate degree for employment. Not all of these professions outside of the middle class as some professions may even pay up to $70,000 or more, such as radiation therapists (BLS.gov/oes), air traffic controllers (BLS.gov/oes) or construction managers (BLS.gov/oes). Remember, wages can vary by experience, education and the location of employment.
Why get an associate degree online?
According to a 2013 report by the Sloan Consortium, associate degree programs are believed to have the greatest ability to scale into an online environment. Not surprisingly, as of 2006, 51.5 percent of all online students were taking classes for an online associate degree, compared to the 37.9 percent of all higher education students who were enrolled in associate degree programs (Sloan, 2006).
Part of an associate degree’s ability to move into an online environment is the predominance of general education. Many associate degree programs, such as those offered by Belmont College, require more than half of the 60 or more total semester hours to be in general education. These general education requirements can be offered through both online courses that provide direct contact with a professor or through massive open online courses (MOOCs). These online courses can be used to create either a blended or completely online associate degree program.
Associate degree programs can be offered in many fields and some can be offered entirely online, such as bookkeeping and accounting degrees or degrees in paralegal and legal studies. Some degree programs, such as for dental assistants, may require hands-on training and on-site attendance, which don't lend themselves to a fully online associate degree program.
Types of Associate Degrees
An associate of applied science degree (A.A.S.) is typically achieved through a technical program, such as network management, and provides graduates with the skills for entry-level employment in a specific field, such as a paralegal. These degrees can be offered at community colleges, technical schools or through vocational institutions. Their credits may not transfer to other programs or colleges.
Unlike the A.A.S. degree, the credits for an associate of arts degree (A.A.) or an associate of science degree (A.S.) degree can transfer to 4-year colleges or to other degree programs. Some degrees, such as computer programming, can also prepare students for an entry-level position following graduation. However, there are also associate degrees in the “classics” such as creative writing and history. A.A. and A.S. degrees are offered at community colleges, some universities, and vocational institutions.
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012-2013 Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/home.htm
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Occupation Finder, March 2012, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/occupation-finder.htm?pay=&education=Associate%E2%80%99s+degree&training=&newjobs=&growth=&submit=GO
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011, Radiation Therapists, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291124.htm
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011, Air Traffic Controllers, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes532021.htm
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011, Construction Managers, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes119021.htm
edX, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2013, https://www.edx.org/university_profile/MITx
Belmont College, Associate of Arts (AAG), 2012, http://www.belmontcollege.edu/academics/majors-and-programs/associate-of-artsscience/associate-of-arts.aspx
Sloan Consortium, Making the Grade: Online Education in the United States, 2006, I. Elaine Allen, Jeff Seaman, http://www.assessment.mountainstate.edu/Sloan%20Reports/Sloan%20Survey%202011/Sloan%20Survey%202011%20Making_the_Grade%5B1%5D.pdf
Sloan Consortium, Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States, January 2013, I. Elaine Allen, Jeff Seaman, http://www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/reports/changingcourse.pdf