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An Overview of Online Associate Degree

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So far as I know, an associate degree is awarded by community colleges, junior colleges, technical colleges and bachelor’s degree-granting colleges and universities.

This means you can earn an associate degree from community colleges, 4-year colleges, universities, vocational schools and trade schools.

As for learning styles, many of these institutions offer you the option of attending an on-campus program or earning their degree online. When we get this point, some people may wonder: is there any difference between online associate degrees and campus-based ones?

Um…how shall I put it…?

Time Requirements

In terms of time requirements, an associate degree (whether online or campus-based) is awarded to students who complete 2 years of schooling. You know, associate degrees are sometimes referred to as “two-year” degrees because it is possible to get the degree in approximately that long.

However, if you place into developmental (sometimes called pre-college or remedial) courses, it may take more time as these credits will not apply towards the associate degree.

Anyway, to some extent, time requirements are much the same whether it’s for campus-based or online associate degree. But, regarding time schedule or course schedule, there is significant difference between them.

In a campus-based associate degree program, you are offered a fixed time schedule. That is to say, you are required to attend a campus class at a set time. For convenience, however, many campus-based associate degree programs now are available both as full-time and part-time. Most U.S. community colleges or 2 years colleges provide courses during evening and weekend hours, to accommodate part-time students (many of whom have to work full or part time).

Compared to on-campus degrees, online associate degrees are more flexible, allowing students to learn whenever they want. Due to this, today more and more students choose to earn their associate degrees online. According to Sloan Consortium report, 51% of all degrees earned online are associate degrees.


Speaking of online associate degrees, many of us want to know whether we will get the same quality of education and have the same support services that on-campus students have. I can only say that you will learn the same amount of material in either an online or campus class. The same textbook, the same assignments, the same instructor and the same support services will be provided also.

So, concerning quality, it also depends on your own efforts. Today, many studies show that distance learners perform as well or even better than their on-campus counterparts.


As for cost, it varies from school to school. Totally saying, online associate degree programs can be cheaper than on-campus counterparts. Though an associate degree only takes two years to complete, an on-campus program will involve expenses for bed and board or transportation. However, for an online program, these fees can be avoided.

However, take only tuition fee – online classes are a bit more expensive than campus classes in many colleges. For example, Davenport University charges $7,560 per semester for in-seat tuition and $7,710 per semester for online tuition.

Aha…you may have found some benefits of online associate degrees, right? Indeed, online associate degree has much to recommend – at least that was what I thought. It offers more than you might have ever thought possible.

Study in a Comfortable Way

Since online associate degree programs are conducted online, you can learn anywhere – even in the comfort of your own home. This will save you a lot of time of commuting between school and home. You will never have to fight traffic or parking lots to attend class.

Learn at Your Own Pace

As we know, a classroom-based class usually lasts an hour or two. Within the class time, instructors need to deliver their lessons and assignments. Thus, students have less time to pose thoughtful comments and questions. And if they do, it is impossible that every student has the opportunity.

However, in an online format, it is possible for students to learn at their own pace – this means all students have ample time to think and understand. If having any questions, you can communicate with your instructor through emails and discussion posts.

Balance Your Job or Family and Study

As I mentioned, online degree allows you to study anytime or anywhere. This means you are able to go to work or look after your children during the daytime and study at nighttime or weekends. Sure, you can also choose to participate in evening classes through a part-time associate degree program.

But, don’t you feel exhausted by the time you get home each night. Online programs provide the same instruction without the exhaustion, commute or unnecessary hassle.

Take Specialized Course Work

For most campus-based degree programs including associate degree programs, students have to take classes irrelevant to their major or take elective classes. For instance, an associate degree program in computer science & design may require you to study English composition or humanities.

However, in an associate degree program, you probably don’t need unless required by your major. This allows students to accent and study especially what they need to learn for their occupation.

Note: As online associate degree program is self-directed and unstructured, it doesn’t work for everyone. To get success with an online associate degree, you must be highly motivated and organized.

Also, no matter what online associate degree program you choose, make sure it is accredited. No doubt – accreditation is very vital to your online degree. According to the U.S. Department of Education, accreditation is to ensure that programs by institutions of higher education meet acceptable levels of quality.

More importantly, accreditation is regarded as one of the primary issues in employment. Most employers want to be sure that their prospective employees earned their degree from a program especially online program with accreditation.

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Online Associate Degree