We rank the best online associate degree programs here.
On average, traditional online associate degree programs have a two-year completion period. But if you’re in a hurry, you will find online associate degree programs that can be completed in 1 year!
With speed comes pros and cons that you must consider before considering accelerated online associate degree programs in whatever field you’re interested in. Both traditional and accelerated online programs, however, are offered in a wide range of higher education institutions, from career schools and community colleges to four-year universities.
Whether you choose a typical associate degree program, usually a two-year or one-year degree, you can pursue a bachelor’s degree or enter the workforce after graduation. The first option is possible because the college credits earned in an associate degree from a regionally accredited institution can be transferred to a bachelor’s degree in many cases.
Better yet, you can pursue both options and become a working student in a bachelor’s degree program!
How do accelerated programs make it possible for students to earn an associate degree in just one year?
There are several options:
For example, with 30 college credits from general education courses transferred to an online associate degree program, the 60-credit, two-year program of study can be shortened to one year.
Some accelerated online associate degree programs also have different program formats, including:
Each accelerated online associate degree program has a unique format; thus, interested individuals must carefully consider each program based on its specific merits.Back to Top
Why choose accelerated online associate degree programs in the first place? Students in these programs cite reasons like saving money on tuition, entering the workforce with better academic credentials faster, and earning a bachelor’s degree faster.
But earning an associate degree online via an accelerated program has its demands, too. Students must be prepared for the academic challenges brought on by the intensive, fast-tracked program of study. Instead of two courses every term, for example, students must take three courses.
There’s also less time for the college experience, including on-campus networking and extracurricular activities. Balancing work and studies with personal commitments is also challenging, particularly for adult learners.
The beauty of pursuing online accelerated associate degrees lies in the benefits of online learning!
Online students can work around their class schedules, learn anywhere and anytime, and access a wide range of digital resources. Most online associate degree programs have asynchronous class schedules, too, meaning students can access learning materials 24/7.
Online associate degree programs that are offered in an accelerated format are usually one of these three types of degrees:
The associate of arts (AA) and associate of science (AS) degrees are foundational because their credits can be transferred into related bachelor’s degree programs. The associate of applied science (AAS) degrees are usually career preparation degrees with credits that may or may not be transferable to bachelor’s degree programs.
Online associate degree programs with accelerated formats have different admission requirements and criteria. Check these aspects, their deadlines, and financial aid availability.
Common admission requirements for online associate degree programs include:
Many programs, however, will accept students based on their high school diploma only but with a satisfactory GPA.
Bachelor’s degree programs usually have the same requirements, but the official transcripts will come from the completed associate degree rather than high school.
The typical online associate degree programs have respective curriculums, including general education, concentration, and elective courses.
General education courses may not be taken in accelerated online programs due to transferred credits. But concentration and elective courses should be part of the study program.Back to Top
According to the country’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers with an associate degree have higher earnings and lower unemployment rates!
With an associate degree, a worker can earn a median weekly wage of $963 in comparison to $809 for a worker with a high school diploma. In terms of unemployment, workers with associate degrees are less likely to be unemployed (4.6%) than those with a high school diploma (6.2%)
And there’s no distinction between an online and on-campus or a traditional or accelerated associate degree either! As long as you have an associate degree from an accredited school and other professional qualifications, your job prospects are better than without it.
Plus, you can leverage your accelerated online associate degree by highlighting the dedication and determination it takes to earn the credential!Back to Top
Online associate degree programs earned in an accelerated program can be a real asset. If you want the best accelerated online associate degree on your resume, you must consider the following factors.
Regional accreditation is best, but national accreditation for career schools is also accepted. All the accelerated online programs offering associate degrees on our list have valid accreditation.
Location is important even for online associate degree programs because there may be on-campus requirements and resources that will advance your studies.
Fully online and blended formats and synchronous and asynchronous course schedules are available. Consider the exact format in an accelerated associate degree program before matriculating.
While online associate degree programs generally have a more affordable cost of attendance, there are exceptions to the rule. Ask about the differences between in-state and out-of-state tuition and financial aid options.
Online students succeed because their colleges and universities provide them with satisfactory to excellent student support services. These include library access, writing and career services, online tutoring, and academic advising.Back to Top
Below, you will find your best options for earning an accredited associates degree in one year or less!
The impressive success of Liberty University can be seen in its record 130,000-strong student body, most of which are online students enrolled in 450+ online programs. The evangelical liberal arts university’s students are also spread across the US and globally. Indeed, its mission of Training Champions for Christ has served it well in its 50-year—and counting—history!
Among its accelerated online programs is the AAS in Medical Office Assistant program. Students learn medical-related tasks, such as medical billing and coding, as well as the medical terminology and legal concerns of medical assisting. Courses include professional liability, HIPAA, and risk management.
Every associate degree program and its courses have a robust Christian worldview, dedicated and credentialed faculty, and flexible schedules. Excellence in academics is always emphasized, too.Liberty University is great for students who:
Thrive in a Christian university that encourages its students to expand their intellect and faith while pursuing their academic credentialsLiberty University might not be the best fit for students who:
Prefer a secular learning environment.
As a public-benefit corporation, Purdue University Global is unique within the Purdue University system and, thus, operates as an independent institution. Students choose from over 175 online programs with start dates throughout the year and a 3-week trial period for undecided students. This is among the reasons for its recognition as among the most innovative schools in the country.
The AAS in Fire Science program, a FESHE-recognized program, accepts transfer credits from college credits, military service, and work experience. Students learn the knowledge and skills to become competent firefighters and fire science professionals via lectures and an optional internship.
The open admissions policy and standardized competency-based learning allow adult learners to earn their associate’s and bachelor’s degrees more conveniently and affordably.Purdue University Global is great for students who:
Like the convenience, flexibility and affordability of adult learner-centric online programs with programs of study designed for optimum workplace usability and impact.Purdue University Global might not be the best fit for students who:
Want the fast and easy transferability of credits within a university system (i.e., each campus has its own policies, thus, the transfer limitations)
The University of Massachusetts Lowell is well-known for its academic excellence, particularly in criminal justice, engineering, science, and technology. Many of its bachelor’s degree programs are pioneering, such as music education, meteorology, plastics, and nuclear engineering. UMass Lowell is also a pioneer in online learning, and students can access lecture materials via its extensive archives.
The AS in Information Technology program enables students to learn IT skills, including programming, computer networking, and database development. Graduates are prepared for entry-level positions with the potential for career advancement via professional certificates.
Online students are provided with the same world-class education as their on-campus counterparts. UMass Lowell takes pride in its outstanding faculty, programs with an excellent return on investment, and exceptional student support services.UMass Lowell is great for students who:
Thrive in a competitive environment where learning through experience is emphasizedUMass Lowell might not be the best fit for students who:
Want to attend a party school
Creating change together is the rallying cry of DeVry University, and it’s one that the university has been and continues to be successful at! Aside from its diverse student body, its programs are stepping stones for students to maximize their workforce opportunities, and many of these programs are intended for underrepresented groups.
Among its standout programs is the CAHIIM-accredited Associate in Health Information Technology program, where students prepare for the AHIMA RHIT certification exam. Students learn solid health services and information systems skills, among other relevant topics.
Peer interaction, academic excellence and faculty involvement in student success are at the core of online learning at DeVry University. Students use the latest digital technologies to gain knowledge and skills for their future professions and to experience college life.DeVry University is great for students who:
Thrive in a large university where students have a wide range of extracurricular activities and student support services to look forward to.DeVry University might not be the best fit for students who:
Prefer studying and working alone or like a small campus vibe
Among the distinguished members of the Florida College System, Florida State College at Jacksonville offers a wide range of accelerated programs with affordable costs of attendance. The diverse student body consists of Americans from across the US and over 154 countries who benefit from the open admissions policy.
The AS in Criminal Justice Technology program is popular because of its emphasis on a balance of technical and transferable skills in the field. Students prepare for practice in diverse workplaces, from the police system to the courts and corrections system. College credit can be granted to certain professional certifications.
FSCJ is a multi-awarded institution with recognition. It is hailed as one of the country’s most promising community colleges and the recipient of the 2021 IDEAS Grant. Students choose from 22 fields offered in degree and certificate programs, such as business administration, liberal arts and science, and health sciences.FSCJ is great for students who:
Love the large community college feel with its diverse student body and friendly environmentFSCJ might not be the best fit for students who:
Prefer the small community college vibe
Athletes of Marian University are among the best in the nation, with eight NAIA National Championship titles in cycling, football, women’s basketball, and men’s track and field, and 45 USA Cycling National Championships. But its students aren’t just all into athletics either! Marian University offers degree programs in diverse fields, from business, education, and math to medicine and engineering.
The AS in Paralegal Studies program is well-known for its emphasis on academic excellence and hands-on learning experiences via internships. Students thrive under the 1:1 student-mentor program, learn from attorneys and paralegals, and tackle courses in legal writing, research, and communication.
With its strategic location, Marian University provides its students and alums with abundant opportunities for professional networking and employment in advanced manufacturing and logistics, life sciences, and sports, among other industries.Marian University is great for students who:
Benefit from close student mentoring, high-impact learning environments, and community service programsMarian University might not be the best fit for students who:
Prefer the party-centric college experience
Students and alums agree that Bryan University is the best university for professional success via a career-focused education. With its peaceful rural campus spread over 128 acres, it’s the type of university that fosters camaraderie and academic excellence.
Look at its Associate in Paralegal Studies and Litigation Technologies program, where students learn paralegal science, investigative research, litigation, and database management. Students thrive in the interactive virtual classrooms equipped with the ELSSA simulation lab.
Both students and alums benefit from job search assistance, employment counseling, and career preparation workshops that enable them to put their education to practice—and earn from it, too. Students thrive under the mentorship of their professors, too, with both face-to-face and virtual communication channels available.Bryan University is great for students who:
Like the fluidity of moving between multiple campuses and who prefer diverse student bodiesBryan University might not be the best fit for students who:
Prefer an everybody-knows-everybody campus vibe
The nursing profession holds a special place at Howard College, which shows in the excellent nursing programs offered on-campus and online. The first was the LVN program offered in 1958, followed by the associate degree program in 1976. Starting in June 2003, the RN program’s didactic aspects during the second year were conducted online—truly, proof of Howard University’s innovation philosophy.
Of note is the Transition Associate Degree Nursing Program that accepts students with vocational nursing credentials who want to become registered nurses. Students take a transition nursing course and then join the standard ADN program after its successful completion. Graduates may also earn their bachelor’s degree in nursing at Texas universities.
With about 1,000 students, Howard College fosters a small community environment that allows its students to thrive under the tutelage of their seniors and professors. Many famous sports personalities are alums, such as Joe Cooper and Ed Fortune, a Florida politician.Howard College is great for students who:
Flourish in a tight-knit community where students receive an excellent education and one-on-one supportHoward College might not be the best fit for students who:
Like a large campus where blending into the crowd is possible
With its emphasis on career-focused education, Penn Foster Career School plays a vital role in national development, particularly in training career-ready professionals and skilled workers. Its origins as the International Correspondence Schools are proof of its commitment to education for everybody, anywhere and anytime.
The Associate in Construction Technology program is proof of such commitment! Students gain industry-ready knowledge and skills for the residential and light commercial construction industry. Students learn hands-on skills via software like AutoCAD, too.
Affordable education doesn’t mean inferior training, and that’s what Penn Foster proves! Students benefit from easy access to digital learning materials, career-relevant coursework, and supportive coaching from their instructors.Penn Foster is great for students who:
Want to gain knowledge and skills that will give them a competitive advantage in career advancementPenn Foster might not be the best fit for students who:
Want the research opportunities and college experiences offered by large 4-year universities
Barton Community College is the best place for Occupational Safety and Health Education. It’s the only OSHA education center in Kansas and one of only 42 centers across the United States. Students can earn two professional occupational safety and health certificates with an industrial or construction emphasis.
The credits earned from these professional certificates are counted toward the AAS in Occupational Safety and Health degree, too. Students must take accelerated coursework to earn the degree faster but still learn the fundamentals of occupational safety and health for career advancement.
Barton offers more than just vocational, technical, and career training programs and fine and performing arts programs, making it one of the country’s best community colleges. Even its athletic programs bring honor to the college with more than 50 national championships!Barton is great for students who:
Want equal access to quality yet affordable higher education, as well as a wide range of programs in a community collegearton might not be the best fit for students who:
Want a large campus with a diverse student body from anywhere in the US
A member of the 23-strong Virginia Community College System, Germanna Community College is a career-focused school that enables its students to learn a skill for career advancement. As a two-year institution, Germanna offers a comprehensive range of associate degree programs for residents across several counties and the City of Fredericksburg. The credit for life experiences and open admissions policy attract adult learners to its programs in liberal arts and sciences, among others.
The AA in Liberal Arts program is a transfer program with credits earned transferable to a bachelor’s degree program in a four-year institution. Students choose from Humanities, Library Science, and Political Science.
Germanna offers quality and accessible educational and training opportunities aligned with its clientele’s learning and employment demands. Germanna Educational Foundation, Inc.’s adjunct is responsible for administering private funds according to the community college’s mission.Germanna is great for students who:
Love a wide range of opportunities for student enrichment from student-led organizations, events, and sports activities in addition to the exceptional education and trainingGermanna might not be the best fit for students who:
Have a bias for the small-town atmosphere of small community colleges
Then and now, Franklin Pierce University is known for its strong emphasis on contemporary liberal arts education, underlining career-ready training opportunities. Proof of it is among the world’s 100% student-run fire companies, the Franklin Pierce Fire, where student fire officers and firefighters work with the Rindge Fire Department.
There’s also the AA in Human Services program that prepares students for diverse occupations as helping professionals. Didactic coursework empowers students with the knowledge, while internships enable skills development. Students tackle courses in counseling, public policy, and education in human services.
With more than 30 organizations and clubs open for online students, there are plenty of extracurricular and networking opportunities! The university also encourages its students to lead in sports, science and performing arts with famous alums like Justin Blood, Temple Grandin, and Rebekah Harkness.Franklin is great for students who:
Love the one-on-one mentoring and support services, tight-knit community feel, and competitive academicsFranklin might not be the best fit for students who:
Prefer research opportunities in science and technology offered by large research universities
Earning your associate degree at Hodges University in less than 24 months is possible, thanks to its generous transfer policies! Prospective students can choose from accelerated online associate degree programs aside from transferring credits. In case of credit transfers, Hodges has a CLEP, DSST Credit by Exam, Advanced Placement, and Gold Standard Career Pathways Certificates programs.
Students enrolled in the AA in Digital Design and Graphics can also take advantage of these credit transfer programs. Their coursework prepares them for immediate employment and bachelor’s degree programs after graduation. Students learn AutoCAD, Adobe Creative Cloud, and other software skills. Adult learners can choose from monthly course start dates.
The cornerstones of higher education at Hodges University are flexible class scheduling, rigorous coursework, and career-ready skills. Students can also look forward to outstanding student support services and access to its impressive array of volumes at the Terry P. McMahan Library.Hodges is great for students who:
Flourish in small class sizes, student-centric policies and facilities (e.g., service dogs are allowed), and productive student-professor interactions as well as rigorous academic courseworkHodges might not be the best fit for students who:
Want a more affordable college education
Starting as a women’s college, Notre Dame College of Ohio has been a co-ed institution since January 2001 and has expanded its wings, too! With a student body from across the United States and over 20 countries, it’s among the most diverse colleges, not to mention a haven for students with its rich opportunities for extracurricular engagements.
Among its notable career-driven associate degree programs is the AA in Business Management program that features 8-week courses in accounting, marketing, and economics. Students benefit from a well-rounded education with a strong liberal arts foundation and business administration courses.
Students receive the best possible resources and support for their academic success and to develop their passions and talents, thus, contributing to education with a purpose. Notre Dame College may be a small school, but the research opportunities for students are excellent!Notre Dame is great for students who:
Like the unique combination of a small school where students and faculty, and staff members are on a first-name basis and an institution of higher learning with world-class standardsNotre Dame might not be the best fit for students who:
Prefer the larger universities where students are likely to keep to themselves and their circles
Part of the extensive Virginia Community College System, Tidewater Community College is popular for its comprehensive range of on-campus and online associate degree and certificate programs. Students and graduates also benefit from the transfer agreements between TCC and four-year universities, such as Norfolk State University and Virginia Wesleyan University (i.e., Tidewater Promise).
But it isn’t all serious business at TCC, either! Students can submit their literary works in time for the Annual Literary Festival.
Students in the AS in Business Administration also have writing skills that allow them to tackle marketing, economics, and management courses successfully. With personalized attention, including regular academic advising, the students thrive and earn their associate degrees faster. Both freshmen and adult learners are welcome to apply.
TCC is the largest—and best if we must say so—school for college education and provider of workforce services in Hampton Roads, home to major companies, including Fortune 500 corporations. Students and alums have abundant career opportunities with their TCC training, and students benefit from modern facilities, credentialed faculty, and rigorous coursework.TCC is great for students who:
Want a quality college education underlined by robust career-ready training that won’t leave them mired in student debtTCC might not be the best fit for students who:
Prefer small community colleges