When someone makes the decision to further their education but they are not sure if a bachelor’s degree is the answer, the top online colleges for associate’s degrees may be the best option. An associate’s degree is a two-year post-secondary degree and there are many careers that only require a two-year degree in order to apply.

Research indicates that people who hold associate’s degrees earn more than $693,000 more over their lifetime than those with only a high school diploma. Annually, an associate’s degree can raise someone’s salary as much as $7,200 on average. In addition, when employer see a resume with an associate’s degree, they realize that the candidate set a goal and met it. They also see someone with credible, job-ready skills. An associate’s degree also allows individuals to transfer into four-year colleges as a junior, eliminating the need to take foundation courses at the higher costs that most four-year colleges charge in tuition.

When it comes to identifying the top online colleges for associates degrees, there are many factors to consider. Many on the list appear frequently on lists of top ten schools in publications like U.S. News & World Report, Forbes and Kiplinger. It is important to be sure that the school is regionally accredited as well. Although cost may be a factor, it should not be the only factor when choosing associate’s degree colleges online. Flexibility is also critical. The top colleges often offer multiple start dates throughout the year, while most traditional classes have one start date in each semester. Online courses may also be in an accelerated format so that they can be completed in less time than traditional classes, allowing students to take more classes per year and graduate more quickly, even while attending part-time. These schools also offer a wide range of online associate’s degree programs.

10. Colorado Technical University

Colorado Technical University understands that, although traditional education may be right for some, there are many people who have work, family or social obligations that make it difficult for them to attend traditional classes. The school allows students to work toward an associate’s degree without upsetting the work-life balance. Online tuition is $325 per credit hour and $210 per credit hour for active duty, reserve and National Guard members. The admissions process varies depending on the program selected, but all students must submit to an interview with an admissions counselor, either in person or by phone, complete an application and provide proof of high school graduation or equivalency. Online associate’s degree programs available include:

  • Business Administration
  • Management

9. Kaplan University

Kaplan University allows students to study on their own schedule with new terms that start every two weeks. Programs can be personalized and all classes are taught by experienced faculty. Over 90 percent of Kaplan graduates feel their education was relevant to their career goals and there are over 33,000 students enrolled. Kaplan University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Their focus is on helping students build their career in order to succeed. They provide support when students need it and that support is at the forefront of all they do at Kaplan. In addition, Kaplan allows students to experience an undergraduate program for an introductory three-week period with no financial obligation other than the application fee to see if the program is right for them. Kaplan also assists students in identifying financial aid to lower the cost of tuition. Many students qualify for a Kaplan scholarship which can lower tuition by as much as $500 per term. Online associate’s degree programs include:

  • Associate of Applied Science in Accounting
  • Associate of Applied Science in Business Administration
  • Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology
  • Associate of Applied Science in Fire Science
  • Associate of Applied Science in Information Technology
  • Associate of Applied Science in Legal Support and Services
  • Associate of Applied Science in Public Safety and Security
  • Associate of Science in Health Science
  • Associate of Science in Nursing

8. Great Basin College

Great Basin College offers online courses that give students the same credits, follow the same course outline and have the same outcomes as traditional classes. Great Basin is a pioneer in long-distance education, offering a wide range of degree programs that are completely online. Students are able to learn at their own pace and at their convenience. The online associate of arts degrees is designed for those who plan to transfer to a four-year program or whose career goals include an industry that requires a two-year degree. Great Basin is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Associate degree programs available completely online include:

  • Associate of Applied Sciences Accounting Emphasis
  • Associate of Applied Sciences Computer Programming
  • Associate of Applied Sciences Infant/Toddler Education
  • Associate of Applied Sciences Early Childhood Education
  • Associate of Applied Sciences Entrepreneurship Emphasis
  • Associate of Applied Sciences General Business Emphasis
  • Associate of Applied Sciences Graphic Communication Emphasis
  • Associate of Applied Sciences Human Services
  • Associate of Applied Sciences Network Specialist Emphasis
  • Associate of Applied Sciences Office Technology Emphasis
  • Associate of Arts in Pattern of Study in Early Childhood Education
  • Associate of Arts in Graphic Communications
  • Associate of Arts in Pattern of Study in Business
  • Associate of Science in Land Surveying/Geomatics

7. Florida Institute of Technology

Florida Institute of Technology provides working professionals with a method to achieve their higher education goals. Online learning also allows people to develop additional skills and professional development necessary to move into a new career or advance in a current career. All classes are taught by the same world-class faculty as courses taught in traditional classrooms. The college is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. It has been ranked as a top online college for associates degrees by U.S. News & World Report, Forbes and the Princeton Review. Associates degrees available completely online include:

  • Accounting
  • Applied Psychology
  • Aviation Management
  • Business Administration
  • Computer Information Systems
  • Criminal Justice
  • Healthcare Management
  • Liberal Arts
  • Management
  • Marketing

6. Goodwin College

Goodwin College is accredited by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Regional accreditation indicates that the school meets or exceeds criteria set forth by the agency that indicate excellence in education. Goodwin has been committed to preparing students to be leaders in their field for more than ten years and the online programs bring the tradition of excellence to the world of education. Their online programs make it possible for students to earn college credits while meeting work, family and social obligations that may make it difficult for them to attend traditional classes. The programs offered online are the same rigorous programs offered in the classroom and are taught by the same highly qualified faculty members. Associate degree programs available online may include:

  • Business Administration
  • CNC Machining
  • Criminal Justice
  • Dental Hygiene
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Environmental Studies
  • General Studies
  • Health Sciences
  • Histology
  • Homeland Security
  • Human Services
  • Manufacturing
  • Medical Assisting
  • Nursing
  • Occupational Therapy Assistant
  • Ophthalmic Science
  • Quality Management Systems
  • Respiratory Care
  • Supply Chain and Logistics Management

Some programs may be offered in a hybrid format where students may need to take some classes on campus while others are delivered online. Some programs may also require an internship or practicum.

5. Southern New Hampshire University

Since 1932, Southern New Hampshire University has been offering programs that exemplify excellence in education. They have consistently reinvented higher education and have gained national recognition for their dedication in helping students succeed. The university has one of the lowest tuition rates in the country and has frozen tuition through June 2017. Admissions counselors are available to guarantee students choose the right programs and a dedicated academic advisor guides each student through their academic career at the university. Instructors have real-world experience in their field and there is an online bookstore, library, tutoring as well as 24/7 technical support. Southern New Hampshire University is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. This top online college for associates degrees offers the following programs in a completely online format:

  • Accounting
  • Business Administration
  • Criminal Justice
  • Digital Photography
  • Fashion Merchandising
  • Information Technology
  • Liberal Arts
  • Marketing

4. Pennsylvania State University World Campus

Pennsylvania State University was one of the first universities to provide online learning. They have over 125 career-focused programs that are taught by renowned faculty. All online programs contain the same rigorous curriculum that traditional classroom students receive. Corporate recruiters rank Penn State highly because they recognize that the school’s graduates are prepared to be successful. The college is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. As such, an online diploma is the same diploma a traditional student receives. As a top online college for associate degrees, Penn State offers the following programs that are available completely online through their World Campus:

  • Business Administration
  • Human Development and Family Studies
  • Information Sciences and Technology
  • Labor and Employment Relations
  • Letters, Arts and Sciences
  • Turfgrass Science and Management

3. Bismarck State College

Bismarck State College offers online courses in almost every discipline and some programs are available only in an online format. Almost two-thirds of the students at Bismarck are enrolled in at least one online course and at least 44 percent are enrolled only in online courses. The online courses at Bismarck are not easier than traditional classes as they use the same rigorous curriculum. Students must complete weekly assignments, quizzes and tests. There are deadlines that must be met and students must participate in discussions using a schedule created by their instructor. The school offers 58 online start dates throughout the year, providing additional flexibility. Bismarck State College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. The online programs available include:

  • Administrative Assistant
  • Business Administration
  • Computer Support Specialist
  • Criminal Justice
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Human Services/Eligibility Worker
  • Information Processing Specialist
  • Management
  • Web Page Development and Design
  • Electric Power Technology
  • Electrical Transmission Systems Technology
  • Nuclear Power Technology
  • Petroleum Production Technology
  • Power Plant Technology
  • Process Plant Technology
  • Energy Services and Renewable Technician
  • Instrumentation and Control Technology

2. Liberty University

Liberty University is the largest Christian university in the world and offers 250 online programs. Students at Liberty University not only achieve their career goals and reach new heights, they can do so while building a stronger relationship with God. Liberty has been pioneering online programs since 1985 and created a community of learners from around the world. The same courses taught online are taught in classrooms on campus. All programs are taught from a Christian worldview with professors who look at teaching as their ministry. Liberty offers some of the lowest tuition rates among other top online colleges for associate degrees. Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Associates degrees available online include:

  • Associate of Applied Science in Office Assistant
  • Associate of Arts in Accounting
  • Associate of Arts in Business
  • Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education
  • Associate of Arts in Education
  • Associate of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies
  • Associate of Arts in Psychology
  • Associate of Arts in Psychology – Christian Counseling
  • Associate of Arts in Religion

1. University of Alaska Fairbanks

University of Alaska Fairbanks is ranked the top online college for associates degrees due to its flexibility, rigorous curriculum and innovation. All courses are designed by instructors who are experts in their field. Students attend classes with a wide range of other students, from Native Alaskans to military members and more. Students report that they learn as much from their fellow students as they do the instructor in the online format. There is also a strong team of support professionals who are ready to guide students through the online programs. The University of Alaska Fairbanks has been accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities since 1934, attesting to their long commitment to excellence in education. The University of Alaska Fairbanks is ranked among the top national universities, as a top public school and as one of the best undergraduate engineering programs in the country by U.S. News & World Report. In addition, high school counselors rank the school among the top 200 in the country. The online criminal justice program is ranked 35th in the country. Forbes ranks the college in the top 100 in the west and the top 200 in public colleges as well as research universities. The online associates degrees offered at the university include:

  • Applied Accounting, A.A.S.
  • Applied Business, A.A.S.
  • Associate of Arts
  • Early Childhood Education, A.A.S.
  • Information Technology Specialist, A.A.S.

Many working adults struggle to achieve their higher education goals as they must manage work, family and social obligations that make it difficult to attend traditional classes. Online programs provide individuals with the ability to move into a new career or advance in a current career. These top online colleges for associates degrees offer the best options for individuals who want to earn their two-year college degree but may have difficulty doing so in a traditional setting.