There are plenty of high school graduates who want to head back to college for an associate degree. Unfortunately, many are working at a job they don’t love while dreaming of advancing their careers. Working full time and trying to go to college presents a problem. But taking online classes can solve it. Online associate degree programs let students work and go to college simultaneously. And they can do it even if they already have other obligations.

How Long Does It Take To Get an Associate Degree?

How Long Does It Take To Earn an Associate Degree?

When a student attends physical classes, an associate degree program can take two years or more. But, high school students asking the question “how long does an associate degree take?” may want to know about other available options.

Associate programs generally last from one to two years. However, many associate’s degrees can be completed in one year or less with summer and winter classes.

Nursing and physician assistant degrees often take longer. Yet, the added time is offset by the increased earning potential for the student after graduation.

Associate Degrees Online

A college that offers associate degrees will educate you in many fields, from business to arts to computers to human resources. In addition, students can use an associate degree to enter a four-year college later. This will allow them to earn a bachelor’s degree in their chosen field.

For example, you can pursue associate degrees in all kinds of fields, including:

  • Business
  • Accounting
  • Journalism
  • Technology
  • Management
  • Science

Of course, this is only a partial list. Whether it’s business or liberal arts, the online college degree is the same as one received in a traditional classroom as long as the school is accredited.

Degree Levels

In addition to getting an associate degree online, students can pursue online degrees at all other college levels, too, including:

  • Bachelor’s
  • Master’s
  • Doctoral

This section will briefly touch on the degree programs available to students who want to pursue online learning.

The Types of Online Degree Programs

If you want to pursue an online degree, you’ve got many choices. But, in general, you’ll be at one of four levels:

Associate Degrees

How Many Credits? Approximately 60

We’ve already discussed associate degrees, but we’ll quickly go over it. Associate degrees are the next level up from a high school diploma and provide training and education in multiple areas.

Associate Degree Online

What Is the Goal of Getting an Associate Degree?

The goal of getting an associate degree can vary depending on your needs and preferences. For example, some high school graduates want to get an associate degree to learn specific skills for a profession. In this case, the degree is designed to prepare students for a job.

Other times, the two years spent getting an associate degree are intended to prepare the student to pursue a bachelor’s degree program.

Less coursework is required with an associate’s degree, so it takes less time to graduate. How long does it take to get an associate’s degree? You’ll have courses in general education, your major, and electives that typically take around two years or less to complete. However, that time frame can vary, especially with online programs.

What Are the Different Award Levels You Can Get With an Associate Degree?

Students can earn pursue associate degrees of four types:

  • A.A.: Associate of Arts
  • A.S.: Associate of Science
  • A.A.A.: Associate of Applied Arts
  • A.A.S.: Associate of Applied Science

The award, of course, will depend on your specific plans, the profession you want to pursue, and what interests you.

Bachelor’s Degrees

How Many Credits? Approximately 120

Like associate degrees, online bachelor’s degree programs can be found in all majors. Most will include coursework in electives, general education, and the student’s major, but it will be more involved. A bachelor’s degree typically takes about four years to complete.

As with an associate degree, students can obtain a bachelor’s degree in any field imaginable.

You can study popular programs like:

  • Political Science
  • English
  • Communications
  • Accounting
  • Computer Science
  • Management
  • Education
  • Nursing
  • Psychology

You can also pursue something more unusual. For example, you can find online bachelor’s degrees for topics like:

  • Cannabis growing
  • Fermentation Sciences
  • Auctioneering
  • Golf Course Management
  • Bagpipe Studies

When studying online, you are really only limited by your own imagination.

What Is the Goal of Getting a Bachelor’s Degree?

As with an associate degree, the goal of this degree can either be to train for a specific profession or to prepare students to enter a graduate program.

What Are the Different Award Levels You Can Get With a Bachelor’s Degree?

There are dozens of different types of bachelor’s degrees. They are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, but in general, the most common include:

  • B.A.: Bachelor of Arts
  • B.S.: Bachelor of Science
  • B.F.A.: Bachelor of Fine Arts
  • B.Ed: Bachelor of Education

Master’s Degrees

How Many Credits? Approximately 30-60

You’re probably not surprised to learn that students can also pursue their master’s degrees online. Masters degrees are also called graduate degrees. A master’s degree provides advanced knowledge that goes a step above a bachelor’s degree. Master’s degrees take about two years to complete, and coursework varies depending on the program.

What Is the Goal of Pursuing a Master’s Degree?

Master's Degree Online

In most cases, students who pursue a master’s degree are already working in their chosen fields. Often, they are looking for more specialized skills to advance in their careers. They may also be seeking their master’s degree in preparation for a doctoral degree.

What Are the Different Award Levels You Can Get With a Master’s Degree?

There are four primary awards you can pursue if you want a master’s degree:

  • M.A.: Master of Arts
  • M.S.: Master of Science
  • M.B.A.: Master of Business Administration
  • M.F.A.: Master of Fine Arts

Graduate students can also pursue several different Master of Education degrees, including an M.Ed., M.S.E., M.S.Ed., and an M.A.Ed. Even though a graduate degree can seem far off for someone pursuing an associate degree, it’s a worthy goal to keep in mind for the future.

Doctorate Degrees

How Many Credits? Approximately 90-120

After obtaining a master’s degree, most people like to gain more professional experience. But some students choose to pursue a doctoral degree. Doctorate programs can take anywhere from three to seven years to finish. But they represent the highest level of education a student can achieve. For this reason, doctoral degrees are also called terminal degrees.

Doctoral degree programs are intensive, and there has been a limited amount of them offered online due to their rigorous nature. However, that is changing. Many colleges are allowing remote learners more flexibility. They can complete some of their coursework online and then visit a campus in-person to take care of other requirements. This hybrid format has become even more common due to the Covid pandemic.

What Doctoral Degrees Can Students Pursue?

Doctoral Degree Online

Students can pursue dozens of doctoral degrees depending on their field and interests. In general, there are two primary types of doctoral degrees:

Ph.D.: Doctor of Philosophy:

The Ph.D. is an academic research degree.

Professional and Applied Doctorate:

Applied and professional doctorates are awarded in many fields. For example, a Doctor of Medicine is an M.D., a Doctor of Business Administration is a D.B.A., a Doctor of Education is an Ed.D., etc.

How Do I Know the Associate Degree Program I Want To Pursue Will Be Available Online?

In the 21st century, virtually all associate degrees are available online. Naturally, not all be available at every college. But many traditional and for-profit universities offer a full slate of these degrees.

The most common online associate degrees are for professional trades. Some trades that don’t require four years of education include:

  • Nursing
  • Dental Assistance
  • Graphic Design
  • Website Design
  • Paralegal Certification
  • Graphic Design
  • Website Design
  • Paralegal Certification
  • Culinary Arts

Obtaining an associate degree in one of these disciplines can open up many new career opportunities. It can also substantially increase your earning potential.

How Long Will it take to Get an Associate Degree Online?

Do I Need an Associate Degree for Most Careers?

While not every vocational career requires an associate degree, many of the most popular ones do. For example, some graphic design jobs don’t need a college education. Still, an associate degree can make a resume stand out from the rest.

There are so many associate degrees available online. This makes it less stressful to complete a two-year education while working full-time and taking care of a family.

What Are the Easiest Associate Degree Programs Online?

The easiest associate degrees online tend to be in subjects that don’t require advanced technical knowledge. They include things like foreign languages, writing, translation, and cosmetology. These programs can usually be completed in under two years. Plus, they can create many lucrative new job opportunities for the people who pursue them.

How Long Does It Take To Earn an Associate Degree?

Some classes are required for graduation in any college course where you’re working towards an associate degree. The classes will give you 3-4 credits per class for a total of at least 60 before you can graduate. In addition, with some online programs and summer courses in a traditional classroom, you can take accelerated courses. That means you’ll be finished with your associate degree in a few weeks instead of months.

Most semesters last a few months, and students can take a few classes each semester, depending on the time of the classes. However, that isn’t always the case.

In online programs, you will have either synchronous or asynchronous classes. With synchronous classes, you and your classmates will log in at a set time to complete the coursework for that day.

With asynchronous classes, students are not required to appear in class at pre-determined times. Instead, there will be assignments or lectures that you can watch on your own schedule. 

That’s one of the most significant advantages of online classes. If you desire this type of flexibility, you’ll want to look for online associates degree programs that are asynchronous.

Condensed Coursework

Naturally, an online associate degree takes longer for some subjects. This is especially true for those that require special training and knowledge. However, they can be relatively quick in disciplines that don’t have these requirements. 

Associate Degree Online Condensed

One-year online associate degrees tend to be terminal degrees in majors that don’t require core courses for a bachelor’s degree. A growing number of schools offer one-year Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees. These programs can save students a significant amount of time. The semesters are compressed into four or six-week segments.

This approach may sound challenging. But colleges have made the process even easier for online students. They condense related groups of subjects down to a minimum number of courses. The online format also helps to streamline these accelerated associate degrees.

The good news? Online classes are available year-round. So students can take advantage of unconstrained enrollment dates and a rolling semester schedule.

Anyone asking themselves, “How long is an associate degree program?” can rest assured that online programs are usually much quicker than traditional ones. Many universities and community colleges offer one-year online associates degrees. These typically provide personalized enrollment for each student. That means all the students in a course could begin the semester on a different date. 

Colleges are always finding new and innovative ways to reduce unnecessary classroom time. As a result, students benefit from early graduation and lower student debt.

How long does it take to get associate degree? Not all online associate degrees can support a one-year graduation date. Professional, non-academic degrees may take longer than one year to complete. These can include culinary arts, graphic design, healthcare degrees, and others. Moreover, some online associate degrees may take longer than two years to complete.

The lengthier programs are usually for terminal degrees. These are degrees that don’t transfer to a bachelor’s degree completion program. Or they may require professional certification, licensing, or residency at the state level.

What Classes are Required?

Some classes are required no matter who you are or what program you choose. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to get an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree. For example, certain math, English, and science courses are mandatory for graduation. In addition, each subject requires a specified amount of credits per degree.

Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees typically have core course requirements. These are usually in English, history, math, natural science, and liberal arts. Many colleges offer special two-year online associate degrees with course electives. These are for students planning to pursue a bachelor’s degree after completing an associate program.

The choice of electives is generally left to the student’s discretion. But it’s always a good idea to take courses that could count toward a bachelor’s degree program later. This is why it’s crucial to have at least a rough plan for graduation when enrolling in the first year of college.

Applied Science Degrees

Most of the top online associate degrees are applied science degrees. These degrees prepare students to directly enter the workforce. These associate degrees can generally be extended into a bachelor’s degree. But they are designed to provide training for students seeking jobs after graduation.

These associate degrees provide hands-on training and experiential learning. This is done through courses such as:

  • Healthcare Management
  • Occupational Health and Safety
  • Accounting
  • Software Development
  • Human Resources
  • Human Services
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Applied Health Science

These are just a few of them. The courses offered depend on the degree. And the number of vocational associate degrees available online is constantly growing.

Test Out of Classes: how long does it take to get an associates degree online?

Online students in some associate programs can test out of classes they don’t believe they should have to take. This can cut down on the time before graduation. For example, it might be an introductory math course, computer science course, or English course. If the person already has experience from high school or their current job, they can often test out. 

Some students spend a few weeks studying and taking College Level Examination Program or CLEP tests. This can eliminate the need for many of the courses needed for their associate degree.

Testing out of classes can reduce the time it takes to complete an online associate’s degree program. But it depends on how many credits a student has earned before high school graduation. If they already have credits, the time it takes to complete an associate degree can be significantly reduced. In addition, online students can take advantage of college placement testing and credits for courses already taken.

Most universities and community colleges offer several options for testing out of core courses. And core courses make up the majority of an online associate degree curriculum.

In addition to placement tests, students can often enroll in college courses while still in high school. These earned credits can shave off entire semesters from an associate’s degree program. And that can turn a one-year degree into a 10-month degree. In most cases, community colleges and universities will work with students to find the best solution for a reduced course load.

Best Online Associate Degrees how Long Does It Take To Complete an Associates Degree?

More colleges than ever are offering vocational degrees. So the list of the best online associate degree options keeps getting bigger. In general, students should look for associate degrees that offer professional training. They should also look for job placement assistance after graduation.

Many of these associate degrees can be pursued at a local community college. And they are sufficient for employment directly after graduation. This makes them an excellent investment for aspiring young professionals.

Some of the top choices for online associate degrees include:

  • Applied Health Science
  • Occupational Studies
  • Construction Management
  • Nursing
  • Health Information Technology
  • Computer Information Systems
  • Paralegal Studies
  • Liberal Arts

These associate degrees stand out because of their relevance in the labor market. The best online associate programs tend to be relatively quick. And they are designed explicitly for workforce participation.

Associate degrees can include applied fire science, criminal justice, business administration, and psychology. The top online programs can help job seekers get an associate degree while saving significant time and money on their education. How long does it take to get an aa degree? It depends on the program you choose.

Many of them naturally lead to bachelor’s completion programs. Others are perfectly adequate for career advancement without further education. For example, an associate degree in Applied Science in Fire Science could lead to a leadership position in a fire department. And an associate degree in Paralegal Studies could lead to a lucrative career as a paralegal.

Jobs Available for Associate Degree Holders

As the job market evolves with each new generation, the jobs available for graduates of associate degree programs tend to change. A few generations ago, most jobs were available without a college degree, but these days, a degree is required for most high-paying careers. 

That’s why online associate degrees are a massive benefit for job seekers looking to enter the workforce quickly. It’s also why colleges and universities are constantly looking for new ways to condense their programs. They want students to be able to get an associate degree in less time.

There is a wide range of jobs available for community college students with associate degrees. They include many high-paying, competitive careers. Additionally, the healthcare industry continues to expand. This means an increasing number of skilled workers will be needed.

Demand will be high for nurses and health informatics technicians. And it will also rise for dental assistants and physician assistants. These are careers you can begin with an associate degree in most cases. However, they also lend themselves naturally to a bachelor’s completion program.

20 Careers for Associate Degree Graduates

careers for associate degree
  • Radiation Therapist
  • Nuclear Medicine Technologist
  • M.R.I. Technologist
  • Aerospace Engineering Technician
  • Cardiovascular Technologist
  • Sonographer
  • Dental Hygienist
  • Paralegal
  • Mechanical Engineering Technician
  • Electro-Mechanical Technician
  • Drafter
  • Civil Engineering Technician
  • Computer Support Specialist
  • Respiratory Therapist
  • Electrical Engineering Technician
  • Air Traffic Controller
  • Occupational Therapy Assistant
  • Funeral Service Worker
  • Web Developer
  • Information Systems Security Technician

Online Bachelor’s Degree Completion Programs

One of the most popular online associate degree programs is a registered nursing degree. However, this degree can bridge into one of the most popular online bachelor’s degree completion programs. Virtually all online colleges offer the RN-to-BSN associate degree completion program. In addition, many can be completed entirely online without any residency requirements in most cases.

Students with existing college credit earned from an associate degree are in luck. A bachelor’s degree completion program could be finished in under two years. These programs are designed to be convenient and highly focused on a professional vocation.

Transferring an associate degree to a new institution is easy in most cases. But it’s essential to ensure that the university is properly accredited before applying.

There are hundreds of accredited universities in the U.S. offering online degrees. These degrees can be transferred to any university in the country. However, the online programs must be accredited by a regional association. Or they need to be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. 

Universities outside the country may lack the appropriate accreditation for transfer credit. Community college and university admissions departments deal with these situations on a case-by-case basis.

Licensing and Certification: How Long To Get Associate’s Degree?

An associate’s degree for professionals often requires licensing. That includes the necessary licensing and residency requirements for the state in which it is issued.

As a result, some associate programs and online degrees may require some in-person attendance. Alternatively, they may require a summer residency in a hospital or clinic. How long does it take for an associates degree? It all depends on the degree major.

How long does it take for an associate degree online in a professional field? Professions that require licensing are regulated by the state government. So the testing and residency requirements for employment vary from state to state. And the timing will too.

Some job seekers can benefit by obtaining certification. Professional certificates help job candidates stand out from their competitors. In addition, many positions require some form of specialized certification.

Non-degree certificate programs can also usually be completed online. Students can enroll in these programs while working on an associate degree. Then, by the time they graduate, they can receive their degree and certificate simultaneously.

Online Associate Degrees

Conclusion: How Long Does Associate’s Degree Take?

How long does it take to earn an associate’s degree? The amount of time needed to get an associate degree online will depend on how much time you can devote to your studies. It also depends on how many classes you’d like to take at one time.

It could take more or less than the standard 2 years for an associate degree. But that all depends on the time you can devote to your associate degree. It will make a difference if you take CLEP tests to get credits for the knowledge you already have.

Earning an associate degree is the perfect way to enter the workforce quickly and make a relatively high salary. There are an increasing number of accelerated associate degrees offered online every day. This fact benefits job-seekers everywhere. And it is excellent news to anyone who is asking, “how long to get a associate’s degree online” or “How long is an associate degree program?”

Related Resources: