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The Ultimate Guide to Online Associate's Degrees

Ready to start your journey?

As a busy adult working to further your education, you may be exploring many different options for getting your degree online. Working to get your degree online can be a great way to take advantage of the many different learning options available to students today. If you’ve already thought about going back to school, but feel overwhelmed at the idea of putting in nearly half a decade of study time, getting your associate’s degree can be a great starting point for increasing your education credentials while still continuing to excel at your job.

Why Get an Associate’s Degree Online? 

When you get your degree online, you get to work at your own pace. While some online classes require students to be online at certain times in order to interact with one another, most are self-paced. This means that you get to do your work at times that make sense for you. This can be a great option for people who work in fields that have unusual hours, such as health care, law enforcement, and other types of shift work. If you choose to get your degree in a field in which you’re already working, you have the added bonus of getting to put the tactics and skills you learn in class to work immediately at your job, which can go a long way in helping your employer see that you’re ready for more responsibility. 

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When you get your degree online, you’ll typically pay less than you would for an in-classroom experience, even though you’re getting the same quality of education. You’ll have access to your professors via email, and you’ll get the same lectures they deliver in the classroom, but you won’t be paying the same high university fees for a standard, traditional education. Be sure to talk to your university about any programs they have available for adult or other non-traditional students. Many companies provide different tuition rates for people who are outside the age bracket of standard college students.

You may also be able to work with your employer to get them to cover some of the cost of your education. Many companies offer partial or full tuition reimbursement for students who choose to continue working for the company while also earning their degree. Talk with your employer about the requirements for getting tuition reimbursement. You may need to agree to work for the company for a certain number of years after you earn your degree, or you may be required to keep a certain GPA in order to continue receiving tuition assistance. Your employer may also be willing to offer you flexible hours, or provide some time each week for you to leave early and work on your studies. Many employers recognize that you’ll be an asset to the company with more job options after you graduate, and they’re willing to do what it takes to help your recognize the value of staying at your current company.

When you’re searching for the best online colleges for associates degrees, you may want to check out a school that also has a bachelor’s program in your area of study. When you’re working to figure out how to get an associates degree online, it can be helpful to find a program that will allow you to use your associate’s degree to push your education even further after you graduate. Many students choose to get their associate’s degree to get basic courses out of the way while also earning credentials that the can use in the workplace. Many of the best online colleges for associates degrees will allow you to apply those credits toward a bachelor’s degree program as well. This means that when you graduate, you have the option of stopping you education with your associate’s degree or continuing to move forward to your bachelor’s degree, or even going further to earn a graduate degree

How Can You Get An Associates Degree Online?

Now that you understand the benefits of moving forward with your online education, you may be wondering how can you get an associate’s degree online. The process is different from school to school, but no matter what, you’ll need to start with applying to your school(s) of choice. You may need to submit letters of recommendation from people who know you well, and you’ll likely need to provide the school with your high school transcripts, as well as any transcripts from higher education courses you’ve taken throughout the year. You may also need to provide your school with a statement of purpose that explains what you’re planning to do with your career after you earn your associate’s degree. 

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If it’s your first time applying to college, the process can feel a bit overwhelming. Always feel free to reach out to the admissions office at your school. They’ll be happy to help you through the process, and they’ll be able to access your account to see what materials you still need to submit in order to be considered for admission. Many schools require that you pay an application fee in order to apply to the school. If this creates a financial burden for you, ask the admissions office about whether you can get the fee waived. Many admissions offices are happy to waive the application fee for any student who indicates that it creates a barrier toward furthering their education. 

There are also many resources available online that can help you through the college application process. Don’t be afraid to reach out to coworkers, family, and friends who already have their degree. They’ll likely be able to provide you with valuable advice on how to make it through the admissions process unscathed.

In addition to applying to school, you’ll also need to fill out a Federal Application For Student Aid, or FAFSA. Your FAFSA will determine your eligibility for government funding for your degree. Be sure to start the process of completing your FAFSA early, as you’ll be required to submit several different types of verification of your income. Completing the FAFSA can be a tedious process, but it’s well worth it in the end. Completing the forms correctly can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the course of your education.

You’ll also want to talk to your school’s financial aid office about scholarships that they have for students, and how you can go about making your out of pocket tuition cost as low as possible. Let’s check out the next part of how to get an associates degree online – figuring out how much time you’ll need to set aside to complete your degree. 

How Long To Get An Associate’s Degree Online?

When you’re trying to figure how how long to get an associates degree online, it can be hard to pinpoint the exact timetable from person to person. Many people who are wondering, “Can I get an associates degree online?” worry that they won’t be able to put in the time necessary to complete their degree. While the typical course of study for an associate’s degree is two years, many people complete the degree in a shorter period of time. Many people also complete the degree in a longer period of time. Figuring out your personal timeframe for completing your associate’s degree will depend on the specifics of your program and your schedule. 

When you’re figuring out your personal answer to the question of, “Can I get an associate’s degree online?” you’ll want to talk to a program advisor at each school you’re considering to learn more about the time frame of getting your degree. It’s a good idea to ask how much time you have to complete the degree, and if it’s ok if you go beyond the typical two year time frame that it takes most people to earn their associate’s. You may also want to ask if you’re allowed to finish the degree faster than normal. At some schools, you’ll pay your tuition by the credit, while at others, you’ll pay by the semester. If you’re at a school that charges by the semester, you may be able to save a significant amount of money if you’re able to complete your degree faster than the average student. 

Most In-Demand Associate’s Degrees 

When you’re in the process of researching the best online associates degree, you know that you want to invest in your education by getting a degree in a field that pays well. Whether you’re thinking about moving forward in your current field, or you’re considering transitioning to a new career path, it’s a good idea to carefully consider the best online associates degree programs and what you can expect to make after you graduate. 

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As you consider what associate degree careers are in demand, it’s key to remember that the dollar amount of the salary is not the only factor in figuring out how satisfied you’ll be with your career. Consider what other factors are important to you in addition to earning a good salary. Do you want to be able to relax on the weekends and spend time with your family? If so, you want a job that has a standard Monday through Friday schedule. Do you want a career that has room for advancement? Are you interested in working as a part of a team, or do you prefer to work on an individual basis? Knowing the answers to these questions before you start choosing the best online associates degree for you can help you to narrow down your options. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most in demand associate’s degree careers so that you can begin to narrow down the best online associates degree programs for your needs. 

What Associate Degree Careers Are In Demand?

Let’s take a look at some of the different fields known for having great paying jobs for students who complete the best associates degrees online. 

  • Digital technology – Associate’s degrees in digital technology are a great way to get your foot in the door with companies that are making the turn to going digital. While many large companies made the turn years ago, this isn’t the case for many smaller companies. Smaller companies are often looking for experts in digital technology who can help them get their orders online, transform their customer service process, and develop easier ways of doing inventory. With an associate’s degree in the digital technology field, you’re showing potential employers that you have your finger on the pulse of the latest tech developments, and that you’ll be an asset to their team. 
  • Cybersecurity – As companies make the move to going digital, they need to ensure that both their company information and customer information is protected. While some companies already have ways of allowing their customers to order online, they often have no idea of what they need to do in order to keep customer information safe. This can mean that credit card and other valuable data are left unprotected. When you earn an associate’s degree in cybersecurity, you’re showing future employers that you have the skills necessary to protect them from a data breach before it happens, or to help them put the systems in place to stop a data breach from happening in the first place. 
  • Criminal justice – The criminal justice system is changing in the United States, and many companies are looking for hires who understand the history of the criminal justice system, as well as the reform the system is going through right now. Whether you’re interested in working directly with people as an officer, or you’re interested in the administrative side of the criminal justice system, getting your associate’s degree in the criminal justice field shows employers that you’re not someone who is interested in doing things the way they’ve always been done. You’re ready to be a part of the changes that are coming, and you understand the ins and outs of the world of law enforcement, corrections, and the legal system.
  • Healthcare – When you get an associate’s degree in the healthcare field, you’re opening up a wide degree of career options for yourself after graduation. Many people who get a degree in the healthcare field love that they have the option of working in several different settings. You could choose to work in a hospital, and may want to venture into providing direct patient care. You could also choose to work as an administrator for a home health care system. Some people who get their associate’s degree in the healthcare field focus on medical coding, and are able to work from home on their own time. Getting your associate’s degree in healthcare ensures that your degree will always be in high demand, and it’s likely that you’ll have several job offers upon graduation. 
  • Trades – If you already work in a trade, it’s likely that you’ve spent some time searching for best associates degrees online within your field. Getting your degree in a field you already know well has several advantages. You’ll better be able to discriminate between the best associates degrees online and the degrees that will only teach you what you already know. As you go through the process of getting an associate’s degree in your trade field, you’ll be able to learn more about your craft, working with professors who have been in the industry for years. As someone who already knows the trade, you’ll also be able to work with other classmates, acting as an asset to their knowledge base. If you’re just starting to get into a trade, getting your associate’s degree is a great place to start. You’ll get the background knowledge you need to complement the hands on experience that you’ll get during your on the job training, and having your degree could put you on the fast track to management, if you so choose. 

No matter what track you choose for your associate’s degree online, you’re making a smart move by investing in your education. No matter what happens with your current job, you’ll be able to know that you have the education you need to get a great start with any company you choose. Next, let’s take a look at some of the different job options after you complete your associate’s degree online. 

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Best Jobs With An Associate’s Degree 

If you’ve decided that you’re ready to move forward with your education and get your associate’s degree, you likely want to figure out how much you’ll be making after you graduate. Knowing the best high paying associates degree jobs can help you to understand just how valuable your degree will be in the long term. There are many high paying jobs with an associates degree, and several of the best associates degree careers can be stepping stones to an even higher paying career as you continue to further your education. 

One of the highest paying associates degree jobs today is working as a nuclear medicine technologist. People in this field can expect to earn an average salary of $75,000 per year. People in this field work with radioactive drugs, preparing them for patients who need to ingest them in order to have high level medical scans. Known as one of the highest paying associates degree jobs, people in this field must have impeccable communication skills and attention to detail. 

Other high paying associates degree jobs are in the dental technology field. Known as one of the best paying jobs with an associates degree, working as a dental hygienist can earn approximately $74,000 per year. People who work in this field need to have an ability to make patients feel comfortable, and need to be able to communicate potential problems with their supervising dentist. When it comes to high paying jobs with an associates degree, dental hygiene is an incredibly fast growing field, with a growth rate of 20% expected in the coming decade. 

Another of the highest paying jobs with an associates degree is a respiratory therapist. People in this position make an average of $59,000 per year. People in this field work directly with patients who suffer from respiratory issues. These issues can be acute or chronic. People who work in this field not only get to enjoy one of the best paying associates degrees careers, they also get to have their choice of working in several different settings, such as in a hospital or providing at home care. 

Prefer to work in tech? One of the highest paying jobs with an associates degree is a web designer, earning an average of $68,000 per year. While some web designers are self taught, this is known as one of the best paying jobs with an associates degree because having a degree allows you access to the latest developments and techniques in design, a trait which many companies are after as they work to stay on top of changes in the digital age. In addition to being one of the best paying careers with an associates degree, many web designers get to work on a freelance basis, giving them the freedom they crave to choose when and where the work. 

Another of the best paying associates degrees is earning an education as a medical sonographer. Known as one of the best associates degree careers, medical sonographers work not only with pregnant women, but with any medical patient who is having diagnostic tests done with an ultrasound machine. People in this profession must have attention to detail and be able to communicate effectively with other medical staff members. Medical sonographers can expect to make an average salary of $71,000

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As you search for the best paying careers with an associates degree, remember that the salaries listed here are an average, and your salary may be less or more. Salaries can depend on several factors, including the company budget, the cost of living in your area, your prior experience levels, and how competitive the job field is in your area. As with any job, be sure to leverage your education and fight for the pay that you deserve prior to the start of your job. 

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Ready to start your journey?

Ready to start your journey?