adult bar online student coffee shop

Best Online Associate’s Degrees to Get in 2020

Degree Finder
CollegeConsensus.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured programs and school search results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other information published on this site.

Whether you want to switch careers or you need an academic credential to fully participate in your current field, earning an associate degree is a cost-effective way to quickly gain knowledge and credibility in a number of high-growth sectors. Today’s e-learning platforms and innovative curricula make it easier than ever to attend classes while staying employed and taking care of family obligations. Here are 10 of the top online associate degrees that offer the best returns on your education investment.

1. Associate of Applied Science in Web Design and Development

Degree Overview

An online associate degree in web development teaches you the fundamentals of web design, coding principles, and web security concepts that you’ll need to create and maintain websites. You’ll learn to combine artistic graphic designs and robust databases to create interactive websites that are engaging and user friendly. Examples of courses that you’ll take during an AAS in Web Design and Development program include computer programming, site design, and database development. Many programs include specialized training in Illustrator, Adobe Dreamweaver, CSS, JavaScript, and .Net.

Prerequisites and Entrance Criteria

While some AAS in Web Design and Development programs don’t have admissions requirements, the best programs look for students who have the aptitude to succeed in their courses. To get into those schools, you’ll often need to submit your SAT, ACT, or college placement test scores to admissions officers. Your test scores let guidance counselors know your academic strengths and weaknesses so that they can recommend the right set of extra coursework for your needs.

Curricula Delivery Formats

Online AAS in Web Design and Development programs come in a variety of delivery formats. You can attend a school that offers courses that are 100 percent online or choose one that allows you to attend some classes on campus. Most of the top AAS in Web Design and Development programs are made up of asynchronous online classes that allow you to learn complex concepts and complete work assignments within a set window of time. Other programs offer cohorts that allow you to work within groups to study and complete work assignments.

Some of the top online schools for this degree include Brigham Young University in Utah, St. Petersburg College in Florida, and Bismarck State College in North Dakota. Bismarck State College offers scholarships for this degree program, allows students to use its on-campus computer lab for access to special software, and requires an internship for degree completion.

Why Will This Degree be Popular in 2020?

Jobs in web development continue to surge. Entrepreneurs start online new businesses every day, and the introduction of new technology means that someone must update older websites to keep them viable in an increasingly user-centric environment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), web development jobs are expected to grow by 13 percent from 2018 to 2028. The latest BLS report states that the median annual salary for web developers was $69,430 in 2018.

2. Associate of Science in Physical Therapist Assistant

Degree Overview

The AS in Physical Therapist Assistant degree program prepares you to help patients to reduce pain, improve mobility, and recover from injuries. The program’s protocols focus on defeating disabilities through wellness and physical fitness and not invasive surgeries and prescription drugs. Some courses that you can expect to take include human anatomy, clinical kinesiology, and principles of rehabilitation.

Prerequisites and Entrance Criteria

Since the well-being of human patients rests in your hands as a PTA, the prerequisites to enter an AS in Physical Therapist Assistant program are higher than those of other fields. Most schools require that your high school transcripts contain some college preparatory-style courses in math, science, and English. To get into the best online PTA programs, you’ll also have to submit standardized test scores and letters of recommendation.

Curricula Delivery Formats

Since applications of physical therapy protocols happen in person, it makes sense that most schools deliver their online AS in Physical Therapist Assistant programs in hybrid formats. Hybrid online programs allow you to take theoretical coursework online but require you to attend in-person labs for hands-on learning opportunities. Some schools that offer online AS in Physical Therapist Assistant programs include San Juan College in New Mexico, Ashworth College in Georgia, and Whatcom Community College in Washington. You can expect to do clinical internships at hospitals, nursing homes, or medical offices to graduate with an AS in Physical Therapist Assistant degree at these schools.

Why Will This Degree be Popular in 2020?

The American Physical Therapy Association recently noted that the aging population and shorter hospital stays make physical therapy a high-growth field. Physical therapy protocols help seniors to overcome mobility issues that would otherwise keep them dependent on nursing homes, home health assistants, and family members. The treatments that physical therapy assistants apply also improve the lives of chronically disabled persons. These protocols help them to regain the mobility and strength that they need to participate in personal, work, and leisure activities. The latest BLS report states that the median annual salary for physical therapy assistants was $48,090 in 2018.

3. Associate of Applied Science in Computer Aided Drafting and Design

Degree Overview

The online AAS in Computer Computer Aided Drafting and Design program delivers instruction in engineering drawing creation that prepares you to generate industry-standard engineering schematics in AutoCad, Autodesk Inventor, and other popular platforms. After earning an AAS in Computer Computer Aided Drafting and Design, you’ll be prepared to work as a drafter in construction firms, civil engineering organizations, and machinist shops.

Prerequisites and Entrance Criteria

While most online AAS in Computer Computer Aided Drafting and Design programs don’t have a lot of prerequisites for entry, some of the best still require that you provide them with your SAT, ACT, MCA, or other standardized test scores. You’ll also be expected to keep at least a 2.0 G.P.A. to continue participating in most programs.

Curricula Delivery Formats

Most online AAS in Computer Computer Aided Drafting and Design degree programs deliver courses in an asynchronous manner. Some popular schools for this type of training include Minnesota State College Southeast and West Kentucky Community and Technical College. Some programs offer students hands-on experiential learning labs and opportunities to test out their designs on new tech platforms such as 3D printers. These programs are offered in hybrid formats. Hodges University in Florida offers a hybrid online AAS in Computer Computer Aided Drafting and Design degree program.

Why Will This Degree be Popular in 2020?

Increased construction work and infrastructure refresh projects largely drive the demand for drafters who have AutoCad expertise. Most of these firms want digital documents that general contractors can easily distribute electronically among team members and other stakeholders. Also, the skills that you’ll learn from an online AAS in Computer Computer Aided Drafting and Design degree program are applicable across multiple industries. The latest BLS report states that the median annual salary for CAD designers was $55,550 in 2018.

4. Associate of Applied Science in Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Cooling

Degree Overview

An AAS in HVAC program includes comprehensive lessons about the electrical wiring, mechanical components, and refrigerants that make up modern heating and cooling systems. In this type of program, you’ll learn how to install, repair, and maintain HVAC systems in homes, office buildings, and warehouses. Popular course topics include HVAC design, principles of refrigeration, load calculations for HVAC systems, and indoor air quality.

Prerequisites and Entrance Criteria

Most online AAS in HVAC degree programs only require that you have a high school diploma or a GED to get started.

Curricula Delivery Formats

Learning about HVAC systems requires some hands-on training. Subsequently, nearly all online AAS in HVAC degree programs are delivered in hybrid formats. Altierus Career College in Georgia and Penn Foster College in Arizona offer online AAS in HVAC degree programs.

Why Will This Degree be Popular in 2020?

Every building requires the services of HVAC technicians sooner or later. Builders of new construction homes, home remodelers, and general contractors who oversee improvements to older structures need HVAC technicians to install, replace, or service these complex electromechanical systems. Also, the manufacturers of HVAC systems are making heating and cooling units smarter and more energy efficient. HVAC technicians who are trained to maintain, install, and repair these new systems are in high demand. The latest BLS report states that the median annual salary for HVAC technicians was $47,610 in 2018.

5. Associate in Applied Science in Networking

Degree Overview

The AAS in Networking degree program instructs students about the pieces of hardware, software, and network equipment that are used to facilitate communication among computer systems. This degree program prepares students for entry-level positions as network specialists. Course topics that you can expect to encounter during these programs include system administration, operating systems, and network troubleshooting.

Prerequisites and Entrance Criteria

You can find online AAS in Networking degree programs that only require you to have a high school diploma or GED to get started. However, some of the better schools require that you show proof of earning at least a 2.0 G.P.A. from your last academic institution and submit standardized test results.

Curricula Delivery Formats

When considering online AAS in Networking degree programs, you’ll find schools that offer both hybrid and completely online curricula. Schools such as Dakota State University in South Dakota, the University of St. Thomas in Texas, and the University of Toledo in Ohio offer top online AAS in Networking degree programs.

Why Will This Degree be Popular in 2020?

Inc.com published its list of the 25 most in-demand job skills, and it was no surprise that network administration made the list. Nearly all businesses rely on computers and the internet to survive and thrive in an increasingly global environment. Network administrators revive downed connections and monitor networks to detect security threats. The latest BLS report states that the median annual salary for network administrators who have four-year degrees was $82,050 in 2018. However, there are still companies that hire talented computer system administrators who have two-year degrees.

6. Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies

Degree Overview

An online AA in Paralegal Studies program gives students an insider’s view of legal procedures from a lawyer’s point of view. With this degree, you’ll learn how to research case precedent, draft court documents, and submit legal papers for trial attorneys. You can expect to cover topics such as litigation, legal writing, and law office administration in this degree program.

Prerequisites and Entrance Criteria

The legal profession involves knowledge, skill, integrity, and confidentiality, and schools that offer online AA in Paralegal Studies programs often set the bar high. In addition to possessing a high school diploma or its equivalent, you’ll need to prove that you earned a 2.0 or higher G.P.A. at your last academic institution. Most schools also require that you submit standardized test results or take their college placement test before they admit you to their online AA in Paralegal Studies programs.

Curricula Delivery Formats

Most online AA in Paralegal Studies programs are offered completely online. However, some programs include practicums or internships that require in-person participation. You’ll find that this is a must for programs that are approved by the American Bar Association. Schools that deliver some top online AA in Paralegal Studies programs are Liberty University Online in Virginia, Herzing University in Georgia, and Florida National University.

Why Will This Degree be Popular in 2020?

While legal cases continue to rise across the country, law firms are challenged to operate faster, better, and cheaper. When faced with pressure from clients to lower billable hours, paralegals look more attractive to law firms than the attorneys who they support. The paralegal career field is expected to grow at a rate of 12 percent, which is much faster than the average rate for all the jobs that the BLS surveyed. The latest BLS report states that the median annual salary for paralegals was $50,940 in 2018.

7. Associate of Science in Mechanical Engineering Technology

Degree Overview

An online AS in Mechanical Engineering Technology prepares students to design, fix, and maintain mechanical systems that are used in a variety of industries. During an AS in Mechanical Engineering Technology program, you’ll learn how to apply mathematical concepts to solve mechanical engineering problems. You can expect to cover these four topics in your courses: manufacturing processes, production planning, manufacturing materials, and automation.

Prerequisites and Entrance Criteria

Most online AS in Mechanical Engineering Technology programs require proof that you earned at least a 2.5 G.P.A. at your last academic institution. You also must have a high school diploma or its equivalent to apply to these programs. Some schools require students to take a placement exam to find out if they need extra math and science courses to prepare for a more rigorous study.

Curricula Delivery Formats

Effective AS in Mechanical Engineering Technology degree programs require students to work on specialized machinery under the supervision of qualified instructors. Most online AS in Mechanical Engineering Technology degree programs are delivered in a hybrid format. Some schools that offer AS in Mechanical Engineering Technology degree programs are the East Coast Polytechnic Institute in Virginia and the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Why Will This Degree be Popular in 2020?

Bringing clean manufacturing jobs back to U.S. shores is on everyone’s mind. Even with the introduction of creative trade deals, America still has a problem that would hinder its economic growth in engineering sectors. According to industry insiders, there’s a significant shortage of workers who have mechanical engineering skills. This is especially true in the field of aviation mechanics. The latest BLS report states that the median annual salary for mechanical engineering technicians was $56,250 in 2018.

8. Associate of Digital Arts

Degree Overview

An online Associate of Digital Arts degree program gives students the tools to design graphics, animations, and other illustrations for websites, television, film, and commercial buildings. Course topics that you can expect to cover in an online Associate of Digital Arts degree program are 3D modeling, storyboarding, color theory, and web design.

Prerequisites and Entrance Criteria

You’ll need a high school diploma or its equivalent to enroll in most online Associate of Digital Arts degree programs.

Curricula Delivery Formats

Online Associate of Digital Arts degree programs are taught in 100 percent online environments as well as in hybrid formats. Some schools require students to do internships with industry partners. Rasmussen College offers two flexible online Associate of Digital Arts degree programs that allow you to take courses online or in person at one of its 23 campuses.

Why Will This Degree be Popular in 2020?

The world has gone digital, and companies need digital artists who can make graphics come alive on big screens, computer screens, and mobile phone screens. According to the BLS, there are 71,600 media artists working in the United States, and companies are expected to add 3,000 jobs in this field by 2028. The latest BLS report states that the median annual salary for multimedia artists and animators who have four-year degrees was $72,520 in 2018. Some companies still hire talented graphic artists who have two-year degrees and strong portfolios.

9. Associate of Science in Funeral Service

Degree Overview

An online AS in Funeral Service degree program equips students to run all aspects of a funeral business. You’ll learn how to safely handle deceased persons, embalm bodies, and handle delicate interactions with grieving patrons. You can expect to cover course topics such as funeral service law and ethics, human anatomy, microbiology, chemistry, restorative art, and funeral business management.

Prerequisites and Entrance Criteria

At a minimum, you’ll need to provide your chosen online school with a copy of your high school diploma or GED. If you’ve taken other college courses, many schools will also request your transcripts.

Curricula Delivery Formats

Most online AS in Funeral Service degree programs lead to state licensure for funeral directors, and many online degree programs include in-person practicums to satisfy those state licensing requirements. Two schools that offer top online AS in Funeral Service degree programs are the Dallas Institute of Funeral Service in Texas and the Mid-America College of Funeral Service in Indiana.

Why Will This Degree be Popular in 2020?

It seems that society has never been so divided as it is now. Despite ideological, racial, and ethnic differences, death is something that unites everyone. In addition to a steady demand for funeral services, a funeral director enjoys a moderate barrier to entry against competitors because of his or her state license. The latest BLS report states that the median annual salary for funeral service workers was $57,580 in 2018.

10. Associate of Applied Science in Information Technology/ Programming and Software Development

Degree Overview

An AAS in IT and Programming degree prepares students for job responsibilities such as applying technical skills to solve business problems, developing and administering databases, and developing software for proprietary business systems, websites, and mobile devices. You can expect to take courses in multi-platform software development, network administration, and web design in this degree program.

Prerequisites and Entrance Criteria

You’ll need a high school diploma or its equivalent to enroll in an online AAS in IT and Programming degree program. Some schools will require that you take a college placement exam to find out if you need extra math courses to set you up for success in this degree program.

Curricula Delivery Formats

You can complete most online AAS in IT and Programming degree programs completely online. Two schools that offer online AAS in IT and Programming degree programs are Colorado Christian University and Purdue University Global in Indiana.

Why Will This Degree be Popular in 2020?

Information technology has been one of the fastest-growing sectors for jobs in recent years, and industry experts expect the trend to continue. The popularity of buying products online via smartphones is driving the demand for information technologists who have mobile application development skills. The latest BLS report states that the median annual salary for software developers who have four-year degrees was $105,590 in 2018. Since jobs in this career field are expected to increase at a rate that’s much faster than average, many companies are still likely to hire talented programmers who have two-year degrees.