Successful Student has compiled the 10 Best Online Associate’s Degrees for Careers.
Associate’s degrees are typically offered by community colleges at a lower cost than four-year universities, and can be completed in half the time (or less). Since 1983, money earned by those with an Associate’s degree has increased by 15%, according to Georgetown University.
The Associate’s degrees on this list can be completed 100% online, allowing students to continue their work and lifestyle when completing the degree. An Associate’s degree is a great head start to earning a Bachelor’s degree. Students can get many of the benefits of a Bachelor’s degree with a much lower cost.
If you’re ready to jump into a career, but you don’t think a four-year degree is right for you, take a look at the following Associate’s degrees that have promising potential to lead you to a successful and exciting career in two years (or less).
10 Best Online Associate’s Degrees for Careers
1. Business Administration
Business Administration is the most popular online degree in America, because it prepares students for working in business in many different fields. This introductory degree is beneficial for starting (or furthering) a business career.
A student can expect to learn the foundations of business, including economics, finance, accounting, project planning, and management, to name a few.
Typically an Associate’s degree of this type is a good stepping stone toward completing a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. There are generally two types of Business Administration Associate’s degrees – Associate of Science and Associate of Arts – which prepare students for entering the work force, or continuing on to further education.
With this degree, students might begin careers in many different industries, such as administrative or executive assistants, as project assistants, or in sales. According to payscale.com, graduates can expect to earn an average starting salary of approximately $34,000, and mid-career pay of $49,600.
2. Paralegal/Legal Studies
For a student looking to begin a career in law but not ready for more than a four year commitment, a great option is the Associate’s degree in legal studies. This degree should take two years to complete, and students walk away having learned valuable skills in the areas of legal research, civil litigation, contracts, torts and personal injury, criminal law, wills, trusts, and estate planning. Learning to effectively research and gather important information are critical components of successful legal practices, so programs focus on strengthening that skill as an overarching theme.
With a degree of this type, students may qualify for careers at private law firms, government agencies, public or private corporations, or professional law firms. Graduates typically find employment as paralegals or legal assistants, and according to payscale.com should expect a starting salary averaging $32,300 and mid-career pay of $51,300. As a legal assistant or paralegal, graduates can expect to do things like assist in preparing for litigation, assisting in courtroom proceedings administratively, and researching legal topics. The degree field is expected to grow at a rate of 8% between 2014 and 2024, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Looking to start a career in Accounting, but not able or willing to take the time to earn a CPA? Maybe an Associate’s degree in Accounting is the answer for you. Typically completed in one to two years, the Associate’s degree lays a solid foundation in accounting concepts – like basic cost accounting, taxation, payroll accounting and financial statement analysis.
Another concept involved in this degree is the use of technology as it applies to accounting. As the sector grows and improves, the technology used in the industry continues to grow and sharpen. It is important for students to have the skills and drive to always continue learning in this dynamic career field.
Graduates who earn this Associate’s degree can expect to begin a career in a number of varying areas: private sector, public sector, government agencies – all businesses require some level of accounting, which makes options for these graduates limitless! Students may choose to become accounts payable or receivable clerks, accounting assistants, office managers, billing clerks, bookkeepers, or payroll clerks, among others. The degree field is solid, and those earning an Associate’s degree in accounting can expect an average starting salary of $33,200, and a mid-career salary of $45,000, according to payscale.com.
4. Electronics Engineering Technology
Electronics Engineering Technology is a fascinating career field that is gaining more and more in popularity as production becomes more electronic. Students looking to earn a degree in Electronics Engineering Technology can expect to complete coursework in classes like software logic and design, electric circuits, semiconductor devices, and computer applications.
Students can also expect to learn the basics of electronic automation and robotics technology during the usually blended curriculum of coursework, lecture and hands-on learning.
As work environments become more and more automated, employers are looking for strong talent to keep assemblies running smoothly and efficiently. These individuals assist in the development, programming, trouble-shooting and production of technology like circuit boards, cell phones, and medical equipment. Students can expect to earn an average starting salary of $41,300 and mid-career salary of $61,200 according to payscale.com.
5. Software Development
Students interested in computer coding and software creation might be interested in earning an Associate’s degree in software development. This degree aims to equip students with valuable skills like software design, programming implementations, data migration, and cost-benefit analysis.
The degree typically starts out with an intro to basic world wide web navigation, and works its way up through spreadsheets and word processors, and eventually computer programming languages, like C++ and Visual Basic. Developers are typically then separated into two career fields – applications software and systems software.
With an expected job growth rate of 17% from 2014-2024, the demand for software developers is high. People with the skills to develop new software are few and far between, so if you have that talent and the desire to hone your skills with this associate’s degree, you can expect to earn a median salary of $64,000 (according to payscale.com).
Students with Associate’s degrees earn a median salary between $35,000 and $93,000, while those who earn a Bachelor’s degree earn a median salary between $41,000 and $121,000. That difference in salary may not be enough to justify the extra tuition, fees and time it would take to earn the Bachelor’s degree.
6. Network Security
People responsible for protecting company computer systems are becoming increasingly important. Individuals working to earn an associate’s degree can expect to take classes like computer science fundamentals, security administration, data communications, security and loss prevention, and cyber law.
These courses all prepare students to have the skills necessary to design network security programs and then enforce them, identify and block hacking attempts or security breaches, and potentially recognize weak spots in security protection.
Once a student has earned a Network Security Associate’s degree, he or she will be qualified for several varying positions – network administrators, security managers, or cyber security specialists. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has found that people with IT-related work experience and a Network Security Associate’s degree can expect to earn a median salary of $77,810 while experiencing an 8% increase in demand from 2014 to 2024.
For those interested in pursuing an Associate’s degree in Education, there are varying routes to choose: early childhood education, paraprofessional education, or elementary education.
Based on which route is chosen, curriculum will be altered some, but it can be expected that most programs will include core concept classes like educational psychology, pedagogy (which is the method and practice of teaching), and technology in education. Students can also expect to participate in a practicum where they’ll be exposed to real-world teaching environments.
Because all states require a Bachelor’s degree to be a teacher, many choose to continue their education beyond an associate’s degree. However, there are several options for those with an Associate’s degree. Some of those careers include: teacher’s aid, pre-school teacher, childcare worker, or counselor. With an Associate’s degree in Education, payscale.com estimates that graduates can expect to earn an average starting salary of $27,500, and a mid-career salary of $38,300.
8. Homeland Security
For those looking to quickly jump into a career in Homeland Security, an Associate’s degree is a good start. Since 2001, this career field has been booming as our nation becomes more and more intentional about the protection of our lands and citizens.
Any sort of education before jumping in can give a candidate a head start in the field. While earning an Associate’s degree in Homeland Security, students can expect to learn from courses such as homeland security legal issues, emergency management, terrorism, and weapons of mass destruction. Students can expect to become knowledgeable in enhancing security on both the state and national levels, preventing terrorism, responding to national disasters, and protecting the nation’s borders.
Upon earning this Associate’s degree, a graduate can expect to begin a career in many varying capacities. Graduates should meet the requirements for an entry-level position in criminal justice, as a transportation security screener, in law enforcement, or for numerous government agencies like FEMA, among others. Salaries can vary widely, ranging from $28,000 to 40,000, depending on the career field pursued.
9. Insurance Billing and Coding Specialist
People interested in a shortcut into the medical field may be interested in earning an Associate’s degree in Insurance Billing and Coding. These people will learn to decipher and understand medical records and bills, and work with physicians to move patient medical records into software used for insurance purposes.
This degree can be expected to prepare students to sit for certification exams, which most employers prefer. Those who are interested in this career field benefit if they are detail-oriented, and can understand verbal medical descriptions to transcribe. These people often serve as a liaison between health care providers and billing offices.
Professionals with this Associate’s degree can find employment in physician’s clinics, hospitals or billing companies. While Payscale estimates a starting salary of $31,000, that number can change drastically with varying certifications. A certified professional coder can expect an average salary of $48,000, and a certified professional medical auditor will earn an average of $59,000.
10. Health Information Management/Medical Office Administration
Anytime a patient sees a health care professional, some sort of documentation is created. But, what happens after the doctor makes scribbles on your chart? That’s where a health information management Associate’s degree comes into play.
Those notes are all transcribed into healthcare information systems, which are developed and maintained by health system technology experts. These individuals are responsible for gathering, analyzing, and protecting patient data. This degree has a way of combining various aspects of technology, medicine, information technology, finance, management and leadership, all into one. This results in a wide array of opportunity for graduates. Payscale reports that grads can expect an average starting salary of $33,900, and a mid-career average salary of $47,600.
For those interested in an entry-level position at some type of medical facility, a medical office administration Associate’s degree is a good option. The people in these roles are typically responsible for daily tasks that are a part of operations of the facility and ensuring a seamless experience for patients. These people typically perform administrative duties for the facility, and are a standard requirement for most health care offices. Because of that, graduates are able to find careers in many different environments: hospitals, outpatient facilities, physician offices, etc. Graduates with this degree can expect to earn an average starting salary of $28,200, with a mid-career average of $34,400, according to Payscale.