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Online Associate Degree Program: Associate Degrees Online, Online Associates Degree Programs

Pursuing an associate degree can be a valuable step towards immediate career placement in a specialized field, but may also serve as the basis for a four-year undergraduate degree program. An Associate Degree program typically requires a minimum of 60 semester credit hours, and is comprised of general educational credits, major requirements, and a few elective courses. If you prefer an accelerated format instead, an online associate degree program may be a better choice for your educational aspirations. Online associate degree programs can offer you the freedom to work at your own pace, while encouraging the use of the internet to complete research and collaborate with classmates.

What Does an Online Associate Degree Offer?

An online associate degree offers the same curriculum as an on-campus associate degree program, except there is no requirement to attend a formal classroom. Online instruction is becoming an attractive option for students of all ages and backgrounds, and is especially useful for returning adult students, or those who are looking to start a new career.

Since almost all work is completed and submitted online, students who pursue an online associate degree can take advantage of online databases to conduct research, learn key technical and communication skills as they collaborate on projects, and learn how to work in a new environment. Lectures, presentations, and assignments are all delivered in electronic format; this gives students a chance to download and learn course information at their own pace.

Completing an associates degree online presents an innovative learning opportunity for tech-savvy students and independent learners. Since the curriculum is designed to be in an accelerated format, students who are working full- or part-time still have a chance to complete their education.

What Are Some Advantages of an Online Associate Degree?

There are several advantages of completing an online associate degree, and the various degree programs can offer students a valuable education regardless of their location. An online associate degree program makes it easy to collaborate with students and professors from around the world; any specialists or experts that are located in different states can provide valuable information and communications for students, and students can also take advantage of a variety of innovative learning modules such as video, websites, and slideshows.

Additional advantages of completing an associate degree online include:

  • Developing strong internet research skills for various projects
  • No travel expenses to commute back and forth to campus
  • Saving time for study by working from home
  • Learning key communication skills via e-mail and teleconferencing
  • Becoming proficient with time management and handling multiple projects
  • Independent learning atmosphere and self-paced study environment

What Types of Online Associates Degree Programs Are Available?

Unlike bachelor degree programs that only offer two branches of study, there are four types of associate degree programs available.

An Associate of Arts degree (A.A.) program is designed to transfer into a four-year college or university, and the most common disciplines include the liberal arts, humanities, education, and hospitality.

An Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) program is designed for immediate career placement after two years of study. In most cases, this online associate degree program can also transfer into a four-year college or university for continued education. A.A.S. degrees are commonly found in the areas of business, engineering, technology, or the sciences.

An Associate of Science degree (A.S.) program is designed for transfer into a four-year college or university, and the most common disciplines are the sciences, mechanics, and technology. These online associate degree programs are becoming increasingly popular in the fields of engineering and computer science, and the advances with the internet are making these even more applicable today.

An Occupational Degree is often regarded as a specialized associate degree program, and is designed to allow students immediate placement in the workface. While most are two years in length, some are extended into three-year programs that allow for an internship or work co-op program. In some cases, an online associate degree program completed can lead to a transfer to a 4-year college.

How Do You Choose an Associates Degree Online Program?

Choosing an appropriate online associate degree program will depend on a variety of factors including:

  • Time available in your schedule
  • Your ability to learn independently
  • Your web and internet research skills
  • Your long-term educational goals
  • Financing available

Deciding which discipline will be most appropriate will depend on your educational strengths and backgrounds. It's a good idea to outline what subjects you excelled at in high school, and review various job descriptions to see which ones suit you best. Speaking with a guidance counselor at an admissions office may also help you determine your strengths and weaknesses, and define the appropriate career objectives.

The next step is to choose an accredited school for your associate degree online program. Accreditation has become increasingly important for today's competitive job marketplace that requires students are well-trained and up to speed on the latest curriculum and technologies. Completing your online associate degree program through an accredited school will allow prospective employers and schools to acknowledge that you have received a quality education.

After reviewing your options for each type of associates degree online, you will need to consider the tuition costs. Many associate degrees online offer payment options where you can send in tuition payments throughout the year on a schedule. Finding out about scholarships and financial aid may also help you complete your program of choice without having to make extra arrangements for financing.

After selecting your school for the online associate degree program of choice, you will need to apply for admission. In general, the admission requirements of online associate degree programs is not as strict as a bachelor's degree course of study, and you will need to show proof of a high school diploma or GED, and possibly an ACT score.

Availability of Associates Degrees Online

A variety of technical colleges, institutions, and online schools now offer accredited associates degrees online, and it is important to review the school's accreditation status and credentials before applying for admission. Associates degrees online are available in the following courses of study:

  • Business & Management
  • Early Childhood Development
  • Graphic Design
  • Hospitality Management
  • Social Sciences
  • Telecommunications
  • Health Sciences
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Accounting
  • Human Resources
  • Law & Paralegal Studies

How Is an Associate Degree Online Accredited?

Accreditation is a very important factor when choosing online associates degree programs, as they prove credibility and value of instruction to potential employers or other colleges. Not every school is accredited by an appropriate accreditation board, and it is best to find a school that has been approved by at least one of the six regional accreditation boards as well as the Distance Education Training Council (DETC).

The six regional accreditation boards for a valuable associate degree online include:

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  • North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA)
  • Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges (MSA)
  • Southern Association of Schools and Colleges (SACS)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
  • Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges (NWCCU)

You can also search for a particular school by using the United States Department of Education database. The majority of schools that offer associate degrees online will publish their accreditation status in their admissions handbooks.

A Few Facts About Getting Your Associates Degree Online

Completing your online associate degree program will require initiative, adapting to an independent learning format, and a high level of self motivation. Since you will not be attending a campus for assignments and feedback from your professor, it is especially important to maintain consistent communication with other students and your instructor on a regular basis. While obtaining an associates degree online may seem easier than a traditional program, it will still impose its own set of challenges. There are a few things to keep in mind as you pursue an associate degree online.

First, it's important to stay ahead of course deadlines and assignments by using an effective calendar tool. Associate degrees online are usually fast-paced and require diligent study. Time management is a skill that you can develop only with direct application, and an independent learning environment offers you ample opportunities to work on this. Learn how to manage multiple projects and complete them ahead of due dates on a regular basis.

Secondly, learn how to work over the web. An online associate degree program often involves working with other students, and for group assignments, you will pick up key skills to collaborate effectively with other students via e-mail and other forms of correspondence on a regular basis. Keeping up with discussion groups with forums and blogs is an excellent way to learn from other students, and maintain open lines of communication about what you are learning. Remember that this is the only interaction you will ever have with your fellow classmates, so it's best to keep it as productive and on-topic as possible.

Third, you will need to organize your daily schedule to balance your work and study time. If you are enrolling as a part-time student because of a job, it is important not to leave assignments and projects until the last minute. Instead, make a daily plan that allows you to work on different areas throughout the day so you're not always catching up.

Finally, make sure to maintain consistent contact with your instructor. Your instructor is an excellent resource for any questions you may have for an assignment, and you must learn to ask questions clearly and directly to avoid losing time. Since an online associate degree program is usually in an accelerated format, you will need to maximize your time as often as possible.

Additional Tips for Students Interested in Online Associates Degree Programs

Completing an online associates degree program can be a very rewarding experience, and can open up many opportunities for a long-term career or furthering your education. Since many online associates degree programs offer immediate job placement options, it is even more important to make the most of the educational experience each and every week. Some additional tips when completing an associates degree online:

1. Keep up to date with class news. Many professors post daily and weekly bulletins about new assignments and even industry news. Make sure you are visiting the class portal on a daily basis to stay up to date on any changes, news, or updates

2. Get to know your classmates. Although you won't be seeing most of your classmates in person, it's a good idea to share friendly introductions at the beginning of the study term and learn a little about each one.

3. Create a physical (offline) folder of notes and printouts. Even though most of your learning will take place on-screen, you will need to refer to notes and handouts on a regular basis. Stay organized with folders and other basic school supplies so you have everything you need when you sit down in front of the computer.

4. Participate regularly in discussion groups. Discussion groups offer a very flexible format for communication, and make it much easier to track a conversation or topic at any time of day. Post timely and relevant responses, and become an active participant. Many instructors also grade you on participation and the number of postings you contribute each week, so keep this in mind as you work through the semester.

5. Request feedback from your instructor. You may already have access to your online grade book, but learning about your status or performance form your instructor can help you improve at the right time during the semester.


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