An associate’s degree is traditionally a two-year degree consisting of 60 credit hours earned from a community college or four-year university. It provides students with the basic education and general studies that are often required prior to taking courses in specific degree field.

In some cases, the associate’s degree can be enough education to begin a career in the workplace while others will go on to complete additional credit hours to earn their bachelor’s degree. If you’re a student interested in pursuing this type of degree without attending a traditional program, here’s the steps you need to take to get an associate’s degree online. 

Ensure Online is Right for You

Before you begin searching for an online school to pursue your associate’s degree, consider whether or not an online program is right for you. Online degrees are typically self-paced, so it’s important that you have the self-discipline and time management skills necessary to complete the coursework on schedule.

If you aren’t certain how you’ll do managing online coursework for your associate’s degree, ease into it by taking just one or two classes. This will allow you to build your time management skills before enrolling in a full semester.

Find an Online School

If you are certain an online associate’s degree program is right for you, then it’s time to find a school that offers the education you need. Associate’s degrees are offered online by both public and private institutions. They can be found at community colleges as well as four-year institutions. When choosing a school, review the degree program and curriculum. Ask about how online courses are structured and what support exists for online students. You want to ensure that online support is available for other items not related to a direct class, such as financial aid and academic advising. 

Consider Your Long-Term Career Goals

While a number of courses required for your associate’s degree fall into the realm of general studies, it can be beneficial to know what long-term career aspirations you have. If you know you have an interest or goal of working in a particular field, you can complete general study courses that better prepare you for that field. For example, if you are interested in working in healthcare, it makes more sense to take anatomy and physiology to meet the physical science requirements rather than physics or geology.

Pay for Your Education

There’s a number of different ways to fund your online associate’s degree. Your school may provide scholarships for online degree programs, so it’s important to check with a financial aid counselor from the school you’ll be attending.

If scholarships aren’t available, you have the option of paying cash for it from your savings or from a job you work at while attending school. You can also complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see if you qualify for grants from the federal government. If none of these options exist to pay for your associate’s degree online, consider borrowing student loans to cover your tuition costs. 

Meet with an Academic Advisor to Enroll

Once you’ve been admitted to the college, contact an academic advisor to get assistance in enrolling for your online courses. They often know the various professors that teach online and how they style their online course work. This can be advantageous to ensuring that you enroll in the online courses that best fit your needs.

For example, you might prefer coursework that is entirely self-paced with just the requirement that all coursework is complete by the end of the semester. Or maybe you would do better with an online course that requires periodic video conferences or online chat discussions as these can help to keep you on track. 

Complete Coursework and Credit Requirements

Once you’ve enrolled in classes for your online associate’s degree and paid for them, it’s time to get to work on earning your degree. Login to your online classes early and read through the syllabus to learn what is expected of you for the class. This will inform you of any interactions required between you and the professor or you and other students. It will also make you aware of any specific date requirements that you must meet for assignments. 

Complete your coursework in a timely manner, and ensure that nothing is turned in late or missing. Continue enrolling in and completing courses according to the associate degree requirements. If at any point you have questions about your courses or the degree requirements, you can reach out to your academic advisor for assistance. If you are struggling with a particular course and need assistance, reach out to the student services’ office to learn what tutoring programs are available to help online students.


During your final semester, follow the requirements outlined by the school in order to graduate and have your degree awarded. Some of these requirements will be specific to students that are planning to attend a graduation ceremony, while others will apply to all getting a degree regardless of whether or not they plan to walk across the stage to get their degree. Ensure that you take the necessary steps based on what you want to do. You don’t want all your hard work completing an associate’s degree online stalled simply because you forgot to fill out a form to have your credits reviewed and approved for a degree. 

Determine Next Steps

After you’ve earned your associate’s degree online, take time to reflect on your accomplishments and what you’ve achieved. Be proud of the work and self-discipline that you put into achieving your associate’s degree online. Then start thinking about what the next steps are for you with your associate’s degree. Has your associate’s degree provided enough knowledge and career training that you can enter the workforce? Or do you want to continue on with your education and spend an additional two years taking classes for a bachelor’s degree? If it’s the latter, consider your options for completing your bachelor’s degree.

You might find that given your success with an online associate’s degree, an online bachelor’s degree is the right option for you.