Most Affordable Online Associate Degrees

By the OnlineU team | Updated 4/13/2021

An online associate degree is a valuable asset whether you're prepping for a four-year degree or planning to enter the workforce. The following rankings list features the 25 most affordable colleges for online associate degrees in 2021. We ranked accredited schools with tuition under $5,000 per year in order to help prospective students achieve their academic goals in an affordable way. To learn more about how we determined these rankings, view our methodology.

This resource also details the most popular subjects for associate degrees, the best affordable online colleges for associate programs, and information on how to fund your online education.

2021 Most Affordable Associates Degrees Badge

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All tuition numbers were manually collected and verified
Rank School Locations Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 Allen County Community College Iola (KS) (and 1 other) $1,920
# 2 #2 Clovis Community College - NM Clovis (NM) $2,664
# 3 #3 Georgia State University-Perimeter College Decatur (GA) $2,850
# 4 #4 Albany State University Albany (GA) $2,945
# 5 #5 Western Nebraska Community College Scottsbluff (NE) $3,225
# 6 (tie) #6 (tie) Southeast Community College Lincoln (NE) (and 1 other) $3,690
# 6 (tie) #6 (tie) Washtenaw Community College Ann Arbor (MI) $3,690
# 8 #8 Arkansas Northeastern College Blytheville (AR) (and 3 others) $3,960
# 9 #9 Delgado Community College New Orleans (LA) $4,017
# 10 #10 Baton Rouge Community College Baton Rouge (LA) $4,046
# 11 #11 Chippewa Valley Technical College Eau Claire (WI) (and 4 others) $4,167
# 12 #12 Central Community College Grand Island (NE) $4,278
# 13 #13 Carl Albert State College Poteau (OK) $4,316
# 14 (tie) #14 (tie) Hutchinson Community College Hutchinson (KS) (and 2 others) $4,410
# 14 (tie) #14 (tie) Northeast Community College Norfolk (NE) $4,410
# 16 #16 Moraine Park Technical College Fond du Lac (WI) $4,444
# 17 (tie) #17 (tie) Barton County Community College Great Bend (KS) $4,500
# 17 (tie) #17 (tie) Trinity Valley Community College Athens (TX) $4,500
# 19 #19 Houston Community College Houston (TX) (and 3 others) $4,530
# 20 #20 Pierce College at Puyallup Puyallup (WA) $4,691
# 21 #21 Copiah-Lincoln Community College Wesson (MS) $4,800
# 22 (tie) #22 (tie) College of Southern Nevada Las Vegas (NV) $4,807
# 22 (tie) #22 (tie) Great Basin College Elko (NV) $4,807
# 22 (tie) #22 (tie) Truckee Meadows Community College Reno (NV) $4,807
# 25 #25 Cochise College Douglas (AZ) $4,896

Most Popular Subjects for Online Associate Degrees

# 1 Florida SouthWestern State College
Annual tuition: $2,436
# 2 Broward College
Annual tuition: $2,460
# 3 Highland Community College - KS
Annual tuition: $2,624
Computer Science
# 1 Broward College
Annual tuition: $2,460
# 2 Western Nebraska Community College
Annual tuition: $3,360
# 3 Metropolitan Community College
Annual tuition: $4,704
Criminal Justice
# 1 Florida SouthWestern State College
Annual tuition: $2,436
# 2 Broward College
Annual tuition: $2,460
# 3 Highland Community College - KS
Annual tuition: $2,624
Human Resources
# 1 Waubonsee Community College
Annual tuition: $3,900
# 2 Delgado Community College
Annual tuition: $4,017
# 3 Albany Technical College
Annual tuition: $5,340
Information Technology
# 1 Wharton County Junior College
Annual tuition: $2,520
# 2 Clovis Community College - NM
Annual tuition: $2,664
# 3 Western Nebraska Community College
Annual tuition: $3,255
# 1 Florida SouthWestern State College
Annual tuition: $2,436
# 2 Broward College
Annual tuition: $2,460
# 3 Alvin Community College
Annual tuition: $3,120
Medical Assistant
# 1 Barton County Community College
Annual tuition: $4,800
# 2 Dakota College at Bottineau
Annual tuition: $5,451
# 3 Minnesota State Community and Technical College
Annual tuition: $5,968

Best Affordable Online Colleges for Associate Programs

All Tuitions Under $14,000, High Salary Scores

For some students, picking a cost-effective college means considering not only upfront tuition costs, but also earning potential after graduating. To help these students, we combined those two factors to create this list of the best affordable online colleges for associate degrees. To determine these rankings, we compared schools based on a proprietary Salary Score, which compares alumni earnings one year after graduation. Because associate graduates tend to earn different salaries based on their major, we compared similar majors across schools and then compiled the data for all majors at a single school to find its Salary Score.

Each school featured here has a Salary Score of at least 84 (out of 100) and charges less than $14,000 per year for tuition. Indiana Wesleyan University Online earned the top spot with a Salary Score of 97, followed by Thomas Edison State University with 95 and the American Public University System with 93. To learn more about how we determined these rankings, view our methodology.

2021 Most Affordable Associate Degrees Badge

All tuition numbers were manually collected and verified
Annual Tuition: $8,970
Salary Score: 97
Annual Tuition: $8,970
Salary Score: 97
Annual Tuition: $8,970
Salary Score: 97

Indiana Wesleyan University Online (IWU) has a Salary Score of 97 for its associate programs. Graduates in online business and liberal arts associate programs have done especially well, with respective Salary Scores of 99 and 90. This includes the online Associate of Science in Integrative Studies, an interdisciplinary degree with many possible concentrations. Annual tuition for an online associate degree at IWU is $8,970; full-time students are required to take 30 credits per year, and the cost... per credit hour is $299.

Financial Support Overview

IWU's online students can pursue a variety of financial aid options, including grants, scholarships, discounts for military service members, and tuition reimbursement programs through employer partnerships. As an affiliate of the Wesleyan Church, IWU also provides discounts to Christian pastors enrolled in the online Associate of Science in Ministries (25% per credit for non-Wesleyan pastors and 45% for Wesleyan pastors).

Online Student Resources

  • Virtual tutoring
  • Off-campus library services
  • Career development field trips and internships
  • Accessibility support

Explore programs at Indiana Wesleyan University Online >>

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 93%
  • Average SATs: 1020 -1230
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 6,185
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 3,637
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Online Associate Degrees

  • M.S. Management - Associate to Master's
  • A.S. Accounting
  • A.S. Business
  • A.S. Christian Ministries
  • A.S. Computer Information Technology
  • A.S. Creative Digital Media

Online Master's Degrees

  • M.S. Management - Associate to Master's
Annual Tuition: $9,278
Salary Score: 95
Annual Tuition: $9,278
Salary Score: 95
Annual Tuition: $9,278
Salary Score: 95

The associate degree programs at Thomas Edison State University (TESU) have an overall Salary Score of 95. Some of the school's best online associate degrees are in the fields of business administration, social sciences, and the humanities, which all feature program scores of 100. Within these fields, TESU offers an Associate of Science in Business Administration and an interdisciplinary Associate of Arts with courses in writing, information literacy, and knowledge of human cultures. Full-time TESU... students pay annual tuition of $9,278, which is based on two terms per year at a flat rate of $4,639 per term.

Financial Support Overview

TESU provides scholarships for degree-seeking students in good standing, which requires maintaining active student status with at least a 3.0 GPA. Some of the institutional awards include the Paula Vaughan Endowed Scholarship for students demonstrating financial need and the Edith and Oscar Smilack Memorial Scholarship for students committed to improving society through an education in the arts, human services, or political science. New Jersey residents can also access state-based grants and loans.

Online Student Resources

  • Academic advising
  • Technical support
  • Accessibility services
  • Online library and database access

Explore programs at Thomas Edison State University >>

  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 9,475
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 655
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE

Online Associate Degrees

  • Associate in Applied Science in Applied Computer Studies
  • Associate in Applied Science in Applied Electronic Studies
  • Associate in Applied Science in Criminal Justice
  • Associate in Arts
  • Associate in Arts in Human Services
  • Associate in Science in Business Administration
Annual Tuition: $8,550
Salary Score: 93
Annual Tuition: $8,550
Salary Score: 93
Annual Tuition: $8,550
Salary Score: 93

American Public University System (APUS) has earned a Salary Score of 93 for its associate degree programs. Some associate programs have especially high individual Salary Scores, including those in business/commerce (99) and liberal arts and sciences, general studies, and humanities (100). The Associate of Arts in General Studies lets students design a liberal arts program that they can later transfer to satisfy general education requirements for a bachelor's degree. Annual tuition is $8,550 for... full-time students, which was calculated by multiplying the $285 credit-hour undergraduate tuition rate by 30 (the credits required for full-time students each year).

Financial Support Overview

The majority of APUS students are active-duty military or veterans, and the school emphasizes tuition assistance and grants for these students over institutional scholarships. The tuition rate drops to $250 per credit for active-duty service members and veterans and their families, along with National Guard and Reserves members. These students also receive discounts on fees, and all students receive free books (paper or electronic) regardless of civilian or military status.

Online Student Resources

  • Personal success coaches
  • 24/7 technical support
  • Academic advising
  • Alumni networking opportunities

Explore programs at American Public University System >>

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 37,335
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 7,914
  • School Type: For-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Online Associate Degrees

  • Associate of Applied Science in Administration
  • Associate of Applied Science in Culinary and Foodservice Management
  • Associate of Applied Science in Health Sciences
  • Associate of Applied Science in Technical Management
  • Associate of Arts in Business Administration
  • Associate of Arts in Communication

What Is an Associate Degree and Can I Earn One Online?

Associate degrees are available from community colleges, technical colleges, and some four-year universities. These programs typically require 60 credits to complete and are shorter than bachelor's degree programs that require 120 credits. Having an associate degree opens the door to higher salaries than a high school diploma or GED alone. Graduates are prepared to enter the workforce or continue their education by pursuing a bachelor's degree at a four-year university.

Some careers that you can qualify for with an associate degree:

  • Payroll clerk
  • Occupational therapy assistant
  • Radiologic and MRI technologists
  • Computer support specialist
  • Web developer
  • Civil/architectural drafter

Online associate degrees are available in various disciplines, including business, science, healthcare, liberal arts, and technology. The typical prerequisites for an associate program are that applicants are at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or GED. Students may also be required to submit SAT/ACT test scores before applying and take placement tests once they are enrolled in a program.

Online associate programs are flexible so you can continue to earn an income while completing your degree. Asynchronous coursework allows you to complete coursework when convenient on the college's learning platform, where you can submit assignments and interact with classmates and instructors through email or discussion forums.

Types of Associate Degrees

There are several types of associate degree programs available, including an Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS), and an Associate of Applied Science (AAS). Each of these degrees is outlined below in greater detail. Typically, AA and AS programs provide students with the general education requirements needed to transfer into a bachelor's degree program. An AAS provides students with vocational training for specific occupations.

Associate of Arts (AA)

AA degrees are the most flexible degree program with fewer math or science requirements and more electives than an AS degree. Students are required to complete courses in liberal arts and social science with some mathematics and general science courses. AA degrees provide students with foundational knowledge that will allow them to apply their credits toward a Bachelor of Arts degree or seek entry-level careers in a broad range of fields.

Associate of Science (AS)

AS degrees are designed for students interested in technical fields, such as engineering, computers, science, and mathematics. Students in these programs have fewer electives and take more math and science courses. Graduates often have the prerequisites necessary to apply to a Bachelor of Science program at a college or university or pursue entry-level job opportunities in the technology, business, or engineering fields.

Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

AAS degrees prepare students for a particular profession after graduation, such as office administration, nursing, dental hygiene, manufacturing, and law enforcement. The majority of classes in these programs aim to develop vocational skills applicable to a specific career path, so these degrees are not designed to be transferable. However, students may be able to transfer credits into a bachelor's degree program by contacting the school's admissions office and asking if they offer free transfer credit evaluation.


One of the most important things to determine when applying to an online associate program is whether the school is accredited. To receive institutional accreditation, colleges or universities must undergo rigorous peer-review by independent agencies and demonstrate high educational standards. Schools can be accredited at the regional and national levels, with regional accreditation considered the more prestigious of the two. Regardless of the level of accreditation, the following benefits are associated with enrolling in an accredited school:

  • You are eligible for federal financial aid
  • You will receive a high-quality education
  • Your credits can be transferred to another accredited college or university
  • Your degree will be respected in your field, which can qualify you for employment or certification after graduation

Students can determine if their online program is accredited by going directly to the school's website or contacting the admission office. Another option is to search for the school in the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs (DAPIP) offered by the U.S. Department of Education.

We require that all schools on our site be accredited at the institutional level. You can see each school's accreditation on our rankings lists as shown below:

How Long Does It Take to Earn an Associate Degree Online?

You can typically complete an associate's degree program online in two years if you are enrolled full-time. Some colleges offer accelerated programs that you can complete in one and a half years or less. Other ways to shorten your degree completion time and save on tuition is to maximize the number of transfer credits. You can do this by determining whether your college offers credit for prior learning through examination or previous professional or military experience. The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) is accepted at over 2,9000 colleges and allows students to test out of introductory-level college courses by passing exams offered in 34 subjects.

Associate Degree Quick Facts
  • Average Credits: 30 - 40
  • Average Duration: 2 years

How Associate Degrees Fit Within the Broader Higher Education Picture

AA and AS degrees are offered by two-year institutions and designed so that graduates can further their education by transferring their credits towards a bachelor's degree program at a four-year institution. Many community colleges offer direct transfer agreements with local universities to make the transition as seamless as possible. Both online and in-person associate degree programs are eligible for this direct transfer program. If you're unsure whether your college offers this program, be sure to contact your academic advisor for more information.

You can often lower the total cost of earning a bachelor's degree by completing your general education requirements at a community college since the per-credit tuition rate at two-year institutions is typically lower than at a four-year university. While you are not required to enroll in a bachelor's program right after graduation, your online associate degree acts as a stepping stone to pursue an advanced degree in the future.

While you are not required to enroll in a bachelor's program right after graduation, your online associate degree acts as a stepping stone to pursue an advanced degree in the future.

Popular Online Areas of Study

Associate degrees prepare graduates for careers in a range of industries. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) states that the most popular associate degrees in 2017-18 were in the following fields: liberal arts and sciences, healthcare, and business, followed by criminal justice and computer and information sciences. We list several popular online associate programs below and include information on online courses, prerequisites, careers, and median earnings for each degree.

The prerequisites for the following associate programs include a high school diploma or GED. You may be required to provide your SAT/ACT scores and take placement tests once accepted into the program. Placement tests assess your academic skill level in various subjects, such as math, science, and English, to place you in the correct class. All of the programs indicated below take two years to complete, or one and a half years if an accelerated program is offered. Salary data is provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics(BLS).

Online Business Administration Associate

You might take courses in:

Micro/Macroeconomics, Financial Accounting, Business Law

You might become a:
  • Bookkeeping/Accounting/Auditing Clerk - Median Annual Salary: $41,230
  • Financial Clerk - Medial Annual Salary: $40,540
  • Information Clerk - Median Annual Salary: $35,390

Learn more about online business associate degrees.

Online Information Technology Associate

You might take courses in:

Introduction to Computer Information Systems, Fundamentals of Network Security, Programming Fundamentals I

You might become a:
  • Computer Support Specialist - Median Annual Salary: $54,760
  • Computer Programmer - Median Annual Salary: $66,317
  • Web Developer - Median Annual Salary: $73,760

Learn more about online IT associate degrees.

Online Criminal Justice Associate

You might take courses in:

Introduction to Criminal Justice, Criminal Procedures, Ethics in Criminal Justice

You might become a:
  • Police Officer and Detective - Median Annual Salary: $65,170
  • Private Detective and Investigator - Median Annual Salary: $50,510
  • Correctional Officer and Bailiff - Median Annual Salary: $45,300

Learn more about online criminal justice associate degrees.

Online Medical Assistant Associate

You might take courses in:

Anatomy and Physiology I&II, Clinical Procedures I & II, Clinical Practicum

You might become a:
  • Medical Assistant - Median Annual Salary: $34,800

Learn more about online medical assistant programs.

How Much Does an Online Associate Degree Cost?

The cost of an online associate degree varies depending on several factors, including the type of program (online or in-person), the type of institution (private, public, or for-profit), and whether the student qualifies for the in-state or out-of-state tuition rate. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that the average tuition across all two-year colleges in 2017-2018 was $10,704 per year. The tuition rate was lowest for public institutions at $10,281 and highest for nonprofit and for-profit schools at $25,596.

Of the schools we researched in order to rank the most affordable online associate degrees, the median annual tuition is $8,220 at public schools and $14,850 at private universities.

While NCES data may be a helpful starting point, it is not specific to online programs. What an online student will pay is sometimes substantially lower than these numbers. Many schools offer a reduced per-credit rate for online programs, which offers online students a lower rate regardless of their location. Of the schools we researched in order to rank the most affordable online associate degrees, the median annual tuition is $8,220 at public schools and $14,850 at private universities.

Online students may also save money since they do not have to pay on-campus fees; however, online students may be charged additional technology or distance learning fees. Because online degree programs are designed to be flexible, students can complete coursework on their own time and still work while completing their degree, which can further help offset overall education costs.

Funding an Online Associate Degree

Students enrolled in an online associate degree program have several options to fund their degree, including federal aid, scholarships, and employer assistance programs. Students must be enrolled in the program at least part-time to be eligible for governmental aid.

Federal Aid

Students can apply for federal financial aid by filling out a FAFSA form, and awards range from grants to loans and work-study awards. Students exhibiting great financial need may also qualify for state aid by submitting the FAFSA form. While grants, such as the Pell Grant, do not need to be paid back as long as the student maintains satisfactory academic standing, loans will need to be paid back with or without interest, depending on whether an unsubsidized or subsidized loan is awarded. Finally, work-study programs are federal partnerships with local businesses or organizations that allow students to earn money and gain real-world experience while they are attending college.


Community colleges and outside organizations offer students various scholarships based on merit, financial need, or program. Like grants, scholarships do not need to be repaid. Institutional aid (scholarships or awards offered by colleges) may have additional requirements that require the student to maintain a satisfactory GPA. Contact your school's financial aid office to determine whether you are eligible for any scholarships or awards. There are also many scholarships offered by outside organizations or agencies for students at the associate degree level. CareerOneStop is an excellent resource for students to search for education awards by degree level, type, and location.

Employer Tuition Assistance

Some employers offer tuition assistance or reimbursement programs to their employees as a yearly benefit. For example, major employers, including Walmart and Disney, are partnered with Guild Education to offer their employees access to various non-profit online programs at a reduced cost. Contact your employer or your HR department to determine whether any educational benefits may be available to you.

What Is the Best Online Associate Degree to Get?

Determining which associate degree is best for you depends on several factors, such as your future goals and interests, long-term employment opportunities, and salary outlook. For example, if you would like to jump-start your career, an AAS degree may be the best choice; however, if you're interested in eventually pursuing a bachelor's degree, you should consider an AA or AS degree program.

Identifying your interests and skill set is also a necessary step before choosing an associate degree program. CareerOneStop offers several assessment tools to help you learn about possible career options that are a good match for you. You can also network with professionals in your intended career path to get a firsthand account of their work experience. Having networking connections may be helpful when you are ready to begin the job search process.

The best program for you might also be one that prepares you for a career in a growing industry, bettering your chances of landing a job and salary that matches your goals. According to the BLS, several high-earning jobs that require an associate degree are occupational therapy assistants, respiratory therapists, and medical sonographers. These occupations are expected to grow by at least 12%, three times more than the average 4% for all occupations, and earn a median salary of over $60,000 per year.

Which Associate Degree Pays the Most?

Students may wonder which associate degrees will lead to high-paying careers, which is understandable given the financial investment and time it takes to earn a degree. Many of the associate degrees that lead to the highest paying jobs are in healthcare and computer and information science. The following list ranks the top five lucrative jobs that require an associate degree with annual median salaries of over $70,000 in 2019, as reported by the BLS and Payscale.

Radiation Therapists

Median Annual Salary:

Radiation therapists administer radiation treatments to patients with cancer and other diseases. They educate and prepare patients for the procedure and operate the equipment that delivers the radiation treatment.

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Median Annual Salary:

Nuclear medicine technologists administer radioactive drugs, known as radiopharmaceuticals, to patients and then use imaging equipment to take scans of the medication in the patient's body. These scans are used by physicians to diagnose disease or infection.

Dental Hygienists

Median Annual Salary:

Dental hygienists clean and polish patient's teeth and check for diseases, such as gingivitis. They also take x-rays, document dental treatment plans, and educate patients on proper oral hygiene.

Web Developers and Designers

Median Annual Salary:

Web developers and designers are responsible for creating and monitoring the functionality of websites to ensure that they perform as intended. Professionals may also design a website's navigation and layout.

Computer Programmer

Median Annual Salary:

Computer programmers write and update code in several programming languages, such as C++ and Python, for various applications and programs. While many computer programmers have a bachelor's degree, some employers may hire applicants with an associate degree in the field.

Learn more about online computer science associate degrees.


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