How Long Does it Take to Earn an Associate’s Degree Online?

If you’d like to transition into a new line of work, the best way to get started is to earn an associate’s degree online. When you don’t have experience in a field, a majority of employers will look for education to replace the experience requirements. By taking entry-level coursework in a specific area of study, you’ll be prepared for entry-level positions. Here’s what you need to know about earning your associate’s degree online and the time you can expect it to take.

Types of Online Degrees

If you know exactly what type of position you are pursuing, you can narrow down your degree options rather easily. It becomes difficult for prospective students to choose a degree program when they are not quite sure what they want to do. No matter what major area you are planning to focus your degree in, you can find an online program to enroll in at some of your local community colleges and universities.


Each school has different curriculum requirements for their associate’s degree programs. Typically, the degree program requires students to complete mainly prerequisites when you’re studying for a 2-year degree. If you’re selecting a major, there will be some entry-level course requirements focused in the major area. With most institutions, you must earn 60-semester credit hours or 90 quarter credits before you’ll be eligible for your degree.

Time Commitment

Studying online is a great option for people who are going to work while they complete school. It’s also a good alternative to commuting to school if you live in a rural area or don’t have access to a vehicle. If you decide that an online associate’s degree program is right for you, you can expect to spend about 2 to 2.5 years completing your coursework if you’re enrolled full-time. Full-time students earn between 12 and 15 credit hours per semester. This equates to about 24 to 30 credits per year.

If you’re going to study part-time for your degree online, you have to do the math to estimate how long it will take to complete the curriculum requirements. Assuming that you take 6 credits each semester, you would have to spend 4 years in school to complete your degree. If you decided to go ahead and take one or two courses during the summer, you could cut down on that time and complete the degree in about 3 years.


You can save a lot of time studying for an online associate’s degree and still keep a flexible schedule. While it is a good option for busy students, online studies are not for everyone. You need to be self-driven and organized to succeed as an online student. You may be able to email your professor, but much of your lessons will involve independent study. Don’t forget that you will spend about 3 to 5 hours per semester credit studying and completing homework.

Not all associate degree programs that are delivered online are created equal. You need to do your research and choose the best program before you enroll in classes. You must also make sure you are realistic about the course load you can handle. With the proper planning and determination, you can earn your associate’s degree online within 2 to 4 years.

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Cheapest Online Colleges for Associate’s Degrees