If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with what an associate degree is: a two-year degree, which can be studied at a community college, online, or via a special program at universities, worth half-credit when you apply for a bachelor’s degree program. This degree is a way to achieve some form of qualification if you don’t have the time or the money for a bachelor degree – and an option that an increasing number of working people are pursuing via online courses.
Online associate degrees are just as valid as those pursued at a community college or school. In fact, many colleges now offer online degrees – pursuing an online course with a recognized university is one way to guarantee that your degree will be accredited properly, but the drawback is often an increased fee scale. Online degrees have the advantage that they can be studied in your own time, and also, usually, at your own pace. This means you can accelerate your study if you wish, or slow it down to suit your personal commitments.
The types of associate degree you can pursue include: Associate of Arts, which can be transferred to a four-year degree; Associate of Applied Science, which is designed for technical jobs and which can be known by the specific subject title such as ‘Associate of Engineering’ or ‘Associate of Business’; Associate of Science, which is designed to be transferable to a science bachelor degree; and, an Occupational Degree, which focuses more on specific vocational skills and is designed to prepare people to enter the workforce.
Some things to think about: will this degree help your career? Will it apply to your work situation? Will an arts-based or technical qualification benefit you more? What do you want to do afterwards? Are you aiming to transfer to a bachelor degree or use your qualification immediately? If you are aiming to transfer your credits to a bachelor degree, check with other institutions that they will accept credits from the organization with which you plan to study (this is also a great way to double-check the legitimacy of an organization before you study with them).
Most vitally, if you plan to study online. check the accreditation status of the organization you plan to study with. The accreditation process investigates each institution’s commitment to providing quality education at a level equal with the regional standard. In general, accreditation agencies check the institution’s mission, resources, student admission requirements, support services and the quality of the faculty and educational offerings. In some countries this process is conducted by the government, but in the US it is a peer-review process, making it a minefield for the unwary.
Just because an organization or institution says that they are accredited does not mean they are. This, what is traditionally known as ‘lying’ but in modern times is merely a manipulation of the facts, is possible because not all forms of accreditation are equal. Truly accredited organizations will openly provide information on their accreditation. Non-accredited organizations will use words like ‘approved’, ‘licensed’, ‘recognized’, ‘authorized’ and ‘chartered’, and may say that they are ‘pursuing accreditation.’ You should also check the qualifications of the accrediting agency the institution has used: less-than prestigious colleges have been known to found their own accreditation agencies with legit-sounding names in order to gain accreditation. Check the other institutions the agency has accredited and see what people say about them before trusting the accreditation.
This might seem like a lot of work to enroll to do… a lot of work. In truth, doing a little checking on the college or institution with which you plan to pursue your online associate degree can save you a lot of time in the long run, and a lot of money.