General studies associate degrees are designed for students who plan on pursuing an advanced degree but do not know what field they want to study. These programs consist of general education courses that provide the foundational and critical thinking skills for advancement to upper-level college courses. So if you need some time to explore your options, a general studies associate degree may be right for you.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers Salary survey, the average starting salary for graduates with a general studies degree was reported at $45,000, an increase from the previous year's mean salary of $41,605.

What are the best general studies programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:

Rank School Location
1 Brigham Young University - Idaho Rexburg, ID
2 Olney Central College Olney, IL
3 Ashland University Ashland, OH
4 Chaminade University of Honolulu Honolulu, HI
5 Peirce College Philadelphia, PA
6 Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH
7 Utah State University Logan, UT
8 Holmes Community College Goodman, MS
9 Amarillo College Amarillo, TX
10 Keiser University Fort Lauderdale, FL

What Else Can I Expect From an Online Associate in General Studies Program?

Time to Complete

Full-time students can usually complete an associate-level education online degree in two years or less.

Credit Hours

To graduate, most online colleges require students to complete 60 credit hours of coursework.

Program Costs

$7,100 to $10,000 is the average cost for a year's tuition.

Core Courses

Mathematics, history, literature, biology, social sciences, writing, and others

What Are The Best Online Associate in General Studies Programs?

Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

Brigham Young University - Idaho

Rexburg, ID Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 57%

BYU brings more than 130 years of higher education experience to its online programs, offered through the institution's BYU-Pathway Worldwide. Incoming learners seeking two-year degrees can pursue an associate of applied science in professional studies through the BYU network's Idaho branch.

This flexible study path affords students precision control over their own learning, as the program enables learners to customize their degree plans with coursework and topics of their own choosing. Covering a total of 60 credits, the only major academic requirement is certificates. Learners must commit to completing at least one concentrated certificate path, which comprises 12-15 credits.

Subject options cover a variety of generalized topics that build practical skills in demand among employers. As of the 2019-20 academic year, degree-seekers can choose from 27 certificates. In addition to at least one certificate, learners must also complete 18 credits of general education and nine elective credits to qualify for graduation.

2

Olney Central College

Olney, IL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 56%

Olney Central College is one of four institutions in the Illinois Eastern Community College system. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, the system includes more than 26,000 students. Very affordable tuition rates and small class sizes with intimate learning environments define the Illinois Eastern Community College experience, even in its online iterations.

Covering 64 semester credits, Olney Central College's associate in general studies program includes three main components. About one-third of the program comprises general education requirements, shaped by an additional 12 credits of learning in a declared area of concentration. The remaining credits cover electives, which supplement the student's specialized learning.

Olney Central College offers concentrations in seven subject areas: communications, mathematics, sciences, humanities, social sciences, general business, and technical education. The school supports continued education and adult learning: in 2019, 56% of enrolled students were aged 25 or older.

3

Ashland University

Ashland, OH Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 61%

Ohio-based Ashland University began in 1878 and maintains a forward-thinking institutional philosophy that values active faculty participation in students' intellectual and professional development. Learners seeking to advance their academic knowledge or prepare for enrollment in four-year colleges can pursue an associate in general studies degree through the institution's popular online learning platform.

Comprising 60 credits, this online degree path provides students with various choice and customization options. Beyond requirements in communications, written composition, mathematics and logic, and lifetime wellness, the program allows students to select the classes that interest them most.

Regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, Ashland University delivers programs through accelerated seven-week terms. Low tuition rates complement a "no registration fees" policy that saves learners hundreds of dollars over the course of the program.

4

Chaminade University of Honolulu

Honolulu, HI Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 59%

Established in 1955 by leading Catholic educators, Chaminade has matured into an acclaimed regional institution. The school has earned extensive media praise and high rankings for its socioeconomic mobility profile, student diversity, overall educational quality, and value.

Learners seeking a broad, generalized education in the arts, humanities, and social sciences can explore options through the school's online associate of arts degree path. Coursework emphasizes the development of strong critical thinking, academic integrity, and leadership skills. Degree-seekers must complete 60 credit-hours to qualify for graduation, with transfer-friendly policies allowing incoming students to earn advanced standing by covering up to three-quarters of those requirements.

Spanning a multidisciplinary array of academic and practical topics, the program supports eventual transition into four-year degrees. Regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges since 1960, Chaminade University of Honolulu also holds specialized endorsements for various behavioral sciences, education, nursing, business and communications, and humanities and fine arts programs.

5

Peirce College

Philadelphia, PA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 35%

Philadelphia's Peirce College maintains a strong focus on education, specializing in programs designed for mature, career-oriented students. Regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the historic school has cultivated a prominent reputation for its cooperative community efforts to bring valuable educational opportunities to busy working parents.

The school's online associate of arts in general studies program offers a strong educational base to learners seeking a generalized, customizable introduction to higher learning. Designed to track learners into careers and four-year degree paths, the entirely online program includes 61 credits. Local degree-seekers can also opt for a hybrid format that combines virtual and physical classrooms.

The curriculum emphasizes multiple academic subjects and perspectives. Students can build their own degree plans, drawing on courses in a variety of liberal arts, humanities, mathematics, physical sciences, and technology disciplines. Core requirements cover classes in computer software, communications, English composition, research skills, ethics, math, and sciences, creating a versatile base for continued learning.

6

Southern New Hampshire University

Manchester, NH Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 54%

SNHU balances outstanding affordability with world-class educational standards. Tuition rates for the school's online programs rank among the lowest in the U.S., with armed forces members and their spouses qualifying for generous additional discounts of 30%.

Configured as a private, nonprofit institution with regional accreditation, SNHU features an online associate of arts in liberal arts studies intended for learners who want to pursue higher education but have not yet chosen a specific interest in a specialized degree path. Comprising 60 credits, the program emphasizes essential topics, including English composition and perspective-based courses that cover surveys of specific disciplines in the social sciences, physical sciences, liberal arts, and humanities.

Learning outcomes emphasize tangible hard and soft skills, including strong cultural analysis capabilities along with qualitative and quantitative analysis proficiencies. Students also develop valuable research skills that prepare them for academic success in four-year programs and beyond.

7

Utah State University

Logan, UT Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 50%

Founded in 1888, USU has grown from a small regional college into a major research institute with an international footprint. In 2017, Washington Monthly magazine ranked USU as the fifth-best public university in the United States.

Learners seeking introductory transitions into the world of higher education enjoy flexible and varied study options at USU. The school's entirely online general studies associate programs include paths that lead to associate of arts and associate of science degrees. Both pathways enable students to personalize their learning programs by integrating multidisciplinary course options.

Both the AA and AS programs include 60 credits of degree requirements, which cover both general education and concentrated study components. To qualify for graduation, learners must complete at least 20 credits at USU and maintain a 2.0 minimum cumulative GPA.

8

Holmes Community College

Goodman, MS Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 35%

Goodman, Mississippi's Holmes Community College understands that many students want the benefits of higher education credentials but have not yet fully committed to a particular academic discipline or career path. The school's online associate of arts in general college studies was purpose-built for learners in such situations.

This degree plan familiarizes students with a variety of topics through general, introductory courses in a broad cross-section of liberal arts and humanities disciplines. The college's structure makes it an ideal alternative to the standard procedure of declaring a major, and learners pursue coursework that represents the equivalent of a four-year degree's electives requirements. This enables graduates to earn advanced standing in a bachelor's program if they choose to pursue the credential.

Holmes Community College holds full regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school maintains a 100% acceptance rate policy, guaranteeing admission to any applicant meeting basic eligibility standards.

9

Amarillo College

Amarillo, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 31%

Headquartered in Texas, Amarillo College holds the distinction of being the first community college in the Un.S. to embrace the "no excuses" learning outcome policy. Initially embraced by charter schools, this learning model emphasizes high levels of achievement in mathematics and language proficiency, ensuring students emerge with an education that exceeds basic national standards.

AC's online associate of science in general studies helps fill the gap for students who cannot find programs that conform to their individual career development needs or academic interests. With the assistance of dedicated advisors, degree-seekers form tailor-made degree plans covering a standard 60 credits.

Students' freedom to forge their own way remains rooted in a structured approach that includes credit requirements in several critical areas. General education essentials include courses in communications, mathematics, life and physical sciences, cultural studies, creative arts, civics, social sciences, and history. This guarantees that graduates matriculate with a well-rounded knowledge base that supports academic and professional success in their future endeavors.

10

Keiser University

Fort Lauderdale, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 69%

Keiser ranks as Florida's third-largest nonprofit higher education institution, with 21 campuses and 20,000 students enrolled statewide. Regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Keiser earned international acclaim and high regional rankings for military friendliness and overall quality.

Online learners can improve their academic credentials by pursuing an entirely online general studies program leading to an associate of arts degree. By design, the study path exposes students to a wealth of academic disciplines, seeking to cultivate curiosity and guide students to explore growing interests.

Degree requirements cover 60 credits, with mandatory classes in behavioral or social sciences, communications, computer science, economics, English composition, mathematics, natural sciences, and humanities or fine arts. These multidisciplinary courses complement a general studies major, including 24 credits in a student's chosen field.

What Can I Do With an Associate in General Studies Degree?

CAREER PATHS

The basic skills learned through a general studies degree online, such as critical thinking, scientific knowledge, and written communication, can be applied in a variety of other careers, including business, social work, and politics. Many of these skills and course credits are transferable to higher degrees. An associate in general studies degree will provide you with many opportunities. Below is a list of potential occupations for general studies graduates.

Psychiatric Technicians and Aides

Psychiatric technicians help individuals with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities. They provide care and assist on-call psychiatrists. This career requires at least a high school diploma.

Median Annual Salary - $28,670
Projected Growth Rate - 5%

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Medical laboratory technologists and technicians help researchers and doctors collect patient samples and perform tests. They often work in hospitals, medical research laboratories, or doctor's offices. The technologist career typically requires a bachelor's degree; technicians need an associate or postsecondary certificate. Some states require additional licensing.

Median Annual Salary - $50,930
Projected Growth Rate - 16%

Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers assist veterinarians and animal researchers in their day-to-day activities. Their responsibilities include caring for animal patients, performing routine exams, and other tasks in the lab or veterinary office. Most veterinary assistants have a high school diploma.

Median Annual Salary - $25,250
Projected Growth Rate - 9%

Social and Human Service Assistants

Social and human service assistants help clients identify their needs and solve problems. They can be found working for nonprofit organizations, social service agencies, and government agencies. This position requires at least a high school diploma.

Median Annual Salary - $31,810
Projected Growth Rate - 11%

Teacher Assistants

Teachers Assistants perform daily tasks under the guidance of a university professor or postsecondary educator, including grading papers, guest lecturing, holding office hours, and providing additional study sessions. They work in public and private colleges, high schools, and sometimes even childcare centers. Teacher assistants usually need to complete at least two years of college coursework.

Median Annual Salary - $25,410
Projected Growth Rate - 6%

EDUCATIONAL PATHS

After obtaining an associate degree in general studies, you may want to consider transferring into a bachelor's program. A bachelor's degree can provide you with even more career opportunities, however, you will need to decide an area of interest. Many professions require potential employees to hold at least an undergraduate degree. Earning an advanced degree can also lead to higher earning potential.

Psychology: A bachelor's degree in psychology allows students to pursue careers as psychologists, therapists, school counselors, and more.

Social Work: Social work programs combine social science research and methodology in order to develop programs that help solve social problems. Many social work programs include coursework in other departments, like sociology, psychology, economics, and law. A bachelor's degree in social work allows students to pursue careers in social services, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations.

Biology: Topics covered in biology programs include plant and animal evolution, cell structure, and genes and heredity. A bachelor's degree in biology prepares students for careers in the natural sciences or in medicine.

Education: Students in education investigate how learning and knowledge acquisition occurs in order to develop appropriate teaching methodology or pedagogy. A bachelor's degree in education prepares students to be teachers in a variety of different subjects.

Employment Outlook for Associate in General Studies Graduates

ASSOCIATE IN GENERAL STUDIES SALARY

Individual workplaces and industries can impact the annual earnings of general studies graduates. The following table features data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing the median annual salaries for medical and laboratory technicians in various industries, including colleges, hospitals, physician's offices, and medical laboratories.

Industry Median Salary
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools; State, Local, and Private $40,870
Hospitals; State, Local, and Private $39,690
Physician's Offices $39,150
Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories $37,420

PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Professional general studies organizations are dedicated to promoting engagement in general studies or other interdisciplinary programs. These organizations offer the opportunity to meet other working professionals, participate in general studies conferences, and learn about job openings in the field. Conferences hosted by professional organizations provide an opportunity to present research. Professional organizations related to your field can help you reach your career goals.

Financing Your Online Associate in General Studies Programs

There are many financial aid opportunities for students pursuing a general studies degree online. Some schools offer financial aid programs or scholarships to students, including general studies merit-based or need-based fellowships. All students should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This allows you to see how much federal aid you're eligible to receive, and the application is free to complete.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE STUDENTS

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.