Best Online Associate in General Studies Programs of 2021

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by Bethanny Parker
Published on November 23, 2021
Edited by Darlene Earnest

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An associate in general studies program can prepare students who want to continue on to earn their bachelor's degree. Learners can fulfill general education requirements while they decide which major to pursue at the bachelor's level. It can be a great choice for students who don't know just yet what career path they want to take.

Many community colleges offer associate degrees, which can be completed in about two years. Some schools offer accelerated degrees, which may be completed in as little as one year.

USA Student Debt Relief reported that the average annual tuition for an associate degree program was $3,570 at a public college in 2020. It was about $14,590 at a private school. The cost of an online associate in general studies program is typically about the same as the cost of an on-campus one. However, while some schools offer lower tuition rates for online courses, others charge additional technology fees.

According to PayScale, the average annual base salary for a graduate with an associate in general studies is $54,000, as of October 2021. Common job titles those with this degree have include office manager, administrative assistant, systems administrator, executive assistant, and operations manager.

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

An online associate in general studies program can prepare students to continue their education in any career path they choose.

Students can choose to pursue an associate of arts (AA), associate of science (AS), or (associate of applied science) AAS in general studies. Both the AA and AS degrees are intended to prepare students for further education — the AS focuses more on science than the AA. An AAS focuses on preparing students to enter the workforce after the program.

Associate degrees take about two years to complete and require around 60 credits of coursework. An associate in general studies degree consists mainly of general education requirements: English, math, science, speech, and history.

At Amarillo College, for example, students complete 42 general education credits and 18 credits in major course requirements. The school recommends that students work with an advisor to determine which classes to take to satisfy these electives.

Whenever you consider an online program, you should check with an admissions officer to find out if there are any on-campus requirements. Some schools require students to attend orientation, labs, or practicums in person.

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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Associate in General Studies Program?

Composition I and II

In these courses, students can develop stronger writing skills. They discuss different types of writing and review basic grammar rules. They spend a lot of time writing, editing, and revising.

Mathematics

This course focuses on algebra, graphs, functions, and precalculus. It can prepare students for calculus through a review of algebra and an introduction to graphs and functions.

Life and Physical Sciences

In this course, students can learn to use the scientific method to explain, describe, and predict natural phenomena. They study the interactions between various natural phenomena.

Speech

This course focuses on spoken communication, including practical skills related to public speaking. Students can learn how to reduce anxiety and use visual aids to improve their presentations.

U.S. History

In this course, students learn U.S. history, often from after the Civil War to the present. The course introduces major cultural, economic, political, and social events. It looks at how those events have affected American society.

What Are Admission Requirements for an Online Associate in General Studies Program?

In order to get into an associate in general studies program, you'll first have to apply to the college of your choice. There may be an application fee. You'll have to submit official high school transcripts or proof that you've earned your GED degree. Depending on the school, there may be a minimum GPA required for admission.

Some schools require test scores from college entrance exams, such as the ACT and SAT. If your scores are too low, you may either be denied admission or required to take remedial math and/or English classes.

You may have to write a college application essay or submit letters of recommendation. If you have been working and received training for work, some schools allow you to earn college credit for your life and work experience.

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

Career Outlook

It's difficult to come up with a career outlook for an associate in general studies since this degree covers a wide variety of jobs. Many of them, such as operations manager, office manager, and project manager have no growth projection data listed from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Without this data, it is hard to say whether the demand is growing, shrinking, or staying the same.

However, a search for "operations manager" on the Indeed job-search site shows over 48,000 jobs to fill. There are over 21,000 jobs for office managers, and more than 136,000 jobs for administrative assistants. So, at this time, these jobs appear to be in demand.

According to PayScale, graduates of associate in general studies programs reported making an average annual base salary of $54,000, as of October 2021. This compares to $56,000 per year for those with any associate degree.

Individuals with an associate in general studies work in many industries, including religious organizations, government, professional and technical services, educational services, and healthcare.

See where an associate in general studies can take you. Learn more about business management careers.

Career Paths

Secretary and Administrative Assistant

Administrative assistants typically work in an office environment performing clerical and organizational tasks. They write business letters and create reports using software such as Microsoft Word and Excel. They also file paperwork, enter data into computer systems, and answer phones.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $40,990

Office Manager

Office managers supervise employees, projects, and activities in their offices. They need to have good managerial, problem-solving, and communication skills. Office managers need to be able to work in a fast-paced environment and manage multiple projects simultaneously. They need to be able to implement new policies and procedures quickly and seamlessly.

Average Annual Salary (as of October 2021): $49,400

Executive Secretaries and Executive Administrative Assistants

Executive administrative assistants need to be organized and have excellent interpersonal and communication skills. They provide clerical assistance and administrative support to executives. They also help manage the executive's time by scheduling travel and meetings. In addition, they screen phone calls, run errands, type letters, and supervise clerical assistants.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $63,110

Operations Manager

Operations managers oversee the production of goods and services for their employers. They make sure their company's products meet customer expectations by keeping track of manufacturing, warehousing, and purchasing. They conduct employee performance reviews, attend staff meetings, and meet with union representatives.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $103,650

Project Manager

Many employers prefer project managers who have a bachelor's degree. However, there are many who will hire project managers with an associate degree or even no degree at all. Project managers plan the strategy and define the goals and timeline for the projects that they manage. The project manager oversees the resources, budget, and time used to complete a project.

Average Annual Salary (as of October 2021): $75,160

General Studies Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Continuing Education

Students who earn an associate in general studies tend to do so with the intention of continuing on to a bachelor's degree program. By the time they start their bachelor's program, many will have decided what field of study they want to pursue. However, for those who haven't decided, there is always the bachelor's in general studies.

Other popular choices include the bachelor's in business administration, bachelor's in communication, bachelor's in hospitality management, and bachelor's in computer programming.

Many of the job titles PayScale lists under the associate of general studies degree — such as operations manager, office manager, and project manager — are business-oriented careers. Students interested in these careers may benefit from earning a bachelor's in business administration.

How Do I Choose an Online Associate in General Studies Program?

Cost

Most schools charge the same for on-campus and online courses. However, some charge additional technology fees for online courses, while others offer discounted tuition to online students. For students in an associate degree program, the average annual tuition at a public school is $3,570. The average annual tuition at a private school is about $14,590. In addition, in-state tuition is typically cheaper than out-of-state tuition. Make sure to consider other costs as well, such as housing and transportation.

Program Format

Consider whether the program is synchronous or asynchronous. Some online schools have fixed login times. Others allow you to log in whenever it's convenient for you. If you are working, you may want to consider a part-time program and try to fit your studies around your work schedule. An accelerated program can allow you to finish your degree in less time.

Location

If you're going to college online, you might think that the school's location doesn't matter. However, some online programs do have on-campus requirements. This is most common with labs and clinicals. Check with the school before applying to find out whether there are any in-person requirements.

Accreditation

The accreditation process involves a third-party accrediting body evaluating the school's programs. Regional accreditation is most important. If a school is regionally accredited, there is a good chance that its credits will transfer to another school. This may become important if you decide the school is not for you before completing your program.

Student Support

Consider whether you are likely to need any student services and whether the school offers them. Most schools offer online student services for their distance learners. Mentorship services can help students succeed in their programs, while internships give students a chance to experience work in their field firsthand. Other student services include tutoring, alumni connections, and library services.

2021 Best Accredited Online Associate in General Studies Programs

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Brigham Young University - Idaho true View School Profile Rexburg, ID

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.

Olney Central College true View School Profile Olney, IL

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.

Ashland University true View School Profile Ashland, OH

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.

Chaminade University of Honolulu true View School Profile Honolulu, HI

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.

Peirce College true View School Profile Philadelphia, PA

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.

Southern New Hampshire University View School Profile Manchester, NH

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.

Utah State University View School Profile Logan, UT

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.

Holmes Community College View School Profile Goodman, MS

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.

Amarillo College View School Profile Amarillo, TX

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.

Keiser University View School Profile Fort Lauderdale, FL

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.

Frequently Asked Questions About Associate in General Studies Programs

Is an associate degree in general studies worth it? true

One way to determine whether an associate degree in general studies is worthwhile is to consider the cost of the degree compared to the salary you are likely to make once you graduate. For example, if the degree costs $8,000, you make $30,000 now, and you expect to earn $50,000 with the degree, that's $20,000 more per year from that initial $8,000 investment.

Most people would consider that worthwhile. However, only you can decide what you need to earn to feel like you've made a good return on the investment you've made in your education.

How fast can I get an associate in general studies degree online? true

It may be possible to finish your associate degree in as little as a year by taking an accelerated program. Arkansas State University, for example, offers an accelerated online general studies associate degree with seven-week courses. Students who start in the summer term can finish in the summer term the following year, taking one year and five weeks to complete the degree program.

Taking an accelerated program will keep you busy. You'll need to dedicate most of your time to your studies in order to fit the same amount of material into a shorter time frame.

Is an online associate degree in general studies credible? true

Yes, an online associate in general studies is credible as long as the school is accredited. Accreditation shows that the school meets accepted standards for its programs and curricula. Regional accreditation is very important. Credits from regionally accredited schools can usually be transferred if you decide you want to change schools.

Ultimately, the school provides credibility through its reputation. If the school you attend is respected and accredited, your degree will be credible.

How much money can I make with an associate in general studies?

PayScale lists some of the most common job titles for graduates with an associate in general studies. One of the highest-paying jobs listed is director of operations, which has an average annual base salary of about $93,040, as of October 2021. Another is executive director, which has an average base salary of about $80,470 per year.

Other jobs for people with an associate in general studies include project manager (average salary: $75,160), human resources manager ($68,820), systems administrator ($63,100), and operations manager ($66,990). Earning a bachelor's degree may increase your chances of landing some of these jobs or result in a higher salary.

Is an associate degree in general studies in demand?

Few employers request candidates with a degree in general studies. If they seek candidates with a specific degree, they usually request that the degrees focus on specific areas, such as business or computer science. However, just having a degree may be better than not having a degree at all.

Most employers will state that a certain level of degree (such as associate) is required, not a specific associate degree. They may give preference to graduates with a specific degree, but having a degree at the right level is often all that is needed to meet the minimum requirements for the job.

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