Best Online Associate in Education Programs of 2021

portrait of Julian Scholl, Ph.D
by Julian Scholl, Ph.D
Published on May 20, 2020
Edited by Darlene Earnest

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An associate in education program can teach learners fundamental knowledge of the educational system, best teaching practices, and child development principles.

An online associate in education requires about 60 credits of coursework. The program takes most students two years to complete, but accelerated online programs can shorten that time. Individuals who need to balance school and work schedules may need more than two years to graduate.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition at two-year institutions averaged $11,390 for the 2018-2019 academic year. Students at private for-profit and nonprofit schools paid an average of $28,630 for the same academic year.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs in education, training, and libraries will grow 10% between 2020-2030. This projection is partly due to the versatility of an online associate in education. With this degree, graduates can pursue various jobs in education, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector.

According to the BLS, preschool teachers, who typically require no more than an associate degree, earned a median wage of $31,930, as of May 2020. Some graduates find that they can increase their earning potential with a bachelor's or master's degree in this field.

What Can I Expect From an Online Associate in Education Program?

Students suited for the education field enjoy working with children and seeing them develop emotionally, academically, and psychologically. Some people who pursue an associate degree in education aspire to continue their education to expand their earning potential and job opportunities.

Most students in an associate in education program must complete 60 credits or two years of required coursework. Depending on the program, students might choose a concentration that prepares them for a specialization or an advanced degree. For example, people interested in daycare can specialize in child development. Other concentrations include:

Along with a fundamental knowledge of theories and methods, students in an associate in education program can acquire classroom supervision through practicum work under a licensed teacher. However, those in a bachelor's degree program are more likely to get such field experience.

Prospective students' academic interests and preferred career paths can determine whether they pursue an associate of arts (AA), associate of science (AS), associate of applied arts (AAA), or associate of applied science (AAS).

Students who plan to pursue a bachelor's degree in education typically earn an AA or AS. The "applied" degrees tend to emphasize vocational skills to prepare graduates for specific careers.

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What Courses Will I Take in an Online Associate in Education Program?

Curriculum and Assessment

This course helps prospective educators learn methods for facilitating thinking and discussion in the classroom setting. It also teaches them techniques for assessing learning and creating lesson plans.

Instructional Strategies

This course focuses on techniques for helping students learn, stay motivated, and demonstrate critical thinking. Prospective educators also can gain skills in facilitating students' goal setting and independence in learning.

Introduction to Early Childhood Education

This class surveys the educational process from birth through the eighth grade, Learners get exposure to principles of designing programs, curricula, and course content. People seeking work in education and childcare can benefit from this course.

Theories of Child Development

Prospective educators can learn the fundamentals of children’s physical, emotional, social, and psychological development from infancy through adolescence. The class also covers how education professionals can help students through all aspects of their growth.

Principles of Education

This course covers topics such as classroom management, lesson planning, learning assessment, and student engagement. Learners also get exposure to principles of effective instruction and facilitating successful learning environments.

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What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Associate in Education Program?

Schools that offer an associate in education program vary in their admission requirements. In general, institutions require a high school diploma with an official transcript or GED certificate. Prospective students should check to see if any of their prior courses qualify for earnedcollege credits. Other admission requirements may include an application fee and scores from entrance exams.

Students transferring from another postsecondary institution also must submit transcripts for their courses. They should verify that the school accepts their transfer credits or participates in a transfer agreement with the student's former school.

Many schools request anapplication essay. This essay describes a prospective student’s academic and career interests and suitability for admission. Applicants also may need to obtain at least oneletter of recommendation from an employer, former teacher, or trusted mentor.

What Can I Do With an Online Associate in Education Degree?

Career Outlook

Many professionals find that an associate degree presents an excellent start to building a career in education. This includes people seeking work after graduation or pursuing an advanced degree and certification. The BLS projects that jobs in education and related fields will grow 10% between 2020-2030.

Graduates with an associate in education do not usually earn as much as individuals with higher degrees. According to the BLS, employees in all education-related jobs made a median annual salary of $52,380, as of May 2020. However, preschool teachers, who typically need an associate degree, earned a median annual salary of $31,930.

Graduates can work as teacher assistants, tutors, childcare workers, and preschool teachers. While professionals with higher degrees typically need licensure to teach, some associate degree graduates also need a license to work in the classroom, depending on state-level requirements.

An associate degree in education program can prepare students for a career or continued education. Learn more about careers in education.

Career Paths

Childcare Worker

Childcare workers are among various child development professionals who take care of children's basic needs, including eating, dressing, and carrying out good hygiene practices. They also organize and track the progress of children during playtime, naps, and educational activities. States vary in the kinds of licensing requirements childcare workers must follow.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $25,460

Preschool Teacher

Preschool teachers work in childcare facilities rather than schools to educate and care for students under 5 years old. They help develop instructional curricula that include the development of motor skills, language, and social skills. These professionals regularly update parents or guardians on their children's progress. Some states require that preschool teachers maintain a license.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $31,930

Teacher Assistant

Teacher assistants work in the classroom under the supervision of a licensed teacher. They support students and reinforce their learning in individual and group settings. Teacher assistants also perform administrative functions, such as monitoring the classroom, taking attendance, and preparing learning materials.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $28,900

Substitute Teacher

Substitute teachers take over a class for an absent licensed teacher. They maintain discipline in the classroom, collect assigned work, and ensure students stay on track with their lessons. Substitute teachers generally do not need a license to work, but schools usually require them to have an associate degree or take training that the school provides.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $29,370

Tutor

People with an online associate in education can work as tutors if they do not want to teach in a classroom or lack instructional experience. When working with students, tutors emphasize their subject expertise rather than their teaching experience. Tutors assist learners in all grade levels.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $40,590

Education Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Continuing Education

Some education professionals may not need more than an associate degree. However, pursuing a bachelor's in education or master's in education may help individuals earn higher pay. Advanced degrees also can open doors to more job opportunities.

Bachelor's degrees in education allow professionals to teach in the classroom with a license and after a certain number of hours under a teacher's supervision. States vary in the types oflicenses and certifications they require. Professionals interested in higher education and administrative positions might consider getting a master's degree.

Credits from many programs offering an associate in education can transfer to institutions offering advanced degrees. Some participate in partnerships with these schools to make it easier for students to further their education.

How Do I Choose an Online Associate in Education Program?

Cost

Students should compare tuition and fees for online and traditional classes. Overall,tuition for an online degree may cost considerably less than a standard, on-campus program. However, educational expenses includemore than just tuition. They also include books and supplies, student fees, transportation to campus if required, computer equipment, and lost income from reduced work hours.

Program Format

Online associate in education students generally receive the same type and quality of education as traditional learners. However, online classes can offersynchronous or asynchronous modes of delivery. Also, many online schools offer accelerated programs, allowing even part-time students to earn their degrees in less time than they would if they took on-campus courses.

Location

Althoughonline learning allows most students to get an education virtually anywhere, some schools require on-campus attendance for some classes or meetings. Students who do not learn well at their own pace might want to be close enough to campus to enroll in in-person classes, if necessary.

Accreditation

Accreditation indicates that a school meets standards for academic rigor and excellence. An institution's accreditation comes from an independent state, regional, or federal agency. Enrolling in a college without accreditation may prevent students from transferring their credits to another accredited school or receiving adequate academic support. Also, students at schools without national or regional accreditation might not get financial aid.

Student Support

Student services like mentorships,experience-based internships, and academic support can be important to students pursuing an associate in education. For example, first-generation and minority college students can receive networking advice and other benefits from mentorship programs. Students might consider the kinds of support they need whenresearching online student services at prospective schools.

2021 Best Accredited Online Associate in Education Programs

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Saint Francis University true View School Profile Loretto, PA

Saint Francis powers distance learning with the Canvas platform. The university offers an array of online undergraduate and graduate degrees, including an online associate degree in early childhood education that requires 63 credits. Students can complete all required coursework online or take some on-campus courses.

Major courses include educational psychology; child development; and family, school, and community partnerships. Graduates are prepared to work as teacher's aides, Head Start coordinators, and daycare assistants. They can also easily transfer into the university's bachelor of early childhood education program.

Saint Francis accepts applications on a rolling basis and provides two start dates each semester. Associate in education applicants can access several financial aid opportunities, including state-funded TEACH scholarships.

Chaminade University of Honolulu true View School Profile Honolulu, HI

Chaminade serves nearly 3,000 students in over 50 programs each year, including an online associate of science in early childhood education track. Throughout a 60-credit curriculum, students learn to create positive and practice-informed learning experiences for children ages 2-6.

Required courses include child development; music, art, and creative movement in classroom instruction; and health and family issues. Participants gain hands-on skills by completing a practicum. This associate in education program meets standards established by the Hawaii state government and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Chaminade uses a holistic admissions process that gives applicants the option to submit ACT or SAT scores. The university accepts applications on a rolling basis. Undergraduate applicants need a minimum 2.5 GPA.

Liberty University true View School Profile Lynchburg, VA

Based in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty is a leader in distance learning. The university offers over 140 undergraduate programs, including an online associate degree in education that is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Students take accelerated, eight-week courses, and they can complete the program in under 18 months. Learners may also fulfill up to 75% of their degree requirements with transfer credits.

Required coursework covers topics like principles of education, learning theory and portfolio development, and psychology of childhood. Students also develop classroom management techniques. This program does not lead to initial teaching licensure.

Applicants need a minimum 2.0 GPA. Liberty provides several financial aid opportunities, such as tuition discounts for military personnel and first responders.

Allen Community College true View School Profile Iola, KS

Allen offers over 60 academic and technical programs, many of which students can complete online through the Blackboard platform. The college offers four options for learners who want to earn an online associate degree in education. Graduates are prepared to pursue entry-level jobs or transfer into bachelor's completion tracks that prepare them for state teaching licensure.

Students can pursue an early childhood education degree, enrolling in an associate of science or associate of applied science program. They can also earn an associate of arts in elementary education. Additionally, Allen offers a 64-credit associate of arts in secondary education that prepares students to teach classes like algebra, U.S. history, biology, and geography.

Prospective learners must submit ACT, ASSET, or Compass scores. Distance learners are eligible for federal aid and institutional scholarships.

Northeast Community College true View School Profile Norfolk, NE

Located in Norfolk, Nebraska, Northeast serves more than 5,000 students annually. The college uses the Canvas platform to offer online degrees, including an associate of arts with an early childhood education concentration. After completing this 60-credit program, graduates can begin careers as childcare workers, teacher's assistants, and preschool administrators.

The curriculum consists of courses like expressive arts, children with exceptionalities, and family and community relationships. Students also learn to develop curricula that emphasize inclusionary practices and parental engagement. All learners complete two practica with infants/toddlers and preschool-aged children.

All applicants must submit ACT or SAT scores. Northeast provides institutional scholarships and merit-based tuition waivers. Students also benefit from dedicated career services that help them explore job options, search for employment, and create effective resumes and cover letters.

Southwestern Assemblies of God University View School Profile Waxahachie, TX

SAGU serves about 2,100 students each year, many of whom earn their certificates and degrees online through the Blackboard platform. The university's undergraduate catalog includes an associate in education program, which prepares graduates to work as teaching assistants and school administrators. Distance learners can take all required courses online or complete the degree through blended learning.

The 60-credit curriculum includes major courses like foundations of education and instructional technology. Students delve into developmental psychology as it relates to principles and theories of learning. SAGU also offers an online associate program in early childhood education.

While applicants do not need to submit ACT or SAT scores, they may need to take placement tests.

The Ohio State University View School Profile Columbus, OH

Ohio State powers distance learning with the Canvas platform, offering over 35 online programs, including an online associate of arts in early childhood development and education. This 60-credit program leads to associate licensure in pre-K education in Ohio, allowing graduates to teach in preschool and childcare programs.

Required courses cover topics like psychological perspectives on education, family development, and young children with exceptionalities. Students learn how to promote language development and create age-appropriate curricula. They gain hands-on skills by completing a fieldwork experience.

Ohio State provides fall, spring, and summer start dates. The university evaluates applicants holistically based on criteria like GPA, ACT, or SAT scores; leadership achievements; and work experience. Online students can access government grants and institutional scholarships.

University of Alaska Fairbanks View School Profile Fairbanks, AK

UAF delivers affordable distance learning programs — including an online associate of applied science in early childhood education — through the Blackboard platform. Throughout a 60-credit curriculum, students cultivate the knowledge and skills needed to support the development of the whole child from prenatal stages to age eight.

Required courses include curricular principles and practices, nutrition and physical wellness, and child and family ecology. Students also examine child guidance, learning how to create safe and healthy learning environments for children with special needs. To earn their online associate degree in education, all learners must complete a practicum.

Distance learners can begin taking classes in the spring, summer, or fall semester. UAF requires applicants to submit ACCUPLACER, ACT, or SAT scores. The university offers several financial aid opportunities, including the Alaska Performance Scholarship for high-achieving state residents.

Arkansas Tech University View School Profile Russellville, AR

Based in Russellville, ATU serves approximately 10,000 students annually. The university offers an online associate degree in early childhood education that prepares graduates for careers in childcare centers, schools, and social services organizations. Graduates are eligible to earn the national child development associate certification.

The 60-credit curriculum includes courses like child growth and development, nutritional science, and theories of early childhood education. ATU's associate in education program also teaches learners how to create instructional materials using developmentally appropriate activities and practices. The program culminates in a practicum.

First-year applicants need a minimum 2.0 GPA and adequate ACCUPLACER, ACT, or SAT scores.

Concordia University, St. Paul View School Profile Saint Paul, MN

CSP offers more than 40 online programs through the Blackboard platform, including a fully online associate degree in early childhood education. Students in this program take seven-week courses that allow them to work full time and still earn their degree in two years.

The 64-credit curriculum includes courses that cover areas like language development/literacy, best teaching practices, and children's play and learning. Students examine the role of the early childhood educator with respect to cultural inclusivity and professional ethics. The associate in education curriculum satisfies training requirements established by the Child Development Associate National Credentialing Program.

Applicants need a minimum 2.0 GPA. They must also submit a 400-word personal essay. CSP boasts a high success rate, with 95% of students receiving job offers within one year of graduation.

Frequently Asked Questions About Associate in Education Programs

Is an associate degree in education worth it? true

Many educators and childcare professionals have launched rewarding careers by earning an online associate in education. It can provide a solid foundational background and practical classroom experience. This degree can open doors to immediate employment or provide a springboard to pursue a bachelor's or master's in education. Many students view enrolling in a two-year online program as an affordable alternative to getting a bachelor's right away. It also allows working students enough flexibility to progress through their coursework and maintain their professional and personal obligations.

How quickly can I get an associate in education degree online? true

Most associate in education programs take about two years to complete and require about 60 credits of coursework. The time it takes to complete this program depends on a student's goals, schedule, and motivation. Learners who take classes and work full time will likely need more than two years to graduate. However, students can reduce their time in school with accelerated online courses. They also can take summer courses, which usually last weeks rather than months.

Is an online associate degree in education credible? true

An online associate in education serves as a credible first step to a meaningful career in education or childcare. Graduates from most two-year programs gain foundational and theoretical knowledge of the field. They also get classroom and field experience under a licensed teacher's supervision. This can prepare them for a smooth transition into many workplace settings. This degree allows graduates to obtain employment as preschool teachers, childcare workers, teacher assistants, substitute teachers, and private tutors.

How much money can I make with an associate in education?

According to the BLS, preschool teachers earn a median annual salary of $31,930, as of May 2020. Other professionals tend to earn less. For example, childcare workers and teacher assistants make median wages of $25,460 and $28,900, respectively. Educators with an associate degree wanting to increase their earning potential might consider getting a bachelor's or master's in this field.

Is an associate degree in education in demand?

The need for education jobs will likely increase in the coming years. The BLS projects that positions in this field willgrow 10% between 2020-2030. Preschool teachers positions, for example, are projected to grow 18% between 2020-2030. These figures exceed the 8% average growth rate for all U.S. occupations for the same period.

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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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