With an emphasis on communication, argument, and critical thought, an associate degree in liberal arts can help students build a generalized knowledge in a wide variety of subjects, from humanities and social sciences to foreign languages. The broad scope of these curricula prepare you for a range of entry-level careers, but many programs also allow concentrations in a specific subject, such as psychology, fine arts, or business administration. An online liberal arts associate degree also lays the foundation for a more advanced degree, such as a bachelor's, master's, or doctorate, while increasing your earning potential in the short term. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, professionals with associate degrees earn 15% more than those with only a high school diploma.

What are the best liberal arts programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:

Rank School Location
1 Trinity Valley Community College Athens, TX
2 Pamlico Community College Grantsboro, NC
3 Illinois Eastern Community Colleges Olney, IL
4 Valencia College Orlando, FL
5 Colby Community College Colby, KS
6 Saint Leo University Saint Leo, FL
7 Northwest Iowa Community College Sheldon, IA
8 Southwestern Community College Sylva, NC
9 Stanly Community College Albemarle, NC
10 Las Positas College Livermore, CA

2020 Best Accredited Online Associate in Liberal Arts Programs

Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

Trinity Valley Community College

Athens, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 76%

TVCC maintains its flagship campus in Athens, Texas, enrolling over 4,000 students each year. The school offers distance education opportunities through the Canvas platform, with degree options like an online associate of arts in liberal arts. By completing this flexible program, candidates can access direct transfer pathways for baccalaureate completion.

Coursework covers foundational topics like college algebra, general chemistry, and U.S. government. Students also take a behavioral sciences class, choosing from options like general psychology and lifespan growth/development. The remaining credits funnel into electives that candidates may use to pursue personal interests.

Students interested in pursuing this online associate degree in liberal arts must submit standardized test scores. In addition to affordable tuition prices, TVCC provides a variety of financial aid, including foundational scholarships for students who live in the college's immediate service area.

2

Pamlico Community College

Grantsboro, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 62%

Established in 1962 as an industrial education center, PCC now offers comprehensive academic and technical programs. Its catalog contains an associate of arts that centers on a liberal arts curriculum. This 60-61-credit program provides successful graduates assured admission into any of the 16 institutions in the University of North Carolina System.

The degree plan covers core topics like writing and inquiry, American literature, and general psychology. Students also take mathematics and natural sciences courses. They can use 15 credits to fulfill pre-major requirements or pursue electives. Not all electives are available online, but students can graduate without ever visiting campus.

Prospective students receive one-on-one support from counselors, who help them navigate the enrollment process and access scholarships, grants, and work-study awards. Depending on an applicant's profile, PCC may require them to take a free placement test.

3

Illinois Eastern Community Colleges

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

Illinois Eastern Community Colleges was formed by a merger between Frontier Community College, Lincoln Trail College, Olney Central College, and Wabash Valley College. Distance learners can earn an associate of arts degree at IECC that satisfies all of the state's general education requirements. This curricular standard allows graduates to transfer to more than 100 partner universities with junior standing.

This associate of arts program contains required classes in areas like math, physical/life science, the humanities, and social/behavioral science. Candidates personalize their education with 17 credits of free electives. They work closely with an academic advisor to create a degree plan that meets the prerequisite requirements established by their target transfer university.

Although IECC does maintain an open-enrollment policy, degree-seeking students must submit standardized test scores. Online learners access asynchronous coursework through Canvas.

4

Valencia College

Orlando, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 44%

Based in Orlando, Florida, Valencia delivers over 120 academic and career training programs. Students who plan on transferring into a four-year university may pursue an associate of arts to fulfill all of their general education requirements. Valencia provides many online classes in an array of topics, allowing candidates to pursue their degree remotely.

The 60-credit curriculum requires students to take courses in five core areas, including mathematics, humanities, and the social sciences. Candidates must also gain skills in a foreign language and take electives dedicated to their target major prerequisites.

Valencia accepts applications throughout the year, and prospective learners do not need to submit ACT or SAT scores. The college provides ample financial aid opportunities and free career coaching services.

5

Colby Community College

Colby, KS Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 44%

CCC enrolls about 1,900 students in more than 50 technical and academic programs each year. Offerings include an online associate of arts in general studies that totals 62 credits. Distance learners access asynchronous coursework through Canvas.

This track is designed for students who want to transfer to four-year colleges and universities. The degree plan covers areas like mathematics, social/behavioral science, and the arts and humanities. Students also gain practical skills related to college-level writing and oral communication.

CCC maintains an open-enrollment policy that welcomes all individuals with a high school diploma or the equivalent. However, the college recommends that applicants submit ACT, SAT, or ACCUPLACER scores. Students pay tuition rates based on residency status, and they can access a variety of financial aid options, including scholarships for academic achievement and leadership experience.

6

Saint Leo University

Saint Leo, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 51%

As one of the oldest Catholic schools in Florida, Saint Leo supports students of all faiths by providing affordable and career-relevant academics. Its catalog contains an online associate of arts in liberal arts. This program helps students develop creative thinking and critical analysis skills. Distance learners may complete a fully remote curriculum or engage in hybrid learning by taking some classes on campus.

This 60-credit associate in liberal arts program includes required coursework in academic writing and college mathematics. Candidates choose guided electives based on broad areas of study, including the human adventure, science in a changing world, and the reflective and spiritual life.They fill out their remaining credit requirements by taking open electives.

Saint Leo accepts applications on a rolling basis and offers six yearly start dates. Candidates may earn transfer credits for prior college coursework and professional training.

7

Northwest Iowa Community College

Sheldon, IA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 65%

Northwest Iowa Community College is located in Sheldon and serves about 1,700 students each year. The school delivers remote learning opportunities through Canvas, including an online associate of arts. By completing this 60-credit program, graduates can access seamless transfer pathways to partner institutions that include South Dakota State University, Buena Vista University, and Northwestern College.

Students can pursue transfer majors in criminal justice or psychology. They can also enroll in one of a dozen pre-professional programs, choosing from options like accounting, environmental science, and history. Participants can pursue their degree on a part-time or full-time basis.

Applicants must submit ACT or ACCUPLACER scores. NCC boasts an exceptionally high student success rate, with nearly 100% of learners pursuing advanced academics or obtaining employment shortly after graduation.

8

Southwestern Community College

Sylva, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 41%

SCC first opened its doors in 1964 to a class of 60 students. Today, the college serves over 2,300 learners and offers flexible degree options like a fully online associate of arts. Through a 60-credit curriculum, candidates fulfill all general education requirements for in-state public universities, as established by the North Carolina Comprehensive Articulation Agreement.

Enrollees choose courses from a variety of broad disciplines. Options include public speaking, introduction to sociology, conceptual physics, and statistical methods. Candidates also use 14 credits to complete prerequisite classes for their future major.

SCC operates an open-door enrollment policy that welcomes any student with a high school diploma or the equivalent. Degree-seeking applicants must submit ACT/SAT scores or sit for the college's placement exam.

9

Stanly Community College

Albemarle, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 48%

As a participant of the American Association of Community Colleges Pathways Project, SCC champions affordable and career-focused education for all students. The college's academic catalog contains a transferable associate of arts. The school powers distance education with Canvas, enabling candidates to earn their degrees through an entirely online or hybrid format.

The curriculum totals 61 credits and includes classes like philosophical issues and world civilizations. Students also take at least one natural sciences course, choosing from options like principles of biology, general chemistry, and conceptual physics. Like many associate of arts programs, SCC allows learners to pursue their own interests and goals through electives.

Applicants must submit a residency determination form. On top of federal aid and state grants, online students may access institutional scholarships based on financial need and academic merit.

10

Las Positas College

Livermore, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 38%

Headquartered in Livermore, California, LPC oversees more than 70 certificate and degree programs. Options include an associate of arts in liberal arts and sciences that comes with six areas of emphasis. This 60-credit program is suitable for candidates who want to satisfy general education requirements before transferring into a bachelor's completion track.

Coursework differs based on what degree path a student chooses. For example, the arts and humanities emphasis enables students to take classes like the history of modern design, digital imaging, and American arts and ideas. Candidates may also focus their degree plans on fields like business, computer studies, social and behavioral science, and language arts and communication. Many classes can be completed online.

To enroll in this associate in liberal arts program, applicants must sit for a guided self-placement assessment. Financial aid opportunities include institutional scholarships based on merit, along with private awards for tribal members and LGBTQ+ individuals.

What Can I Do With an Associate in Liberal Arts Degree?

CAREER PATHS

The versatile curriculum of an associate degree in liberal arts prepares students for a range of career possibilities. Critical thinking, effective argumentation, and written and verbal communication are essential to careers in sales, business, the arts, and social services. Most entry-level jobs are attainable with an associate degree, while positions with greater leadership roles and responsibilities typically require a bachelor's degree or higher. However, an associate degree is a great way to evaluate a career path before deciding upon further education.

Administrative Assistant

Performing clerical and administrative tasks at offices of all types, administrative assistants carry a range of responsibilities, from filing and preparing documents to scheduling appointments and offering staff support.

Median Annual Salary - $37,230
Projected Growth Rate - 3%

Sales Associate

Sales associates work in retail environments, offer customer service, and maintain store facilities. They may be employed in a variety of industries, such as clothing, electronics, cars, and furniture.

Median Annual Salary - $22,900
Projected Growth Rate - 7%

Writer

Writers create written content for publications like books, magazines, advertisements, and websites. While some are employed by companies and work in offices, others are self-employed and work from home.

Median Annual Salary - $61,240
Projected Growth Rate - 2%

EDUCATIONAL PATHS

A liberal arts associate degree builds a strong foundation for further education. If you're interested in career advancement and management opportunities, you should consider transferring your associate credits toward a full bachelor's degree. The broad nature of the liberal arts curriculum prepares you for a range of educational paths in just about any subject that interests you. Along with specialized knowledge, you'll also increase your earning potential dramatically; PayScale reports that, on average, bachelor's degree holders earn about 20% more than associate degree holders.

  • English: English majors study the intricacies of writing and literature, while learning to develop compelling arguments and communicate effectively throughout writing. Many graduates pursue jobs as teachers, but English is applicable to any field that involves writing.
  • History: Students in history programs examine the history of countries, regions, cultures, ideas, and people. They analyze history itself and also the processes that create it. Like English, history is a versatile subject that helps distance learners develop skills in writing, communication, argumentation, and critical thinking, making it relevant to a range of careers.
  • Social Sciences: This broad field explores the practices of human socialization, providing students analytical and research skills to examine human behavior patterns. Social sciences may include disciplines as diverse as psychology, anthropology, international studies, and sociology.

Employment Outlook for Associate in Liberal Arts Graduates

ASSOCIATE IN LIBERAL ARTS SALARY

Given the range of careers available to liberal arts graduates, salaries can vary widely based on chosen profession. This chart collects median salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for some common liberal arts careers.

Median Salary by Career

Job Title Average Salary
High School Teacher $58,030
Writer $61,240
Social Worker $46,890
Graphic Designer $47,640
Human Resource Specialist $59,180

PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Liberal arts students and professionals connect with one another through an assortment of professional organizations and associations, and feature members from around the world. These groups offer a vast selection of resources for those studying or employed in liberal arts fields, like mentoring, knowledge sharing, networking, job opportunities, trade publications, and professional conferences. The following groups are open to undergraduates studying liberal arts.

Financing Your Online Associate in Liberal Arts Program

You have several options to fund your associate liberal arts degree, but your first step is to complete the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for federal funding. Depending on your financial circumstances, you may be eligible for some combination of grants, scholarships, work study, or student loans. If you're pursuing a specific career path, such as teaching or social work, you may also be eligible for increased scholarship or grant opportunities in exchange for working with certain communities or organizations upon graduation.

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.