Best Online Associate in Liberal Arts Programs

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by Bethanny Parker

Published on May 29, 2020 · Updated on February 11, 2022

Edited by Darlene Earnest
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The associate in liberal arts is sometimes referred to as a general studies degree. It provides a foundation in the liberal arts, covering many of the general education requirements needed for a bachelor's degree. After earning their associate in liberal arts, these graduates may continue on to study at the bachelor's level or decide to enter the workforce.

Many community colleges offer associate degrees, which take about two years to complete. The average cost of tuition and required fees was around $3,560 in 2018-19 for two-year institutions, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

According to PayScale, graduates with an associate in liberal arts reported earning an average annual base salary of $55,000, as of October 2021. Common job titles for these graduates range from executive assistant to operations manager.

What Can I Expect From an Online Associate in Liberal Arts Program?

A liberal arts education can help build the skills that employers look for in their employees. These include analytical, critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills. They also include the ability to ask meaningful questions and manage time effectively.

An associate in liberal arts takes about two years to complete and requires around 60 credits. Your program may take more or less time, depending on whether you attend school year round and how many credits you take each term.

Before enrolling in an online associate in liberal arts program, check with an admissions officer to see if there are any in-person requirements. Some schools require students to attend orientation in person or to attend in-person labs or practicums. If there are in-person requirements, the location of the school will be important.

The associate in liberal arts degree is usually an associate of arts. This type of degree can help prepare the student for additional education at the bachelor's level.

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What Courses Will I Take in an Online Associate in Liberal Arts Program?

English Composition

Most programs require two courses in English composition. These courses can help students improve their writing skills, including grammar and punctuation. Students focus on writing, revision, and editing skills.

College Mathematics

This course promotes an overall understanding of mathematics, including geometry, trigonometry, radical equations, and polynomial functions. Students may also learn about radical expressions, exponents, and linear relationships.

Economics

Students enrolled in this course study how people make decisions about real-world situations. The course introduces fundamental economic concepts such as incentives, trade-offs, supply and demand, and scarcity.

Perspectives in History

This course focuses on how historical records are created. It covers understanding primary sources, chronological thinking, and historical analysis. Students examine a variety of human pursuits, from scientific to political.

Applied Natural Sciences

In this class, students learn about natural phenomena, such as why leaves change color in the fall and whether the melting of an iceberg affects sea levels.

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

In addition to filling out an application for admission and paying an application fee, you'll need to request your official high school transcripts. If you have a GED certificate, you'll need to provide proof. You may need to have a minimum GPA or a certain minimum score on a college entrance exam to be accepted.

Many schools require letters of recommendation. If you have recently graduated from high school, you can ask your favorite teachers to recommend you. If you have been out of school for a while, you can ask your work supervisor or human resources manager.

You may also need to write a college application essay. Some schools provide a few topics for you to choose from, while others let you choose the topic. These essays are typically 400-600 words.

If you have already entered the workforce, you may be able to earn college credit for life and work experience. This is especially true if the position you are in required a lot of training.

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

Career Outlook

According to PayScale, the average annual base salary for someone with an associate of arts in liberal arts is $55,000, as of October 2021. This compares to an average salary of $56,000 for people with an associate degree in any area. Common job titles for people with an associate in liberal arts include office manager, customer service team leader, operations manager, administrative assistant, and executive assistant.

The job outlook for administrative assistants and customer service representatives doesn't look favorable. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment to decrease 7% from 2020-30 for secretaries and administrative assistants and 1% for customer service representatives.

People with associate degrees in liberal arts often work in healthcare, education, and the retail trade. They also work in professional, scientific, and technical services. These professionals may also pursue jobs in government, insurance, or business support services.

See where an associate in liberal arts can take you. Learn more about liberal arts careers.

Career Paths

Executive Secretary and Executive Administrative Assistant

These executive assistants work for director-level and executive management. They help plan the executive's schedule and itinerary. This includes scheduling travel and meetings. They perform office and clerical duties, such as screening phone calls, running errands, and writing letters. They are often promoted to the position of executive assistant from within the organization.

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

Secretary and Administrative Assistant

Secretaries and administrative assistants perform routine office tasks, such as filing, scheduling appointments, and preparing documents. They answer phones, transfer calls, and take messages. They also set up staff meetings and prepare memos to send to staff members. They perform basic bookkeeping, such as data entry for accounts payable.

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

Customer Service Team Leader

Customer service team leaders help their co-workers with customer service inquiries. They handle difficult calls, including those where the customer asks to speak to a supervisor. They are higher up the career ladder than a customer service representative, but lower than a team supervisor. Team leaders need to have good communication skills to be able to run team meetings.

Average Annual Salary (as of October 2021): $50,580

Operations Manager

Operations managers oversee the manufacturing, warehousing, and purchasing departments. They make sure the company has the resources it needs to produce the products and services it sells. Operations managers ensure that everything runs smoothly, while following health and safety rules. They also make sure the company adheres to any environmental rules and regulations that apply to its operations.

Average Annual Salary (as of October 2021): $67,030

Office Manager

Office managers oversee the administrative and clerical activities that take place in an office. They should have good problem-solving, communication, and managerial skills. They often oversee multiple projects at once while working in fast-paced environments. Office managers work with executives to develop and implement new procedures and policies.

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

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Continuing Education

Many graduates with an associate in liberal arts continue on to pursue a bachelor's degree in liberal arts or another area of study. Some even go on to earn a master's degree in liberal arts.

Graduates with a bachelor's in liberal arts report earning an average base salary of $65,000 per year, as of October 2021. Those with a master's in liberal arts earn an average base salary of $72,000 per year, according to PayScale.

Those with an associate in liberal arts may decide to choose another field of study for their bachelor's degree. English, media communications, social science, and writing are popular choices.

Students who go back to school should consider what they want to do when choosing a bachelor's degree. Find out what the most common job titles are for the degrees that interest you. Make a choice based on which jobs sound most appealing.

How Do I Choose an Online Associate in Liberal Arts Program?

Cost

The average cost of tuition and required fees at a two-year college in 2018-2019 was about $3,560, according to NCES. However, that doesn't cover all the expenses. The true cost of an online program includes adding in the price of books, transportation, and living expenses. In-state tuition rates are usually much lower than out-of-state. However, some schools do offer in-state tuition to all online students.

Program Format

Consider whether the program is synchronous or asynchronous. If the program is synchronous, you'll have to log in at specific times to listen to lectures. Asynchronous programs offer recordings that you can listen to on your own schedule. Also consider whether it's a full-time or part-time program and whether it is accelerated, which can allow you to finish faster.

Location

Some online programs have in-person requirements. You may have to attend orientation, practicums, or labs on campus. Check with your school to find out if there are any in-person requirements. If not, you can attend school from anywhere. However, if you must attend some sessions in person, you'll want to choose a school that's close to you.

Accreditation

Regional accreditation by organizations that are recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation is important. Credits granted by regionally accredited schools often transfer to other schools. This could be important if you decide partway through that you don't like your program and want to go to a different school.

Student Support

Most schools offer student support services. These services can include mentorship programs, academic advising, career services, math and writing centers, internships, and tutoring. Many of these student services are offered online for remote students. Think about which services you might need and check to see if the school you're considering offers them.

Best Accredited Online Associate in Liberal Arts Programs

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Best Online Associate in Liberal Arts Programs

  1. Trinity Valley Community College
    Location

    Athens, TX

    Tuition

    $7306

    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
    Location

    Grantsboro, NC

    Tuition

    $3087

    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
    Location

    Olney, IL

    Tuition

    $2522

    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
    Location

    Orlando, FL

    Tuition

    $4892

    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
    Location

    Colby, KS

    Tuition

    $8815

    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
    Location

    Saint Leo, FL

    Tuition

    $20036

    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
    Location

    Sheldon, IA

    Tuition

    $10070

    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
    Location

    Sylva, NC

    Tuition

    $4148

    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
    Location

    Albemarle, NC

    Tuition

    $5453

    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
    Location

    Livermore, CA

    Tuition

    $5863

    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.

Frequently Asked Questions About Associate in Liberal Arts Programs

Is an associate degree in liberal arts worth it? true

A degree can generally be worthwhile if it helps the graduate earn a higher salary without costing too much. In the case of an associate in liberal arts, let's assume you'll earn the average reported salary of $55,000 per year within a few years of graduation. If you earn $30,000 now, and it costs around $8,000 to get your degree, the degree could probably be worthwhile.

How fast can I get an associate in liberal arts degree online? true

Although most associate degree programs take two years to complete, some schools offer accelerated programs that can be completed in less time. For example, MidAmerica Nazarene University offers an accelerated associate of arts degree in liberal arts that can be completed in 18-20 months.

Accelerated programs may require students to take more credits per semester or take classes during the summer.

Is an online associate degree in liberal arts credible? true

An online associate in liberal arts is as credible as the school that offers it. A school with a solid reputation offers a solid degree that will be respected by employers. Look at the reviews for various schools online before deciding where to get your degree. Make sure the school you're attending has a good reputation.

In addition, make sure the school is regionally accredited. A degree from an unaccredited school will not hold as much weight as one from an accredited institution.

How much money can I make with an associate in liberal arts?

The average annual salary for an associate in liberal arts is $55,000, as of October 2021, according to PayScale. Some jobs pay more while others pay less. You may be able to get a job as an operations manager, which has an average annual salary of about $67,030. An assistant operations manager position provides easier entry into this field and comes with an average annual salary of about $52,310.

Another higher-paying job for liberal arts graduates is executive assistant, with a median annual salary of $63,110, as of May 2020. Executive assistants are often promoted from within, so a good way to position yourself for this career is by landing an administrative assistant role in a company that hires executive assistants.

Is an associate degree in liberal arts in demand?

The demand for administrative assistants and customer service representatives is projected to fall, according to the BLS. It's unclear what the future holds for other common positions held by liberal arts graduates. However, liberal arts is not usually the first degree employers look for.

For example, someone hiring an operations manager might hope to find a candidate with a bachelor's in business administration and several years of experience. However, they may consider someone with another degree, such as an associate in liberal arts, especially if the candidate has the experience.

Community colleges offer a less expensive route to a college degree. But what is a community college, and is community college worth it? Liberal arts comprises the humanities, arts, and sciences. Learn about the liberal arts majors you can study and the value of going to a liberal arts college. Despite its often negative associations, a liberal arts degree can teach you in-demand soft skills and set you up for an array of potential career paths.

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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