Why This Matters

  • EARN $887 PER WEEK

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, associate degree holders earn an average of $887 per week, while workers who only have a high school diploma earn $746 per week.

  • REDUCE YOUR UNEMPLOYMENT RISK BY ONE PERCENT

    Workers with an associate degree have an unemployment rate of 2.7%. Workers with a high school diploma have an unemployment rate of 3.7%.

  • CHOOSE FROM 500 COMMUNITY COLLEGES

    The U.S. is home to 500 two-year community colleges. This should make it easier for you to earn your associate degree no matter where you live.

Our Research

This list is focused on the best associate degree programs in the U.S. We looked specifically at programs that are available in-person, as opposed to online and hybrid courses.

Our other main stipulation was accreditation. We only included programs that have been accredited by organizations such as the Higher Learning Commission, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs. This ensures that each program on our list has high academic standards. And if you ever decide to switch to a different school, the accreditation will make it much easier for you to transfer your credits.

  • 88 hours to write this article
  • 192 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 267 education programs we compared

The Top 50 Best Associate Degree Programs

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What You Should Know About This Degree

If you’re not sure which associate degree program you want to pursue, it may help to consider the earning potential that is associated with each field. For example, some of the highest-earning associate-level occupations include air traffic controllers (median annual wage of $130,420), web developers ($77,200), and funeral home directors ($74,200).

Conversely, you should also consider avoiding the occupations with the lowest wages. These include dietetic technicians ($30,110) and human resources assistants ($43,250).

Another factor to consider is how many job openings are available for each occupation. You should have no problem finding a job as a preschool teacher (50,600 annual job openings projected over the next decade) or paralegal (37,600 annual job openings).

There are also associate degree-level occupations that are in rather low demand, such as nuclear technicians (500 annual job openings), embalmers (500 annual job openings), and broadcast technicians (3,400 annual job openings).

What’s Next?

Once you’re ready to begin researching associate degree programs, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I eligible for this program? Most community college programs will only require you to have a high school diploma or GED to be eligible for admission.
  • How long does it take to complete this degree? This will depend on several factors, such as your major and the number of courses you take per semester. Generally, full-time students can expect to complete an associate degree program in two years.

If you’re interested in a particular program, keep track of any application deadlines and materials that you’ll need to submit during the admissions process. This information can be found by reviewing the school’s website or consulting with a campus official.

You’ll also need to figure out how you will finance your degree. Scholarships, grants, federal loans, work-study programs, and other options may be available to help you pay for tuition and other education-related expenses.