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Why This Matters


    Currently, 2.4% of jobs require an associate degree for entry, but that number is expected to increase by 8.7% by 2024.


    Many associate-level jobs, including dental hygienists, dietetic technicians, and environmental science technicians, are expected to experience faster-than-average job growth through 2029.


    Most associate degree programs are designed to be completed in two years of full-time study, allowing for a quick entry into the workforce.

Our Research

For this list, we focused on institutions that offer associate degree programs, including community colleges, public and private universities, and technical institutes. We evaluated and ranked the institutions based on their cost, course offerings, reputation, faculty, and course delivery methods, including online, in-person, and hybrid courses.

The type of accreditation an institution has is particularly important for associate degrees, as many students use these programs to earn credits that they will transfer to other colleges to complete their bachelor’s degrees. The majority of schools on our list are regionally accredited, which have the most transferable credits, while others have national accreditation.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. Our top picks for the best Colleges for Associate Degrees program are affordable, respected, and flexible. (For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.)

  • 71 hours to write this article
  • 1,180 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 1,284 education programs we compared

The Top 50 Colleges for Associate Degrees

Best Colleges for Associate Degrees

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What You Should Know About This Degree

There are three primary types of associate degrees, including Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS), and Associate of Applied Science (AAS), although individual institutions may offer other, more specific associate degrees like an Associate of Business Administration (ABA) and Associate of Technology (AT). Your specific career aspirations will determine what type of associate degree is best for you.

Your intended professional path will also influence whether you pursue an associate as a terminal degree, or as a stepping stone towards a bachelor’s degree. An associate degree is the entry-level education requirement for a number of occupations in healthcare, office and administrative support, trades, and technology.

Associate degrees are typically offered by two-year community colleges, but if you are interested in earning an associate as a precursor to a bachelor’s degree, you may want to consider attending a four-year college or university, where you can easily transition to a bachelor’s program. Another consideration is earning your associate at a community college that has articulation agreements with four-year colleges and universities. This will facilitate a smooth transfer process, and ensure that you will be able to apply the maximum number of credits to your bachelor’s degree.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching associate degree programs:

  • What type of accreditation does this institution have? This is particularly important for students who intend to transfer to a four-year college to earn a bachelor’s degree after completing their associate. Generally, more colleges recognize credits from regionally accredited schools than nationally accredited schools. When researching schools for your associate, be sure to confirm the transferability of credits if you plan on following this track.
  • Does the school offer an accelerated associate-to-bachelor’s degree track? Many schools that grant both associate and bachelor’s degrees offer accelerated programs that allow students to begin earning credits towards their bachelor’s while working on their associate. Enrolling in this type of accelerated program can help students save time and money by completing their bachelor’s in a shorter time frame.

During your research process, be sure to note the application requirements and deadlines for the programs in which you are interested. Associate degree programs typically have minimal application requirements, but it’s best to confirm the process with an admissions representative if you have questions.

This is also a good time to consider how you will pay for your associate degree. Research your financial aid options, including scholarships, grants, loans, work-study, and employer tuition assistance benefits.

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