For many years, ambitious but sensible students have begun their academic careers at community colleges. They chose to earn an associate’s degree at a school that is more affordable or closer to home before transferring to a four-year college or university to complete the requirements for earning a bachelor’s degree. Now that online degree programs have become increasingly available, you may wonder if you can follow a similar path that incorporates an online education. It is possible to earn an associate’s degree online. Starting your educational journey toward earning a bachelor’s degree with an online associate’s degree program can have many advantages.

Online Associate’s Degrees

You can earn many levels of college degrees online, including an associate’s degree. In fact, you’re in good company if you decide to do so. More than half of online students were pursuing associate’s degrees as of 2006, according to professional online learning society The Sloan Consortium. As the number of online degree programs has continued to increase in recent years, especially at schools that already have brick-and-mortar campuses, there’s a good chance that you can find an online degree program to earn an associate’s degree in your desired field. You may even be able to take online courses through one of the same community colleges you might have considered attending in-person.

Laying the Groundwork

In a tough economy, experts have increasingly questioned the value of education, and especially of the associate’s degree. Bachelor’s degrees are now entry-level requirements for many positions, which may mean that, in some industries and geographical climates, an associate’s degree alone is of little benefit to the job seeker. However, using an associate’s degree program to prepare yourself to earn a bachelor’s degree later is an excellent strategy for many students, allowing them to ease the transition into college and save money in the process.

If your ambition is to earn a bachelor’s degree but you want the freedom of taking online courses and the affordability of starting with an associate’s degree, you may find that there are many benefits to beginning your educational journey with an online associate’s degree program. Many online courses are asynchronous, which means that you won’t have to meet, even virtually, at a regularly scheduled time. You can study and complete all coursework on your own schedule, which may allow you more flexibility to work or fulfill your family obligations. Though attending an online college isn’t necessarily cheaper than attending a traditional college, pursuing an associate’s degree first is likely to be less costly than paying for four years of study in a bachelor’s degree program, especially if you take courses through a community college. Finally, online courses require a lot of self-discipline, organization, and time management skills. By pursuing your associate’s degree online, you will already have developed these important skills by the time you begin the more rigorous work required to earn your bachelor’s degree.