Online Liberal Arts Associate Degree Programs

The Most Affordable Paths & Career Potential in Liberal Arts

Online liberal arts associate degree programs emphasize communication and critical thinking. Students gain foundational knowledge related to the humanities, social sciences, and foreign languages. Some programs also allow students to choose a concentration. An associate degree prepares students for entry-level careers, as well as advanced study in a bachelor's program.

This page provides general information about associate degree programs, including common course requirements, typical degree timelines, and scholarship opportunities. The following sections also detail career options and salary expectations for graduates.

Quiz: Is an Online Liberal Arts Associate Program Right for Me?

Are you still unsure about what industry you'd like to work in, and would you rather earn a degree that covers a variety of subjects?

Earning a general liberal arts degree can help you choose an educational path and career. Students pursuing a liberal arts associate degree online gain skills in critical thinking, professional communication, and business technologies, which they can apply to various subjects and industries.

Does a two-year degree program feel like the right study timeline?

An online associate degree in liberal arts typically requires 60 credits, which most full-time students complete in two years. However, many online programs offer ample scheduling flexibility. For example, working professionals can choose to study part time, which increases their flexibility but extends their degree completion time. Many online programs also offer accelerated options, allowing learners to take more credits per term and graduate more quickly.

Do you have prior credits to transfer?

Online liberal arts associate degree programs require several foundational courses, and students can often apply AP credits toward these requirements. Students may also bring in previously earned credits from other accredited colleges and universities.

Additionally, some schools award credit for previous life and work experience. Learners can often earn credit for military service and for professional experience that demonstrates relevant skills. You can speak with an admissions officer at your school to find out whether you qualify for prior learning credits.

Are you interested in eventually earning a bachelor's degree?

For students planning to eventually pursue a four-year degree, earning an online associate degree in liberal arts can establish the educational groundwork for further studies in many subjects. Graduates can often transfer credits from their associate degree into their bachelor's program. Learners should research transfer requirements at their school.

The sections below provide more details about common career paths for graduates with a liberal arts associate degree.

What Will You Learn in an Online Associate Liberal Arts Program?

Liberal arts encompasses a variety of subjects. Liberal arts students often explore philosophy, religion, and social sciences. Coursework may cover geography, law, linguistics, political science, psychology, and sociology. Liberal arts programs also cover topics including mathematics, fine arts, music, literary arts, and the natural sciences.

Students earning an associate degree in liberal arts gain a strong educational foundation. Liberal arts programs teach learners skills and knowledge that graduates can apply to various industries, careers, and advanced degree programs.

The list below includes courses common among liberal arts associate programs. However, class subjects and titles vary by school.

Common Classes and Coursework

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    English Composition: This class covers various forms of academic discourse. Students explore the writing process and learn how to analyze others' work. Coursework emphasizes the importance of context, revision, audience, word choice, and research. Students develop skills in communication, research, and analysis.

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    Public Speaking: Students learn about the methodology, process, and skills necessary to become proficient public speakers. This class covers a variety of speaking situations, including academic projects and professional presentations. Students learn to analyze speeches and their key components. Learners also explore the physical aspects of public speaking, including voice, diction, articulation, and posture.

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    Applied Social Sciences: In this course, students focus on inquiry-based learning. Students explore a project from social science perspectives, including psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Learners prepare to gather evidence, apply evidence to an investigation, and reach logical conclusions.

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    Applied Natural Sciences: This course covers foundational concepts like empirical modes of study, fact-based inquiry, and the scientific method. Students apply natural science methodology to solve practical issues. Learners develop skills related to critical thinking, logical reasoning, and research.

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    Applied History: Students in this course learn how the past can inform the present. Learners examine the foundations of modern society and gain an understanding of the systems and organizations currently in place. Students also develop research, writing, and analysis skills.

  • Skills You Will Gain

    An associate degree in liberal arts provides a broad base of knowledge and skills that can be translated directly to practical situations. Students can apply these skills to advanced study and career advancement. Students earning a liberal arts associate degree online often develop the following skills.

    Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking involves objectively evaluating an issue and forming a rational judgment. Nearly all careers require this type of thinking. Professionals with this skill can complete work independently, find creative solutions, and come up with innovative ideas based on past findings.

    Written Communication

    This skill is key for professionals in almost any career. Written communication is particularly crucial for learners considering further studies. Students in bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs must be able to write clearly and concisely to complete papers, theses, and dissertations.

    Verbal Communication

    Verbal communication skills help individuals express themselves effectively, clearly, and concisely. Both students and professionals need strong verbal communication skills to effectively deliver presentations, formal speeches, and oral reports.

    Average Degree Length

    The amount of time needed to complete an online associate degree program varies. Associate degrees typically require about 60 credits, which full-time learners generally complete in two years. However, several factors can impact degree completion time.

    Students must choose whether to study full time or part time. Full-time students focus on their studies and take more classes per term than part-time learners. However, part-time students can often continue to work full time while earning their degree.

    Additionally, some schools offer accelerated options, which can reduce degree completion time by several months. Students in accelerated programs typically take more courses per term and must devote significant time and energy to their studies.

    Career Opportunities with an Associate Degree in Liberal Arts

    Associate degree-holders can qualify for entry-level positions in a variety of disciplines. A liberal arts degree can lead to positions in nearly any industry that does not require specialized training.

    The table below includes potential careers and median salaries for graduates with a liberal arts associate degree. However, no degree guarantees a specific job or salary, and individual salaries vary based on a worker's company, industry, and location.

    Potential Careers and Salaries

    Many industries include positions available to liberal arts associate degree-holders. Graduates can find jobs in business, government, medicine, insurance, and law. Most candidates with an associate degree assume entry-level positions.

    The table below lists common careers for professionals with an associate degree in liberal arts, along with the accompanying median salaries. These occupations are just a few examples of the jobs available to liberal arts graduates. Candidates with additional training, experience, and education may qualify for more advanced positions.

    Administrative Assistant

    Administrative assistants can work in various industries. They may answer to one individual or be responsible for an entire department. Administrative assistants often help with record keeping, data entry, billing, inventory, correspondence, and sales.

    Median Annual Salary: $39,00

    Front Office Manager

    These professionals oversee customer interaction, policy compliance, and interpersonal communication. Some businesses prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree, although many employers hire front office managers with an associate degree.

    Median Annual Salary: $43,000

    Legal Administrative Assistant

    These professionals have many of the same responsibilities as administrative assistants, but they work exclusively in the legal industry. Legal assistants provide support related to research, correspondence, filing, and client interaction.

    Median Annual Salary: $51,000

    Cosmetology Instructor

    Cosmetology instructors teach classes in hairstyling, skin care, and makeup. They ensure that students meet industry standards. In addition to an associate degree, cosmetology instructors must hold a cosmetology license.

    Median Annual Salary: $40,000

    Meeting Planner

    Meeting planners coordinate and plan meetings and conferences for companies, organizations, and government departments. These professionals must be detailed, organized, and excellent at scheduling. Some employers require meeting planners to hold a bachelor's degree, but many hire planners with an associate degree and experience or certification.

    Median Annual Salary: $52,000

    Source: PayScale

    Five Liberal Arts Scholarships to Apply For

    Students can apply for scholarships and grants to help fund their education. These awards are an ideal form of funding, since they do not require repayment. Below are five scholarships available to students pursuing a liberal arts associate degree online or on campus.

    Daughters of the American Revolutio Foundation Scholarshipsn

    Who Can Apply: The DAR offers five scholarships for graduating high school seniors. Scholarship applicants must demonstrate a commitment to studying and preserving American history.

    Amount: $2,000-$5,000

    Apply For Scholarship
    Davidson Fellows Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: High school seniors can submit a substantive, innovative project in the category of literature, music, philosophy, or STEM. Students can work alone or as part of a team.

    Amount: $10,000-$50,000

    Apply For Scholarship
    Handweavers Guild of America, Inc. Scholarships

    Who Can Apply: These scholarships support learners in fields related to fiber arts, including textile research, history, and conservation. Applicants can qualify by artistic merit or scholarly research.

    Amount: $1,000

    Apply For Scholarship
    Udall Undergraduate Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Applicants must be Native American and enrolled in a two-year or four-year accredited institution. Applicants must be studying environmental science, Indiginous/American Indian studies, public health, history with an emphasis on North American colonization, or English with a focus in indigenous literature.

    Amount: Up to $7,000

    Apply For Scholarship
    A Place for Mom Senior Wisdom Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: A Place for Mom awards this scholarship to students pursuing an associate, bachelor's, or graduate degree. Candidates must be studying a field related to medicine, nursing, liberal arts, or social science, with an emphasis on elder care.

    Amount: $2,000

    Apply For Scholarship

    Educational Advancement in Liberal Arts

    An associate degree can prepare students to go on and earn a more advanced degrees. Associate students should consider whether continuing their education would further their academic and career goals.

    This section includes information about various degree paths for associate degree-holders and factors to consider when choosing a four-year degree program.

    Should You Transfer to a Four-year Degree Program?

    Many graduates of associate programs choose to pursue a bachelor's degree. However, learners should consider several factors before committing to a four-year program.

    Students should understand whether their associate-level credits will transfer to a four-year program. Students can contact an academic or admissions advisor at their prospective four-year institution to learn about transfer requirements and agreements.

    What Degree Paths Should You Consider?

    A liberal arts associate degree can qualify graduates to pursue bachelor's studies in many subjects. When choosing a four-year degree program, students should consider their career aspirations and education goals. Below are some common bachelor's degree options for graduates of liberal arts associate programs.

    • Bachelor's in Political Science: Political science is the study of government, politics, and society. Graduates with a bachelor's in political science often become elected officials, policy makers, and political advisors. Others go on to pursue a law degree.
    • Bachelor's in Economics: A degree in economics prepares graduates for work in business-related fields, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. Students learn analytical and critical-thinking skills, research methodologies, and business strategies.
    • Bachelor's in Linguistics: Linguistics is the study of language, including its structure, form, meaning, and sounds. Students explore the historical, cultural, and social contexts of language. Linguistics graduates can become speech therapists, communication experts, and translators.

    Professional Organizations and Resources

    Professional organizations can provide opportunities for students and professionals to network with peers, find jobs, and continue their education. Below are some professional organizations for liberal arts majors.

    • American Anthropological Association: This organization promotes the understanding of human culture, history, society, and biology. Members receive access to networking opportunities, online resources, and professional publications.
    • American Bar Association: The ABA is the national representative of the legal profession. It is committed to defending liberty and delivering justice. The association also provides advocacy, bias and diversity training, and continuing education options.
    • American Economic Association: This nonprofit, nonpartisan organization serves American economists. The AEA hosts annual meetings and offers scholarly journals, career help, online resources, and continuing education opportunities.
    • American Historical Association: This nonprofit organization is dedicated to academic freedom and scholarly publications. The AHA offers advocacy, research, career postings, and job boards. The AHA also offers awards and grants for members.
    • American Political Science Association: APSA serves more than 11,000 members. Political scientists from all regions, services, and industries can network through APSA to preserve and expand knowledge.
    • The Association for Core Texts and Courses: This organization uses core texts, world classics, and scholarly articles to improve and promote liberal education. Members can access publications, resources, programs, and conferences.
    • Association for Psychological Science: APS is dedicated to the scientific study of psychology. This organization hosts conventions and provides scholarly journals, resources for students and teachers, and professional networking opportunities.
    • Humanities Education and Research Association: This nonprofit organization emphasizes research and education. The association promotes the global study of liberal arts across disciplines, including history, philosophy, religion, and performing arts.
    • Linguistic Society of America: This organization focuses on the scientific study of language. It disseminates linguistic scholarship to professionals and the general public. The organization also offers publications, meetings, professional resources, and advocacy.
    • National Art Education Association: This organization delivers funding and promotion for the fine arts. NAEA oversees research commissions; a task force on equity, diversity, and inclusion; collaboration between artists; virtual art educators; and an honor society.