Undergraduate College Degree Programs Online

Learn about online degree programs and find out if an online associate's or bachelor's degree program is right for you. Get an overview of the program types, as well as course descriptions and degree requirements.

Essential Information

Online undergraduate college degree programs are typically designed for working professionals who lack the time to attend traditional classes and want to study at their own pace. Many colleges and universities in a range of academic fields offer these programs, from accounting and nursing, to psychology and criminal justice.

The same instructors who teach the on-campus courses typically teach online courses for associate's and bachelor's degree programs. Most online undergraduate college degree programs don't require students to take scheduled classes, allowing them to complete coursework and exams at their own convenience. However, these programs may ask students to post or turn in assignments by a specific date.

Some programs are offered completely online, while others mandate that students participate in certain classes, tests, seminars, and other activities on campus. Online bachelor's and associate's degree programs that mandate supervised hands-on practice, such as those in the health care and social science fields, typically engage students in internships and clinical experiences at local organizations. Some online degree programs, in fields like hotel and motel management, may not include the practical experiences that their on-campus counterparts generally require.

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Associate's Degree

Associate degrees are undergraduate degrees that normally take two years to complete and require students to take 60 semester credit hours. They are widely available at technical schools and community colleges, although some 4-year colleges do offer these programs. Associate's degrees generally serve one of two purposes: they either prepare students with the necessary knowledge and credits required to transfer to a bachelor's degree program, or they prepare students for a specific career, such as nursing.

Admission Requirements

Admissions standards for associate's degrees are usually much less rigorous than bachelor's programs. Students often only need a high school diploma or equivalent to gain entry into a program. Applicants should submit a high school transcript, complete with courses taken and grades received, along with standardized test scores from the ACT or SAT.

Common Programs

Although associate's degrees are available in just about every academic field, here are a few examples of the most common degree programs:

  • Accounting
  • Business administration
  • Construction management
  • Criminal justice
  • Early childhood education
  • Information technology
  • Liberal arts
  • Marketing
  • Fashion merchandising
  • Healthcare administration

Bachelor's Degrees

Whereas associate's degrees can be completed in only two years, bachelor's degrees usually take twice as long. Most programs consist of around 120 credits and take four years to complete. These degrees generally fall into one of two categories: Bachelor of Arts, which features programs such as English or communications, or Bachelor of Science, which focuses on more scientific fields, such as engineering and mathematics.

Admissions Requirements

As these programs are more comprehensive, admissions requirements are generally more demanding than associate's degrees. All students will need a high school diploma, but some programs may require specific coursework. Applicants may need to submit references from academic advisers or a personal statement, and students in the performing or creative arts are sometimes required to include an artistic portfolio detailing their skills and accomplishments. More competitive schools also factor in extracurricular activities, such as student government or special interest clubs.

Common Programs

Some of the most popular bachelor's degree programs include:

  • Accounting
  • Psychology
  • Business administration
  • Nursing
  • Human services
  • Finance
  • Criminal justice
  • Political science
  • Healthcare administration
  • Mathematics

For the working professional who needs the flexibility to work full-time and take courses on their own schedule, online undergraduate degree programs are a popular choice. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs are available for students who already possess a high school diploma or equivalent and can be in a variety of fields, such as accounting, criminal justice, psychology, and business administration.

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