Every workplace has employees, and every group of employees requires the skills of a manager to oversee operations, plan outcomes and direct the group towards a shared goal. An effective manager is vital to the success of any organization, from startups and government offices to corporations and factories, and these in-demand professionals tend to be well compensated. An associate’s degree in business management can be the key to launching a stimulating, flexible and well-paying career or advancing in the business workplace.
Working adults are increasingly turning to online education in order to earn their degrees, balancing study with life and work. An online associate’s degree program can offer convenience, flexibility and affordability far beyond that of the traditional classroom. A typical program includes general education components, such as history and composition, selected to teach communication and critical thinking, followed by business-specific courses such as accounting, employment law and business ethics. An associate’s degree will prepare graduates for immediate employment in positions such as office clerk or management trainee, or provide the foundation for continued study of business management in a bachelor’s program.
Our ranking of the 10 Best Online Associate’s Degrees in Business Management for 2017 presents the best of the best, ranked for affordability, flexibility and academic strength.
- Affordability (1/3): The average cost per credit hour.
- Flexibility (1/3): The number of specializations, accelerated courses, start dates, and other features granting flexibility for the student.
- Academic Prestige (1/3): The academic prestige of the program’s parent institution according to national and international rankings and reviews.
1. University of Massachusetts – Lowell
University of Massachusetts–Lowell (“UMass Lowell”) is a public research university. With nearly 1,150 faculty members and 18,058 students, it is the second-largest public institution in the state. The university offers 122 bachelor’s, 43 master’s and 36 doctoral degree programs, with business being the most popular major. Admission is selective, and the student-faculty ratio of 17 to 1 is low for that of a large university. UMass Lowell prides itself on rigorous academics, hands-on learning and personal attention. The school has earned an excellent academic reputation, and U.S. news and World Report ranks UMass Lowell Lowell 152nd in National Universities and 78th is Top Public Schools. With cutting-edge facilities and large endowments, research at UMass is consistently excellent, ranked in the nation’s top 200 by U.S. News and World Report, and winning National Science Foundation CAREER awards since 2010. The school is also ranked in the nation’s top ten for return on investment by sources such as Forbes, PayScale and U.S. News and World Report. The average mid-career salary for UMass Lowell graduates is $95,100.
UMass Lowell offers an Associate’s Degree in Management in an online program which is rigorous, comprehensive and prestigious. Students gain crucial analytical skills and learn the fundamentals of business operations, marketing, financial accounting and statistics. The program consists of 65 credits: 35 core requirements and 30 credits in business studies. Core courses consist of mathematics, sociology, psychology and composition- all general education areas which are also applicable to the field of business and management. Credit may be awarded for prior learning at other institutions. Courses are taught by full-time faculty who are experts in their fields, and by adjunct faculty who, as practicing professionals, bring real-world experience to the online class discussions. UMass Lowell’s School of Business is rated 183rd in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. The university’s online department, and online business programs in particular, have themselves earned a reputation for excellence. At $375 per credit hour, tuition is one of the highest entries in this listing. But with UMass’ reputation for academic excellence and high income among graduates, an online associate’s degree from this prestigious school may actually represent one of the best investments on the market.
- Cost Per Credit Hour: $375
- Academic Prestige: #1
- Flexibility-Enhancing Components: Credit awarded for prior study
2. Penn Foster Career School
Penn Foster Career School (“Penn Foster”) is a private, online institution of higher education. The school was founded in 1890 as the International Correspondence School. In 2006, it was renamed after its founder and replaced its correspondence courses with online offerings. Today, the school serves some 140,000 students in 80 different programs in Automotive, Business, Creative/Design, Drafting, Education, Health Services, Legal Studies, Natural Health, Technology, and Trades areas. By focusing exclusively on distance education, the school is able to cut overhead costs and pass the savings on to students. Specializing in online classes has also allowed Penn Foster to invest in developing class content and coaching strategies to specifically address the needs of distance learners.
Penn Foster Career School offers an exceptionally affordable online Associate’s in Applied Science in Business Management. The 65-credit course of study consists almost entirely of business-related topics and skills, giving graduates of the program a comprehensive, in-depth understanding of the field. Areas of study include business law, organizational behavior, principles of management and marketing. Extensive career services, peer mentoring and academic coaching help online students succeed in their studies and advance their careers or find employment upon graduation. Students can enroll at any time and begin taking classes right away, and an open admissions policy means that only a high school diploma or GED is required to enroll. Mobile-friendly and media-rich class content makes learning through Penn Foster convenient and engaging. At just $79 per credit hour, Penn Foster is the most affordable option included in this ranking, and the cost of textbooks is even included in tuition.
- Cost Per Credit Hour: $79
- Academic Prestige: 6
- Flexibility-Enhancing Components: Self-paced classes
3. Rasmussen College
Rasmussen College, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, is a private institution offering over 70 diplomas, certificates, associates and bachelor’s degrees in career-focused disciplines such as nursing, education and internet marketing. The school has 22 campuses throughout the country and serves over 13,600 students. Rasmussen employs a “Credential Ladder”, a stepwise approach to degree-granting, which awards incremental degrees to students pursuing an advanced credential. A student working towards a master’s, for instance, would be awarded an associate’s and bachelor’s degree as they completed the requirements for each on the path towards their final degree. This approach means students can take credit for their academic milestones, potentially advancing their careers, before completing their final degree.
Rasmussen offers an Associate’s in Applied Science in Human Resources and Organizational Leadership which affords students excellent flexibility and value. The 91-credit sequence begins with core courses related to business management, such as principles of finance and staff training and development. General education requirements are taken after the core is complete, allowing students to immediately begin applying knowledge and skills relevant to their careers. In addition to the above 91-credit sequence, several “foundation courses” are required for the degree. Students have the option to select the format for each online class: traditional, competency-based or self-directed assessment. Traditional classes are instructor-led, competency-based are delivered as self-paced modules with some faculty interaction, and self-directed assessments are tests allowing students to earn credit by demonstrating existing knowledge. At $186 per credit hour, Ramussen represents a low-cost option for earning an associate’s degree, and further savings are possible for those testing out of required courses.
- Cost Per Credit Hour: $186
- Academic Prestige: #6
- Flexibility-Enhancing Components: Credit awarded for demonstrating aptitude
4. Rio Salado College
Based in Tempe, Arizona, Rio Salado College (“Rio”) is a community college offering associate’s degrees and certificate programs. Since its founding in 1978, the school has specialized in distance learning, and by 2006 had converted the majority of its course offerings to an online format. With just 22 full-time faculty, the school educates a student body of over 60,000, and provides extensive support services to ensure their academic success. The school is cited by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Forbes, PBS and others as a leader in higher education innovation.
Rio Online offers a 60-credit online Associate in Applied Science in Organizational Management. The program is an excellent value and gives students outstanding support and flexibility. Each student works with an advisor to tailor their course of study to their career goals within the program requirements. The associate’s degree in organizational management incorporates the 18-credit curriculum of the school’s Certificate in Organizational Leadership, covering topics such as business communication, techniques in supervision and project management. Degree seekers also complete 22 to 27 units in general education and 20 electives chosen within one of the school’s occupational programs. Most courses are either 14 or 16 weeks long, with some available in an accelerated 8-week format. Rolling start dates allow students to begin their courses at their convenience. Online tutoring, mentoring, advising, library resources, technology help and writing assistance are available and easy to navigate. The school maintains “articulation agreements” with several institutions. This arrangement allows graduates of Rio’s associate’s program to seamlessly transfer credits to another institution in order to pursue a bachelor’s degree, and even allows automatic acceptance into certain partner institutions. At $136 per credit, an online associate’s degree from Rio Salado College is an excellent value.
- Cost Per Credit Hour: $136
- Academic Prestige: #6
- Flexibility-Enhancing Components: Accelerated courses option, Rolling start dates
5. Northcentral Technical College
Northcentral Technical College (“Northcentral”) is a public institution based in Wisconsin with a total enrollment of 4,384. Northcentral’s motto, “real life, real learning” speaks to an institutional commitment to real-world results. Over 93% of students find employment in their chosen field within 6 months of graduation. Graduates command an average starting salary of about $35,000, an outstanding return on investment for a technical school. Students can choose from over 185 technical diplomas, certificates and associate’s degrees in career-focused areas such as healthcare services and marketing. Northcentral has an open admissions policy, requiring only a high school diploma or GED for enrollment, and offers credit for life experiences.
Northcentral offers an Associate of Applied Science in Supervisory Management designed to train students to lead teams and oversee personnel. The program follows a 66-67 credit sequence, with virtually every class relating directly to the world of supervision. Classes are designed to cover practical skills and current issues, and include topics such as organizational efficiency and technology for business leaders. Throughout all classes, students can expect to develop skills in human relations, motivation, leadership, time management, business ethics and computer skills. With rolling start dates, self-paced classes and no fixed deadlines, the program gives online students maximum flexibility. Graduates of Northcentral’s associate’s program report earning an average salary of $48,125. With tuition priced at just $162, the degree represents an outstanding return on investment.
- Cost Per Credit Hour: $162
- Academic Prestige: #6
- Flexibility-Enhancing Components: Self-paced classes, Rolling start dates
6. Patten University
Patten University (“Patten”) is a private university based in California. The school was founded in 1944 as the Oakland Bible Institute, and in 2012 was taken over by UniversityNow, a private company which develops low-cost higher education options. Today, Patten is a secular institution offering associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees with a student body of 900. The school’s relatively new online learning program has been well-ranked by sources such as CollegeChoice for its instructional quality and value. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has also recognized Patten as one the country’s most innovative “next generation” universities.
Patten offers an Associate in Arts in General Studies with a concentration in Business Management. Degree seekers complete 45 general education units and 15 units in the management concentration. General education courses include standard foundational knowledge, such as reading comprehension and algebra, as well as more far-flung topics such as film studies and world religions. Business management classes cover such areas as financial accounting and leadership in organizations, as well as computer literacy. Courses are self-paced and engaging, with media-rich content and multi-modal instruction. Distance learners pay a flat rate each term, and can decrease the cost of their degree by enrolling in more classes at a given time. All courses use only free e-textbooks, and online tutoring and advising is available. With each credit hour costing as little as $171, an associate’s from Patten is an excellent value.
- Cost Per Credit Hour: $171
- Academic Prestige: #6
- Flexibility-Enhancing Components: Self-paced classes
7. Waldorf University
Waldorf University is a small liberal arts school based in Iowa. The school was originally established by a Lutheran minister in 1903 as a Christian college, and housed in a former hotel. Today, the university offers associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs, as well as several undergraduate certificate options and online career-prep programs. The school aims to foster critical thought, humanitarianism and lifelong learning through education in the liberal arts. Waldorf retains its Christian roots in the school’s commitment to service and ethical values, but is open to students of all faiths.
For those interested in learning to recruit and manage staff, Waldorf offers an Associate in Arts in Human Resource Management consisting of 60 credits. Forty-five general education credits provide a liberal arts background, and include choices in composition, mathematics and history. Fifteen business credits follow, which cover such areas as employment law, compensation and benefits, and recruitment and staffing. For those interested in furthering their education upon completion of the associate’s degree, this course sequence satisfies the requirements for the Human Resource Management concentration within Waldorf’s B.S. program in Business Administration. Waldorf also holds “articulation agreements” with over 25 institutions of higher learning, which allow seamless transfer of credits earned at Waldorf to a partner institution.
- Cost Per Credit Hour: $221
- Academic Prestige: #22
- Flexibility-Enhancing Components: Two tracks
8. Sullivan University
With approximately 6,000 students, Sullivan University (“Sullivan”) is the largest private university in Kentucky, and operates 6 campuses and extension sites throughout the state. Sullivan was founded in 1962 as a one-year career-preparation institute with just 300 students. Today, the school offers diploma, associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, while continuing to focus on preparing graduates for workplace success. The university is organized into 10 schools in such career-specific disciplines as nursing, hospitality, computer technology and early childhood education.
Sullivan’s online Associate Degree in Business Management is a 92-credit program which embodies the university’s real-world teaching perspective. Almost all courses relate directly to the world of business, and cover a wide range of topics related to commerce and management. Classes include computerized accounting, small business management, business law and public speaking. For students taking classes full-time, the entire program can be completed in as little as 18 months, making Sullivan one of the more efficient options for earning an associate’s in business management. Courses are taught by professors employed in their field of expertise, who are able to offer job-based insights and teach about current trends in the business management world. Online students enjoy services such as academic advising, library resources, career assistance and a dedicated online student mentoring team.
- Cost Per Credit Hour: $395
- Academic Prestige: #9
- Flexibility-Enhancing Components: Accelerated courses option
9. Mesa Community College
Founded in 1965 as an extension of Phoenix College, Mesa Community College (MCC) is a large institution, with over 25,960 students. MCC offers more than 200 associate’s degrees and certificate programs. The school emphasizes measurable outcomes of student success, such as gainful employment and community engagement. MCC’s “Four C’s”, a set of essential skills, are embedded in all areas of study: communication, critical thinking, civics and cultural engagement. Career readiness and workforce development are also promoted in all disciplines, with the goal of preparing students to find immediate success in their chosen field.
MCC offers an online Associate in Applied Science in Business Management emphasizing real-world, job-ready business skills. The degree program follows a sequence of 68 to 73 credits, with the option to test out of some prerequisite courses. Students begin their studies with general education and elective courses, including mathematics and composition, before moving on to business-specific courses, such as accounting, team dynamics and supply chain management. Students can also earn a Certificate in Organizational Leadership online by completing an 18-credit sequence which emphasizes communication and supervisory skills.
With almost 25% of MCC students enrolled in online classes, the school is heavily invested in providing an optimal e-learning experience. Several support services are available to online learners, such as tutoring, writing assistance and online library resources. Tuition is reasonably priced at $215 per credit hour.
- Cost Per Credit Hour: $215
- Academic Prestige Rank: #6
- Flexibility-Enhancing Components: Certificate in organizational leadership offered