Top Associate Degrees in Healthcare Available Online

Find the top-earning careers in healthcare that require an associate degree and gather the information you need to make an informed decision about your future in medicine.

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Last Updated: 12/01/2020
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You’re passionate about healthcare and you want to get your foot in the door as fast as possible. You’re looking to earn a degree that not only equips you with the skills to start working, but one that leads to a healthy paycheck. If this sounds like you, earning your online associate degree in healthcare is a smart way to start helping others quickly while building the foundation for a successful career in the medical field.

There are many exciting and rewarding options in healthcare that begin at the associate level and most are available online, making it all the more appealing. Keep reading to find out which online associate degrees can lead to high-earning careers in healthcare and learn about the benefits of getting your degree online.

Benefits of an Online Associate Degree in Healthcare

Earning an online associate degree in healthcare can offer you several benefits, especially if you need to balance schoolwork with personal and/or professional responsibilities. Here are some of the best reasons to choose an online healthcare degree program.

Set Your Own Schedule

When attending a traditional campus-based program, you’re expected to show up multiple times per week at specific hours to participate in live, in-person classes. When you work towards your healthcare associate degree online, many schools allow you to watch prerecorded lectures and complete assignments at times that work with your specific needs. By setting your own schedule, you can fit college into an already busy schedule without feeling overwhelmed.

Save Money

Pursuing an online associate degree in healthcare can help you save money in multiple ways. When participating in an in-person degree, you must consider transportation costs, parking, meals outside the home, and potential campus-based fees. If you need to relocate, you may also need to pay extra in housing. Some schools also allow distance learners to pay the same tuition rate as residence students, regardless of where they live.

Get Your Foot in the Door

If you feel reasonably confident you want to work in a healthcare career but don’t possess 100% certainty, pursuing an online associate degree in the field can help you test the waters before fully committing. Many healthcare jobs allow you to get your foot in the door with an associate degree, making it possible to see if it’s a good fit before committing to additional education.

Transfer Credits

Suppose that after completing your online healthcare associate degree you decide to continue into a bachelor’s degree. In that case, regardless of whether you stay in the same field—many of the credits you completed will count toward general education requirements. If pursuing a bachelor’s degree seems likely, try to attend a community college or vocational school that maintains transfer agreements with four-year institutions. This helps ensure the highest number of credits transfer.

Health & Safety

No one could have imagined what 2020 would entail when it came to COVID-19. While the coronavirus has thrown uncertainty into everyday life, students enrolled in online healthcare associate degrees have been able to keep up with their studies without risking the health of themselves or those around them. Online study also makes it possible for them to graduate more quickly and start helping others as the pandemic carries on.

Top Associate Degrees in Healthcare Online

When it comes to earning your online associate degree in healthcare, there are several paths y that could lead to a fruitful career. Below are just some of the top online associate degrees that can put you on track to a high-earning career in healthcare.

Associate in Medical Sonography

These entry-level programs typically take two years to complete and help you build skills in ultrasound physics and instrumentation, human anatomy and physiology, abdominal ultrasounds, and sectional anatomy. They typically require both online and in-person requirements, though the breakdown of each can vary by school.

Online Component

The vast majority of an associate in medical sonography can be completed online. Still, even online sonography and ultrasound tech schools will require you to participate in an in-person practicum to build the hands-on skills required to work in clinical settings directly with patients. If your school is located far from you, it will typically work with you to find an approved site to accommodate your needs.

Healthcare Careers for Medical Sonography Majors

Ultrasound Technician: Sonographers or ultrasound techs work in hospitals, physicians’ offices, and other clinics to conduct ultrasounds and capture clear images. Some may work in obstetrics, while others may find employment in other areas. They also hold responsibility for cleaning and maintaining all required ultrasound equipment.

Median Salary
$68,750

Growth Rate
12%(2019-2029)

(Source: BLS)

Associate in Nuclear Medicine Technology  

Nuclear medicine technology programs can take anywhere from 18-30 months, depending on whether you complete prerequisites before enrolling or alongside degree-specific coursework. Some of the topics you can expect to explore include nuclear instrumentation, nuclear medicine methodology, radiation safety and health, and special imaging modalities.

Online Component

Much of the clinical and didactic work required in an associate in nuclear medicine technology will occur in a face-to-face setting, but plenty of the curriculum allows for distance learning. Many programs mandate prerequisites in anatomy and physiology, applied physics, chemistry, and college algebra, all of which can be done online.

Healthcare Careers for Nuclear Medicine Technology Majors

Nuclear Medicine Technologist: Under the supervision of physicians and/or other medical professionals, nuclear medicine technologists prepare and administer radioactive drugs to provide therapeutic care and support in imaging. They must know how to work with radioactive materials and dispose of them properly.  

Median Salary
$77,950

Growth Rate
5%(2019-2029)

(Source: BLS)

Occupational Therapy Assistant Associate of Applied Science

Online associate degrees for occupational therapy assistants typically require approximately 70 credits and take 24-30 months to complete. In addition to general education requirements, plan to build up skills and knowledge in topics such as healthcare ethics, role of the OTA, rehabilitation practice, and primary care within occupational therapy.

Online Component

In an online occupational therapy assistant (OTA) program, much of the coursework can be done online, including some lab components. At St. Catherine University, for instance, only 20% needs to be done in-person. Some programs make it possible to complete all online learning sequentially and undertake the in-person components during your final semester.

Healthcare Careers for Occupational Therapy Assistant Majors

Occupational Therapy Assistant: Working under licensed occupational therapists, OTAs use their skills to teach and assist patients with therapeutic movements and exercises, help build coordination skills, educating them on specialized equipment usage, and reporting progress back to their supervisors.

Median Salary
$59,200

Growth Rate
32%(2019-2029)

(Source: BLS)

Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapist

Most physical therapy assistant programs online require between 60-70 credits, depending on how many prerequisites you get out of the way before starting the degree. Because PTAs are so hands-on with their patients, both labs and clinical supervision practicums must be completed in-person to meet graduation requirements.

Online Component

While no fully online PTA programs currently exist, several schools provide degrees that can be mostly done from the comfort of your home. Aside from required general education classes, you can also plan to complete topics in therapeutic exercises, physical therapy through the lifespan, neurological disorders, and licensure exam preparation via distance learning.

Healthcare Careers for Physical Therapy Assistant Majors

Physical Therapy Assistant: Also known as PTAs, these professionals work alongside physical therapists to help patients regain motion and strength due to illness, injury, or other types of physical limitations. They work directly with patients to teach them exercises, monitor their progress, and implement assistive equipment as needed.

Median Salary
$48,990

Growth Rate
29%(2019-2029)

(Source: BLS)

Associate of Applied Science in Radiologic Technology

Most online associate in radiologic technology programs require between 60-75 credits and take between 24-36 months to complete. All radiologic techs must hold an associate degree to receive licensure. Topics commonly explored include intro to radiologic procedures, radiologic protection and biologic, radiation sciences, and imaging equipment.

Online Component

Many of the courses and some of the labs required in an accredited radiology technologist program online can be completed virtually, but clinical rotations must occur at an approved facility. For example, at Harrisburg Area Community College, learners complete their clinical requirements during their final spring and summer semesters in the evenings.

Healthcare Careers for Radiologic Technology Majors

Radiologic Technologist: Sometimes called radiographers, these therapists conduct x-rays and other diagnostic imaging techniques to help physicians and medical practitioners get a more detailed look at internal illnesses and/or diseases. They conduct imaging according to doctors’ guidelines and ensure patients maintain proper positions to get the right image.

Median Salary
$62,280

Growth Rate
7% (2019-2029)

(Source: BLS)

Associate of Applied Science in Radiation Therapy

Online associate in radiation therapy programs provide the foundational skills and knowledge needed to work alongside doctors and nurses in delivering radiation therapy to cancer patients. Curriculum varies by college but usually includes studies in radiation therapy physics, radiation therapy medical imaging, principles of radiation therapy, and oncology.

Online Component

The percentage of work done online varies by individual schools, but many allow you to complete most if not all coursework via distance education. Students looking at Amarillo College, for instance, will find this to be the case. All clinical requirements, however, must be done in-person at an approved site.

Healthcare Careers for Radiologic Technology Majors

Radiation Therapist:  While both radiologic technologists and radiation therapists use radiation equipment, how they employ the images produced from x-rays varies. Radiation therapists work with patients diagnosed with cancer to provide treatment. They ensure proper protection and calibrate the machine to ensure they receive the correct amount of radiation.

Median Salary
$85,560

Growth Rate
7% (2019-2029)

(Source: BLS)

Associate of Applied Science in Respiratory Therapy

An online respiratory therapy program gives you the qualification needed to work with patients facing illness, injury, or disease in their lungs. As we’ve seen with COVID-19, demand for these professionals could be significant in the coming years. Topics often covered include respiratory care principles and procedures, respiratory pharmacology and pathology, and mechanical ventilation.

Online Component

As with many other healthcare associate degrees, much of the general and even degree-specific coursework can be done from the comfort of your home. Because radiation therapy is such a hands-on job, you must participate in in-person labs and clinical rotations. At Southeast Community College, the program partners students with local medical centers.

Healthcare Careers for Respiratory Technology Majors

Respiratory Therapist: Whether supporting an individual suffering from asthma, emphysema, or other type of respiratory illness, respiratory therapists meet patients where they are and help them breathe easier. Some may specialize their services to specific populations, such as infants born premature or elderly individuals facing lung cancer issues. They typically work in tandem with other cardiopulmonary experts.

Median Salary
$61,330

Growth Rate
19%(2019-2029)

(Source: BLS)

Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology

Pursuing an online associate in veterinary tech typically involves two years of full-time study or three years of part-time study. Some of the courses you may be required to take (in addition to general education classes) include small animal breeds, large animal clinical and nursing skills, animal physiology, and avian and exotic pet medicine.

Online Component

An online vet tech program’s requirements can typically be done without visiting your school’s campus, but distance learning cannot extend to clinical rotation requirements. At St. Petersburg College, students partner with a local veterinary clinic and work under the supervision of a mentor who holds appropriate credentials to complete 280 hours.

Healthcare Careers for Radiologic Technology Majors

Vet Tech: Working in veterinary hospitals, animal rescue organizations, and other animal-centered facilities, vet techs support veterinarians by providing nursing care, assisting with surgeries and procedures, performing laboratory tests, ensuring pets get needed medicine, and keeping the clinic sanitary. Some may focus on small animals such as cats and dogs, while others may specialize with large and/or exotic animals.

Median Salary
$35,320

Growth Rate
16%(2019-2029)

(Source: BLS)

Associate of Applied Science in Medical Assisting

Online medical assistant schools and programs ensure that you receive both the clinical and administrative skills needed to support other medical providers. The curriculum includes studies in medical coding and billing, EKG and phlebotomy, clinical laboratory procedures, and contemporary health issues.

Online Component

Medical assisting is a unique degree because it includes two seemingly disparate areas of study. All administrative courses can easily be taken online, but some of the clinical skills require in-person learning under the mentorship of trained and licensed professionals. Most clinicals take place in the final semester.

Healthcare Careers for Medical Assistant Majors

Medical Assistant: Medical assistants perform both clinical and administrative tasks, helping as needed to ensure physicians’ offices, long-term care facilities, and hospitals run smoothly. Common responsibilities include taking vital signs and patient histories, scheduling appointments, updating patients’ medical records, and assisting with examinations.

Median Salary
$34,800

Growth Rate
19%(2019-2029)

(Source: BLS)

Associate of Emergency Medical Services

These programs can take between two and four semesters to complete, depending on whether you already possess a paramedic certification upon enrollment. Regardless, you will cover topics such as advanced life support, prehospital management of OBGYN/pediatrics, emergency services design and budget, and topics in emergency management.

Online Component

If you already possess a paramedic certification from an online program for paramedic training, many schools allow you to complete remaining associate degree requirements online. This is the case at Eastern Kentucky University. If you don’t, plan to participate in at least two advanced field internships to build skills in emergency medicine.

Healthcare Careers for Emergency Medical Services Majors

Paramedic: Paramedics are frequently one of the first medical professionals an injured person sees when calling for help. Their days can vary significantly based on calls received but common responsibilities include responding to 911 calls, administering first aid care, transporting injured or ailing patients to emergency rooms, and providing notes and information to attending doctors and nurses upon arrival.

Median Salary
$35,400

Growth Rate
6%(2019-2029)

(Source: BLS)

Associate of Applied Science in Surgical Technology

Surgical technology online associate degrees emphasize both surgical skills and professionalism, ensuring graduates know how to effectively support physicians in operating rooms. Courses you can expect to take in a surgical tech school online include introduction to surgical technology, fundamentals of perioperative concepts and techniques, and surgical procedures.

Online Component

General education and theory courses commonly exist online and make it easy for you to continue working or balancing personal responsibilities while enrolled. During your final semester of enrollment, however, you should plan to participate in a practicum or field experience in a surgical setting.

Healthcare Careers for Surgical Technology Majors

Surgical Technologist: As the name implies, surgical techs work in surgical settings to prepare operating rooms, ensure all required tools and equipment is in place, disinfect surgery sites, and support doctors during the surgery to make sure they have everything needed. When not in surgery, they may also keep up with inventory tallies and ensure new stock is ordered as needed.

Median Salary
$48,300

Growth Rate
7%(2019-2029)

(Source: BLS)