This article was originally published in February 2018 and amended in June 2020; please note that the revisions may have affected the ranking order, but the list has not been re-ordered.
Welcome to our ranking of the cheapest online associate in information technology. The return on investment for holders of associate degrees in information technology is incredible, outpacing, or at least rivaling in most cases the return on investment of nursing degrees. We have a breakdown of the earnings statistics across the field at the end of the article. To put things into perspective, the median salary of help-desk computer support professionals, an entry-level job in IT, is over $50,000 per year. Associate degrees in information technology are offered online by over 30 community colleges around the country. This ranking features the community colleges with the cheapest online AS in information technology degrees ranked by their out-of-state tuition rates. We included both in-state and out-of-state tuition rates and the graduation rate of each institution for informational purposes. More information on our sources can be found at the end of the article.
#1. Southeastern Technical College
Information Technology Professional Degree
This two-year online information technology degree consists of 68-69 credits and is available to students of at least 16 years of age. This cheap online IT degree is designed to be completed in five semesters, and students can begin the degree in any semester. Students will take courses like mathematical modeling, college algebra, information security fundamentals, introduction to networks-CISCO, hardware installation and maintenance, and program design and development.
- Resident Tuition: $3,127
- Non-resident Tuition: $5,527
- Graduation Rate: 35%
#2. Minnesota State Community and Technical College
Associate of Applied Science in Information Technology
Graduates of Minnesota State Community and Technical College’s online AAS in information technology degree program can transfer seamlessly into an online BS in Operations Management at the University of Minnesota Moorhead campus. This 60-credit program includes courses like IT essentials, microcomputer operating system, Linux I, network security, network operating systems, informatics, and supporting end-user applications.
- Tuition: $5,560
- Graduation Rate: 41%
#3. San Bernardino Valley College
Associate of Arts in Computer Information Technology
The basic online degree in computer information technology at SBVC covers mostly introductory subjects. Computer literacy, database management systems, and data communication and networks are some of the courses offered. Students can delve deeper by pursuing one of the many certificates offered, including computer network support specialist, management information systems, information security and cyber defense, and Cisco Certified Network Associate certificate.
- Resident Tuition: $1,238
- Non-resident Tuition: $5,500
- Graduation Rate: 17%
#4. Florida State College at Jacksonville
Associate of Science in Computer Information Technology
Students in the computer information technology degree online program at Florida State College at Jacksonville can choose between specializations in programming, web development, and database development. The program includes a 50-hour internship for all tracks. Students in the programming track will be able to select programming languages to study from C, C++, C#, Java, J2EE, and Visual Basic.NET. The web track allows students to choose between classes on web design, web management, Unix/Linux development, and server development. The database track allows students to specialize in Oracle SQL, PL/SQL, database administration, and Microsoft SQL Server Database.
- Resident Tuition: $2,878
- Non-resident Tuition: $9,992
- Graduation Rate: 33%
#5. Forsyth Tech Community College
Associate of Applied Science in Information Technology Support Services
Forsyth offers an online degree in information technology-technical support and services. There is also a technical support and services A+ certificate, and a technical support and services help-desk certificate. Students in the AAS program will take courses like windows single user, network and security foundations, database concepts, security concepts, mathematical measurement and literacy, project management, and tech support functions.
- Resident Tuition: $2,004
- Non-resident Tuition: $6,612
- Graduation Rate: 21%
#6. Mohave Community College
Associate of Business in Computer Information Systems
In addition to its associate of business online degree in computer information systems, Mohave offers certificates of proficiency in computer graphics and web design, cybersecurity and network support, professional applications, and programming and game development. The AB in computer information systems is designed to prepare students to transfer into a computer information systems or management information systems degree at any Arizona state university.
- Resident Tuition: $2,112
- Non-resident Tuition: $6,972
- Graduation Rate: 16%
#7. Guilford Technical Community College
Associate of Applied Science in Information Technology
The online IT degree offered by Guilford was designed to provide students with a smooth transition to a bachelor level program. In addition to preparing students for transfer to a four-year program, the degree also qualifies them for entry-level positions in the IT field so they can begin their professional career right away whether or not they decide to complete a four-year degree. Students will take courses like JAVA programming, visual basic programming, C++ programming, data structure and algorithms, database concepts, and network and security fundamentals.
- Resident Tuition: $2,319
- Non-resident Tuition: $7,695
- Graduation Rate: 22%
#8. Ivy Tech Community College
Associate in Information Technology Support
Ivy Tech Community College’s two year online IT degree is another one that both prepares students to transfer easily into a bachelor’s program or jump right into the workforce upon graduation. The sixty-hour online IT degree is administered via a traditional semester-based schedule and so can be earned through two years of study. Ivy Tech prepares students for many industry-standard certification exams including CompTIA’s IT Fundamentals, A+, and Mobility+ certifications, and Cisco’s CCENT Network certification.
- Resident Tuition: $4,500
- Non-resident Tuition: $8,661
- Graduation Rate: 25%
#9. College of Southern Maryland
Associate of Applied Science in Computer Information Systems
All classes offered in the online computer information systems degree at the College of Southern Maryland are fully online. These courses include systems analysis and design, local area network administration, introduction to database, decision support systems, the information age: emerging technologies, internet and web application essentials, and computer security. Some of the jobs graduates with this degree land include business information systems developer, information analyst, project analyst, and system analyst.
- Resident Tuition: $6,870
- Non-resident Tuition: $8,820
- Graduation Rate: 31%
#10. Nash Community College
Associate in Information Technology
No online IT degree featured in this ranking offers as many specializations as Nash Community College. North Carolina residents need to look no further for their online IT associate degree, and even out of state students that can get financial aid. Specializations offered include healthcare informatics, information systems, network management, systems security, and web design and administration, all offered online.
- Resident Tuition: $2,632
- Non-resident Tuition: $8,776
- Graduation Rate: 18%
Should I stick with an associate degree or transfer into a bachelor’s program?
It all depends on what you want. One of the benefits of the bachelor’s degree is that it lets you further specialize in a given area of the field, which can be extremely useful. The benefit of the associate degree is that it grants you a credential in half the time as a bachelor’s degree. What if you spend four to six years earning your bachelor’s only to specialize in an area of the field you hate? Taking your associate degree into the workforce and getting some experience and a feel for the industry can actually help you determine what areas you are most interested in and where you want your career to go. However, if you do have a strong idea of exactly what area of the industry you want to work in, then earning a bachelor’s degree as soon as possible might help you advance more quickly in your chosen niche in the long run.
Information Technology: Potential Careers and Career Statistics
The lowest-paying information technology position is a computer support specialist. Even for this entry-level position, the median salary is $54,760 per year. That’s an impressive return on investment for an associate degree. Projected job growth is 10%, which is faster than average and amounts to 83,100 new jobs in the field added between 2018 and 2028 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Below are some other positions in the industry and their median salaries.
- Computer Network Architect: $112,690
- Computer Systems Analyst: $90,920
- Database Administrator: $93,750
- Information Security Analyst: $99,730
- Network and Computer Systems Administrator: $83,510
The highest level of education required for any of these positions is a bachelor’s degree, but an associate with work experience in an entry-level position is also a good strategy for landing one of these jobs.
Information Technology: Common Degrees Explained
There are many niche areas of the information technology field. Here we will provide a brief summary of each major niche and the degree that fits into it.
IT support and its associated degree are the most entry-level and basic niche in IT. The positions pay well (see above) and there are a lot of them, so it’s a good place to start right out of college. Professionals in this field can either grow into management, in which case they would likely be managing a help desk tech support hub, or return to college and finish their bachelor’s in order to transition into a different area of the industry.
Network and computer systems administrators develop, implement, and maintain networking technologies. Most professionals operating at this level have a bachelor’s degree or at least an associate. Those with associate degrees who occupy this position typically got there by working up from an entry-level position.
Computer systems analysts, also known as systems architects, will evaluate an organization’s computer systems and procedures and design solutions to make the organizations more efficient and effective. It’s important for computer systems analysts to understand both the needs of a business and the limitations of information technology.
Computer network architects actually design and build essential data communications networks used by corporations and businesses. The field is broad and includes everything from connecting a few offices via LAN (local area network) to cloud infrastructure serving millions of people.
Information security analysts are responsible for evaluating their company’s security needs, planning, and then implementing the correct security procedures. This is one of the most difficult and highest stress jobs in the industry. Attackers are constantly finding new ways to attack networks and gain information they shouldn’t have. Information security analysts are the only people who stand between our information and criminals. As the old adage goes, security has to win every time, but attackers only have to win once.
Paying for your Online Associate Degree in Information Technology
Associate degrees earned from community colleges are the cheapest form of higher education available in the United States. They are especially cheap if you are a resident of the state in which the school is located. Often times federal grants will cover almost all tuition costs. Obviously take advantage of any scholarships offered by the community college, your high school, local organizations, or the state. For more information on public funding for higher education please visit the FAFSA website. Your next best option if those don’t cover your costs will be federally subsidized student loans. These are magnitudes better than private student loans. For one, the interest is lower and doesn’t fluctuate much (or at all in some cases). Federal loans are also very flexible with repayment plans, so if you end up on difficult financial times for a little while after graduation, the federally subsidized loans give you lots of flexibility in how you repay them. The last option you should look at is private student loans. Taking these out isn’t the worst thing in the world, but because the other options are so much better, you should minimize the amount of privately-held student debt you accrue.
Is online learning right for you?
Online learning can be a godsend because of its flexibility. Most students who earn their degrees online are older than the traditional college age. However with the ever-growing selection of degrees being offered online, and the first generation to grow up with the internet hitting college age, the online option is going mainstream fast. But how do you know if it’s the right fit? That’s not an easy question to answer. In the end, are you the kind of person who can learn by watching videos? Would you be comfortable taking tests online? Can you handle not having any face-to-face interaction with your professors? If these things aren’t ideal for you, and you don’t need to make online learning work for you, then the face-to-face option might be a better choice. However, if you need flexibility and are comfortable with the format and technology, online education offers unprecedented levels of flexibility for anyone seeking to earn a degree.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics
- National Center for Education Statistics: Tuition and graduate rates.