Want to Earn an Associate Degree Online? Choose the Format that’s Best for You

UW Online Collaboratives October 7, 2020

Earning your associate degree opens up the doors to many possibilities, including a higher earning potential, career advancement or completion of a bachelor’s degree. However, choosing to go back to school is a big decision, and you should make sure that you’re choosing the program that best fits your lifestyle and learning needs. The University of Wisconsin Extended Campus has two associate degree programs to choose from: competency-based and semester-based learning.

Infographic: Competency vs Semester-based learning

Looking to earn your associate degree? Here’s how to choose the best format for you.


  • Both programs are 100 percent online.
  • Courses are taught by highly respected UW System faculty.
  • Students are required to complete 60 credits for graduation.
  • Either program will complete general education requirements.
  • Students have access to dedicated success coaches.
  • Students will earn an associate of arts and sciences degree.
  • Both programs are fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.


Competency-based associate degree.

  • This program is self-paced and competency-based. Students have the freedom and flexibility to complete a degree on their own terms.
  • New subscription periods—the period of time in which you complete your courses—begin every month.
  • You’ll earn your degree from UW-Milwaukee.
  • There is a flat tuition rate for the all-you-can-learn option. Choosing this option allows students to enroll in as many courses as they have time for within the subscription period.

Semester-based associate degree.

  • This program is instructor-led and semester-based. The courses are structured to help keep students on track.
  • Courses start at the beginning of the fall, spring, and summer semesters.
  • You’ll choose where your degree is granted from our 5 partner schools: UW-Eau Claire, UW-Parkside, UW-River Falls, UW-Stevens Point, and UW-Whitewater.
  • Students pay per credit, allowing them to take individual courses that fulfill degree requirements, satisfy prerequisites, or supplement on-campus coursework.

Ready to enroll? Contact an enrollment adviser Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT; or by appointment. Call 608-800-6762 (local) or 1-877-895-3276 (toll-free).

Programs: Associate of Arts