Can Online Degree Programs Work for You?
Having a post-secondary education is becoming increasingly important to succeed in the U.S. job market. A 2011 report from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce found that in 2008, 59 percent of U.S. jobs required post-secondary training -- more than double the number in 1973.
The Department of Labor's list of the 2008-18 Top 50 Fastest-Growing Occupations confirms that finding. A whopping 74 percent of the occupations listed require some post-secondary education; 66 percent require an associate degree or higher.
As job seekers find themselves in need of degrees and post-secondary credentials to tap into the evolving job market, the numbers show they are increasingly turning to online degree programs. Between fall 2002 and fall 2010, the number of students taking at least one course online grew by an average of 18.3 percent per year, compared to just 2 percent for higher education enrollment as a whole, according to the report Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011, based on a survey published by the Sloan Consortium, an organization committed to integrating quality online education into mainstream higher education.
So just what is online education, and why are students flocking to it?
Online Degrees: Choice and Convenience
Students in online degree programs -- also known as e-learning, distance education or virtual education -- can take their courses entirely online, or attend some classes or labs in person at a nearby campus. Online classes may be asynchronous -- where each student logs on whenever it is convenient to watch a lecture video or read materials -- or synchronized, with everyone in a class participating in a chat-room discussion or watching a lecture and responding in real time.
These are the basic types of online degree programs:
- Web facilitated: traditional face-to-face courses that use web-based technology for information purposes
- Blended/hybrid: a combination of traditional campus-based and online classes
- Online: coursework is delivered online
Some educational institutions do not have physical campuses, offering only online programs. Many traditional public and private colleges and universities offer primarily campus programs but have started offering a selection of online degree programs as the popularity of online education increases.
What Kind of Online Degree Programs are Available?
Technology drives much of the increased popularity and appeal of online education. Multimedia and mobile technology such as cell phones and streaming video make classes easily accessible and appealing to today's tech-savvy, anytime/anywhere students.
Online education can include high school and high school diploma classes; individual interest coursework for lifelong learning; undergraduate and graduate certificates; and associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in almost any discipline you can think of.
5 Good Reasons to Consider an Online Degree Program
If you think higher education is outside your reach, here are five reasons that online education could be an excellent option:
- Location. Your local school doesn't offer your program of interest, or you live in a remote area, are in the military or work abroad.
- Family or job. You have family obligations or need to earn while you learn.
- Convenience. You need to schedule your classes around your real-world life, access coursework 24/7, or work at your own pace. You're more mature than a typical student and think you might be uncomfortable on campus.
- Cost. You need to watch your finances. Online degrees can be less expensive but not always. Learn more about the cost of online degree programs.
- Personal interest. You're interested in personal fulfillment courses or want to test drive a class before pursuing a different academic path.
Online Education: Other Considerations
Persistent myths and rumors abound when it comes to online education. Are online degree programs harder or easier than traditional programs? Do employers view online degrees with the same respect as traditional campus degrees? Our Top Questions section answers these and other concerns you might have in greater detail. Your learning style and personal study habits can also affect whether or not online education is the best option for you.
Higher education continues to be the gateway to the future. Are you one of the more than six million students who have decided online education works for them?