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Is An Online Degree Program Right for You?

It is easy to see why online degrees are gaining trust and value. Online education can give anyone, parents and working professionals, an opportunity to earn a degree at their own pace, on their own schedule by enrolling in a career-aligned degree program of their choice, from anywhere in the country. 

According to a 2019 Online College Survey, 84 percent of online students interviewed found their online programs were worth the cost. More than 80 percent felt they found the knowledge and skills needed to compete confidently in the job market. 

An online degree program can be right for any one wants to pursue an online degree in business, nursing, computer science, healthcare administration, or just about any academic field.

Top Reasons to Choose An Online Degree Program

Students who enroll in online degree programs can balance study, work, family and social life on their own terms. Here are five other benefits:

Convenient, flexible programs: Depending on the specific course of study, students can still pursue a part-time job or schedule their work around study hours.
Potentially faster completion times: Many schools offer accelerated courses, year-round scheduling, and transfer credit policies to allow students to earn their degree and enter the workforce more quickly.
Variety of programs: The large number of schools that offer online degree programs means that students can choose from many options.
No commute: Students who don’t live near the college of their choice can still earn a degree without having to travel miles every day or move to another city.
Cost-effectiveness: Transportation to and from school and campus parking fees are two expenses online students don’t need to worry about.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does an online degree program work?

In an online degree program, lectures are typically delivered in an online format which students can access via their computers, laptops or even mobile devices wherever they have an internet connection. Students usually complete coursework without having to set foot in the brick-and-mortar classroom.

You can learn more about online degree programs and what they entail on our online degree programs page.

Types of online classes:
  • Asynchronous: Students can access their courses whenever it is convenient to them.
  • Synchronous: Students need to access some or all of their classes at a specified time.

Are online college degrees legitimate?

Online college degree programs managed by reputable brick and mortar institutions are usually legitimate, as they are typically equivalent in scope and reputation to their traditional on-campus programs.

Look for colleges that are accredited by an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Accreditation can prove your degree is being awarded by a quality academic institution, and ensure employers of the quality of your education. In order to attain accreditation, schools undergo a review process and must meet a set of academic standards.

Is an online college degree worth it?

The fees you pay for an online degree program can often be comparable to an on-campus program. A 2020 Quality Matters Report found that 69 percent of online programs charge the same tuition per course or credit hour as the on-campus rate. While the tuition may be comparable, certain benefits offered by online degree programs may help cut down on costs. For example, you may be able to save on commuting costs or residential fees.

Earning a college degree can be difficult for many individuals as they need to work full-time making it difficult to adhere to a strict schedule. You can explore how online degrees are worth it in-depth and how you can overcome difficulties you may face on this path.

Are online degrees respected by employers?

According to a study on online degrees, employers are more likely to consider the reputation of the institution from which the degree was earned as opposed to the medium of education. Online college degrees are no different from those earned in a traditional campus-based environment. In fact, many online college degree programs undergo the same stringent tests as traditional degree programs to gain accreditation.

Additionally, employers who have taken online courses are more likely to prefer candidates with online degrees due to the perception that online degree programs can build soft skills in students. The study concludes by stating that as more and more employers have online degrees themselves, the acceptance of online education is rising.

What is the earning potential by degree level?

The table below lists the earning potential by degree levels using 2019 data from the BLS:

Degree HeldMedian Weekly Earnings
High school diploma, no college$746
Some college, no degree$833
Associate degree$887
Bachelor's degree$1,248
Master's degree$1,497
Professional degree$1,861
Doctoral degree$1,883

Earning potential can vary by the field you work in as well as your position in a company. More advanced degrees can lead to jobs with more responsibility as well as higher wages. Although the field you work in can have a big part to play in your wages, your degree can make a big difference too.

What online degrees are available?

There are more and more new degree programs being made available online as universities increase their online offerings. You may be able to find online degree programs in fields as varied as the culinary arts to computer sciences. Many universities choose to extend their on-campus degrees to online formats so that more students can have access to their offerings.

With such a wide array of online degrees available, a list would make for exhausting reading. This is why we've created a handy Degree Finder that you can use to see how the major you are interested in stacks up against others. Not sure what major is best for the career you are interested in? The same tool lets you search by occupation too!

How to apply for a degree online?

Each online degree program has its individual application criteria and requirements. Typically, the application process includes the following steps:

  • Completing an online application form
  • Paying an application fee (which is often non-refundable)
  • Submitting official transcripts from previous education. Some programs may require you to submit an application essay, a cover letter or references as well.
  • Transferring prior educational credits as necessary
  • Applying for financial aid and exploring financing options
  • Going through the orientation for your online degree program

Is financial aid available for online degrees?

According to a survey by the Learning House, the availability of scholarships and financial aid is a strong draw for students of online degree programs. Students of accredited online degree programs may be eligible for the same financial aid, scholarships, loans and grants as students of traditional degree programs.

Many online colleges offer the services of a financial aid advisor who can help you navigate through the complexities of receiving federal financial aid and help you explore other financing options as well. If you would like to explore the topic in depth, have a look at our Guide to Financial Aid Options for Online College Students.

Types of Online Degrees

Our range of various online degree programs allows you to learn a subject in depth, have the flexibility to fit your studies around other commitments, enjoy high quality teaching and benefit from the convenience of finding a program that’s right for you. Browse through our five basic types of online degree programs to know more.

Featured Online Degree Programs

How to Select the Best Online Degree Program and School

Whether you're investing in a car or college degree, you probably want the maximum value for your money. While affordability is a critical factor, it's not the only one. Consider these points before choosing your online degree program and school.

Choice of degree: Does the degree have marketplace value? How quickly are you likely to find a job after you earn your degree, how much are you likely to earn and what are your future career prospects?
Quality of school and degree: How well does a school and their degree program rank when compared with others? What's the school overall reputation?
Accreditation: Is the school accredited and therefore meets specific standards for education quality?
Type of program: Will a fully online program or a hybrid one best suit your needs? Would you be able to attend classes at a specified time - a synchronous program - or does your personal schedule require more flexibility - an asynchronous program?
Affordability: Understand the full cost of tuition and fees for the program. Ask whether the school offers alternative payment plans or guaranteed tuition plans, as both of those options may make attending college more feasible.
Financial aid: See what might be available either through the school, federal programs or even privately funded scholarships and grants. Ask if the school accepts transfer credit or "life experience" credit - both of which can offset your cost.
Student services: Does the school offer career counseling and placement services? How about academic counseling?
Type of school: Is the school public or private? Is it a not-for-profit or for-profit institution? Consider how or whether these factors might impact your decision.

Degree & Career Match-Up Tool

Explore Online Degrees by Subject
Type the name of a degree program/subject into our Degree & Career Match-Up tool to see current data on related careers, such as salary, employment numbers, and projected job openings.
Explore Online Degrees by Occupation
Enter a job title into our Degree & Career Match-Up tool to see which degree subject is typically associated with it. You'll also find employment outlook info such as salary and projected job openings.

Find Online Degree Programs in Your State

Are you thinking of enrolling in an online degree program in your home state but don’t know where to begin? Our state pages are designed specifically to help you find the right school. Each state page includes featured online schools in your state, quality of online education, industrial and career prospects of the top metropolitan areas, financial aid, and more.

Before You Enroll

Consider financial aid options and entry-level tests

The cost of higher education continues to increase, so it's wise to learn about financial aid, grants and scholarship options before you enroll. Make sure you understand:

And depending on the degree and college you choose, you may be required to take entry-level tests. These are the most common ones:

SAT: This exam tests your skills in reading, writing, language and mathematics (with a calculator) and math (without a calculator).

ACT: This multiple-choice exam tests your knowledge of English, mathematics, reading and science.

AP: Held in May each year, a good score in this exam could entail college credit and advanced placement in college.

CLEP: Get a qualifying score on any of the 33 examinations and earn credit for subject matter you already know.

GED: This test is for those who have not completed high school. It measures proficiency in science, mathematics, social studies, reading and writing. While a high school diploma is the usual entry-level requirement for 4-year degree programs, most colleges consider passing the GED equivalent to having a high school diploma.

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