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:
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
Online college degrees that are managed by reputable brick and mortar institutions are usually legitimate. These colleges and universities offer many online programs that are equivalent in scope and reputation to their traditional 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 meet a set of academic standards.
The fees you pay for an online degree program can often be comparable to an on-campus program. A 2018 Quality Matters Report found that 74 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.
According to a Kentucky-based 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.
The table below lists the earning potential by degree levels using data from the BLS:
|Degree Held||Median Weekly Earnings|
|High school diploma, no college||$712|
|Some college, no degree||$774|
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.
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!
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
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
Recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that 15,673 online degree programs are available from 1,911 accredited schools. Hover over each subject category below to see the number of online degree programs available (no. of programs), current employment numbers, projected job openings by 2026 and the average salary for 2016.
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.
Degree & Career Match-Up Tool
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
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.
Having trouble choosing a major? Here are seven degrees that offer a variety of career paths for undeclared students.Read more »
- 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.
- Earnings and unemployment rates by educational attainment, 2015, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed July 15, 2016, http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm
- Online Learning Consortium, accessed July 15, 2016: Grade Level: Tracking Online Education in the United States, February 2015, http://info2.onlinelearningconsortium.org/rs/897-CSM-305/images/gradelevel.pdf#page=51; Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States, January 2013, http://www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/reports/changingcourse.pdf#page=40;
- Bachelor's degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by field of study, Digest of Education Statistics, National Center for Education Statistics, July 2013, accessed July 15, 2016, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_322.10.asp
- How Employers View Your Online Bachelor's Degree, U.S. News and World Report, March 4, 2014, accessed July 15, 2016, http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2014/02/28/what-employers-really-think-about-your-online-bachelors-degree
- FAQs about Accreditation, U.S. Department of Education, accessed July 15, 2016, http://ope.ed.gov/ACCREDITATION/FAQAccr.aspx