Online Degree Programs

Today’s workforce looks drastically different than ever before. In fact, automation is replacing so many jobs that higher-level skills, such as decision-making and problem-solving, are needed for individuals to remain competitive in the workplace, according to the Lumina Foundation, a non-profit organization.

Considering higher education. One strategy for staying competitive in the workforce is to develop the higher-thinking skills that can result from a college education. Why do that? The Lumina Foundation reports that about 60 percent of jobs now require some type of college education, whether that’s from a vocational school, community college, four-year institution or university.

Access to a variety of students. Of course, this variety of institutional choice allows a range of people to seek higher education – including career changers, stay-at-home parents, high school graduates, lifetime lovers of learning and even retirees. Online access to education is changing the face of education, too, giving more students the opportunity to complete a degree from home or from another state or many other locations.

Did you say something about higher pay? In fact, the Lumina Foundation reports that higher annual pay can result from higher education. Its studies show that adults with an associate degree generally earned $12,168 more annually than those with just a high school education and that those with a bachelor’s degree generally earned about $32,112 more annually that those with a high school education. The next step to your higher education may simply be to take a look at the different types of online degree programs that are available.

If you want to know how to earn a degree online, you would need to consider whether an associate, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree is right for you. If you have no prior college education, then an associate or bachelor’s degree could be your first step. Accredited online degree programs at the master’s and doctoral levels are typically appropriate for people who already have an undergraduate education. Take a quick look at the degree types below:

Associate degrees:

These degrees generally take about two years to complete. They may be completed at a vocational or community college and, in some cases, a four-year school. Many, although not every online degree program at this level, can prepare students for entry-level positions in careers, like veterinary technology, phlebotomy or licensed vocational nursing. Other associate degree programs can be used to transfer into four-year programs in areas like criminal justice, history and sociology. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 11 percent of the U.S. workforce holds an associate degree.

Bachelor’s degrees:

A student seeking a four-year education at a college or university traditionally completes a bachelor’s degree. These degrees include a broad education in core courses, primarily during the first two years, and then upper-level classes in the student’s major in the final two years. More people have bachelor’s degrees now than in the early 1990s. In fact, about 25 percent of the adult workforce now holds a bachelor’s degree.

Master’s degrees:

This graduate-level degree typically takes two years to complete and can require completion of a thesis or capstone project. Master’s degrees are necessary in some fields, such as school counseling or becoming a nurse practitioner. Online master’s degrees also can be useful to those want to change careers – for example, from a career in journalism to a career as an elementary education teacher. The BLS reports that 11 percent of the workforce holds a master’s degree.

Doctoral degrees:

These top-tier degrees come in many forms including the PhD, EdD and PharmD. These degrees are designed for people pursing professional career paths or who want to work in higher levels of administration or research. A dissertation can be required as part of a doctoral level program, requiring a serious commitment to degree completion. Only 2 percent of the adult workforce holds a doctoral degree, according to the BLS.

You can explore many different online college degree options by clicking on the various buttons below. The disciplines that can be studied through online degrees are diverse, including computers, criminal justice, healthcare, nursing, science and more. In fact, online programs are more diversified now than ever before, according to LearningHouse, a provider of education services and solutions.

Students pursue accredited online degree programs for many different reasons, but one of the most obvious is the flexibility available in scheduling and studying. Of course, questions about the rigor of online coursework may arise for students who have never taken an online course before.

However, a 2019 LearningHouse study shows that 81 percent of online students who were surveyed felt that their instructors were effective teachers. An equal percentage of students felt confident that their online program was equipping them with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the workplace. Yet, what are the specific reasons for you to think about your online college degree options? Here are three compelling considerations.

  1. Improving earning potential.Individuals with more education generally take home more in pay and earnings. In 2017, for example, adults with an associate degree earned weekly median wages of $836 while those with a bachelor’s degree earned $1,173 and those with a master’s degree earned $1,401, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  2. Increasing job security. Similarly, the chances for unemployment decrease with more education. The BLS reports that associate degree holders had an unemployment rate of 3.4 percent in 2017, while those with bachelor’s or master’s degrees had lower unemployment rates of 2.5 and 2.2, respectively. Furthermore, the Lumina Foundation reports that the probability for employment for people with a bachelor’s degree is 24 percent higher than the probability for high school graduates.
  3. Career competitiveness. With automation replacing many manufacturing jobs, people now need to be more qualified than ever to be competitive in the workplace. In fact, more and more jobs are requiring collaborative work and decision-making skills. A degree can be an indicator than graduates have obtained some of these desirable skills, reports the Lumina Foundation.

Online degree programs are typically delivered through a learning management system, such as Blackboard, Canvas, D2L or Moodle, according to data from the 4th Annual LMS Data Update, issued by In fact, Blackboard is the most commonly used among these four, but students of popular online degrees could find these or others in use when investigating online college degree options. Generally, content is delivered in accredited online degree programs in one of two ways:

  • Asynchronous classes are in use in many different online degree programs. These classes allow students to access and complete homework and assignments as a time convenient to them, even if this is the middle of the night. It’s not a free-standing schedule, however. Students still do have deadlines to meet and typically submit assignments or post questions by certain due dates.
  • Synchronous classes provide live learning opportunities, in the sense that instruction occurs in real-time. Students learn much as they would in a real classroom, but access that content electronically. Video conferencing, live lectures and instant chat boards form the knowledge-building and instructional loop of synchronous coursework.

Before enrolling for a higher education degree, be sure to put accredited online degree programs on your consideration list. Accreditation indicates that an institution of higher learning or a program at a school has been reviewed by an outside agency — with no affiliated interest — and found to feature quality learning. Generally, accreditation can be one of two types, or even both:

  • Regional accreditation: Accreditation is granted from a regional agency approved by the U.S. Department of Education. There are six regional accreditation agencies in the U.S., and they provide accreditation to schools within certain regions, as the name suggests. Regional accreditation can be important when a student wants to transfer credits from one school to another.
  • Programmatic accreditation: This type of accreditation is granted to programs at a school which may already be regionally accredited. Program accreditation is specific to a degree or degrees within a discipline or department. It can be granted in areas as diverse as nursing, veterinary technology, social work and more.

There are many different online college degree options, but you may want to learn more about potential job openings in a field before enrolling. Workforce information can help you to make more informed decisions about accredited online degree programs and their potential employment outcomes. Below is information on programs of study, number of occupations, total employment and forecasted job openings.

Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

  • Closing the Skills Gaps: Companies and Colleges Collaborating for Change, The Lumina Foundations, Accessed November 2018,
  • Employment Projects, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accessed November 2018,
  • 4th Annual LMS Update, Edutechnia, Accessed November 2018,
  • “It’s not just the money; The benefits of college education to individuals and to society,” Lumina Foundation, Accessed November 2018,
  • Online College Students 2018, LearningHouse, Accessed November 2018,
  • Online College Students 2019, LearningHouse, Accessed June 2019,
  • “Profile of the Labor Force by Educational Attainment,” Vernon Brundage, Jr., August 2017,
  • Programmatic Accrediting Organizations, Council for Higher Education Organization, Accessed November 2018,

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