3 Year Bachelor Degree Programs Online

3 Year Bachelor Degree Programs Online

A 3 year bachelor’s degree program online may be a good choice for those who wish to complete their education quickly. Some schools might offer these programs to help students complete necessary education to get into the workforce faster. Also known as an accelerated bachelor’s degree, a student may complete the necessary coursework to earn their degree within 3 years. Most often, a traditional bachelor’s degree takes 4 years to complete.

This is often a rigorous program. It typically requires a lot of focus and hard work to complete. Students do not necessarily learn less. They are typically taught the same level and type of information as a 4 year program. It is often condensed into just 3 years, though. For some, this may help them complete their studies faster.

What Are Accelerated Degree Programs?

An accelerated college degree is simply a program designed to be completed in 3 years instead of 4. Many bachelor’s degree programs often require 120 credit hours of study. This is spread across 4 years of education. How does all of that education get wrapped into a 3 year program?

Some schools may condense the education into a 3 year program by requiring a higher number of credits per semester. Others may incorporate summer studies in the program, reducing the overall length of time but creating a year-round schedule. Some may offer an internship as a way to make up some of the credit or education. Work experience may also play a role.

Another way to achieve this could be through early start programs. In some areas, high school students may earn college credit for the higher level courses they take. These transfer credits from high school may help to meet some of the curriculum credit hours necessary to earn a degree. Often, this type of program is done with the support of a community college. Students may take one or two courses in at a local community college while in high school. Other times, students may take these courses through advanced placement (AP) programs. International Baccalaureate curriculum may also help some students qualify.

Adult learners may be able to apply for transfer credits, too. This may come from military service or previous education completed. The College Level Examination Program, or CLEP, may help some students test out of  programs.

Whenever possible, courses might be available online. This is not available fully for all bachelor’s degree programs. Some programs may still require in-person clinicals or labs. However, many programs may be completed fully online. Full time learning may allow students to earn this type of degree through online learning.

The goal is to help students earn their degree sooner. Yet, it is up to the student, the school, and the course selected to determine if that is possible.

How Quickly Can I Get a Bachelor’s Degree?

Most often, online bachelor’s degree programs take 3 years to complete. Online students may be able to speed this up somewhat if they have previous education and credit hours from coursework completed prior to enrollment. However, many programs take at least three years to complete.

Keep in mind that some career positions may require more than a bachelor’s degree. Some students may need to continue their education. That may include a master’s degree. Or, if a graduate degree is not enough, a PhD or doctoral degree may be another level of education. Each of these paths could require an additional two years to complete. Degree completion programs may range widely from one school to the next. Be sure to check into what is expected at the school you are considering.

Students who wish to take a part time path may not qualify for a bachelor’s degree at the accelerated level. That’s because a 3 year program tends to include more summer studies and longer classes. Some may require full time attendance. Others may offer more flexibility to meet student needs. A short term, eight-week course, for example, may require a larger number of study hours with limited time for completion.

Admission Requirements for a 3 Year Bachelor Degree Program Online

Admission into a 3 year program often starts with an application. Students often need a high school diploma or equivalent to enroll. Some programs have prerequisites. As a bachelor’s degree, this is less common, though.

Each school sets their own admission rules. Online degree completion programs may allow for transfer credits. Students with previous higher education studies should let the school know this. Some schools may also have specific grade point average requirements. It’s a good idea to compare several schools to determine if you meet all admission requirements. Look for these areas:

  • Minimum GPA requirements
  • Completion of all prerequisite courses, if any
  • Completion of application to the program
  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Letters of recommendation

A student with an associate degree may wish to share that information with the school as well. It may help with transfer credits. Any higher education study may help students reduce the coursework they take during this program. Students with life experience may also want to report this information to the school. That may include working in the field.

Cost of 3 Year Bachelor Degree Program Online

The cost of a 3 year bachelor degree program typically differs between schools. Most often, attending school for a shorter amount of time reduces the costs paid. However, this depends on multiple factors.

Does an accelerated bachelor’s degree program cost less than a traditional four-year program?

Some accelerated programs may cost less. That is because they may require fewer credit hours. They may offer more flexible schedules for students. These programs often reduce the amount of time a student needs to complete courses. That sometimes means paying less.

Not all programs are less expensive, however. Some may cost the same if they maintain the same credit hour requirement.

Also consider the options in online education. Distance education may cost less as a whole. It requires a lot of hard work. Students may spend more time on their own with less teacher direction. Yet, the costs may be significantly lower.

One key concern may be financial aid. Financial aid may be available to those who qualify. However, it may also not be available. Some programs may be inaccessible if they do not meet specific requirements. Be sure to look into scholarships, too. Some may require enrollment in a 4 year program instead. That may impact costs for school, too.

Tuition rates differ between schools. Be sure to consider this alongside other qualifications for the school and program.

Choosing 3 Year Bachelors Degree Program Online

There’s a lot to think about when choosing a degree program. Start with accreditation. Be sure the school is accredited by any association in your field of study. This may be very important in areas such as nursing, for example. Not all bachelor’s degrees online have the same type of accreditation.

Think about the type of work desired. Consider the type of electives available. It may also help to choose coursework that’s interesting to you.

Also choose a delivery method. Online programs offer a range of options. This includes synchronous or asynchronous. Some programs may require students to follow along and meet deadlines throughout the year. Others may let students learn at their own pace with a target completion date. Either option may work for your situation but require a different type of learning. Invest a few minutes in comparing options in schools and programs based on this information.

Also think about the cost of tuition. Factor in the cost of books. Learning online could help reduce some costs related to living on campus or commuting to campus each day.

Most often, students should choose a bachelor’s degree program that fits with their long-term career goals. Learn as much as possible about the program. Also learn as much as possible about the school itself. Also think long term. Is an online master in your future? Look for a school that offers long term education goals after a bachelor’s degree, too.

Fast Online Degree Options

Prospective students should consider a wide range of opportunities available to them. Keep in mind these are just some examples to consider for enrollment in online bachelor’s degree programs. Prior college, professional studies, and general studies may help to make these programs more accessible to some.

Earning potential depends on many factors. College students should consider their location as well as the specific type of bachelor’s degree they take. Completing electives may change the course of some studies, too. Here is a look at some examples for prospective students. Some programs offer fully online education. Others require online with some in person learning.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) offers some guidance on salary in these fields.

Business Administration Programs

A Bachelor of Business Administration is typically a versatile degree that may help students work in a range of fields after completion. Some may take courses to work in the area of human resource management. Others may focus on entrepreneurship or political science. The areas of study could be numerous. Many programs are a Bachelor of Arts and allow for fully online classes or distance learning.

Positions and 2020 median annual salary:

  • Political Scientist: $125,350 per the BLS
  • Sales Managers: $132,290 per the BLS

Organizational Leadership Programs

Organizational leadership may be an opportunity for students to learn about leadership. A bachelor’s degree here may incorporate various class options. That could include human resources, corporate communications, human resources behavioral science, and sociology. This type of education may also include computer science skills. This may help a student work as a corporate development manager or human resource manager.

Positions and 2020 median annual salary:

  • Human Resource Manager: $121,220 per the BLS
  • Corporate Executive: $107,680 per the BLS

Supply Chain Management Programs

Online schools often offer a bachelor’s degree in supply chain management. This field may incorporate online courses in areas of logistics, distribution, and transportation. Some programs may provide students with the ability to complete key certifications in their coursework. Students completing a program like this may work in positions such as operations manager, supply chain manager, or logistics manager.

Positions and 2020 median annual salary:

  • Distribution manager: $96,390 per the BLS
  • Logistics manager: $76,270 per the BLS

Early Childhood Education Programs

An early childhood program may allow a student to complete a Bachelor of Science to teach children at the preschool and lower levels. Those completing this program may be eligible to work in management and leadership positions with younger children. Some states may require early education students to complete an assessment or certification after completion of the program. Others may not require licensing. Students may study child development and psychology.

Positions and 2020 median annual salary:

  • Childcare center director: $49,160 per the BLS
  • Preschool teacher: $31,930 per the BLS

Computer Information Systems Programs

Technology is another area of interest for some. Earning a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Technology may be available. This type of program aims to enable students to learn about databases, computer hardware, security, and problem solving. Cybersecurity is another potential option for study. This type of program may allow students to work in many areas of technology. That includes development, management of systems, and research.

Positions and potential salary:

  • Computer programmer: $898,190 per the BLS
  • Computer systems analyst: $93,730 per the BLS

Law Enforcement Programs

Some bachelor’s degrees completed in 3 years may fall into the area of law enforcement. Criminal justice degrees may be completed online or in a hybrid format. Many times, these programs aim to support people currently working as a police officer to further their education. The focus is often public safety. That may include more study into social justice or law. Those working as an officer may wish to complete this degree online so they do not have to stop working.

Positions and potential salary:

  • Private investigator: $53,320 per the BLS
  • Corrections officer: $47,440 per the BLS

Liberal Arts Studies

For those who want to earn a Bachelor of Liberal Studies, that’s another potential option for a 3 year program. Students may be able to complete this online. Students may study the arts as well as areas such as humanities and social sciences. Some programs may include computer science in them. This may help students qualify for careers in areas such as journalist or policy analyst. The coursework selected might play a big role in determining the type of job a person qualifies for here. There may be ample versatility.

Positions and potential salary:

  • Reporter: $49,300 per the BLS
  • Radio announcer: $41,950 per the BLS

Health Sciences Studies

Choose a bachelor’s in health sciences to study a range of topics. That may include healthcare management. Healthcare administration may fit here, too. Some nursing programs might be available for completion in 3 years. Online colleges may also offer paths for students to advance existing nursing degrees. That may include earning a BSN. Some work in social work. Others in public health. Those with undergraduate degrees, such as an associates degree, may benefit, too.

Positions and potential salary:

  • Healthcare management: $104,280 per the BLS
  • Registered nurse: $75,330 per the BLS

What is a 3 Year BSN Program?

3 Year BSN Programs

What is a 3 Year BSN Program?

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) often provides students with education enabling them to sit for the state required certification exams. That often includes the NCLEX-RN exam. This may lead to licensure. Students taking this degree program from an accredited school may then be able to work in a nursing position. The 3 year BSN programs may allow student to complete this in just three years. Typically, it is a 4 year education plan.

Each school sets the rules for enrolling in this degree program. Some schools may not require pre-requisites. Students with a high school diploma or the equivalent may be able to apply. The coursework is often advanced. That means more learning in each course. It also typically focuses on more hands-on learning. Students that want to work in a nursing position may be able to do so faster through this degree program.

Accelerated BSN

An accelerated BSN is a fast paced education track. It may help students prepare for a professional nursing practice. This is an undergraduate program. That means students may not have to have a previous degree to enter into the program. However, they may also be a good option for students who have some previous education but did not finish school. Transfer credits from an associate’s degree or community college may apply depending on the school’s requirements.

Typically, a BSN enables students to gain the education they need to sit for the nursing license exam. From there, students may obtain licensure to provide nursing services in the state. The BSN’s goal is often to help prepare students to work as a Registered Nurse (RN).

Students looking to enter entry level positions may find this BSN option to be ideal because of how fast it may be.

BSN admission requirements:

  • Minimum GPA requirements
  • Completion of all prerequisite courses, if any
  • Completion of application to the program
  • High school diploma or equivalent

BSN sample classes:

Some coursework students may expect to see includes courses such as these:

  • Fundamentals of Nursing – This course may introduce students to the field of nursing. It often has a design to be broad range and covers multiple areas of the field to provide a solid foundation for the student.
  • Health Care in the Community – This course often focuses on the delivery of healthcare to the community. Students may be going out for field experience to see how the program works and what all is entailed in the profession.
  • Applied Nutrition in Health and Disease – This course may cover the nutrition aspect that nurses are going to deal with. Knowing how to understand different diet restrictions and what to allow patients to consume based on the orders from a doctor.
  • Introduction to Pharmacology – This course typically introduces students to the study of different medications. In this course, students may gain a base knowledge of different drug purposes. Items such as interactions, dosages, and administering of the drugs may all be covered.
  • Aging in Health and Illness – This course often covers dealing with patients who are advanced in age. The course may go over dealing with illnesses and health issues that affect members of this age group and how to treat them appropriately.

MSN Program

An MSN is a Master of Science in Nursing program. It’s often the next step for many students after completing a BSN. Students with an accelerated BSN may be able to apply for this program as well. MSN studies often take 2 years to complete. Some faster paced options may also be available.

The MSN post graduate plan may help students work as a Nurse Educator. It may also enable students to take on positions such as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) or a Certified Registered Nursing Anesthetist (CRNA). Some may work as a Nurse Practitioner (NP) or a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS).

MSN admission requirements:

  • Completion of a BSN program
  • Minimum GPA
  • Completion of application for program
  • Resume
  • Letters of recommendation
  • RN experience
  • GRE

MSN sample classes:

Below are some sample classes students may expect for this degree program:

  • Advanced Pathophysiology – In this course the students may analyze and apply responses to pathophysiologic mechanisms and the corresponding conditions. This may include responses that are both abnormal and normal. The student may also look at evaluations of the responses.
  • Advanced Physical Assessment – In this course, the student often gains a broader knowledge of health assessment. The student may develop techniques for assessing by using medical history and medical exams in order to make determinations.
  • Advanced Pharmacology Fundamentals – In this course, students may learn about common prescription drugs. Parts of the class may cover the analysis and application of these drugs as well expanding the student’s overall knowledge of the principles of pharmacology.
  • Population Health, Epidemiology, and Statistical Principles – In this course, students may look into population health, statistics and epidemiology. These principles may be analyzed and evaluated to help in drawing conclusions. The use of data and statistics to help with decision making and how to best treat patients are also skills taught in this class.
  • Advanced Health Care Policy – The purpose of this course is often to teach students about the American healthcare system. The class often looks at the making of policies and their effectiveness. This class may also look at how the healthcare system is affected both politically and economically.


A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a third layer of education. It typically takes 2 years to complete. It may help a student to complete education towards working in advanced leadership positions. It may also help some students to work in areas of research in the field. This advanced nursing degree often occurs after completing a MSN degree.

PhD in nursing admission requirements:

  • Completed application
  • Minimum GRE score
  • Letters of recommendation
  • College transcripts
  • Personal statement
  • Nursing license
  • Resume

PhD in nursing sample classes:

Some coursework a student in a PhD program may take include the following:

  • Transforming Nursing and Healthcare Through Technology – This course often covers topics regarding technological advances in medicine. Application, use and availability of these items as well as how to use and interpret the data provided from these advances.
  • Research Theory, Design and Methods – This course aims to prepare students fort a number of aspects of the program. Including a dissertation as well as the ability to deal with patients and or students when preparing presentations. Applying the data gathered and using it to prepare and defend the theory developed.
  • Quantitative Reasoning and Analysis – This course often covers how to quantitatively research and present a project on the doctoral level. In this course students may design and carry out quantitative research.
  • Healthcare Policy and Advocacy – This course aims to cover not only what healthcare policy is but hope to apply it. Working with both patients as well as the care provider to provide the best knowledge and to protect the rights and interests of both.
  • Qualitative Reasoning and Analysis – This course often focuses on the qualitative aspect of research. Students may perform and present a qualitative research project. This course typically puts a lot of emphasis towards preparing for a dissertation.

Accelerated Nursing Online Programs

Completing a bachelor’s degree online may be an option for some students. Many BSN programs may require clinical experiences. That may mean some courses are completed locally rather than online. However, much of the general education requirements a student needs to obtain to earn a BSN degree may be available through strictly online courses.

These nursing courses may allow some students to take classes when they want to do so. It may offer more flexibility for working or other responsibilities in life. It is important to keep in mind limitations, though. An online accelerated nursing program may require a lot of dedication and time spent working towards the degree. These courses typically pack a lot of information into each class period. Students may earn everything from community health concerns to mental health, pediatric medicine, and high level patient care.

For those considering a nursing career, online programs may be a good option if a student may focus on their education and devote enough time to it. That may increase the difficulty in the program. Mentorship from fellow students and professors may be a bit harder to obtain, too. Before enrollment, consider how well this type of course fits into your daily life. Still, for many, it could be optimal.

How long does an Accelerated Nursing Program Take?

The goal of this type of program is to get through the education sooner. An accelerated BSN typically takes 2 years to complete. Students enrolling part time may spend more time completing the program. These programs typically have a set number of credit hours a student must complete to earn the BSN degree. However, the college of nursing may choose to speed up the process through an accelerated program. To do this, more is often packed into the courses. The courses may require more extensive hands-on experience. Students completing an accelerated course should still learn the core information and skills necessary to do well in the field.

Accreditation for Accelerated Nursing Programs

When obtaining a bachelor’s degree, going to a school with accreditation may be important, no matter the degree. An accredited school is one that meets specific requirements set by the accrediting organization. Accreditation applies for bachelor’s programs, master’s degree programs, and other areas of education.

Several organizations may provide accreditation. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) is one of them. The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) is another. These are the two most common organizations providing accreditation for students in the nursing field.

The National Council Licensure Exam, NCLEX) is a critical tool in the nursing field. The NCLEX is a licensure test. It aims to determine a person’s nursing competence against a set of skills and demonstrations of education. This exam is critical in most states. Students may need to complete it to obtain their nursing license. That license is critical for working in the state in a nursing field, such as a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse (LPN).

A school of nursing may aim to teach material to help students do well on this exam. When choosing a college to attend, then, many students may want to ensure the school is accredited. That may help ensure BSN students have access to the information they need to do well on the NCLEX exam.

Scholarships for Accelerated Nursing Programs

For many students attending a BSN degree program, costs may be a factor. Financial aid may be available to those who qualify.

Some students may also qualify for scholarships. Many organizations may offer scholarships for nursing programs. Here is a small number of them. Consider doing some additional work to find options for nursing programs.

WiseGeek Nurse Appreciation Scholarship

Value: This is a $500 one time non renewable scholarship.
Deadline: December 31

  • Application form
  • Official transcript
  • Personal statement

This scholarship is for current or prospective nursing students. This is open to all levels of secondary students. The purpose of this scholarship is to help offset loans and tuition.

CastleBranch – GNSA Scholarship

Value: There are four scholarships awarded per your in increments of $2,500 per semester. This scholarship is non renewable.
Deadline: December 30

  • Application form
  • Letter of recommendation
  • Essay

This scholarship is for students in a graduate nursing program that is an AACN member institution. In order to be eligible the student must have at least a 3.5 GPA. If not a member already winners must join the AACN Graduate Student Nursing Academy (GNSA) and make a post summarizing their essay.

ENA Foundation Graduate Scholarship Program

Value: $3,909
Deadline: April 28

  • Acceptance letter
  • Statement of goals
  • Copy of nursing license
  • Official transcript
  • Verification of tuition costs
  • Application form
  • Two letters of recommendation

This award is for students who are in good standing as a member of the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA). Students must be pursuing an MSN and have a minimum of a 3.0 GPA as well.

Tylenol Future Care Scholarship

Value: There are a total of 40 scholarships that are awarded. There are ten for $10,000 and 30 for $5,000. These scholarships are for one year, and they are non renewable.
Deadline: June 27

  • Two essays
  • Application form

This scholarship program is designed to help those students who have already completed at least one year of school in a healthcare program. The primary basis for this award is the  demonstration of leadership as well as academic performance.

A Nurse I Am Scholarship

Value: This is a $2,000 non renewable scholarship. There may be up to seven recipients for this award.
Deadline: March 31

  • Application form
  • Essay

This award is for any student who is in nursing school anywhere in the US. The applicant for the award needs to watch the “A Nurse I Am” documentary in either the 32 or 62 minute version. It is recommended that the applicant watch both videos.

Children’s National Hospital Pediatric Nursing Student Scholarship

Value: This is a $500 one time non renewable scholarship
Deadline: June 30

  • Minimum of 3.0 GPA
  • Pursuing career in pediatrics

This scholarship is for nursing students working towards a BSN. The student should have an interest in pediatrics and a minimum of 3.0 GPA.

Barbara Rhomberg Excellence in Nursing Scholarship

Value: This is a $5,000 scholarship. It is non renewable.
Deadline: April 30

  • US student
  • US citizen or resident
  • Full time student
  • Non traditional student
  • Current undergraduate
  • Major in Nursing
  • Essay
  • Application
  • Two letters of recommendation

This is a scholarship designed for students who did not immediately enroll in college after high school. It is a one time scholarship and requires the completion of a 500 word essay in order to qualify.

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 even vaster numbers of students the opportunity to complete a degree from home or from another state or some unimagined location.

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 edutechnia.com. 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, BLS.gov.

  • Closing the Skills Gaps: Companies and Colleges Collaborating for Change, The Lumina Foundations, Accessed November 2018, https://www.luminafoundation.org/files/publications/Closing_the_skills_gap.pdf
  • Employment Projects, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accessed November 2018, https://www.bls.gov/emp/chart-unemployment-earnings-education.htm
  • 4th Annual LMS Update, Edutechnia, Accessed November 2018, http://edutechnica.com/2016/10/03/4th-annual-lms-data-update/
  • “It’s not just the money; The benefits of college education to individuals and to society,” Lumina Foundation, Accessed November 2018, https://www.luminafoundation.org/files/resources/its-not-just-the-money.pdf
  • Online College Students 2018, LearningHouse, Accessed November 2018, https://www.learninghouse.com/knowledge-center/research-reports/ocs2018/
  • Online College Students 2019, LearningHouse, Accessed June 2019, https://www.learninghouse.com/thank-you-ocs2019-research-report/
  • “Profile of the Labor Force by Educational Attainment,” Vernon Brundage, Jr., August 2017, https://www.bls.gov/spotlight/2017/educational-attainment-of-the-labor-force/pdf/educational-attainment-of-the-labor-force.pdf
  • Programmatic Accrediting Organizations, Council for Higher Education Organization, Accessed November 2018, https://www.chea.org/programmatic-accrediting-organizations-accreditor-type

Learn How 6 Professionals Turned Their Careers Around With Online Healthcare Degrees


What do a mortgage broker, operations consultant, two registered nurses, a cancer survivor, and a travelling military wife have in common? Each of them was able to fulfill their careers aspirations in healthcare with a degree they earned online.

With the industry expanding, jobs in healthcare may be just right for those who have a strong sense to serve people and help abate suffering. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.4 million new jobs are likely to be added to the healthcare industry between 2016 and 2026.

If you are interested in a career in healthcare, you’d be happy to know that people enter this career from all walks of life, in all stages of life, and for all kinds of different reasons. These 6 people share their journey in their own words. Read what they were able to accomplish!

Ever thought life was going nowhere?

Meet Amy Young. Amy traveled the world for over two decades with her husband and their three children. “As a military family we relocated every two or three years, and my attempt at getting a degree was getting nowhere. Just as soon as I enrolled in college, it was time to move again, and the next college would not accept the credits, so I always ended up with many ‘floating’ credits.”

Ever since she was young she had an interest in healthcare which led her to enroll in an online associate degree program in health services administration. An online degree program allowed her to juggle work and study. She says, “I was able to work and take college classes at the same time, and at my convenience. I could be drinking coffee, eating, watching TV or listening to music at any time of day or night while ‘attending’ class online. Many times I was online working on a paper in my pajamas at 2:00 AM!”

Did it pay off? Amy Young certainly thinks so, “I obtained the knowledge necessary to open a nonprofit organization that helps low income and uninsured women receive free mammograms. I was also able to move into administrative positions and receive promotions or a higher pay rate than my coworkers.”

Words of wisdom: “Online degree programs are a wonderful way to obtain your degree if you are focused, committed and organized. If you have a tendency to procrastinate and need a little push to meet your deadlines, you may want to consider taking most of your classes on campus, and maybe one class online to ‘test the waters’ and yourself. If you need to work or need more flexibility with your time schedule, taking an online class is the best way to go. This is especially true for young stay-at-home moms.”

When life gives you lemons, what do you do?

Meet Jeff Solheim, a lymphatic cancer survivor who started his career in nursing and eventually became the founder and director of the nonprofit, Project Helping Hands, an organization that sends medical teams to developing countries. He started doing speaking engagements including motivational speaking and commencement speeches but felt the lack of a degree. He explains, “I started feeling like a bit of a hypocrite, I felt if I was going to continue to speak, I would need to practice what I preach.

He knew if he went back to school it would have to be a program that gave him the flexibility he needed, “My life was very full at the time. I was speaking professionally and running three companies, so I knew taking time to go back to school was going to be a challenge I would have to figure out how to balance.”

His online master’s degree in nursing gave him the credentials he needed. He says, “Although I had already established my career without my master’s degree, having my master’s has increased my confidence so I can better practice what I preach. When I submit my credentials for a textbook, I know that I have the proper credentials for what I’m doing.”

Words of wisdom: He has a few words of caution for individuals thinking of online degrees, “It takes self-discipline to be successful when deadlines are not necessarily as fixed as in traditional education. My advice is to make sure you have the self-discipline to stay on track.”

More than two decades and still in the same job?

Meet Joseph Julian, a registered nurse for more than 20 years and a hospital supervisor for three years when he enrolled in an online nursing degree program. The school, whose program generally takes four years of full-time study to complete, accepted 30 credits of previous coursework allowing him to earn his Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) in three-and-a-half years of part-time study, “We had a new chief nursing officer/ V.P. of nursing who desired her leadership staff be a minimum of bachelor’s degree-certified. This is also a requirement of those hospitals seeking to apply for ‘magnet’ status.”

Despite working 12.5-hour shifts, Joseph Julian managed to get a majority of his schoolwork in while his children were at school and his wife working so they still managed some family time. “The course load was very reasonable and my advisor was great in helping me choose classes. The work was challenging but rewarding; the knowledge I gained from each class was applicable to my job and even my personal life. It also surprised me how well thought-out the program was in terms of the curriculum, course delivery and ways to pursue your clinical experiences.”

Words of wisdom: “I feel associate-level nursing programs are basic preparation for the NCLEX-RN exams and a basic working knowledge, but a bachelor’s degree is necessary in today’s healthcare world. This degree is a stepping stone for advance practice practitioners such as nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists or clinical nurse specialists. Take it from someone who has been a nurse for 25 years now: you can never regret getting it. A BSN can only help your career.”

Three years, two degrees, one class at a time

Meet Linda Rich, an operations consultant at a physical therapy rehabilitation management company. Linda travels five days a week and helps hospitals and other facilities manage their rehab programs. In three years, she earned both a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management and a master’s degree in human resources. She explains why she chose the degrees she did, “I looked at the healthcare industry — there are a lot of MBAs and people managing the business. But in my opinion, human resources are what drive our business. I felt like there were already a lot of people tending to the business, so I decided to focus on how to improve human resources.”

She explains how she managed to fit two degrees in such a short span of time while still working, “I started my bachelor’s degree program but life just kept getting in the way. I was never able to finish it, though I only had one course left to complete. Because so much time had lapsed, I had to retake some courses. I took one class at a time, most of the time. There were two or three times that I took two classes at once, but it was a little more than I could handle. One class really worked for me and kept me going.”

Words of wisdom: “You need to first determine your needs. What kind of time off do you have? How is this going to fit into your schedule? Choose the program that fits you. They’re not all the same. Some require you to be in front of a webcam at a certain time to be part of a true classroom setting. That doesn’t give you much flexibility. Choose the program that gives you the advantage to tend to your needs and be able to better your career at the same time.”

Time for a second career?

Meet V.J. Sleight who had been working as a mortgage broker for over 20 years. The profession allowed her the time and freedom to pursue her passion of helping others quit smoking. But she says, “There were several times where my lack of a formal education had limited my opportunities.” Sleight lost out on job opportunities because she didn’t have a degree even though she had the experience and knowledge about cessation. On one occasion she says, “I was hired to give a talk to doctors and at the last minute had to find another speaker to share the platform because I didn’t have a degree. So I didn’t want the lack of a formal education to be a hindrance.”

Sleight decided to go back to school beginning with just one class to earn her online master’s degree inhealthcare. “When I started, I knew that eventually I wanted to write books and deliver talks to both smokers and healthcare professionals about cessation.”

“For me there was no typical day, which is why online was perfect for me. I am very disciplined, so I would read/research/write whenever I had free time. Sometimes that was in the middle of the night — having online library access was great.”

How did earning this online degree help Sleight? “Probably the biggest benefit is the confidence my degree gives me. My educational credentials are no longer questioned, and the degree rounded out my knowledge about cessation.”

Words of wisdom: “Know your endgame. If you don’t know how you can use your degree, having an online degree might not help you. Find an accredited school, and be honest: If you can’t work independently or you need someone looking over your shoulder, online education is not for you.”

Nursing, or business? Or both?

Meet Alicia Sable-Hunt, a registered nurse who dreamed of creating a delicious nutrition bar that met the specific dietary needs of cancer patients. She had only one problem: her bachelor’s degree in nursing hadn’t included any business classes. She decided to earn an MBA in marketing online before entering the business world. Today, she’s the president and founder of Sable’s Foods and Edwards-Hunt Group, a medical consulting group. “My inner drive to learn and experience combined with an entrepreneurial spirit drove me to continue my education.”

How was her experience? “To sum it up: exhilarating, exhausting, lonely, and the best and worst time of my life. The time and commitment required to do both at the same time was exhausting and lonely. I spent 18-20 hours per day, in an office (Edwards-Hunt Group) or kitchen (Sable’s Foods), building my businesses. There was no time for a vacation or holiday, very little time for friends and family, all of which leads to a very lonely existence. But the end result is two businesses that I am proud of. The sacrifice was worth it.”

Words of wisdom: “It is critically important to perform a realistic self-assessment. An individual needs to know what motivates them in a scholastic environment (e.g. do they need the structure of attending a moderator-led class in a physical location three times per week), how they absorb information (e.g. visual vs. reading vs. lecture) and their commitment level (e.g. include the time and cost of commuting to a class into the decision).”


  • Healthcare Occupations, Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2019, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm

Majoring In Uncertainty: 10 Popular College Majors For The Undeclared


Choosing a major is serious business. After all, what you chose to study — and what degree you eventually earn — can set the course for your entire professional life. It can take some time to get it right, even among the best prepared students: according to Purdue University, studies suggest over half of students change majors at least once over the course of their college careers. While there is no harm in playing the field, so to speak, TIME notes that major indecision is one of the factors that has turned the “four-year” degree into more of a five- or six-year degree for many students. College is an investment, so it can quite literally pay off to get your major right the first time. If you’re still on the fence, here’s a rundown of 10 popular college majors compiled from Princeton Review and some schools that offer them.

10 popular college majors (and schools that offer them)

  • Biology: Forget about that frog you dissected in high school: biology majors walk away from graduation with a deep understanding of life systems and processes for a wide breadth of organisms and can often specialize in a particular branch of the field, like marine or evolutionary biology. They may go on to lead field research, work in a lab or head a biological campaign to save the world. The University of Pennsylvania offers undergraduate and graduate biology programs that may help prepare students for these and other roles. Students can train under accomplished faculty and participate in the school’s expansive research programs.
  • Business: All industries rely on savvy business professionals, so majoring in business can open a lot of doors. Many programs allow students to specialize in a particular area of business and business schools often coordinate internships and other opportunities for students to acquire real-world experience. The University of Wisconsin – La Crosse’s business administration program is professionally accredited by The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), and according to its website, strives to help students develop the business foundation they need to succeed in the workplace. The undergraduate program offers eight majors ranging from accountancy and finance to marketing and international business.
  • Communications: Ever wondered what you can do with a communications degree? The short answer: Plenty. Yes, communications majors can go on to become writers or news reporters, but they can also become political speech writers, marketing specialists, public relations pros or even sportscasters. Drexel University offers both online and campus-based communications programs, both of which emphasize journalism, design, public relations and communication technologies. According to its official website, graduates should walk away with valuable, career-ready skills.
  • Computer Science: You don’t have to be a geek to know that computers have become an essential part of our culture. Computer science majors develop a thorough understanding of computer technology and how humans interact with it. Courses can touch on topics like data structures, artificial intelligence and computer language theory. Princeton University’s computer science department offers undergraduate, graduate and even interdisciplinary degree programs. In addition to honing their skills in class, students often have the opportunity to participate high-tech research in areas like 3-D design, bioinformatics, functional programming and more.
  • Economics: Some say money makes the world go round, but few understand how or why better than economics graduates. Economics majors can walk away from school knowing how to analyze and predict things like interest rates, inflation and the stock market. Oregon State University’s undergraduate economics programs help give students the mathematical and theoretical tools they need to accomplish these feats, and even offers the option to earn a degree online in three concentrations: economics; managerial economics; and law, economics and policy.
  • Education: Teaching is often considered among the noblest of professions. For those looking to join the next generation of educators, earning a degree in education is one route to gaining a teaching license. The University of Oregon’s Department of Education Studies offers a Master of Education degree that can lead to licensure in Oregon. The program is split into two tracks: Early Childhood/Elementary and Middle/High School, and also allows students to take courses relevant to their desired field of teaching. In addition, it is the only program in the state to integrate English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) training. The department also offers a non-licensure bachelor’s program and a Ph.D. in critical and sociocultural studies in education.
  • English: People often assume that English majors spend most of their time reading and writing, and while may be true to some extent, that perception does not do the discipline justice. English programs teach students how to communicate effectively, think critically and develop a refined sense of what it means to be human. The University of Illinois in Springfield has been teaching English students these skills for decades. Today it offers both campus-based and online English degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, not to mention professional and teaching credentials. Students can even participate in a number of English-related clubs, including the Sigma Tau Delta international English honor society.
  • Nursing: An unknown person once said, “Save one life you’re a hero. Save 100 lives, you’re a nurse.” Needless to say, nursing is important and often gratifying work. In addition to providing basic medical care, nurses answer patients’ questions and help them and their families cope with what can be a scary situation. Clarkson College offers a number of nursing programs that should suit most students’ professional goals and experience levels. Students can even complete some nursing programs partially online. In fact, U.S. News & World Report ranked Clarkson College’s online graduate nursing degree programs fourth in the nation in 2013.
  • Political Science: Have you ever had a heated political debate with a friend (or foe) and walked away feeling like you missed your calling? By majoring in political science, you can develop the know-how to flex your political savvy at dinner parties — or in a meaningful career. The online bachelor’s program in political science offered by Penn State World Campus can help students learn the ins and outs of politics, public policy, foreign affairs and more in a convenient format. Students can rest easy knowing that online degree programs at Penn State are highly regarded: In 2013, U.S. News & World Report ranked Penn State World Campus’ online bachelor’s degrees 16th in the nation.
  • Psychology: Not all psychology graduates end up counseling patients who spill their metaphorical guts on big leather couches, though clinical therapy is a popular career path. For example, some may go on to help companies promote happier and more productive work environments as industrial-organizational psychologists or use their psychology powers to study consumer behavior for a marketing firm. UC Berkeley offers a diversity of psychology programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, some of which may be completed online. Because Berkeley is an advanced research institution, students may also get a chance to participate in important studies.

“How to pick the right major and more,” cco.purdue.edu, 2013. https://www.cco.purdue.edu/Student/major.shtml
“The Myth of the Four-Year College Degree,” business.time.com, 10 January 2013. http://business.time.com/2013/01/10/the-myth-of-the-4-year-college-degree/
“Top 10 College Majors,” princetonreview.com, 2013. http://www.princetonreview.com/college/top-ten-majors.aspx
“Pennsylvania State University — University Park,” colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com, 2013. http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/pennsylvania-state-university-main-campus-214777/overall-rankings
“Clarkson College Online Graduate Nursing Program Receives Top Ranking in U.S. News & World Report,” clarksoncollege.edu, 15 January 2013. http://www.clarksoncollege.edu/aboutus/news/pressreleases/details/?newsid=80

Note: At the time of publishing, the information in this article was deemed to be accurate. However, accreditation status and program offerings can change over time, so please check with each school for the latest information.

Are You Making One Of These Financial Aid Mistakes?

Student debt is rising. According to the Federal Reserve, the students owed $1.48 trillion in the second quarter of 2019. Forbes reports that having huge amounts of student debt can have detrimental effects on individual lives after graduation as they delay important financial decisions and milestones due to it. To make matters worse, a survey by PR Newswire notes that while three quarters of borrowers found obtaining financial aid for college was easy, 49 percent were unsure of how much money they had to repay every month.

Understanding financial aid can be tricky, but it doesn’t take a math major to recognize that many college students are in over their heads in debt. Although many students must turn to loans to finance their degree, knowing the basics of financial aid can help you keep debt to a minimum and be prepared for repayment once your loan comes due.

5 Financial Aid Mistakes to Avoid

1. Letting the school’s financial aid letter do the math for you

The financial aid offer letter may gloss over the true cost of college to present a rosy image of affordability. New America and uAspire analyzed thousands of financial aid offer letters and found that they lack clear terminology and include plenty of jargon that can cloud the actual amount of financial aid you are being offered. In fact, they found that 455 colleges that offered unsubsidized loans used 136 different ways to describe them and 24 of these did not include the word ‘loan’ at all!

Additionally, they may not include the full cost of attendance (COA), so students are left unsure about how much things like books, supplies, transport and other factors may cost them. It’s up to you to calculate the total cost attending college along with direct payments and loans.

2. Not applying for FAFSA on time

NerdWallet reports that as much as $2.3 billion in free federal grant money was left unclaimed by the high school class of 2017. Applying for FAFSA as soon as possible after the 1st of October may mean that you do not miss out on available aid.

Remember you need to apply for Federal Student Aid every year, so not reapplying may mean you miss out on vital aid and you may have to take on more debt or loans at higher interest rates. In its report on student aid, the College Board notes that private loans do not carry the same repayment protections as federal loans, so it’s important that you do not miss out.

3. Not looking at alternative ways to fund college

A big mistake many students make is not applying for scholarships and grants beyond well-known programs and university offerings. Look for essay competitions and smaller scholarship programs that may not offer the big bucks. Remember that even $500 earned through such schemes means that’s $500 less than you may have to repay (with interest!) in the long run.

Applying for the Federal Work-Study program may allow you to earn money by working part-time while you study.

4. Confusing fixed and variable interest rates and repayment timescales

The Department of Education stresses the importance of knowing when you have to make your first payment. Check with your loan service provider to know when your first payment might be due.

Just when you think you have the total cost of your loan down, a variable interest rate can introduce a new monthly repayment rate. Variable interest-rate loans tend to shift continuously with an index such as the federal funds rate, prime rate or LIBOR rate. Fixed rates, by contrast, are typically locked in when you sign the loan agreement. Most private loans and some federal loans have variable rates. If you have variable-rate loans, you may choose to consolidate them at a fixed interest rate when rates are low. Remember it is up to you to keep in touch with your loan service provider to stay up-to-date on your payment schedule and repayment options so that you do not default.

5. Assuming you’ll graduate on time

Failing to graduate on time can increase your expected debt burden. The College Board reports that the cost to earn a degree increases with the time taken to complete it. Avoid surprises by planning your courses and determining how many transfer credits you’re eligible for at each school. College guidance counselors can help you understand what it will take to stay on track for an on-time graduation. Think about it, the faster you complete a degree, the faster you can reap the benefits of earning college-level wages.

Financial aid is a complicated array of payments, loan terms and agreements. Understanding how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together before you enroll can help prevent your finances from falling apart later.


  • Baum, Sandy, Jennifer Ma, Matea Pender, and CJ Libassi, Trends in Student Aid 2019, New York: College Board, 2019, https://research.collegeboard.org/pdf/trends-student-aid-2019-full-report.pdf
  • Decoding the Cost of College, The Case for Transparent Financial Aid Award Letters, New America and uAspire, 2018, https://www.uaspire.org/BlankSite/media/uaspire/Decoding-the-Cost-of-College.pdf
  • FAFSA®: Apply for Aid, Federal Student Aid, U.S. Department of Education, https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa, accessed November 2019
  • Federal Student Loans: Repaying Your Loans, Federal Student Aid, U.S. Department of Education, https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/sites/default/files/repaying-your-loans.pdf, accessed November 2019
  • How Students missed Out on $2.3 Billion in Free College Aid, Nerd Wallet, 2017, https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/loans/student-loans/missed-free-financial-aid/
  • Ma, Jennifer, Sandy Baum, Matea Pender, and CJ Libassi, Trends in College Pricing 2019, New York: College Board, 2019m https://research.collegeboard.org/pdf/trends-college-pricing-2019-full-report.pdf
  • New Report Finds Student Debt Burden Has ‘Disastrous Domino Effect’ On Millions of Americans, Forbes, 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/dianahembree/2018/11/01/new-report-finds-student-debt-burden-has-disastrous-domino-effect-on-millions-of-americans/#4f61be5112d1
  • Quarterly Report On Household Debt And Credit 2019: Q2, Federal Reserve Bank Of New York Research And Statistics Group, August 2019, https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/interactives/householdcredit/data/pdf/hhdc_2019q2.pdf
  • Three Quarters of Student Borrowers Say Obtaining a Student Loan Was Easy, PR Newswire, 2019, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/three-quarters-of-student-borrowers-say-obtaining-a-student-loan-was-easy-300837869/

Are Online Degrees Worth It?

College can be a serious investment, and students should be sure they’re getting the most for their money. The rise of online learning has presented both students and schools with a cost-effective alternative to traditional degree programs, but are online degrees worth the money and time they entail? Below, we explore the cost and potential ROI of an online degree program , as well as additional ways students can save on their education.

  1. What is the cost of an online degree?
  2. How much does an online master’s degree cost?
  3. Are online degrees worth it?
  4. Are online graduate degrees worth it?
  5. Is there financial aid or scholarships for online degrees?

Online education certainly has its advantages, especially where program availability and convenience are concerned. Do these perks cost more? Not necessarily. Online schools tend to be just as diverse (in cost and scope) as traditional programs, and in some cases, schools offer the same courses, online and off, with little to no surcharge. Even when an online degree is priced a bit more steeply, students tend to save money in other areas, like gas and fees. They may also be able to work — and, therefore, earn — more, thanks to the flexibility of Web-based classes. In other words, there are few absolutes when it comes to comparing the cost of online degrees and those earned in a classroom, and each student’s situation is wholly unique. Nonetheless, there are some general trends when it comes to education costs. Here are a few to consider.

Online vs. traditional degrees: A cost comparison

Online education is growing in popularity, both among students and colleges. According to a 2014 survey entitled “Grade Change: Tracking Online Education in the United States,” published by the Online Learning Consortium (formerly the Sloan Consortium) in partnership with Babson College, over 90 percent of participating college and university leaders said online education is “critical” to their institutions’ long-term strategy. This accounts for a diversity of public, private, and for-profit colleges of all sizes and prestige, including two-year, four-year, and graduate institutions. That means that many of the schools offering online degrees also host traditional, campus-based programs. For reasons we will discuss below, these online courses often cost less than traditional classes.

So, how much does an online degree cost? The following is a breakdown of just a few generally well-known schools offering both online and traditional degrees. For simplicity’s sake, we have chosen to focus on public, four-year universities. Please note that figures may not include all applicable fees. Tuition schedules can and do change, so students should always consult institutions directly for current costs.

Institution Degree or Student Type Online Cost, 2014 Traditional Cost, 2014 Online Savings
Penn State UniversityFull-time undergraduate$13,012/year$16,992/year in-state; $29,556 out-of-state$3,980 in-state; $16,544 out-of-state
University of California BerkeleyFull-time undergraduateVariable, but ~$300/unit, or $7,200 for 24 full-time units/year$12,972/year$5,772, depending on courses and course load
University of Texas ArlingtonFull-time undergraduate$4,439 for 12 units/semester$2,972 for four three-unit courses (12 units), depending on program$1,467 in-state, depending on program

Students should remember that when it comes to college costs, institution types matter. It is not uncommon for two-year community colleges to offer at least some online courses, often at the same rate or less as it would cost to take the same courses in a classroom, and far less than a comparable course at an Ivy League school. The chart above shows that when it comes to public four-year schools, online bachelor’s degree costs are often lower than those of traditional degrees. Note that in the case of private nonprofit and for-profit institutions, tuition and fees are less predictable, so it pays for students to do their research before applying to any program.

Buyer beware: Tuition variation and fees

The tuition comparisons listed above can give students a general sense for how much online degrees cost, but these figures vary significantly from one institution or region to the next, and some programs — even at public institutions — can cost well above the national average. Fortunately, there are a few tools that can help make price-shopping colleges easier. The U.S. Education Department’s College Affordability and Transparency Center ranks U.S. schools by both tuition and total cost of attendance. Though the tool does not allow students to compare online programs specifically, it does give them the option to sort institutions by type, meaning public, private, or for-profit schools at the two-, four-, and graduate levels. Another helpful tool is CollegeMeasures.org, which allows students to research and compare a number of variables across a range of institutions, including cost, first-year retention rates, and overall completion rates.

Tools such as these are helpful when getting a general sense of college costs, but they are no substitute for independent research. Most colleges publish their fee and tuition schedules online; those that do not will typically mail them at students’ request. Remember that tuition is just one part of the overall college cost equation: Health, lab, and technology fees can quickly add up, too, as can book costs. When comparing schools, students should aim to weigh total costs with fees — not tuition rates alone.

The hidden value of online degrees

There are a number of reasons online degree programs are often less expensive than classroom-based programs. For starters, online degrees require no classrooms and desks. No walls means instructors are often able to lecture to far more students, too, which can reduce cost overall. In classes that rely on video lectures, which can be used time and again, savings stretch even further. Another major advantage: Online degrees allow students to shop around without regard for geography. If an institution two states over is more affordable than the college down the road, there is no need to move.

Some of the potential savings of online degrees, however, are indirect and easy to overlook. Students attending online classes do not need to shell out gas money to get to school, and parking and other facility fees are unnecessary. Some schools have begun to experiment with online, open-source textbooks, saving students hundreds of dollars a year. Another advantage of online courses is that they are often nonsynchronous, which means students can view lectures and materials on their own schedules. This allows some students to continue work full-time when they would otherwise have had to reduce or eliminate their work hours altogether. These earnings offset college costs, making higher education more affordable.

More ways to save

One final point to consider when comparing any two degrees (online or otherwise) is that there are programs designed to help students manage their education costs. Financial aid — including subsidized and unsubsidized student loans, grants, and work-study programs — can be a budget-saver for students who need a little help paying for school. Students can usually begin the process by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid online. Scholarships are another way to curb college costs, and may be awarded based on student need, academic or athletic merit, or even for meeting certain social or cultural criteria. In many cases, these scholarships are available to students attending campus-based or online schools. We recommend reviewing the print before applying for any award to discern eligibility.

Online education has shaken its experimental roots and moved squarely into the mainstream. According to a recent survey by the Online Learning Consortium (formerly the Sloan Consortium) in partnership with Babson College, about one-third of college students took at least one online course in 2013. At the same time, 90 percent of participating college and university leaders said online education is “critical” to their institutions’ long-term strategy. Many of these institutions are graduate schools. This makes sense, since one of the many benefits of online learning is flexibility — a perk working professionals can appreciate. Still, graduate school — however it is completed — is an investment. How much does an online master’s degree cost? This is a tricky question to answer since graduate school tuition varies not just by region and institution, but discipline and specialty as well. There are a few common trends, however, like the fact that online degrees can be cheaper than traditional programs (especially for out-of-state students), or that online programs offer additional, less obvious savings when compared to classroom-based degrees.

Cost of graduate programs: Online vs. traditional degrees

Online degrees have earned their respectability stripes: Even some of the most prestigious public and private universities now offer graduate degrees online. Part of this growth is driven by growing student demand, but there are plenty of advantages to Web-based learning for the institutions themselves. Online courses require no classrooms, desks, or lab equipment. They save on heating and electrical costs, and — especially when videos and other materials can be reused each semester — instructors’ time. These programs also allow schools to cater to a much wider audience, boosting enrollment overall. Thanks to online education, graduate schools can save money without sacrificing quality. In many cases, those savings are passed on to students.

The following is a brief comparison of the cost of graduate programs, online and traditional, at a small sampling of universities. We have chosen to focus on MBA programs for consistency’s sake. Note that the numbers provided do not cover additional fees or other expenses, like books. Tuition schedules can and do change, so it is always wise to contact specific schools directly for the most up-to-date figures.

Institution Online MBA Tuition, 2014 (total program cost) Traditional MBA Cost, 2014 Online Savings
University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School $96,775 $74,180 (resident) to $111,092 (nonresident) for two-year, full-time students Up to $14,317
Penn State University’s Smeal College of Business $59,312 $46,160 (resident) to $73,924 (nonresident) for two-year, full-time students Up to $14,612
Washington State University’s College of Business $29,250 $19,200 (resident) to $36,400 (nonresident) for one-year program Up to $7,150

Non-tuition fees and other costs

As the chart above illustrates, the cost of graduate programs can vary wildly from one institution to the next, online or otherwise, and in most cases, finding the most affordable option is not as simple as reviewing a tuition schedule. For instance, it is not uncommon for campus-based programs to be slightly less expensive for in-state residents attending public universities, but the same is rarely true for out-of-state students or those attending private colleges. Prospective students should also factor in any additional fees. For campus-based students, these may include student health, facility, and parking fees; online students may be asked to pay information technology fees.

Those mulling over online graduate schools would be wise to take advantage of the fact that in most cases, geography is not a cost factor. That means that if the school down the street costs significantly more than another program across the country, students can attend the more affordable program. This could translate to major savings since the cost of graduate schools vary tremendously, no matter how students attend class. The U.S. Education Department’s College Affordability and Transparency Center ranks U.S. schools by both tuition and total cost of attendance. The tool does not allow students to compare online programs specifically, but offers some baseline for comparing multiple institutions. Remember that online tools, however helpful, are no substitute for independent research. We suggest contacting prospective graduate schools directly for current tuition and fee data.

The hidden savings of online graduate degrees

When researching graduate school costs, it is easy to get hung up on the cost of tuition and other fees, but in the case of online programs, this figure represents only part of the story. That is because there are several often-overlooked savings associated with Web-based learning that can offset or widen tuition disparities. Among them:

  • No parking fees
  • Gas and transportation savings
  • Freedom to skip the college town cost-of-living premium
  • Ability to work (often full-time) due to online flexibility

These are just a few of the savings associated with online learning. Keep in mind that some programs are beginning to experiment with other cost-saving measures, like web-based, open source textbooks. As always, students should contact schools directly to get the full picture.

Financial aid and other cost-cutting programs

Graduate school may be a major investment, but students are rarely without help. Many schools — online or off — have financial aid offices that can help students determine if they are eligible for grants, loans, or scholarships, and assist them with the applications process. Graduate students who are able to keep their day jobs can also contact their employer to find out if any special scholarships or cost-saving programs apply, such as tuition assistance or tuition reimbursement for job-related courses. Some organizations, like the National Science Foundation or the American Psychological Association, offer additional grants and scholarships for graduate students conducting qualifying research. Students should always read the fine print to discern eligibility before applying to such programs.

While there are no guarantees that any financial investment will result in a good return, a college education, online or even the old-fashioned way, generally leads to a positive rate of return over a person’s lifetime. Students with an associate or bachelor’s degree can simply compare weekly and lifetime earnings with those who only have a high school education to discern the potential financial advantages. Job prospects also generally improve with attainment of postsecondary education.

“The possibilities are endless for students who choose to earn an associate degree versus no degree at all,” says La’Kendra Higgs, registrar for Dallas Colleges Online, the “virtual” campus of the Dallas County Community College District.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics keeps track of wages based on education level and shows that people with a bachelor’s degree have the highest median weekly earnings compared to those with an associate degree or a high school education. As well, they have the lowest unemployment rate compared to people with an associate degree or high school education, a factor to take into consideration given the lay-offs and jobs losses that have occurred in recent years and continue to occur even into 2014.

Median weekly earnings Unemployment rate
Bachelor’s degree $1,108 4.0%
Associate degree $777 5.4%
High school education $651 7.5%

*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Other data showing an advantage in pay for people who have an associate or bachelor’s degree over that of a high school education comes from the “Education and Synthetic Work-Life Earnings Estimates” report, which is released by the U.S. Census every 10 years. This report breaks down lifetime earnings by race and gender as well as education level. The lifetime earnings in millions for full-time male and female workers are listed below, with the male earnings listed first in each box.

High School Graduate Associate Degree Bachelor’s Degree
Hispanic $1.30m; $1.02m $1.83m; $1.44m $2.08m; $1.70m
White $1.69m; $1.18m $2.08m; $1.60m $2.85m; $2.02m
African-American $1.34m; $1.07m $1.72m; $1.46m $2.10m; $1.85m
Asian $1.29m; $1.05m $1.84m; $1.60m $2.43m; $2.06m

*Source: U.S. Census

How do the lifetime financial benefits compare to the cost of an education? Consider that the average tuition and fees for a public two-year in-state school were $3,265 in 2013-14 and for a public four-year in-state school were $8,893. And often the cost of online education and degrees are similar at public schools and institutions across the country or very close in cost. This is true in the Dallas County Community College District, where no cost differential exists between students pursing an online degree and students pursuing a degree on campus, according to Higgs, and the average cost of a two-year degree for area residents is $5,920. Prices at other institutions can vary and the list below provides a sample of several online undergraduate degrees and various associated costs.

  • New England College of Business: Associate of Science degree in Business Administration, tuition and fees: $26,050
  • Kaplan University: Bachelor of Science in Nursing, tuition $30,077
  • Arizona State University: Bachelor of Arts in Business, Global Leadership, tuition $57,600

With the average college debt at graduation reaching $29,400, investing in a degree that yields a difference in hundreds of thousands over a lifetime may make pursuing an online education or campus-based program very much worth it. Plus, there are many other advantages to online education.

Like with campus-based programming, the credits from many online degrees at two-year schools can be transferred to state or university programs, and they also provide a good way for returning adult students to adapt. “With online programs, students can ease their way back into the educational environment while in the comfort of their own home or office,” Higgs says. “Not to mention, with work and families, commuting to campus can be difficult. I often hear comments that the time and money saved in gas by not having to commute, find sitters, and even change schedules is an incentive to students who really want and need to complete a degree or gain certification.”

Flexibility and new skills in online education

Online education also gives students the opportunity to have a full-time career and keep up with their studying and homework in the evenings, on weekends, or even on a lunch break. This simple ability to keep working may be why some students decide to enroll in an online program or even return to school at all.

Students may also feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts or comments on a discussion board, common to many online education programs, instead of speaking up in a class that is full of classmates or that has a time limitation of 60 or 90 minutes, thereby limiting discussion or follow-up reflection. “Not to mention, students are acquiring additional skill sets through the mastery of educational technologies as they navigate the online classroom and environment,” Higgs adds. “This is undoubtedly very beneficial in the evolving job market.”

Growing approval of online degrees

Success Stories

How did professionals choose their online degrees and start a successful career?

The credibility of online education has been growing, true for both students interested in advancing their education and college level academia. Schools across the country are expanding their offerings as students sign up to complete an online degree, hybrid program, or even just take a class or two online. At the Dallas County Community College District, with seven community colleges, growth in online programming continues each year, with a significant enrollment increase of 48 percent occurring from 2008 to 2009, according to Higgs. Some of this growth comes from students who want to complete a full degree or certificate online while others take classes as part of a campus-based program, she says. Indeed, the report “Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States,” shows that 6.7 million students had taken at least one online course by 2012.

Academic leaders are also describing online education as more and more viable. The “Changing Course” study shows that as of 2002, only 57.2 percent of academic leaders ranked the learning outcomes of online learning as the same or superior to campus-based learning, but by 2012, that number had increased to 77 percent. Students trying to find an answer to the question ‘Are Online Degrees Worth It?’ will want to take this evidence into consideration and be sure to check on the accreditation of a program when making a decision to enroll. Accreditation is typically granted through a regional accrediting agency, a professional accrediting body, or even the Distance Education Training Council. Many times, graduation from an accredited program is necessary to apply for related certification or licensing or is needed to transfer credits to an upper-level program. Also, it helps ensure that the quality of the program meets specific standards and promotes competency outcomes among enrolled students.

While it is difficult to predict the return on any investment, graduate level education is generally worth the financial and time commitment, whether the coursework is completed online or done in an actual classroom. Numerous studies show that people with advanced degrees earn more over their lifetime than those with an undergraduate education. Better career opportunities, a more rewarding career, and increase chances for advancement can be other benefits.

In fact, the median earnings of employees with a master’s, professional, or doctoral degree exceeds those with a bachelor’s degree on a weekly basis. By definition, professional degrees are those that prepare students for a particular profession, and include law degrees as well as credentials such as the Master of Fine Arts, Master of Engineering, and Master of Public Administration. When it comes to careers, people with advanced degrees are less likely to be unemployed, too, another advantage in a market that is just reaching an unemployment rate around a low six percent for the first time in several years. Take a look at the chart below.

Median weekly earnings Unemployment rate
Doctoral degree $1,623 2.2%
Professional degree $1,714 2.3%
Master’s degree $1,329 3.4%
Bachelor’s degree $1,108 4.0%

*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Other evidence supporting this difference in pay comes from the “Education and Synthetic Work-Life Earnings Estimates” report issued by the U.S. Census every 10 years, which breaks down lifetime earnings on race and gender as well as education level. The lifetime earnings in millions for males and females are listed below, with male earnings listed first.

Bachelor’s Master’s Professional Doctoral
Hispanic $1.87m; $1.44m $2.50m; $2.02m $2.68m; $1.83m $2.77m; $2.29m
White $2.58m; $1.61m $2.95m; $2.00m $4.44m; $2.56m $3.40m; $2.54m
African-American $1.92m; $1.66m $2.32m; $2.10m $3.11m; $2.51m $2.58m; $2.62m
Asian $2.07m; $1.52m $3.12m; $2.16m $4.42m; $3.09m $3.35m; $2.64m

*Source: U.S. Census

More support for the advantage in pay comes from the Pew Research Center. This Washington, D.C.-based think tank shows that the median monthly income for those ages 25 to 34 with a bachelor’s degrees grew by 13 percent from 1982 to 2009, while those of the same age with master’s degrees saw an increase of 23 percent. During that same period, the median monthly income for those with professional or doctoral degrees grew by an astonishing 34 percent, reaching roughly $5,799 a month. Still not sure that graduate level education can pay? Read on.

Cost savings and other benefits of online programs

At many schools and universities, online degrees cost about the same as campus-based learning, although there may be savings that are accrued in other ways. For example, at Seton Hall University, in South Orange, New Jersey, which has offered both an online and campus-based Master in Healthcare Administration since 1997, there is a slight financial advantage for students enrolled in the online program. “The graduate tuition ($1,099 per credit) is identical for both formats, however the fees are slightly lower for online students,” says Anne Hewitt, PhD, and graduate director of the school’s program.

That said, there are additional ways that students in graduate programs save when choosing online degrees over campus-based coursework. According to Hewitt, calculating these factors can be done by applying what she calls the opportunity costs concept. “If a student selects the on-campus option, that opportunity will cost them in many ways: 1) transportation costs, 2) time away from home and family responsibilities, 3) time away from their job, and 4) additional stress of managing the logistics, such as poor weather, parking, etc.” she adds. “The opportunity costs for online learning is much lower and the student retains the convenience of learning at their time and speed.”

Online learning may come with other advantages as well. As Hewitt points out, online education allows students to continue to work full-time, which can help make school more affordable. Also, students can do their coursework in the evening or on weekends, options that may be precluded by campus-based learning. Learning formats of online instruction can be beneficial, also.

For example, discussion boards, which mimic teacher-to-student and student-to-student dialogue in a physical classroom, and are a component in many online programs, give students the opportunity to access posts and review and reflect upon them later. Hewitt says that in some of her courses, a single topic in a unit can result in 350 or more posts, meaning that more students can contribute than during a limited class time. Another feature of online learning mimicking the classroom is webinars that allow students and faculty to meet synchronously. “Fortunately, even synchronous webinars can now be recorded, for those students who need to go back to review or who happened to miss a particular session,” Hewitt adds.

Growing acceptance of online graduate degrees

The reason that many students at the graduate level are selecting online education is that they have had success with it as an undergraduate. “This is especially true of the returning student to undergraduate and the student who maintains a part-time job to pay for their education,” Hewitt says. “It’s not a new experience for them. The number of students who are entering our MHA online program with prior online coursework has probably increased 50 percent in the last five years.”

Additionally, both students and employers are finding online degrees more credible, and this is occurring at a time when interest in graduate-level education is increasing. In fact, according to “Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States,” 6.7 million students had taken at least one online course by 2012. The acceptance of the online learning format by academic leaders has continued to grow as well. In 2002, just 57.2 percent of academic leaders rated learning outcomes as the same or superior to campus-based learning. By 2012, that number reached 77 percent. Similar growth can be seen at individual schools. For example, the MHA program at Seton Hall University has had a high retention rate and a graduation rate of over 95 percent, according to Hewitt.

Interest in graduate degree programs is also growing, although modestly. Between 2002 and 2012, the number of applications to graduate schools increased at an annual average rate of 4.5 percent, with many of the increases occurring in the health sciences. It’s important to evaluate these programs in advance, and as Hewitt points out, this can be done by looking at a school’s curriculum, faculty, residency options, and technology expertise. Students will also want to ensure that a graduate-level program has received accreditation either through a professional accrediting body, the Council for Higher Education, or the Distance Education Training Council. These bodies have studied the offerings of a school and verified that programs provide the quality and scope of education that they claim.

Online education can be quite economical. Not only do students save on gas money, parking fees, facility fees, and more, but the flexibility of online degrees also allows many to continue working full-time, offsetting much of their education costs. Still, higher education is an investment, however it is completed, and some students need help managing their costs. Thankfully, most online students are eligible for the same types of financial aid and scholarships available to those who report to a classroom, not to mention other ways to save.

Financial aid for online degrees

Financial aid can be an excellent way to lower education costs. This is true for both online and traditional students — but only if they know how it works (and where to find it). Here is a breakdown of some of the most common forms of financial aid for online degrees:

  • Grants. Grants are money that can be applied toward tuition, fees, books, and other eligible education costs. Some grants, like Pell Grants, are funded by the federal government; others, like California’s Cal Grants, are state managed. Students usually apply for these types of grants by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA (more on this below). Some students can also apply for discipline specific grants, particularly at the graduate level. The National Science Foundation, for instance, grants funds for eligible students pursuing certain types of research. Students should always read the fine print to determine if they are eligible for any type of grant.
  • Student loans. Unlike grants, student loans typically must be repaid once students have graduated, but usually at a fair interest rate. Both the government and private lenders offer student loans. Some federal loans are subsidized, which means the government pays students’ interest while they are in school. Subsidized loan eligibility depends on financial need. Many government loans are reserved for certain types of students. For instance, Stafford loans are reserved exclusively for undergraduate students, while PLUS loans are available to both undergraduate and graduate students. Students can apply for government loans by filling out a FAFSA. Private loans tend to vary, both in terms and interest, so it pays for students to do their research before applying.
  • Work-study plans. Work-study arrangements allow students to offset some of their education costs by working on campus. For online students attending schools headquartered very far away, work-study arrangements are impractical (if not downright impossible). For students earning online degrees from area colleges and universities, however, work-study arrangements may just work, though reporting to a campus might undermine many of the advantages of online learning.

How to apply for financial aid

For most students, the first step in applying for any kind of federal grant or loan is filling out a FAFSA. The process is relatively painless, and in most cases, students can submit their FAFSA applications online. Students should be prepared to accurately report their earnings and other personal information, such as their social security number. Unmarried students under the age of 23 (and who are not wards of the court) must typically provide this information for their parents, too. Once submitted, the government will determine the type and extent of aid for which students are eligible, then relay this data to students’ schools for processing. It is important to note all deadlines, since students who submit their FAFSAs late often lose aid. Errors can also be costly, to it pays to double- or triple-check applications before submitting them.

Note that some types of financial aid, like private loans or special grants (like NSF grants), have their own application processes. Students can learn more by contacting their schools’ financial aid offices (even with online schools), and by conducting their own research online.

Scholarships for online degrees

Scholarships can also reduce or even eliminate education costs. Unlike grants, scholarships are not typically government-tied, and are not always tied to financial need. The following are just a few common types of scholarships:

  • Need-based scholarships . Need-based scholarships are tied to financial need, but earnings thresholds may be more generous than those of grants and other types of need-based aid.
  • Merit-based scholarships. Merit-based scholarships award students money based on some type of achievement rather than demonstrated financial need. These can include athletic, artistic, and academic achievements, among others. Some schools and organizations even offer “full ride” scholarships for students who demonstrate exceptional talent, which means they will cover all of a student’s tuition and fees, and, often, most other educational costs.
  • Special interest scholarships. Some scholarships are reserved for students who meet a certain profile. They may be dependent on race, religion, or geographical region, for instance. Scholarships for first-generation college students are also popular, as are those reserved for students pursuing a certain type of discipline. Some organizations also offer scholarships for students whose families work in certain industries or for certain companies. Some scholarships are even reserved specifically for online students.

How to find scholarships

Many different types of organizations can offer scholarships for online degrees, including schools, private companies, nonprofit organizations, and more. Because scholarships, and their grantors, are so diverse, there is no simple application process like the FAFSA (though some organizations ask students to submit their FAFSA applications along with their scholarship applications, especially when funds depend on financial need). School financial aid offices are an excellent place to begin one’s search for scholarships, particularly online degree scholarships. There are also several online scholarship search tools, like FastWeb or Scholarships.com.

More ways to save on online degrees

There are a number of ways to reduce costs regardless of a program’s price tag. Grants, loans, and scholarships are among the best-known sources of financial aid, but there are many other, often overlooked programs that can help, too. The following are just a few of them:

  • Military education benefits. There are a number of programs designed to help active military service members, veterans, and military family members manage their education costs. Some of the best known programs are the Montgomery GI Bill, the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and Tuition Assistance, but there are plenty of schools and organizations that fund additional grants and scholarships for military service. Service members and veterans can learn more about their options by visiting their Department of Veterans Affairs regional office, or by visiting their schools’ financial aid offices, which can usually counsel students through the process.
  • Employer tuition assistance and reimbursement. One of the perks of attending school online is its flexibility — especially if that flexibility allows students to continue to work while completing their educations. This is doubly true for students who work for companies offering education benefits, like tuition assistance or reimbursement. Employer-sponsored programs vary, but often require students to pursue a discipline related to their field of work, and to maintain a certain grade point average. Students should contact their companies’ human resources departments to learn more about potential benefits (and the fine print surrounding them).
  • Residency matters. Another key benefit of online degrees is students’ ability to study what they want, from whatever institution they want, without regard for geography. Indeed, many online schools charge students the same tuition regardless of their state residency status — but not all of them. Some schools charge in-state students less, especially in the case of campus-based universities that offer both online and traditional degrees. It can be helpful to keep this in mind when price-shopping potential schools, online or otherwise.
  • Tuition variation. Sometimes a school’s type and location can drive costs, regardless of where its students live. Private institutions often charge more than public schools, for instance, but costs can vary tremendously even among public institutions. Tools like the U.S. Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center, The National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator, and CollegeMeasures.org can make price-shopping various schools a snap, though not all of them allow students to compare online degree programs specifically. There really is no substitute for independent research.

Need financial aid help?

Finding and applying for financial aid can be a challenge, but it’s worthwhile. Thankfully there is no shortage of help for those who need it. Most colleges — including online schools — have entire financial aid offices staffed with professionals dedicated to helping students identify different types of aid and discern eligibility, making this an excellent place to get started. Students looking for employer-sponsored programs can consult their human resource representatives, and military service members and veterans can turn to their regional VA offices for assistance.

  • Average Published Undergraduate Charges by Sector, 2013-14, The College Board, https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/average-published-undergraduate-charges-sector-2013-14
  • Associate of science in business administration, New England College of Business, http://www.necb.edu/associates-degree-business-administration-online.cfm
  • Business, Global Leadership, Arizona State University, http://asuonline.asu.edu/online-degree-programs/undergraduate/bachelor-arts-business-global-leadership “Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States,” Babson Survey Research Group, the Sloan Consortium, Pearson, 2012, http://www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/reports/changingcourse.pdf
  • College Affordability and Transparency Center, U.S. Department of Education, http://collegecost.ed.gov/
  • College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
  • CollegeMeasures.org, American Institutes for Research, Matrix Knowledge Group, http://collegemeasures.org/
  • Course Catalog, UC Berkeley Extension, Univeristy of California Berkeley, http://extension.berkeley.edu/search/publicCourseAdvancedSearch.do?method=load
  • Cost and Financial Aid. Online Consortium, University of Texas System, http://www.utcoursesonline.org/enrollmentservices/costandfinancialaid/
  • Cost of Attendance, University of California Berkeley, http://admissions.berkeley.edu/costofattendance
  • Costs – Master of Business Administration, World Campus, Penn State University, http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/degrees-and-certificates/penn-state-online-mba-degree-program/costs
  • E-mail interview. Anne Hewitt, PhD, graduate director of Master in Healthcare Administration Program, Seton Hall University
  • E-mail interview. La’Kendra Higgs, registrar, Dallas County Community College District
  • Earnings and Unemployment Rate by Educational Attainment, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm
  • Education and Synthetic Work-Life Earnings Estimates , U.S. Census, 2011, http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/acs-14.pdf
  • Education and Training, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/
  • Find Funding, National Science Foundation, http://www.nsf.gov/funding/
  • “For Millennials, a bachelor’s degree continues to pay off, but a master’s earns even more,” Pew Research Center, 2014, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/02/28/for-millennials-a-bachelors-degree-continues-to-pay-off-but-a-masters-earns-even-more/
  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid, Federal Student Aid, U.S. Department of Education, https://fafsa.ed.gov/
  • “Grade Change: Tracking Online education in the United States,” Online Learning Survey, January, 2014, I. Elaine Allen, Jeff Seaman, http://www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/reports/gradechange.pdf
  • “Graduate Enrollment and Degrees: 2002 to 2012,” Council of Graduate Schools, 2013, http://cgsnet.org/ckfinder/userfiles/files/GEDReport_2012.pdf
  • Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina, 2014, http://www.kenan-flagler.unc.edu/admissions/mba/tuition-financial-aid
  • MBA Costs: Pullman, Carson College of Business, Washington State University, 2014, http://mba.wsu.edu/Pages/Costs.aspx
  • Professional Degrees, Cornell University Graduate School, http://www.gradschool.cornell.edu/requirements/professional-degrees
  • The Project on Student Debt, http://projectonstudentdebt.org/state_by_state-data.php
  • Scholarships, FastWeb, http://www.fastweb.com/college-scholarships
  • Scholarship Search, Scholarships.com, https://www.scholarships.com/scholarship-search.aspx
  • Tuition, Office of Business Affairs, University of Texas Arlington, x https://www.scholarships.com/scholarship-search.aspx
  • Tuition and Expenses, SMEAL College of Business, Penn State University, 2014, http://www.smeal.psu.edu/mba/admission/tuition-and-financial-support
  • Tuition and Fees, Kaplan University, http://www.kaplanuniversity.edu/paying-school/tuition-fees.aspx
  • Tuition & Fees, Online MBA, College of Business, Washington State University, 2014, http://omba.wsu.edu/docs/WSU_MBA_Tuition_Supplement.pdf
  • Tuition & Financial Aid, [email protected], Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina, 2014, http://onlinemba.unc.edu/admissions/tuition-financial-aid/
  • Tuition Estimator, Penn State Online, http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/tuition-and-financial-aid/tuition-estimator
  • U.S Unemployment Rate, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014, http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000

9 Emerging Careers Changing the World

If you’re seeking a stimulating and long-lasting career, look no further than the latest social and technological trends for a little inspiration. In just the past decade (or in some cases, less), major innovations have taken place in various fields from computers to medicine, all of which have forged an exciting landscape for emerging careers to take hold. Creative types might gravitate to the developing fields of 3D printing or social media, while tech-minded dreamers may lean toward groundbreaking developments in artificial intelligence or genetic engineering. Whatever your interest, this list of new, rapidly developing careers — and the majors to get you there — can help you identify a brand new career path that can take you into the future.

1. 3D Printing

3D printing

Since 3D printing technology has emerged, its wide and varied use has grown rapidly across the fields of biomedical science, computer science, manufacturing and just about any other industry that can benefit from faster, more efficient and cheaper production of its goods. From airplane parts and cars to artificial organs and prosthetics, 3D printing (or, more broadly, “additive manufacturing”) is an exciting field with seemingly endless applications and opportunities. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2018, nearly 41 percent of organizations are now on the hunt for workers who understand how this emerging technology works and, more importantly, how it can give their business a competitive advantage.

Where to find this degree program: Online degrees in the 3D Printing field include the master of engineering in additive manufacturing and design at Penn State World Campus, and the online additive manufacturing certifications at both MIT and Purdue University.

Related degree programs include engineering for those interested in the manufacturing industry, animation and design for those with a creative eye, and biomedical technology for those who seek to revolutionize the medical field.

2. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

artificial intelligence

The technology of “the future” is already here and shaping the way we live our day-to-day lives, but it’s becoming more apparent to all levels of society. Many companies are harnessing the analytical powers of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and deep learning to increase efficiency and cut their business costs. These innovative technologies have been developed to think, learn and even make predictions about certain data in a way that is similar to how the human brain works. Though this may take away certain jobs, it is expected that far more will be created in the long run, particularly for data scientists, machine learning engineers and business intelligence developers. More than two million jobs in the AI sector alone are expected to be generated within the next few years.

Where to find this degree program: Stanford University offers an online course in machine learning, though the AI track of its bachelor in computer science degree is not offered completely online. Harvard University offers an online machine learning course as well. On the other hand, graduate programs appear to be more prevalent, such as Georgia Tech’s online Master of Science in Computer Science with a specialization in machine learning.

Because online bachelor’s degree programs in this field are relatively rare at this time, it may be best to first pursue an undergraduate degree in a related field, such as information technology, computer science or mathematics.

3. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (the IoT)

virtual reality

The technology behind virtual and augmented reality makes video games and other digital entertainment exponentially more fun and unlike what we’ve seen before in the gaming and design world. However, this innovative technology can also lend itself to practical uses in the real world. It’s being used for safe, on-the-job training in fields like air and sea navigation, medicine and the military, and it’s helping coworkers facilitate collaborative projects despite living on opposite ends of the globe. Statista.com predicted that there were 170 million virtual reality users worldwide in 2018 alone, so this is a job market that is expected to provide massive opportunity now and in the future.

Where to find this degree program: Both the University of London and the University of Advancing Technology offer an online virtual reality degree. Drexel University offers a Virtual Reality & Immersive Media Program as well, and though it is not offered online, it does provide an in-depth exploration of theories, techniques and skills necessary to produce captivating virtual content.

Students may also choose to pursue a degree in new media, computer science or art and design – three aspects that go hand-in-hand to develop virtual and augmented reality that looks great and functions even better.

4. Blockchain


One of the most in-demand skills of the moment, blockchain engineering is actually a set of technologies including distributed computing and cryptography. It’s the technology that serves as the foundation of bitcoin cryptocurrency, a revolutionary form of currency that is certainly driving the demand for developers even higher. However, blockchain can also be applied in a wide variety of other realms from healthcare and digital identity to advertising and data storage. It’s no wonder, then, that the demand for well-versed developers has increased more than 500 percent in recent years according to a report by Hired.com.

Where to find this degree program: Elite schools like Princeton and MIT offer online courses in blockchain technologies, but do not have degree programs in the field at this time. The University of Nicosia, on the other hand, offers an online master’s in digital currency, claiming to be the world’s first graduate degree in blockchain.

Related degree programs include computer science, distributed computing and cryptography.

5. Cannabis


The legalization of cannabis in many areas of the United States has opened up a plethora of job opportunities in cultivation, extraction, dispensary management and even cannabis law. Increased accessibility to the plant offers more and more patients an alternative to pharmaceutical medicine, and recreational users may be finding it more socially acceptable to utilize the plant’s psychoactive effects as a means to handle stress and other emotions, among other uses. As the government continues to approve legislation allowing the medicinal or recreational use of the plant, the demand for jobs in this sector are expected to grow — literally and figuratively. In fact, the cannabis industry added nearly 65,000 jobs in 2018, which is an increase of 44 percent, according to industry experts Leafly and Whitney Economics.

Where to find this degree program: Northern Michigan University offers a degree program in medicinal plant chemistry that covers all aspects of the industry from growth to distribution, though it is currently only available on campus. Specialized schools like Cannabis Training University and Oaksterdam University, for example, offer online horticulture courses in addition to full on-campus degree programs that focus specifically on the cannabis industry.

For students interested in different aspects of the cannabis industry, related degree programs that tend to be more easily accessible online include chemistry, botany and healthcare.

6. Genetic Engineering


The first thing that comes to mind when many people think of gene editing is the controversial topics of “designer babies” and rogue human experimentation. However, the groundbreaking medical technology is more often and increasingly used for other medical purposes. For example, it can be used to detect and prevent diseases before they can affect one’s quality of life, and it can help to grow new organs for life-saving transplants. Thanks to the increasing possibilities to apply biotechnology to medical equipment and devices, job opportunities for biomedical engineers have been on the rise in the past few years and are expected to continue to grow as much as 7% into the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Where to find this degree program: The Stanford School of Medicine offers an online course in genetic engineering and biotechnology, while the University of Maryland University College offers a fully online biotechnology bachelor’s degree. For those seeking higher degrees, the University of Southern California offers a master of science in biomedical engineering completely online.

Common online degrees and concentrations related to genetic engineering include biology, human genetics and viral diseases.

7. Robotics


When we think of robots, we often conjure images of a futuristic society, but the truth is that robots are already all around us and already impacting the ways we do business. Most industrial equipment incorporates robotics technology, as does the emerging market for autonomous vehicles and all of the various uses for artificial intelligence. With the increased need for advanced robots to take over dangerous (or sometimes just boring) tasks, the need for robotics engineers is expected to grow as well. According to BIS Research, the “cobot” market (or collaborative robots that work alongside humans) is expected to grow to approximately $2 billion in the next few years.

Where to find this degree program: Southern New Hampshire University offers an online BS in information technologies with a concentration in robotics and artificial intelligence, while the University of Advancing Technology offers an online bachelor’s degree in robotics and embedded systems. For those seeking an advanced degree, an MS in robotics engineering is available online through Worcester Polytechnic University.

Degree programs related to robotics include mechanical engineering and computing and programming.

8. Social Media

social media

Social media usage is ubiquitous in today’s society. Not only do we use it to keep up with friends and family, but these platforms are becoming an essential component in business strategies spanning nearly every industry. Social media has shaken up the way that we communicate and the way we receive information about the world around us. That’s why it is more important than ever for businesses to have an online presence for promotional and brand-building purposes. Due to its popularity, you may face competition in this field, though its universal appeal is likely to always be in demand.

Where to find this degree program: Southern New Hampshire University offers an online BS in social media marketing, Johnson & Wales University Online offers a BS in digital marketing & social media, and Strayer University has an online bachelor of science in business administration: social media marketing. At the graduate level, Quinnipiac University offers an online MS in interactive media and communications, while Loyola University Maryland has their own online master’s in emerging media.

Social Media degree programs are relatively easy to find these days, but similar programs of interest include marketing, public relations and journalism.

9. Renewable Energy

renewable energy

With continued scientific research into the threat of global warming, renewable energy sources — including solar energy and wind energy — are quickly gaining worldwide interest. Their once high costs are now rapidly declining, allowing these alternative power sources to become more accessible to the public. Wind turbine technicians and solar photovoltaic (PV) installers are two of the fastest-growing “green” jobs on the market today, and there’s no sign that these eco-conscious alternatives will be slowing down. In fact, according to the 2019 Clean Jobs America analysis, the amount of clean energy jobs increased in every state in 2018 and they now significantly outnumber fossil fuel jobs.

Where to find this degree program: Penn State World Campus offers an online bachelor’s degree in energy and sustainability policy, an online master’s degree in renewable energy and sustainability systems and graduate certificates in solar energy and sustainability management and policy. DeVry University also offers an online bachelor’s degree specialization in renewable energy, while Everglades University’s online bachelor of science degree features a major in alternative and renewable energy management.

More easily accessible degree programs related to renewable energy include environmental science and engineering.


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  • BS in Digital Marketing & Social Media, JWU Online, Accessed June 2019, https://online.jwu.edu/academics/undergraduate/digital-marketing-social-media
  • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration: Social Media Marketing, Strayer University, Accessed June 2019, https://www.strayer.edu/online-degrees/bachelors/business-administration/social-media-marketing
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Online Education Provides Advantages And Convenience

You want to advance in your career, or maybe it’s been a while since you were in college, and you’re thinking about taking a class or two. Online education provides a great variety of accredited courses, and you can study when and where it’s convenient. Many course formats are designed to accommodate today’s busy work schedules and lifestyles. Choose from individual courses or a complete online degree program, and enhance your life with online education.

Accounting to Zoology: Online Education Offers Something for Everyone
Thanks to the Internet and innovative educational technology, you can earn anything from a high school diploma to a doctoral degree online. If you’re not interested in a formal degree program, you can also take courses for personal enjoyment and enrichment. You can find a huge variety of online education opportunities, both on the Internet and locally.

Ready to get started? Here are some tips to help you succeed in online learning.

Finding and Starting Your Online Education Program
You’ll need access to the Internet and will want to be comfortable with basic computer skills in order to enjoy your online learning experience. It’s also a good idea to take your first online course by itself so you can become accustomed to online learning at a pace that works best for you. As you become familiar with online courses, you can add more courses.

Most online courses include access to technical support. The tech support folks can assist you in getting started and can help you determine what kind of equipment you’ll need to best support your online learning program.

There are many different formats for online education. You’ll want to check out several offerings for the course you want before enrolling. Some online courses provide chat sessions between professors and students, or may schedule specific times for an online class. Once you get started with online education, you may want to earn a certificate or college degree. It’s possible to meet many educational and career objectives through online learning.

FAFSA: The First Step In Getting Student Financial Aid

If you want student financial aid, FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is an important acronym to remember. FAFSA is the US Department of Education’s master loan application form. Whether or not you apply for or receive federal student financial aid, FAFSA is the form used by traditional and online institutions to determine eligibility for available federal, state and private student financial aid programs.

Federal Student Aid Programs Available to All

You’ve decided to earn an online degree, but as a working adult, aren’t sure if you qualify for student financial aid. Fear not — the U.S. Department of Education recognizes that many adults returning to college prefer to earn an online degree. Many institutions offering online degrees qualify for student financial aid programs. The first step in applying for any kind of student financial aid is to fill out the FAFSA online.

FAFSA: It’s Free to Apply

The FAFSA is available on the U.S. Dept. of Education website in early January, and must be completed by June of each year you’ll attend school. Filing the FAFSA application is free. Many companies charge a fee for completing the FAFSA, but if you complete the FAFSA on the U.S. Dept of Education’s user friendly website, it is free.

Getting Started: Have Your Information Handy

The FAFSA is several pages long, and depending on your circumstances, can take awhile to complete. It’s a good idea to read through the form and gather the information you’ll need:

  • Tax returns for prior year
  • Record of all income for previous year
  • Driver’s license and social security number
  • Your school’s FAFSA ID #

If you’re married, you’ll need to supply financial information for both you and your spouse. If you want to earn an online degree, check with your school’s financial aid office. They can help you complete the FAFSA, and will help determine your eligibility for student financial aid programs.

Methodologies and Sources