15 Best Online Business Degrees 2020

best business degrees

Did you know that individuals with a bachelor’s degree earned $468 more per week on average than those with only a high school diploma in 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)? And if you’re considering earning a business degree online, in 2019 the National Association of Colleges and Employers reported that three of its top 10 most in-demand majors fall under the category of business — mainly finance, accounting and business administration.

But how do you know which online business degree programs can offer the best return on your investment? That’s where we come in. Using data from the BLS and the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (NCES IPEDS), we’ve ranked 30 online bachelor’s degrees in business to determine the 15 best online business degrees. Our methodology considers such factors as salary, number of schools offering the major online, job growth and more. Note that not all programs or specializations may be available in your area or offered 100 percent online.

The following 15 online business degree programs topped our list. Keep reading to discover what you can expect from these majors.

1. Business Administration and Management

With a potent combination of high salaries, the highest number of schools offering this major and the highest projected employment numbers, this major tops our list.

Online business administration programs typically cover traditional business subjects such as sales, marketing, management, project management, human resource management, finance and accounting as well as modern topics such as organizational behavior and the social environment of business. Many schools offer optional concentrations, such as supply chain management, operations management or marketing. Graduates can expect to be equipped with a broad understanding of business operations that can be applied in most industries.

Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2018:
No. of schools offering this degree online at the bachelor’s level:
Average projected growth rate of all jobs matched to each major, 2018-28:
Total number of jobs projected in 10 years of all occupations matched to the major, 2018-28:

Southern New Hampshire University

  • Some of the nation’s most affordable tuition rates, from a private, nonprofit, NEASC accredited university
  • Qualified students with 2.5 GPA and up may receive up to $20K in grants & scholarships
  • Multiple term start dates throughout the year. 24/7 online classroom access
  • Offering over 200 online degree programs

2. Business/Commerce, General

The second major on our list ties with No. 1 in every factor except its number of programs. Typically offered as a bachelor of science, this major focuses on the nuts and bolts of operating a business, as opposed to its more theoretical or philosophical concepts. Courses taken in this program are similar to those taken in an online business administration degree program. However, the curricula typically has a stronger focus on commerce related topics like accounting, economics, finance and marketing.

Some programs may offer students a glimpse into specific industries, such as agribusiness, healthcare administration or running a small business.

Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2018:
No. of schools offering this degree online at the bachelor’s level:
Average projected growth rate of all jobs matched to each major, 2018-28:
Total number of jobs projected in 10 years of all occupations matched to the major, 2018-28:

3. International Business/Trade/Commerce

Today’s global economy has created a demand for professionals who are well-versed in international trade and finance, global markets, and the influence of culture on business practices. A degree in international business can prepare graduates to meet that need. With one of the highest salaries on our list and roughly two-thirds of industries employing professionals with this major, a bachelor’s degree in international business rightfully maintains its place on our list of top online business degrees for the second year in a row.

Although grounded in traditional business coursework, this degree program focuses on international trade, import/export, foreign business practices, international banking and finance, and the link between international relations and business. The College Board advises prospective students of online international business degree programs to be prepared to travel and learn new languages to better their job prospects.

Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2018:
No. of schools offering this degree online at the bachelor’s level:
Average projected growth rate of all jobs matched to each major, 2018-28:
Total number of jobs projected in 10 years of all occupations matched to the major, 2018-28:

4. Marketing/Marketing Management, General

Online marketing and marketing management degrees have climbed up one step to number four on our list this year with an increase in associated wages, schools offering the degree online and the percentage of industries employing grads.

Students who pursue a marketing degree online typically learn about new product development, design and pricing, market research, consumer behavior, marketing strategy, data collection and analysis, sales, advertising, promotion, brand management, public relations, and marketing communications (including digital and social media). All of this is typically grounded with a foundation in general business principles. After all, great marketing teams can be crucial to the success of a business.

Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2018:
No. of schools offering this degree online at the bachelor’s level:
Average projected growth rate of all jobs matched to each major, 2018-28:
Total number of jobs projected in 10 years of all occupations matched to the major, 2018-28:

5. Entrepreneurship/Entrepreneurial Studies

There are entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. Entrepreneurs are the business gurus behind start-ups and small businesses while intrapreneurs are the wizards behind innovative new products or services within larger companies. Both roles require good communication skills and the ability to lead people, according to the College Board. Online entrepreneurship degree programs can help you gain the business know-how and leadership skills to run your own (or someone else’s) business.

The BLS states that self-employment is on the rise in our country with the number of self-employed people expected to reach 10.3 million by 2026 and one in every four millennial reports wanting to own a business or work as an entrepreneur. This degree program can lay the groundwork for achieving those dreams. Entrepreneur-focused coursework may include new venture finance, strategic entrepreneurship, innovation, idea generation, opportunity analysis, new product development, and business plan development. Some schools offer this degree program as a specialization within in a business administration degree.

Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2018:
No. of schools offering this degree online at the bachelor’s level:
Average projected growth rate of all jobs matched to each major, 2018-28:
Total number of jobs projected in 10 years of all occupations matched to the major, 2018-28:

6. Management Science

How many times has a manager made the difference for you between loving a job and hating it? The importance of good management to a business cannot be overstated. Good managers are vital to most industries, and good managers command high salaries, which is why this major has moved up our list from number seven last year.

Management science encompasses the knowledge, insights, and tools successful managers use to organize, lead, and control organizations. This degree may be appropriate for anyone who wants to both understand and practice organizational management skills. Students pursuing this degree can expect to learn about management decision-making at all levels of an organization, from high-level strategy to human resources matters to daily operations.

Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2018:
No. of schools offering this degree online at the bachelor’s level:
Average projected growth rate of all jobs matched to each major, 2018-28:
Total number of jobs projected in 10 years of all occupations matched to the major, 2018-28:

7. Finance, General

This major makes our list for its high salaries, high rate of employment growth and high projected number of jobs for the 2018-28 decade. Finance majors learn about various concepts like the time value of money, including budgets, stocks and bonds, and interest rates that allow them to advise individuals and businesses on how to make sound financial decisions.

Students pursuing this online degree typically study corporate finance, investment risk analysis, banking, insurance, business development, financial markets, portfolio management, financial planning and management, international finance and the basics of accounting and economics. Students of online finance degrees may be able to choose a concentration in topics like investment analysis, corporate finance, or real estate.

Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2018:
No. of schools offering this degree online at the bachelor’s level:
Average projected growth rate of all jobs matched to each major, 2018-28:
Total number of jobs projected in 10 years of all occupations matched to the major, 2018-28:

8. Accounting and Business/Management

This degree has stayed resolutely at the eighth position for the second year in a row with the highest job growth in our rankings and the second highest number of industries employing graduates of this major. Students pursuing online accounting and business degree programs usually study financial and managerial accounting, auditing, taxation, and accounting law. To give additional context to the accounting role, these programs also teach business concepts like business law, marketing, and supply chain management. They also give students a chance to develop essential practical skills like working with ledgers, financial statements, budgets, accruals, and reporting.

Some programs may prepare you to take the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and/or the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) exams and become a licensed accounting professionals.

Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2018:
No. of schools offering this degree online at the bachelor’s level:
Average projected growth rate of all jobs matched to each major, 2018-28:
Total number of jobs projected in 10 years of all occupations matched to the major, 2018-28:

9. Accounting and Finance

Online accounting and finance degrees are another type of accounting degree that have maintained their position in this year’s rankings. Unlike an accounting and business degree which can focus on business and management topics, this online degree program focuses on the relationship between accounting and financial markets.

This degree combines the strategic investment and budgeting of finance with the recordkeeping and compliance involved in the details of accounting. Students would learn how to apply the principles of budgeting and forecasting to the work of accounting. Graduates may work in auditing, tax preparation or planning, cost analysis or financial advisory services.

Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2018:
No. of schools offering this degree online at the bachelor’s level:
Average projected growth rate of all jobs matched to each major, 2018-28:
Total number of jobs projected in 10 years of all occupations matched to the major, 2018-28:

10. Management Information Systems (MIS), General

Online hospitality administration and management degrees make a new entrance at number 10. It’s no surprise as this degree has the highest number of industries employing graduates of this major and the fifth highest annual median wages on our list. Students enrolled in this degree programs can learn about the hospitality industry as a whole and then choose specializations in areas like event management, tourism or lodging administration. Coursework usually covers topics like staffing, finance, food and beverage management, and hotel management among others.

As people travel all over the world for business and leisure, adventurous individuals in this field may be able to find work abroad and get a chance to explore new cultures.

Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2018:
No. of schools offering this degree online at the bachelor’s level:
Average projected growth rate of all jobs matched to each major, 2018-28:
Total number of jobs projected in 10 years of all occupations matched to the major, 2018-28:

11. Management Information Systems (MIS), General

While online hospitality degrees may have knocked this one down a rank, this degree remains on our list with its winning combination of high salaries and high number of industries employing degree holders. A relatively small number of professionals are projected to hold these positions, which accounts for its small rate of job growth, but the skills these graduates possess are invaluable to many industries. MIS majors learn how to implement information systems into businesses’ operations, which involves the use of computerized databases, computer security and computer networks.

Students enrolled in this crossover degree program between business and technology typically study topics like database design, ecommerce, emerging technologies, and project management.

Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2018:
No. of schools offering this degree online at the bachelor’s level:
Average projected growth rate of all jobs matched to each major, 2018-28:
Total number of jobs projected in 10 years of all occupations matched to the major, 2018-28:

12. Operations Management and Supervision

Operations management is the study of the development, production and distribution of goods and services. People with this degree understand how to make operational decisions to save money, improve efficiency and manage people in order to achieve the best results for a company and its products. Whereas managers primarily oversee people, operations managers oversee the quality and sustainability of materials, equipment and labor.

Students can expect to study some combination of the following subjects: production control, product development, inventory management, process management, marketing and logistics, systems analysis, total quality management, transportation and managerial accounting. Operations management may also be offered as a specialization within online business administration degree programs.

Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2018:
No. of schools offering this degree online at the bachelor’s level:
Average projected growth rate of all jobs matched to each major, 2018-28:
Total number of jobs projected in 10 years of all occupations matched to the major, 2018-28:

13. Accounting

Accounting degrees also make it to our rankings of top business degrees in 2020 along with accounting and business, and accounting and finance degrees. The BLS credits the faster-than-average job growth for accountants to increasing globalization among companies and an increasingly complex tax and regulatory environment. The BLS also reports that the demand for accountants is likely to remain the same amid arising fears of technology stealing jobs. In fact, tech is expected to take many of the mundane tasks off their shoulders allowing them to become more efficient.

Students of online accounting degree programs generally take courses in accounting (from beginning to advanced), tax and cost accounting, auditing, accounting information systems, taxation and accounting for nonprofit organizations.

Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2018:
No. of schools offering this degree online at the bachelor’s level:
Average projected growth rate of all jobs matched to each major, 2018-28:
Total number of jobs projected in 10 years of all occupations matched to the major, 2018-28:

14. Project Management

Project management is a broad concept that is critical to smooth business operations. It can involve the management of people, data, processes, budgets, and systems during the supervision of temporary projects in business from start to finish, which may include conception, planning, budgeting, procuring materials and talent, managing personnel, communicating internally and externally, ensuring quality and completing the project on time and within budget. According to the Project Management Institute, the lack of skilled project managers across the world is creating a huge skills gap. In fact, it has the second highest predicted job growth on our list.

Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2018:
No. of schools offering this degree online at the bachelor’s level:
Average projected growth rate of all jobs matched to each major, 2018-28:
Total number of jobs projected in 10 years of all occupations matched to the major, 2018-28:

15. Human Resources Management/Personnel Administration

Every business is comprised of people. Human resource managers play a key role in many aspects of the workforce management. They are the managers in charge of overseeing the hiring, training, evaluating and firing of employees, as well administering benefits and pay and ensuring their health, safety and overall well-being.

To prepare students for that all-important role, a human resources management degree program typically blends traditional business subjects with HR-specific courses in labor relations, employment law, recruitment, training and administration, compensation, benefits, policy development, diversity management, resource planning, and human behavior. In some programs, students also take specialized management and psychology courses.

Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, 2018:
No. of schools offering this degree online at the bachelor’s level:
Average projected growth rate of all jobs matched to each major, 2018-28:
Total number of jobs projected in 10 years of all occupations matched to the major, 2018-28:

As you can see, the number of different occupations associated with online business degrees can mean high ROIs on your education while still allowing you to pursue your passion – whether it lies in managing people or working with some of the latest tech. Do check out our individual degree pages for more information on each of the degrees listed above.



For this analysis, we ranked 30 online bachelor’s degrees in business. To be included in the ranking, each major had to:

  • Match to a corresponding code in the Classification of Instructional Programs
  • Be offered online at the bachelor’s level at five or more institutions

We scored each major on the following data points, using a 10-point scale and the weights specified:

  1. Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
  2. Annual 75th percentile wage of each occupation matched to the major, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
  3. of schools offering this degree online at the bachelor’s level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018-19
  4. Average projected growth rate of all jobs matched to each major, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018-28
  5. Total number of jobs projected in 10 years of all occupations matched to the major, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018-28
  6. Percentage of industries employing the occupations matched to the major, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018-28

Methodology Sources

  • 2018 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2018-28 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com
  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2018-19, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/

Methodology Sources:

2017 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2016-26 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com

Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/

Article Sources

  • Accountants and Auditors, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm, accessed February 2020
  • Are Millennials the New Entrepreneurs? Inc.com, November 2018, https://www.inc.com/jason-albanese/are-millennials-new-entrepreneurs/
  • B.S. Entrepreneurship, Franklin University, https://www.franklin.edu/degrees/bachelors/entrepreneurship, accessed February 2020
  • Bachelor of Arts in Operations Management and Analysis, Ashford University, https://www.ashford.edu/online-degrees/business/bachelor-of-arts-operations-management-analysis, accessed February 2020
  • Bachelor’s Grads Expected to Account For 83 Percent of Hires, National Association of Colleges and Employers, November 2019, https://www.naceweb.org/job-market/trends-and-predictions/bachelors-grads-expected-to-account-for-83-percent-of-hires/
  • Bachelor’s Degree Specialization in Hospitality Management, DeVry University, https://www.devry.edu/online-programs/bachelors-degrees/business/hospitality-management-specialization/, accessed February 2020
  • Elka Torpey and Brian Roberts, Small-business options: Occupational outlook for self-employed workers, Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2018, https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2018/article/self-employment.htm
  • Elka Torpey, Education pays, Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, February 2019, https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2019/data-on-display/education_pays.htm
  • Elka Torpey, High-wage occupations by typical entry-level education, 2017, Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 2019, https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2019/article/high-wage-occupations.htm#bachelor-s-degree
  • Finance and Accounting Management, Northeastern University, https://cps.northeastern.edu/academics/program/bachelor-science-finance-and-accounting-management-online, accessed February 2020
  • Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017 – 2027, The Project Management Institute, 2017, https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/learning/job-growth-report.pdf
  • Major: Entrepreneurial Studies, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/business-entrepreneurial-studies, accessed February 2020
  • Major: Finance, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/business-accounting-finance-finance, accessed February 2020
  • Major: Hospitality Administration and Management, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/business-hospitality-administration-management-hospitality-administration-management, accessed February 2020
  • Major: Human Resources Management, BigFuture, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/business-human-resources-human-resources-management, accessed February 2020
  • Major: International Business, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/business-international-business, accessed February 2020
  • Major: Management Information Systems, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/business-management-information-systems, accessed February 2020
  • Major: Management Science, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/business-management-science, accessed February 2020
  • Major: Operations Management, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/business-business-management-administration-operations-management, accessed February 2020
  • Online Project Management Bachelor’s Degree, Colorado Technical University, https://www.coloradotech.edu/degrees/bachelors/project-management, accessed February 2020
  • The Industries Most Interested in Top Majors, National Association of Colleges and Employers, March 2019, https://www.naceweb.org/job-market/trends-and-predictions/the-industries-most-interested-in-top-majors/

10 Successful Online Learning Strategies

Thinking of enrolling in an online degree program? It definitely has its perks — flexibility, potential savings on cost and time, convenience — to name a few. While the benefits are many, this can also be true: online degree programs can require a tremendous amount of self-discipline. It’s usually up to you when to get your work done, when to view your materials, when (and whether) to ask questions, how to engage in class discussions, and how best to facilitate your learning of the material. With online degree programs requiring you to be a self-motivator, how can you make sure that you succeed within a reasonable amount of time?

Here is the list of 10 successful online learning strategies:

1. Research well and then choose your online degree program


Avoid buyer’s remorse. A study by Online College Students (OCS) 2018 revealed that 24 percent of past students felt they should have contacted or researched more schools before they made a final decision about which school to choose. While 15 percent wished they had learned more about their financial aid options, 14 percent wished they had spoken more with their enrollment counselor.

The first step to help you succeed in an online degree program is to make sure you have done your homework well. Research as many schools as you can and ask questions related to financial aid, tuition, online faculty, peer and professor interaction, access to e-books, and more. It’s up to you to do your due diligence in finding a program that meets your specific areas of interests and can help you achieve your career goals.

2. Commit to your online program


Perhaps the most common misconception about online programs is that they can be easier than on-campus programs. Nothing could be further from the truth. Online programs are usually on par with their on-campus counterpart; they can be just as rigorous and just as demanding. Your online instructors can expect the same quality of work from you and assign the same amount of work as they would an on-campus student.

With your work schedule and other commitments, you may actually wind up having less time on hand to finish your coursework. You’ll need to carve out the time from your busy schedule to watch lectures, participate in discussions online, and complete assignments on your own. How can you manage to stay committed? Devising a study schedule, developing good relationships with your teacher and fellow students, and loads of sheer determination can help you stay on track with your commitment to earn an online degree.

3. Determine how you learn best


Some of the most helpful activities for the online classroom happen to be asynchronous items that students are able to complete on their own time. There are at least four types of learners:

  • Visual (by sight)
  • Auditory (by hearing)
  • Reading/writing
  • Kinaesthetic (by doing)

Determine how you learn best and then tailor your studies to that style. If you’re a visual learner, for example, print out transcripts of the video lectures to review. Are you good at listening and learning? Make sure to build time into your schedule to play and replay audio- and video-based course content. To improve as a hands-on learner, try taking notes as you study or watch lectures. Go through these notes and memorize key points while walking or exercising. This can help to reinforce learning.

4. Find ways to retain what you learn

Retain-what-you- learn

Once you’ve found ways that help you learn, you need to focus on ways to retain what you have learned. A study by Psychotactics shows that the average person retains 20 percent of what they hear or read. Discuss it with others, and your retention goes up to 50 percent. Use the information actively and you’re at 75 percent. It goes as high as 90 percent when you teach the concept or immediately put it into practice. You can start by translating all that you’ve learned online into your own words. This process alone helps in cementing new knowledge in your mind. Next, find some way to share. Some ideas include volunteering short-term online teaching, writing a blog post or creating a podcast.

5. Manage time effectively


Online students need to process learning in less time and resist a vast range of distractions. This can be a challenge. According to Northeastern University, to effectively manage time, students should review the syllabus at the beginning of their semester, making notes of major assignments and marking them on a calendar so that they know how to incorporate this workload amid personal commitments. Create a daily, weekly and monthly planner. Students may be able to make smart use of their time by using time management tools, such as Trello. This tool allows them to input important tasks and set due dates that are then emailed out as reminders. Lastly, create a study space that is conducive to being productive. According to Western Governors University, the amount of noise, study light, climate, comfort, a sense of organization — these can be important factors in managing your study time.

6. class=”degree_image” Become a pro at using online tools


You can have easy access to some amazing resources that can help you succeed in your online learning. Become familiar with Google Search, Google Scholar and Google Books to improve your research skills. More and more online college students are using mobile devices to access the online classroom and complete related activities. To improve your focus, try downloading SelfControl, a free app through which you can block any website for a certain period that’s distracting you from studies. Another effective tool can be StudyBlue. This app lets you study anywhere and access approximately 500 million study materials, including flashcards, notes, and study guides, as stated by E-learning Industry. StudyBlue can assist with putting you in touch with other students, ideal study materials, and engage actively with quizzes. Alternative to StudyBlue are Cram and Brainscape.

7. Interact actively in online classes


In general, frequent, substantive participation in discussions is a requirement in online classes. A majority (57 percent) of students surveyed in the 2018 OCS study felt that such interactions are important to the success of an online student. Active interaction can demonstrate to the instructor that you comprehend and are using what you learn in class. But it can also enhance the online experience for other students as they come together online to share a diverse range of opinions and ideas. This interaction helps in creating a sense of community, as it can help students in figuring out their own required course of action for online studies. Moreover, such interactions can lead to better rapport with instructors and peers, often a key to successful online learning.

8. Leverage your online network


Networking with peers, seniors and professors can be an important part of online learning. These connections may generate future job leads. A study by LinkedIn confirms that 85 percent of job placements are typically through networking, so the more you build your network as an online student with your fellow classmates and professors, the more likely you may be able to use your network to land you a job.

How can you do this? Build relationships through group emails, video conferencing, discussion boards and online groups, as well as student blogs and podcasts. The advantage an online student has is being able to connect with students and professors across the country, and sometimes, across the globe. This kind of national and international network can be of mutual advantage.

9. Find a way to stay motivated


One of the biggest problems with online learning is that it’s easy to fall through the cracks. When things get rough, it’s easy to push away from the computer and say, “Forget it.” Keeping your goals realistic and attainable requires a sensible schedule. It is also important to remember to celebrate those small wins in order to stay motivated! Take a break now and then to enjoy time outdoors, pursue a hobby, or just spend time with family and friends. If you are not able to go out, though, communicate through social media. You can post progress of your studies among your social media circles to keep them involved and updated about how you are doing. These are just some of the ways you can stay motivated when the going gets rough!

10. class=”degree_image” Stay fit for better academic performance


A 2017 study by MedCrave Online Journal of Sports Medicine highlights a positive relationship between physical exercise and academic performance of college students. According to the study, students who exercise regularly graduate at higher rates, and earn, on average, a full GPA point higher than those who do not exercise. Exercising can keep your energy levels up, allowing you to concentrate better in your studies and research, which can ultimately lead to better rewards in terms of academic performance.

In conclusion, before going into any online program, be sure that your eyes are wide open to the experience and that you’ve put support systems in place at home and at work. There’s no magic to online learning success, it’s hard work and discipline.

Methodologies and Sources


  • 5 tips for success in an online program, Baylor University, May 2015, https://onlinemasters.baylor.edu/articles/tips-success-mba-online.aspx
  • 7 tips for working in an online networking program in Northeastern University Graduate Programs, April 2018, https://www.northeastern.edu/graduate/blog/networking-for-online-learners/
  • 8 Strategies for getting the most out of an online class, Northeastern University Graduate Programs, https://www.northeastern.edu/graduate/blog/tips-for-taking-online-classes/
  • 10 Ways to Improve Study Habits, Western Governors University, https://www.wgu.edu/blog/improve-online-study-environment1712/, accessed April 2019
  • 25 Important Apps And Digital Learning Tools For University Students, April 2018, https://elearningindustry.com/25-digital-learning-tools-apps-university-students
  • 2018 Online College Students: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences, June 2018, https://49hk843qjpwu3gfmw73ngy1k-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/OCS-2018-Report-FINAL.pdf
  • How to Retain 90% of Everything You Learn, accessed April 2019, https://www.psychotactics.com/art-retain-learning/
  • How to Succeed in Online Courses, accessed April 2019, https://web.saumag.edu/online/succeed/
  • Making Digital Learning Work, Success Strategies from Six Leading Universities and Community Colleges Work, April 2018, https://edplus.asu.edu/sites/default/files/BCG-Making-Digital-Learning-Work-Apr-2018%20.pdf
  • New Survey Reveals 85% of All Jobs are Filled Via Networking, February 2016, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/new-survey-reveals-85-all-jobs-filled-via-networking-lou-adler/
  • Online learning: The benefits and the challenges, Strayer University, accessed March 2019, https://www.strayer.edu/why-online-learning/benefits-and-challenges
  • Online MBA Programs: Top Ranking 2017 in Investopedia, March 2017, https://www.investopedia.com/articles/professionaleducation/09/online-mba-programs.asp
  • Overview of VARK learning styles in Very Well Mind, April 2018, https://www.verywellmind.com/vark-learning-styles-2795156
  • Physical Exercise and Academic Performance, ResearchGate, September 2017, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/321803862_Physical_Exercise_and_Academic_Performance
  • Research Digest, The British Psychological Society, May 2018, https://digest.bps.org.uk/2018/05/04/learning-by-teaching-others-is-extremely-effective-a-new-study-tested-a-key-reason-why/
  • Skill Requirements, under online student requirements, Minnesota State University, accessed March 2019, http://www.mnsu.edu/ext/online/skills/
  • Tips for Success in Online Courses, accessed April 2019, https://www.msjc.edu/Online/Documents/OnlineStudentSurvivalGuide.pdf
  • UTEP Connect Extended University, January 2018, https://www.utep.edu/extendeduniversity/utepconnect/blog/january-2018/the-who-what-when-and-why-behind-online-education/
  • Why College Students Should Stay Healthy, December 2018, http://scalar.usc.edu/works/passion-writing/why-college-students-should-stay-healthy

Earning a Degree Online

Earning-a-degree-online Better technology tools, improved online learning curriculum and professors better trained to deliver successful experiences to online students — all of which are paving the way to make it easier for students who want to earn a degree online. The popularity of online degree programs is set to boom with colleges and universities across the country introducing more online versions of traditional, on-campus programs. There are thousands of quality degree program choices for those thinking of earning a degree online. A study by Quality Matters, a nationally-recognized nonprofit organization that assures online program quality, states that “online enrollment has continued to outpace overall enrollment in U.S. higher education, fueling greater student and institutional interest”. According to findings from Statista, a leading provider of market and consumer data, 64 percent of higher education administrators chose to increase degree program accessibility by creating online programs on par with their existing on-campus programs. College administrators are also adding new features to their online offerings and implementing marketing strategies to attract more online students, according to a 2018 survey by the Learning House. The increasing popularity of online degree programs along with improvements in their quality has opened access to higher education to a variety of people for whom attending a campus-program would have been nigh impossible. These include:

  • Working professionals looking to earn an online degree for career advancement
  • Career changers looking to switch to a career that has better earning potential
  • Those with family or other commitments have greater flexibility to balance their commitments and earn their degree online

No matter what the motivation to enroll in an online degree program might be, we are sure you have plenty of questions. How do these online degree programs stack up to their on-campus counterparts? And what options are available to online students today? Here you can find the answers to these and more frequently asked questions.

What are the advantages of an online degree program?

There are numerous advantages of studying online. Some of them are:

  • Flexibility: Most online degree programs allow students to study when it is most convenient to them as long as assignments are submitted on time. This means you can still adhere to work, family or other commitments while earning a degree.
  • No commute: Online degree programs do away with commuting to a class allowing you to study from wherever you might be — as long as you have access to the Internet, of course. Students not only save time by avoiding the commute, but the cost of gas, and parking fees. Additional wear and tear on a car is eliminated, and those who are parents can circumvent costs for childcare. Imagine never needing to brave bad weather driving to your campus!
  • Learn without distractions: Online classes allow you to learn at your own pace without distractions and go over coursework as many times as you need to before moving on.
  • Demonstrate your commitment to your field: Earning your degree despite other commitments can show potential employers you are serious about your field and have the dedication necessary to acquire the knowledge you need to succeed.
  • Demonstrate technical skills: Online degree programs may require you to develop new computer skills. This may show potential employers that you are comfortable with technology and are not afraid to learn new skills in general.
  • Advance your career: Earning an online degree may help working professionals make a career change or move up the career ladder in their own field.
  • Increase earning potential: Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows median earnings increase with higher educational attainment, as does the likelihood of working in management or other professional job roles. For example, weekly earnings of an associate degree holder in 2018 was reported to $862, while those who possessed a bachelor’s degree was $1,198; while weekly earnings of those with a master’s degree were $1,434.

Apart from the benefits mentioned above, online degree programs may let you work full-time, transfer credits, use your work experience toward your degree, which may work toward potential savings in time and money. We discuss these benefits in more detail in the sections below.

Can I still work a full-time job while studying for my online degree?

As crazy as it sounds, it is possible to work full-time and study full-time simultaneously. Possible — but not necessarily easy. Studying for your degree while working full-time requires dedication and a clear view of what you want to achieve. Online degree programs typically allow you to access your classes in your free time so you may utilize your lunch breaks, evenings, weekends and even travel-time to catch up with your education. A few tips for students earning an online degree to help you balance work, family and education:

  • Draw up a study schedule and stick to it. Make sure your family and friends know your study hours so you aren’t disturbed.
  • Schedule your vacation time from work around your exam times or when you know you have a major assignment due to help reduce stress.
  • Keep your employer in the loop — you might just be pleasantly surprised about how encouraging they are.
  • Use every spare minute possible — listen to audio lectures while working out or catch up on reading material on the train.

It may also be important to stay in touch with your online college as they may be able to help you reschedule coursework or take a mini break if work commitments put too much of a strain on you.

What kinds of degree programs are offered online?

You can find a wide range of online programs including art and design , business and management , hospitality and culinary arts , liberal arts and humanities , engineering and architecture , healthcare and nursing , law and criminal justice , computer and technology , as well as education and teaching . According to Schools.com there are 2,325 colleges offering numerous online degree programs. Online programs can usually be found as:

  • Online certificate programs: Not to be confused with professional certifications, these certificate programs are non-degree programs that typically take up to a year to complete. They can act as an introduction to a particular subject and can allow you to apply the skills you learn directly to the workplace.
  • Online associate degrees : Associate degree programs typically consist of general education courses as well as classes specific to your major. Associate degree programs may be terminal degree programs or designed to prepare you to transfer to a four-year college to complete a bachelor’s degree.
  • Online bachelor’s degrees : Bachelor’s degree programs typically build on the topics in an associate degree program to delve in-depth into your chosen field of study. The BLS estimates that about a fourth of the labor force in the country hold a bachelor’s degree only. Additionally, it projects that the employment in occupations requiring a bachelor’s degree for entry-level roles is expected to grow at 10 percent which is faster than the seven percent for others.
  • Online master’s degrees : Master’s degree programs typically focus on advanced topics in your field of study. The BLS predicts that occupations that require a master’s degree are projected to grow by almost 17 percent from 2016 to 2026.
  • Online doctoral degrees : These are typically the highest academic degrees awarded. Of the 101 occupations typically requiring a graduate degree, 63 are likely to require a doctoral or professional degree for entry-level positions.

What are some of the best degrees to earn online?

This is a rather subjective question. Naturally, the “best” online degree would be the one most suited to your needs and interests. That being said, there are some degree programs that lend themselves well to online study. According to a 2018 report by the Learning House, business degree programs are the most popular among online students at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Popular undergraduate online degree programs included psychology and computer science while popular graduate degree program choices included the fields of nursing, education, computer science and social work. Additionally, any good online degree program should be accredited or offered by an accredited online college. If you want to explore online degree programs in more depth, have a look at our article on the Best Online Degrees for 2019 where we’ve ranked online degree programs by looking at factors like accessible education, strong job prospects and earning potential.

What are some of the easiest degrees to earn online?

Answering this question might require reviewing the definition of the word “easy” and in what context it is used. It is hard to list the easiest degrees to earn online because: What is easy for some may not be easy for others: A popular view is that liberal arts degree programs are “easy” while STEM-based majors are difficult. However, the ease of earning a degree is completely subjective and can vary from individual to individual. For example, someone with an aptitude for math may not find a degree program in English easy. Some degree programs are conducive to online learning: Some fields are easier to study online because the curriculum contains subjects that may not need practical or in-person instruction, so you may not need to travel to a brick-and-mortar facility at any point during your study. “Easy” can mean a reduced load of coursework: Another aspect that might make earning a degree online easier is being able to transfer credits from any previous college program you may have taken toward completing you current degree. According to the Online Learning Consortium, many online degree programs also evaluate “alternative credentials” for college credit, so you can make your life experience count. This may make your course load lighter and therefore make it easier to earn your degree online.

How long does it take to get a degree online?

The time taken to earn a degree online may depend on several factors like whether you are studying full-time or part-time, the number of transferable credits you may be able to apply to your degree program which can generally help to reduce the time to degree completion. Time toward degree completion can vary for part-time online students depending on the individual situation and capacities. Usually, those who are studying full-time, take as long to complete an online degree program as their on-campus counterparts:

  • An online associate degree program may take you two years
  • An online bachelor’s degree program may take you four years
  • An online master’s program may take up to two years
  • An online doctoral program can usually take between three to seven years of full-time study

Some online colleges also offer accelerated degree options that may help you complete the required curriculum within a shorter time frame.

What’s the difference between an online and a hybrid degree program?

The only difference between an online degree program and a hybrid program is that hybrid programs require on-campus attendance for certain practical components of the program; whereas online degree programs are 100% online — students need not step on-campus at all. Hybrid degree programs are also known as blended programs and are normally used for degree programs that require practical instruction. Students in blended or hybrid programs usually study theory-based topics online and attend classes on campus for discussions, seminars or practical study. Many science-based, medical and teaching degree programs incorporate this model. Some online colleges may allow you to complete the practical aspects of your degree program at an approved center close to your place of residence, while others may require you to attend short residencies on-campus. Both online and hybrid programs involve interactions with professors and peers through discussion boards, emails and Skype sessions. Online formats may be:

  • Asynchronous: In this format students can access lectures, discussion boards and forums at times that are most convenient to them. Research by Quality Matters shows that online courses are overwhelmingly asynchronous.
  • Synchronous: Synchronous classes are classes that are held at a fixed time. So while students still access their classes remotely, they still need to be present at a particular time to attend the class virtually.

Online learning versus traditional: Which is better?

Deciding whether to earn a degree online or in a more traditional brick-and-mortar setting may pose quite a problem for some. In terms of the quality of instruction you receive, online degree programs are on par with traditional programs. According to a survey of online students conducted by the Learning House, 85 percent of online students (who had previously attended face-to-face classes) felt that their experience in an online course was actually better than their experience in a more traditional setting and 86 percent felt that the value of education they received met or exceeded the cost. Other advantages of an online degree program lie in the flexibility they allow you in terms of study-time and accessibility. Online degree programs may work well if you are self-driven and have the dedication to see your program through to completion. If you work better in a structured environment and are able to commit to a specific schedule, then perhaps a traditional degree program may work better for you. Additionally, online degree programs allow you to focus on your program without the various distractions present in a classroom. However, they still allow you to interact with your peers through group discussions. Some food for thought: The Learning House survey revealed that 60 percent of students who had a choice between online programs and more traditional ones actively chose online learning.

The short answer is no. In fact, some individuals may find them slightly harder as there is no set schedule. When it comes to time management and dedication toward your degree, the ball is in your court. Many online degree programs are nearly identical to their campus-based counterparts in terms of rigor and curriculum, but simply delivered in a different manner so the workload and the required credits for a degree program rarely varies, whether it’s online or on-campus. Additionally, the online nature of your studies doesn’t mean you’ll be exempt from group assignments. In fact, group assignments completed remotely may be viewed as a strong point by potential employers in today’s digitally connected world.

Are online degrees offered by reputable colleges?

Yes. Many reputed brick-and-mortar schools now offer online programs. According to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Labor Economics proposes that one of the advantages of an online degree program from a reputable institute is that it expands access to education and increases educational attainment by opening opportunities for individuals who might not have otherwise chosen to pursue higher education. Employers and college registrars tend to pay more attention to an institution’s name than whether a degree was earned online or traditionally. In short, reputable institutions give respected degrees.

What factors should I consider while choosing an online degree program?

As with choosing any educational program, there are plenty of factors to consider while choosing an online degree program. The Learning House Survey of online students published in 2018 stated that the cost of tuitions and fees was at the top of the list when it came to factors students considered before enrolling in a program. Other factors included the reputation of the program and school, its location, the faculty involved and the study formats used. Some other factors to look at include:

  • Accreditation: This ensures that an institution meets national standards of quality and accountability. Accreditation helps to ensure students that a program or school has been thoroughly assessed for its offerings, faculty members, and curriculum. This may be done through a regional institution, a programmatic institution, or both. Accreditation ensures that an institution meets national standards of quality and accountability. The U.S. Department of Education helps to set standards to assure quality education and any institution can undergo third-party review by an accrediting agency.
  • Student services: Many online colleges offer career support and financial aid services
  • Ability to transfer credits: Being able to transfer credits from work experience and previous college education may mean your workload reduces along with your fees
  • Alumni: Seeing what kind of jobs graduates of the program have been able to secure may demonstrate the outcomes of the program

Numerous colleges offer online degree programs in a wide variety of subjects. Many of these degree programs are entirely online, available to anyone who can meet the admissions requirements of the university. Theoretical subjects like business and accounting lend themselves well to online degree programs as your entire coursework may be studied in an online format. However, programs like nursing, teaching and engineering which may require hands-on learning can require you to attend face-to-face instruction on-campus at scheduled intervals or at a facility approved by your college. Some colleges even include the cost of an on-campus residency in their tuition fees. Additionally, you may need to complete an internship in order to earn bachelor’s degree online. According to a 2018 report tracking distance education in the United States just under half of students enrolled in distance education are taking exclusively online programs. That’s nearly 3 million students!

Are online programs cheaper than on-campus ones?

Not really. The fees you pay for an online degree program can often be comparable to an on-campus program. While the 2018 Learning House survey of online students found that tuition and fees was the top consideration for online students while selecting a program, students also factored in features like the institute’s reputation and convenience of the program to calculate if they received value for money. The survey also found that at the undergraduate level, the common tuition rates were between $300 and $600 per credit. The 2018 Quality Matters Report found that 74 percent of online programs charge the same tuition per course or credit hour as the on-campus rate. While the tuition may often be similar to on-campus programs, there are other factors that may help you save money.

  • Quite a few online degree programs use Open Educational Resources instead of textbooks, allowing you to save money.
  • Transferring previously earned college credits may also help you save on tuition costs.
  • You may also be able to save on living and commuting costs by not having to pay residential fees by living at home.

As Maria Hanson, an online degree student puts it, “I did not have to sacrifice my responsibilities. There is no set time to be in class, no worrying about gas money, traffic or finding a parking space. I simply sit at my computer when I am able and ready and go to work.”

V.J. Sleight gives a great example of one of the biggest advantages of an online degree program, “I had just finished at a brick-and-mortar school and I found it very constrictive. For example, in one of the advanced classes, we had to do a group PowerPoint project — “because it would look good on our resume” — but at my age, I had already delivered PowerPoint presentations at national conferences.” She went on to further state why choosing an online degree program made better sense to her, “I didn’t want to spend countless hours on the freeway commuting, and, locally, the program options didn’t fit into my career path.” The 2018 Learning House survey of online students states that online degree programs offer many services that traditional on-campus facilities lack. In fact, 85 percent of online students surveyed had prior college credit they could transfer. Colleges that cater to adult learners often have prior learning evaluation procedures in place. A 2017 study of six online colleges commissioned by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission demonstrated that online learning institutions have rigorous prior learning assessment (PLA) measures in place and take into account both formal learning such as corporate training, American Council on Education (ACE) credits and college transcripts as well as informal learning from volunteering and work experience. One issue the study uncovered was that many colleges do not make their PLA measure clear on their websites so it can be a good idea to contact the college you are considering to find out what benefits you can avail of. This may help save on the number of modules you have to take, reduce the time taken toward your degree and also tuition costs. It is important to remember that most colleges only accept college credits from accredited colleges and programs. Bridge degree programs operate in a similar fashion allowing eligible students from a two-year college to earn a bachelor’s degree online using their credits from their associate degree.

Are online students eligible for scholarships, grants and other financial aid?

As with traditional students, online students are eligible for federal financial aid. Similarly, the financial aid you are eligible for can vary depending on whether you are enrolled in a full-time or part-time program. The opportunities for scholarships may also vary with some grant-making bodies providing scholarships to both online and traditional students. There are also various scholarships available that cater exclusively to eligible students of online degree programs. However, most financial aid and scholarship programs are only available for students enrolled in accredited online degree programs, so it is important that you check your school or program’s accreditation status before enrolling. According to the Learning House, scholarships offered by colleges and online degree programs have a strong draw for online students and even a relatively small amount could sway their decision to choose one school over another. Tuition reimbursement can also be an important benefit you may be able to use if you work full-time. As college finance may be complicated, especially if you are planning on taking a break while studying or in case of an emergency, it is important to speak to your college’s financial aid office to navigate through it. Any good college may have competent advisors who are happy to help.

Are online degrees accepted by employers?

It is perhaps best to get one thing clear right from the start — your degree is not the only criteria employers are looking at when they are thinking of hiring you. They may want to know how good a fit you are with their company and what you can bring to the table. Having said that, they typically also want to know where you received your education. As online degree programs have gained in popularity, employers too are becoming more comfortable with hiring students who have earned their degree online. As with any degree, employers may want to know if the program you attended was accredited. Regionally accredited degree programs generally have greater standing with employers. The school you attended can also play a big role. Again, as with traditional on-campus degree programs, a reputed institution may have a higher standing. An online degree can also demonstrate:

  • That you have excellent time-management skills
  • You can communicate and manage projects remotely
  • That you have the dedication to learn more and advance in your chosen field

Older students may feel that one of the biggest barriers they have to cross is learning to use the technology needed to study online. However, this is one area where you can set your mind at ease. One of the many advantages of online degree programs is that you don’t need to be a millennial or a computer whiz. A decent internet connection, a laptop that can support programs like Word, PowerPoint and Excel and the ability to use email and navigate the internet using a browser are pretty much the skills and tech you need. Most online colleges deliver their classes through Learning Management Systems that you access using your Internet browser. And if this still sounds a bit daunting, there is usually tech support on-hand to help you whenever you need it.

Can I still interact with my professors and classmates? How does it work?

As many online degree programs are asynchronous in nature, the question of how much interaction you may have with your professors and classmates may cross your mind. The 2018 Learning House survey found that 57 percent of current and past online students found that being able to interact with their peers was extremely important. Interactions can occur through group discussions, group assignments, email and skype. In fact, many online students that we have spoken to over the years have stated how pleasantly surprised they were about how responsive professors were to any questions and how fast they responded. As Linda Rich, who earned two online degrees, puts it “You actually forget that you’re not sitting there and talking to people. The discussion boards can get lively. It depends on the instructors.”

How do I get the practical experience I need for my degree?

Hands-on lab work can be an important part of your degree program, especially if you are studying subjects like biology or chemistry. Online degree programs tackle this through a number of different ways — from virtual labs to having kits delivered to your home. For experiments that require sophisticated equipment or the supervision of your professor, online colleges may either set up a schedule for you to attend laboratory courses on-campus at specific intervals or during short residencies. Online degree programs like nursing or teaching, which require extensive practical experience throughout, may allow you to obtain your experience at an approved center near your place of residence. It can be useful, in that sense, to enroll in an online college with a physical campus near you. In fact, over two thirds of online students live within a hundred miles of their college according to the 2018 Learning House survey of online students. You may also need to complete internships in order to earn your associate degree online or your bachelor’s. This can help you gain a sense of what working in your chosen field is actually like.

Do I need to purchase textbooks?

Whether you need to purchase textbooks can depend entirely on your program. Many schools offering online degree programs may provide you with a list of textbooks and reading material you may require before the start of any program. You may also have the option to rent your textbooks through your university. It can also be a good idea to get in touch with your professors to see if the edition of the textbook matters for your program as the price difference for these can be quite high. According to the Learning House Survey, Open Educational Resources (OERs) can lower your textbook costs significantly. Many online degree programs use these along with providing their students access to virtual libraries.

Short answer? Yes. Assignments still need to be turned in on time and you may need to sit for proctored examinations depending on your online degree program. Additionally, you may still have to complete group assignments where you collaborate with other students virtually to get them finished. While coordinating across different time-zones can be difficult, the fact that you managed to get a good grade on your group assignment can look great on your CV in today’s digital world. Contrary to what one might think, it can be difficult to cheat on online assignments as most universities have anti-plagiarism systems in place.

What kind of career support services do colleges offer online students?

The support systems colleges offer their online students may vary. Career services are a popular feature offered with over 75 percent of online students surveyed by the Learning House stating that their college offered these services. Some colleges allow alumni to continue to access these services long after they have graduated. As graphic design alumnus Cassandra Allen has experienced, “The school provided student job placement. I continue to have the opportunity to utilize the online job board.” Career services can also include resume building, interview workshops, job fairs, networking events and more. The Learning House reports that two thirds of the students who did not have access to career services stated that they wished their colleges offered them.


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