Online degrees are on the rise. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, enrollment in distance education courses grew by 44 percent between 2006 and 2016.
Today, you no longer need to be an employee of a company or organization to obtain an online degree — those opportunities are available to just about anyone who is interested in continuing their education from home.
There are many benefits of online degrees, such as higher completion rates and lower cost than traditional on-campus programs. However, it’s important to understand all of the pros and cons before you begin an online degree program.
This guide will outline everything you need to know about online degrees, including what they are, which schools offer them and what you can expect from each one.
What is an online degree?
When you hear the term “online degree,” it’s important to understand that it does not refer to a specific degree level or field of study.
Rather, it’s a description of the method of delivery in other words, how you study for and complete your degree. For example, an online degree could refer to a fully online program, a hybrid program that combines online and in-person components, or even a self-directed online only program.
Most likely, you’ve heard of fully online programs sometimes called “100 percent online” or “fully online” programs where you complete your entire degree online without ever stepping foot on campus.
Fully online programs are ideal for learners who want to continue working full-time while earning their degree, are not able to travel to attend a campus-based program due to health reasons, or would otherwise struggle to find a campus-based program that fits their schedule.
Types of online degrees
As we mentioned above, online degrees are not a type of degree but a delivery method. Because of this, there is no such thing as an “online degree.” Instead, you’d need to say that you’re studying for a “degree delivered by an online method.” The degree type that would likely apply to an online program is either an Associate’s Degree or a Bachelor’s Degree.
You would have the same range of degree types available to you in an online program as you would in a campus-based program. Associate’s Degree: An associate’s degree is generally a pathway to a career or job. Associate’s degrees can be in almost anything, from accounting to computer science, nursing to psychology, or any other field you can imagine.
Bachelor’s Degree: A bachelor’s degree can be a pathway to both careers and graduate school. For example, a bachelor’s in psychology could be a pathway to a career as a therapist, while a bachelor’s in computer science could be a pathway to a career as a software engineer.
How to find the right online degrees program
You’ll need to keep in mind that, as an online student, you will likely have a different experience than a student on campus. This means that you’ll need to find the right program for you and not simply the “easiest” or cheapest program. To find the right online program, follow these steps:
-Make a list of your degree requirements. Make sure to include both your general education requirements and your major-specific requirements. This list will help you narrow down your program choices, saving you time and energy.
– Find online programs that meet your requirements. You can do this by searching online degree databases, such as the National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator, or by reaching out to the admissions teams at the colleges that offer the degree programs you’re interested in.
-Narrow down your options. You can narrow down your list of potential programs by several factors, including program costs, program length, and program reputation and ranking.
Online learning benefits
There are some benefits to earning an online degree, including convenience. In general, online degree programs allow you to study from wherever you are, which means that you can work around your schedule and fit your studies into your daily routine.
-Cost: Online degree programs are often less expensive than campus-based degree programs, especially when you factor in the cost of commuting, parking passes, books, and other expenses that come with attending a traditional program.
-Accessibility: Many online degree programs are open to students of all backgrounds and experience levels. This means that you’ll be able to earn a degree even if you’re new to higher education or didn’t do well in high school.
-Ease of transferability: If you’re interested in transferring between institutions, it’s often easier to transfer credits earned online than those earned on campus. This is because most online programs are fully accredited and often use standardized coursework.
Potential drawbacks of online degrees
Like any degree, online degrees come with their own set of challenges and drawbacks, including: privacy and security. When you’re studying online, you’re taking your education into your own hands and leaving the responsibility of maintaining your privacy and security to you.
This can be a challenge for some students, especially those who are more privacy-conscious. -Loneliness: Because you’ll be taking on the academic responsibility entirely on your own, you may also feel a sense of loneliness as you progress through your degree. There is no one to turn to daily with questions or concerns, and it can feel as though you’re progressing without any support.
How to pay for an online degree
The cost of an online degree varies depending on your program. That said, it’s important to remember that some online programs offer financial aid, like scholarships and grants, just like campus-based programs do. To pay for an online degree, follow these steps:
-Figure out how much your degree will cost. You can do this by visiting the websites of the colleges that offer the program you’re interested in, or by using a program like Credible. Credible can help you estimate the cost of any degree, as well as the potential return on investment.
-Research financial aid options. You can do this by reaching out to the admission team at the college you’re interested in, or by searching for scholarships and grants that are appropriate for individuals studying online. -Consider work-study programs. If you’re eligible for work-study programs, you can use this money to pay for your degree, reducing the amount of debt you’ll take on.
Online degrees are a convenient and flexible way to advance your career and earn a degree, often at a lower cost than campus-based programs.
When you’re researching online degree programs, be sure to consider the program’s reputation and ranking, as well as the cost of the program, and make sure that the programs you’re interested in meet your requirements.
If you’re a working adult who can’t attend a campus-based program, an online degree might be the right choice for you.