Are Online Degrees Worth Anything?

A few years ago, the idea that you could found a successful career based on an online degree was likely to be scoffed at. Online learning is now becoming more accepted. Indeed, many well-known offline campuses offer online courses that you can take for degree credit. Not too long ago, the Society for Human Resource Management took a poll of professionals, and found that online degrees are viewed more favorably than five years ago, and that a small majority of organizations accept online degrees as well as more traditional degrees when applicants had the same amount of experience.


Is an Online Degree Right for You?

With this in mind, it means that it might be worth it to boost your credentials using online education. You can enjoy more flexibility to study and complete your degree on your own schedule. Additionally, an online degree means that you aren’t limited by geography. It’s possible to get an MBA from a school like the University of North Carolina without stepping foot on the campus. Utah State University, located in my current state, offers online courses and broadcast courses designed to help students complete their education on their own terms.

As convenient as all of this sounds, though, you need to honestly evaluate whether or not an online degree program is really right for you.

3 Things to Consider

Look for an Accredited Program

The first hurdle is making sure that the program is properly accredited. There is a reason that a large number of employers are still skeptical of online degrees: There are degree mills and other institutions that offer sub-par educational training. Before you commit to a program, check with The Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs, offered by the Department of Education, to determine whether or not the online program has the right credentials. Have an understanding of the various types of accreditation, and where your potential school stands.

Consider the Cost

Next, you need to consider the cost of getting a degree. Some state universities offer courses for the same cost per credit as you would pay for in-state tuition. Others charge on the basis of out-of-state tuition. However, other universities charge more for online classes. Compare prices for different programs, and see what is most affordable for the quality of education you are getting.

For many properly accredited online programs, it is possible to qualify for federal student financial aid. You can also apply for scholarships and loans through the program or school. Because of the cost of online schools, many choose to take only one or two classes at a time, paying as they can.

Evaluate Your Ability to Perform Well On Your Own

Finally, you have to make sure that you are prepared to perform well on your own in school. You need to have self-discipline and self-motivation to succeed in an online program. Self-starters tend to do well with online learning, since they will accomplish the assignments on time, and take the tests as required. If you have a hard time with self-guided study, you might not thrive in an online program.

You should also consider other ramifications of online universities. In some careers, part of the success comes from the networking you do in classes. Think about your desired career, and whether or not networking will come in handy. For those who just want a degree to help them with a promotion or to rise to the next paygrade, though, an online degree might be just the thing.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

About the Author

By , on Apr 30, 2013
Miranda is a freelance writer and professional blogger, specializing in financial topics. She has written for a number of financial web sites, and her work has been linked to by many publications, online and off. Miranda's blog is Planting Money Seeds.

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  1. Kelly says:

    My mom got her masters a couple of years ago through the University of Phoenix online and it was definitely worth it. I remember her working really hard and feeling like she was doing everything that someone in a classroom would be doing. The University of Phoenix is definitely a name to trust when it comes to online courses.

  2. I know a ton of people who are taking online courses and although they get the job done, I feel like it could never take over the classroom and college experience. The whole point of going to class is to interact, discuss, and debate material to learn. When you are just learning from a computer screen, there is that lack of interaction and that dynamic is no longer there which completely changes the experience.

  3. I am graduating in May with two majors in the same degree but have been considering pursuing a second degree so that I can build a stronger resume. I need to get a job post graduation and I don’t necessarily want to go back to school, but I have been flirting with the idea of a night school or online courses. My biggest fear is getting scammed so this article was very helpful. I will definitely have to look at the list by the Department of Education.

  4. I’ve been wondering this for quite some time; thanks for your research. Accredition seems key.

  5. I think that third one is important. Haha, if I wasn’t in a real classroom I’d do exactly jack for the class and probably fail! Haha

  6. The way college fees are going on this side of the pond, I fully expect most degrees will be online within 10 years, just to keep the cost down. Then the students will lose a lot because the big advantage of actually going to university is not so much the instruction but the cultural capital you gain – meeting eminent professors as well as your own cohort.

  7. My boss just got her PhD online and it was a very rigorous program. I think it worked well for her. I went to a traditional graduate school program, and while it was a good experience, it would have been nice to earn a higher income during that time by working full time and taking classes at night.

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