We get it. Life is hectic, you work full time, you have a family and/or other responsibilities that need your time and attention. However, you know that you want to further your career or open up more opportunities so you want to go back to school. However, you just don’t have a schedule that quite fits the classroom availability of attending college. You turn to online classes but you wonder: Is an online degree actually legit? Or is this just some ploy to get your money and waste your time?
Luckily for you, there are numerous options when it comes to an online education. There are options for price free learning where universities teamed up with MIT’s OpenCourseWare to provide knowledge for anyone who wants to learn. However if you want to take credit earning classes towards a degree then there will be fees with that.
- You will be working either full-time or part-time while attending school. The beauty of online classes is that you plan school work around your schedule. Obviously there are deadlines and exams that have due dates but studying and assignments can be done at the leisure of your schedule.
- You have limited accessibility to the college, or if you want a program that is not offered by schools around you, or if you live in a remote area where any school is a bit too far. As long as you have wifi or data you can obtain your degree without leaving the comfort of your home.
- You feel confident in your ability to manage your time wisely, while having enough self-motivation to actually do the coursework and reach out to a professor for help when needed!
- The degree you want to pursue doesn’t require hands-on training. Any field that requires you to physically be doing something with equipment or environments that your normally don’t have access to, won’t be eligible for completion online!
Which types of degree programs can you finish online?
Due to online schooling becoming more and more commonplace, you will be able to find online coursework options whether at a two-year college, or a public four year-college.
There are two types of schools that offer online degrees. Some schools are online only like the University of Phoenix. The second type that offers online degrees are colleges with a physical campus that also includes online education in their curriculum.
Is Your Online Degree Program Legitimate?
In order to spot an illegitimate online program then you need to understand what to look out for. An actual trustworthy program is not a place where you:
Earn a degree in less time than normal. If a college is offering a bachelor’s degree in six months time then you know something is off.
Pay your tuition on a per-degree basis. Schools that are trustworthy will either charge by credit hours, semesters, or courses.
Can use a discount if you enroll for multiple degree programs. That shows you that the college is just a “degree mill” where they want to pop out as many degrees as possible.
It lists “reputable” credentials but none of what they promote match what the U.S. Department of Education recognizes.
See that the name of the university is VERY similar to an official university (Ex: DeVry University versus DeUry University)
See that the physical location of the university is a post office mailbox or a suite number.
One of the most important aspects of a legitimate online program is the fact that it is accredited.
Accreditation means that the school has met the standards of an outside agency whether it be the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Each school’s respective accreditation information will be highlighted either on its website or a brochure. You also have the option to search for specific schools on the U.S. Department of Education’s website to see if they are legit!
There are different kinds of accreditation but the three most common are: programmatic, regional, and national.
If an institute has national accreditation that means it was approved by a national agency. This accreditation is easier to obtain opposed to regional requirements. These colleges also tend to be less expensive than other colleges. National accreditation agencies consist of:
- Distance Education and Training Council, Accrediting Commission
- Council on Occupational Education
- Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
- The Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training
- Accrediting Council for Independent Schools and Colleges
If an institute has regional accreditation that means it was approved by a regional or local agency. This accreditation is significantly more difficult to obtain opposed to a national accreditation. This is the best type of accreditation to look for in schools if you will be transferring a lot. Regional accreditation agencies consist of:
- New York, Mid-Atlantic, and Puerto Rico: Middle States Commission on Higher Education and Middle States Commission on Secondary Schools
- NY State only: New York State Board of Regents and the Commissioner of Education
- New England: New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
- Midwest/Southwest: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission
- Northwest: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- South: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
- California, Hawaii, and U.S. territories: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges or Senior Colleges and University Commissions
- Christian/religious schools in the U.S.: Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, Accreditation Commission.
Finally, programmatic or specialized accreditation only applies to programs that are specifically pre-professional like law, business, physical therapy, or health care. CHEA has a list that notes all of the programmatic accrediting agencies for different fields of study,
When your degree comes from an accredited school, it means that your degree will be recognized and respected regardless of the professional or academic setting. It is imperative that whatever school you sign up for has accreditation!
A majority of online programs are connected to a physical school campus. When deciding between schools that offer programs (whether exclusively online only or a public 4 year), then you need to opt for the school that would be best for you. It is important to keep in mind that schools linked to a residential campus often have more access to federal financial aid. They also are taken more seriously in the eyes of employers.
How much does an online degree cost?
While many people believe that online school is cheaper than normal in physical school, it is a myth. There are ways to save money with online schooling though!
When you take online classes you don’t have to pay for on-campus room and board charges, as well as any expenses that are associated with commuting to and from the school, and all while having the ability to work full time as opposed to other students.
However, when you break down the math and compare the costs of an online degree programs opposed to a similar program that is offered through a residential school, the costs are pretty similar. Prices per course or credit hour usually tend to be about the same price.
However, depending on the type of program you pursue, you may have the option to be able to save money on tuition depending on the state that you live in. Some schools offer discounts for in-state students taking online classes while others opt to give discounts to out of state students taking online classes. On the bright side, you will almost always spend less at a public university as opposed to a private one.
Online Degree Programs Have Fees Like Normal Schooling!
Instead of room and board fees you will most likely have technology fees. These are meant to cover equipment and maintenance costs that the college has. The amount varies school to school but expect to pay a minimum of $20 at least per credit hour.
You also have application fees for just enrolling which usually stay in the range between $20 and $50, and you may even have a type of registration fee which some schools charge between $100 to $500 for!
How Long Does It take To Get An Online Degree?
The amount of time you spend towards your degree, depends primarily on your major. However, if you want to try to have a better understand about time requirements then there are some generalizations that you can follow. Most undergraduate classes take about an hour per credit per week. If it’s a three credit course then expect three hours per week. That’s just for actual work but when you account for time spent studying, preparing for class, and homework then tack on another 5 hours.
If the time amount is too daunting then you can opt to take fewer classes at a time. Even though it will take longer to graduate you will have a more manageable schedule!
Will an Online Resume Discourage Employers?
We are in the technological revolution so as technology becomes more and more integrated into our lives, employers are more open to online degrees at every level of study!
The institution you received your online degree from, as well as the degree itself are more important factors that employers look at opposed to the fact the degree is online. However, if you are entering a field that requires a lot of hands-on requirements, you may need ti show that you have that experience outside of schooling!
If the online degree is coming from a reputable institution and doesn’t require a lot of hands on training to obtain the degree, then an online degree may be the best option for you! Especially if you need schooling around your schedule!