How to Choose an Online Degree Program

October 7, 2011 by  
Filed under About Online Degrees

How to Choose an Online Degree Program

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,1 a college degree holder earns an average of 0 more a week than someone who only has a high school diploma. However, due to financial constraints, familial responsibilities, and strict working hours, many people do not have the money, time, or ability to physically attend a traditional college. This is why online degrees are quickly gaining popularity—they work to provide the credentials, knowledge, and instruction usually required for better employment, and can simultaneously give you the freedom and flexibility to fulfill your non-academic responsibilities.

However, your college degree is only as valuable as the program you choose. Several factors must be taken into consideration before making a decision about which online degree program to attend. The following article discusses how to choose an online degree program.

•Accreditation

No matter how much time, effort, and money you invest in it, a degree from an unaccredited diploma mill is worthless in the eyes of prospective employers,and even as admission criteria for postgraduate degrees. Make sure that you do your research and keep your eyes open for tricks such as discrepancies in the spelling of a school’s accreditation, or dummy links to a so-called accreditation agency.

•Employment Services

You should check if your prospective college has job-seeking resources for current students and graduates. Strong alumni associations are also a great source of potential employment leads and references. Check the online degree program’s track record in this regard.

•Finances

One benefit of online degrees is that overall costs tend to be lower than for degrees offered by brick and mortar schools. So when you are looking at online degree programs, make sure you not only look at tuition but also calculate the fees and other miscellaneous costs associated with attending, and ascertain whether the sum total is affordable and worthwhile. However, do not panic when you look at these figures. See if the online degree program offers scholarships, financial aid, subsidized loans, etc. for those who qualify. Once you factor the possibility of financial aid in, your potential tuition may decrease significantly. Also keep in mind that studies show a good college degree can pay for itself in the long run.

•Choosing the Right Program

It’s important to make sure you decide upon the right online degree program for you. Look at current employment trends, think about what engages your interest, and strike the right balance between passion and practicality. It’s best to pursue a degree that may bring you not only the potential of professional success but simultaneously keep you intellectually engaged and fulfilled.

•Method of Instruction

Find out the details about the method of instruction an online degree program uses. How much interaction is there between students and professors, and what medium is used? Many online degree programs use video chats, forums, and other means to simulate a classroom environment. What technology is required to participate? Make sure you are comfortable with the technology required and have the means to participate. Also look at grading systems, assignment frequency,and other important details when choosing an online degree program.

•Flexibility

One of the main reasons people opt for online degrees is that they are flexible, which can allow you to fulfill your personal responsibilities, keep your job, and pursue other interests. But ensure that your online degree program will really give you the flexibility you seek. Some programs require that you attend on-campus classes a couple of times a week; ask if your shortlisted choices have any such stipulations, decide if they fit your criteria for an online education, and if not, look for other online programs.

•Program Duration

The sooner you complete your degree, the sooner you will be able to move on to start pursuing the professional future you desire. Many colleges allow you to complete online degrees in less than the normal completion time, so it may be beneficial to investigate those options.

An online degree can be just the leverage you need to help you shine brighter than other candidates in a job interview, qualify for the job that you’ve always wanted, or advance in your current career. However, make sure that you pick an online degree program that will allow you to gain the most knowledge and experience possible, and ensure thatit fits your personal and career goals perfectly.

1http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/wkyeng.pdf

Scott
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