Is an Online Degree Worth It?
While, personally, I have never liked the term “online degree,” it is commonly used to describe a college degree that is earned through online courses and programs rather than by attending on-campus classes.
The tendency to always qualify an education as “online,” however, may contribute to myths about the online format compared to a traditional, on-campus education. These myths often relate to how difficult the degrees are to complete, how they compare in terms of costs, and how they are received or respected by employers after graduation.
What can you expect as an online student? Will the experience be worth your time, effort, and resources? Below are my answers to a few of the most frequently asked questions.
Are Online Degrees Easier Than On-Campus Programs?
Probably not. Will the courses be more convenient to access? Absolutely. Will online education allow you to attend programs that weren’t available to you in the past? Almost certainly. But the normal stressors of earning a college degree apply equally to on-campus and online programs, and adding school deadlines to your work and family calendars means staying busy.
Online programs offer convenience and flexibility, but there is still a commitment of time each week you’ll need to devote to reviewing course materials, participating in class activities, completing required assignments, and preparing for exams. Below are a few tips for students who are worried about committing to an online degree.
Are Online Degrees More Affordable Than Studying On Campus?
Maybe, but you’ll need to do the math in advance to see if the programs you are considering will be affordable for you. According to students in our 2019 online trends survey, one of the hardest things to get a handle on when making a decision about an online program is the total cost.
That said, the flexibility of online programs may allow you to continue your existing work schedule as a college student, which provides sustained income that can make a big impact on your personal financial situation.
Researching and comparing costs across schools and programs can be a challenge, but below are a few points to consider.
Your actual costs will likely be different than other students enrolled in the same program. Your financial aid package and number of transfer credits make an impact, for example. Do the research for each program you are considering and work with admissions advisors to develop specific estimates for what an online program will cost you.
Are Online Degrees Respected or Taken Seriously?
Online schools and universities used to be the only way to pursue a degree online. However, many traditional institutions now offer online versions of their on-campus courses and programs.
In our annual trends survey, we asked school administrators about the demand for new online programs, and 99% said they see it increasing or staying the same over the next few years. When we asked school administrators about how they decide to offer new online programs, the majority reported taking “projected economic development and industry growth,” the “needs of local employers,” and “general hiring practice trends” in mind. These reasons are all related to employment in some way, and rely on acceptance of online education by those in hiring positions.
Can Online Degrees Get You a Job?
Will every online degree be accepted by every employer? No, but we can’t guarantee something like that for on-campus degrees either. The trends in employer partnerships, anticipated growth in the demand for online programs, and a need for online learning options in growing industries lean toward more acceptance of online education in general.
In addition, the online students participating our trends report survey overwhelming shared their satisfaction in multiple ways, including the following:
If you are thinking about pursuing a degree online, there is a lot to consider. You can make the most of the flexibility and convenience that online learning offers by being prepared. Research the options available and bust the myths related to the requirements, costs, and acceptance of online education. Setting realistic expectations for what the experience will be like as a student, as well as after graduation, will help you make forward progress toward your professional goals.