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Best Online Schools for Working Adults

Working adults face many challenges when they go back to school. We offer tips and suggest ideas to think about as you are choosing the best online school for you.

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Challenges of School as a Working Adult, and How to Face Them

Adults face many challenges when they add school to a job. For example, you'll need to fit in study time, class time, and homework assignments around your work schedule. To solve this problem, look for a school that offers many different class time-slots. In asynchronous online classes, the material is posted online so you can work on it at your own pace. The professor's lectures will be recorded, and student discussions happen on a class forum.

Your friends and family might have trouble understanding why you have less time for them. You can explain to them why you want to go back to school and what your degree will help you accomplish. This can get them excited about your plan, and they can be your best cheerleaders. It could even be fun to involve them in your studying. You could make flash cards about the concepts in your textbook. Your friends and family could hold the flash cards and quiz you about your new knowledge.

It may have been a while since you took a class, and it can be hard to get back in the habit of effective studying. Many schools offer study centers or online study guides and success tips. When you're considering a college, ask about what's offered.

You might need to take classes in subjects you don't remember very well. Before you enroll officially, try doing some study on your own. You can read textbooks or library books, or you can use free online lessons in those subjects. This is a low-risk way to get some practice and renew your familiarity with the subject. Some free online lessons are provided by universities. Others are provided by non-college entities.

Worry about being unsuccessful might scare you away from trying at all. Some primarily-online colleges offer trial enrollment programs. With these, you can test out the learning environment and maybe even try real classes. After a few weeks, if you don't think the college is for you, you can stop with no obligation and no tuition cost.

You might worry about finding the academic discipline you want at a school near you. Online degrees solve this problem easily. If you can use a computer to access the Internet, a wide variety of programs open up to you, no matter where in the country you live.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Agriculture
  • Architecture
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • Business
  • Communications and Journalism
  • Computer Sciences
  • Culinary Arts and Personal Services
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Legal
  • Liberal Arts and Humanities
  • Mechanic and Repair Technologies
  • Medical and Health Professions
  • Physical Sciences
  • Psychology
  • Transportation and Distribution
  • Visual and Performing Arts

Online School Qualities Important to Working Adults

Accreditation

When you choose a college that holds legitimate accreditation, you improve the chances that employers and other organizations will respect your accomplishment. Accreditation means that an agency has reviewed the school's programs for vigor. Not all accreditation agencies are equal! The most reputable accreditation agencies are acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Education, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, or both.

Some academic disciplines also have targeted field-specific programmatic accreditation agencies. You'll want to find out whether your field has programmatic accreditation and whether your school holds it if so. Programmatic accreditation can be especially important if your profession requires licensure. A degree from a school without programmatic accreditation may not qualify you to practice in every state.

Career Services

You might be pursuing a degree in order to get a promotion with your current employer, but why take chances? Be prepared: find out what career services a school offers before you sign up. Some career services offices can help you brush up your resume and even provide job referrals.

Program Diversity

You don't want just any degree; you want one that will help you achieve your goals. Schools with a wide array of programs can help you meet your dream, whatever your field of study and whatever degree level you need. Some colleges may offer ways for you to work toward one degree while counting credits toward a higher degree too.

Learning Environment

You want to feel comfortable where you go to class. For an online school, that means feeling confident in the systems you'll use to access lectures, contribute to class discussion forums, and turn in assignments. Find out what the system is like before you enroll to make sure that you'll have the tech-savvy to be successful.

Support

When you enroll in an online school, you probably can't meet your classmates at a local coffee shop or visit your professor's office after class. You'll want to make sure that the faculty are supportive. Ideally, the school will facilitate a friendly online student community. Find out what kind of study help is offered. Class size is another important factor. A low student-faculty ratio enables the professor to give you the attention you deserve.

Flexibility

Busy schedule? Can't make a lecture at the same time every week? At many online schools, that's no problem. Discussion forums can stretch a class discussion over several days. Every insight is preserved for each student to read, whether you're kicking off the discussion at 5 a.m. or getting in the last word just before midnight.

Brand

When you say, 'I'm getting my degree at ...,' you don't want to hear your boss say, 'Where?' Find out what programs are well respected in your field. Trade journals, ranking lists, professional forums and even your own contacts can help you evaluate which online college will bring you closest to your goal.

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