Top Online Schools for Working and Going to School

Earning a degree is one of the best ways to improve your career prospects and earning potential, but it can be difficult to balance work responsibilities with your studies. Fortunately, today's online learning options give you lots of flexibility so that you can work and get a degree at the same time, without making sacrifices for either.

What to Look for as a Working Student

Here are our top things to look for when balancing work and school:

Online programs

This sounds like a no-brainer, but it deserves repeating because online classes give you the flexibility to learn on your own schedule. Most online classes use asynchronous learning, which means that there is no set meeting time or location. For example, professors might post lectures up as online videos that you can watch at a good time for you. Discussions usually take place over several days on a discussion board or chat forum.

Flexible technologies

Don't let being stuck at work stop you from accessing your classes. Many online schools have apps that allow you to access class from your phone or tablet, which means you can complete your coursework during lunch or while you're on break. You should also make sure that course material can be accessed from various computer operating systems so that you can log in to class from home, work, or anywhere else.

Flexible course schedules

Your work schedule might make it difficult to get coursework done during certain times a year, so you don't want to be tied to a school with a strict semester schedule. Choose schools that have flexible start dates for the courses so that you can take class when you have time and take a break when work is all-consuming.

Flexible support options

If you work during the day, you need the school support services to be available to you at off-hours. Many schools offer 24/7 tech support as well as academic and career services that are available outside of regular business hours. When picking a school, look into the support options to see what fits your schedule.

Schools aimed at working adults

Look for schools with experience educating working adults. These schools are more likely to have flexibility options that work for you. You'll also have the opportunity to connect with peers who understand the pressures of working and going to school and can enhance discussions with their own life and work experiences.

Top 3 Online Schools

The schools on our top three list have all of the attributes we mentioned above plus a few more features that make them a good choice for working adults.

1. Kaplan University

Kaplan University excels in flexibility. Its Kaplan Commitment program allows new students to try out classes for three weeks for no cost. Its learning environment uses advanced technology and flexible delivery methods that make classes easy to access, including allowing you to attend class from your phone or computer. Kaplan has impressive program diversity, with more than 170 degree and certificate programs as well as advance-start bachelor's degrees that can be completed by in as little as 2 years. In addition, students can access full support services, including technical support that is available by phone, email, or live chat.

2. Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University's online programs are offered asynchronously and have an interesting twist: students only take one class at a time. This system allows students to focus their attention on a single course, which is particularly useful for students juggling a full-time job with their studies. The university offers many degree programs in subject areas such as business and leadership, health care, nursing, performing arts and digital design, theology, and health sciences. GCU also stood out to us because it was recently ranked on the U.S. News & World Report's Best Online Bachelor's Programs list in 2013, as well as its Best Online Bachelor's Programs for Veterans list.

3. Herzing University

Herzing University programs are designed for working professionals and they offer a wide array of student support services. Their 50+ degree programs in subject areas such as information technology, business, healthcare, design, and public safety are designed to provide students with real-world skills. Online classes are offered asynchronously, which allows students the flexibility and convenience to complete coursework on their own schedule.

Disclosure: Some or all of the schools listed may be partners of

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