Are Online Degrees Worth It?

You've decided to go back to school to earn a degree, but you're a full-time parent or professional. How to make the time? You can opt to do what millions of others are doing: earn your degree online! But is an online degree worth it? Let's explore and find out if this is a viable option.

Measuring the Worth of Online Degrees

If the career you've decided to pursue requires you to hold an undergraduate or graduate degree, in most cases you can choose to enter an online program. The good news? Much of the stigma that might once have been associated with online degrees has vanished, and many employers will accept such a degree. That alone could make an online degree worth it.

However, there might be cases where an online degree may not hold the same value as a degree obtained in the traditional manner. Accreditation, field of study, and even a school's reputation can play a role in making an online degree worth it.

Choose the Right School

In many cases, employers will recognize an online degree from an established and well-known school that offers both virtual and classroom learning, and they may place more weight on an online degree awarded from a nonprofit institution as opposed to a for-profit school. With about 90% of two- and four-year public colleges offering online studies, it's certainly not difficult to find a program at such an institution.

You should also make sure the school or at least the program you are entering is accredited. Schools that are not accredited might be a red flag to employers; obtaining your degree from such an institution may not make your online degree worth it. You should at least verify that your school is accredited by an organization recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Choose the Right Program

Business degrees are among the most popular online degrees available. Information technology, criminal justice, health administration and medicine are also among the degrees most chosen by online students.

However, it's important to make sure that you're getting the most of your learning experience to ensure that your online degree is worth it. For instance, studies in such areas as physical therapy, nursing and even technology often require hands-on learning.

In these cases, it's important to explore hybrid programs that allow you to receive both online and in-person training. If you're pursuing an online degree that is best completed with an in-person element and your program does not offer this option, it simply might not be worth it to get your degree in this format.

Consider the Potential Cost Savings in an Online Program

When discussing whether an online degree is worth it, one should consider the potential cost savings associated with online studies versus an on-campus program.

According to Champlain College, delivering an online program is typically less expensive for schools than traditional modes of learning because it allows them to eliminate building costs and classroom maintenance associated with delivering a course in person. Thus, online programs can cost less than on-campus ones. Plus, there are no room and board costs, transportation costs or parking costs for students, so they might see a savings when choosing online studies.

Fees are typically paid by both online and on-campus students; however, some of these fees might be applicable only to those students who actually attend campus. What can online students do? A 2016 article published by U.S. News & World Report explains that many campuses have implemented a waiver process by which online students might get a refund on fees that apply to such areas as athletic funding, on-campus health funding, student programming and student government.

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