Online Degree Programs: Requirements and Options

Research online degree programs. Find out what you can learn in these programs and what you'll need in order to participate in online learning to determine if it's right for you. View article »

View 10 Popular Schools »

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

94% college-bound high school students
…said it was important to communicate with colleges during the search process. (Source: Noel-Levitz 2012 trend study)

Select a school or program

View More Schools
Show Me Schools
  • 0:00 Overview of Online…
  • 0:28 Admission Requirements
  • 1:01 Majors
  • 1:36 On-Campus Requirements
  • 2:31 Online Learning Environment

Find the perfect school

Video Transcript

Overview of Online Degree Programs

Admissions Similar to on-campus programs (application, tests scores, and GPA)
Degrees Offered Certificate, associate, bachelor's, master's and PhD (varies by institution)
Majors Most majors are available online including liberal arts, technology, sciences, math, education, business, social services, and law
Hardware Requirements Computer with up-to-date operating system and hardware
Skills Basic computer use including word processing, Internet, social media, chat rooms, email, and use of classroom management systems like Moodle or Blackboard; self-discipline to stay on track

Online degree prgrams are as varied as those available on-campus and range from associate degree through doctoral programs in a variety of majors and study areas. Online students face the same decisions as residential students, including which school to attend, what degree to pursue, and what major to choose. Some programs are available fully online or a hybrid format which require internships, residencies, or on-campus coursework.

Admission Requirements

Many requirements for an online degree program are the same as for an on-campus degree program. Colleges and universities accept students based upon their grade point averages (GPAs), ACT and SAT scores, and other criteria. In some cases, four-year universities or colleges offer online degree completion programs, which allow students with some transferable college credits to earn their bachelor's degrees. Graduate programs require students to have a bachelor's degree and possibly relevant professional experience.


Online degree programs typically include the same coursework as campus-based programs. Some of the fields in which you can earn an online degree include:

  • Arts and humanities
  • Business
  • Communication and journalism
  • Computer science and communication technologies
  • Education
  • Engineering and engineering technologies
  • Legal services
  • Math and science
  • Mechanic and repair technologies
  • Medical/health professions and psychology
  • Public safety and law enforcement
  • Social services and public administration

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

On-Campus Requirements

Some online degree programs require students to spend minimal amounts of time on campus. Although students communicate regularly with professors and classmates within virtual classrooms, on-campus time allows them to meet with professors, advisors, and classmates and to attend workshops in person. Other programs contain hybrid or blended courses. These classes present a signifcant amount of the content online and often use online discussions. The number of face-to-face classes is reduced, but is still a substantial part of the program.

Some programs may offer all courses online, but expect distance learners to complete an internship, practicum, or other on-site experience at an approved setting relevant to their field of study. Examples include clinical rotations at a hospital for a healthcare program, internships at corporations for business students, or student teaching sessions for those training to be educators.

Online Learning Environment

Instruction takes place through a combination of several methods, which may include:

  • Web conferences
  • Prerecorded lectures
  • Videos
  • Teleconferences
  • Message boards
  • Class chat rooms
  • Virtual simulations

Along with reliable Internet access, schools offering online programs expect students to have up-to-date computers and software in order to complete coursework. This becomes even more important in programs that require heavy usage of various programs and applications, such as graphic design or drafting programs.

Most colleges use Blackboard or another content management system as their medium for online classes. These typically have several versions, and unfortunately, no version is compatible with all operating systems or web browsers. Students must check with the college to find out which operating systems, browsers, and plug-ins will work with the chosen content management system.

There are computer hardware requirements beyond the operating system that must be met. These include:

  • A 1GHz or greater CPU processor
  • Hard drive capacity of at least 10 GB
  • Ram of 512 MB or larger
  • DVD-ROM drive
  • Sound card and speakers

Most students also need to have basic computer skills. These are necessary for participating in online classes and include:

  • Word processing skills
  • Creating, saving, copying and organizing files and folders
  • Opening PDF files
  • Using the Internet
  • Navigating and saving programs and applications
  • Using e-mail and chat rooms

If you're still interesting in pursuing an online degree program, you'll have to meet the same admissions requirements and make the same educational choices as on-campus students. You'll also need basic computer skills and computer hardware and software that's compatible with your school's content management system.

Next: View Schools

What is your highest level of education?

Some College
Complete your degree or find the graduate program that's right for you.
High School Diploma
Explore schools that offer bachelor and associate degrees.
Still in High School
Earn your diploma or GED. Plan your undergraduate education.

Schools you may like:

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

  • What is your highest level of education?

    • BA: Criminal Justice
    • BA: Criminal Justice - Criminalistics
    • BA: Liberal Studies
    • BA: Psychology
    • BA: Psychology - General
    • BS: Computer Science
    • AA: Criminal Justice
    • AA: Liberal Arts
    • AA: Business Administration
    • AA: Information Technology
    • AA: Cybersecurity

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Master of Science in Nursing - Doctor of Nursing Practice Path, Executive Leader Specialization
    • Doctor of Nursing Practice
    • Master of Science in Nursing - Doctor of Nursing Practice Path
    • MS in Psychology - Forensic Psychology
    • Master of Science in Legal Studies
    • MS in Psychology
    • MBA
    • Master of Public Health
    • MBA - Human Resources
    • BS in Liberal Studies
    • BS in Business Administration
    • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Investment Career Focus Area
    • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership
    • BS in Nutrition Science
    • BSFIN in Accelerated MS Finance
    • AAS in Business Administration - Business
    • AAS in Legal Support and Services
    • AAS in Business Administration
    • AAS in Business Administration - Food & Hotel Management
    • AAS in Business Admin-Office Management
    • AAS in Criminal Justice
    • Medical Office Administration Certificate
    • Human Services Certificates in Child and Family Services
    • Graduate Certificate in Addictions
    • Graduate Certificate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
    • Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certificate
    • Pathway to Paralegal Postbaccalaureate Certificate

    What is your highest level of education completed?

  • What is your highest level of education?

  • What is your highest level of education?

    • Master of Arts - Communication and Media Studies
    • Master of Education - Early Childhood Education
    • Master of Education - Middle Grades
    • Master of Science - Entrepreneurship
    • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership
    • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Communication Management
    • Bachelor of Science - Psychology
    • Bachelor in Business Adminstration
    • Bachelor in Business Adminstration - Accounting
    • Bachelor in Business Adminstration - Financial Economics
    • Bachelor in Business Adminstration - Human Resource Management
    • Bachelor in Business Adminstration - Marketing
    • Associate of Arts - Liberal Studies
    • Associate of Arts in Liberal Studies - Early Childhood Education
    • Education Specialist - Early Childhood Education
    • Education Specialist - Middle Grade Education
    • Education Specialist - Special Education
    • Post Graduate Certificate - Communication Management
    • Post Graduate Certificate - Finance
    • Post Graduate Certificate - Health Care Management

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • MA in Communication
    • Master of Liberal Arts
    • MA in Science Writing
    • MS in Applied Economics
    • MS in Geographic Information Systems
    • MS in Bioinformatics

    What is your highest level of education?

    • Master of Arts in Teaching
    • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
    • Adult Degree Program - Elementary Education
    • Adult Degree Program - Healthcare Administration
    • Adult Degree Program - Management and Organizational Leadership
    • Adult Degree Program - Project Management
    • Adult Degree Program - Social and Behavioral Studies

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Doctor of Education - Character Education
    • Doctor of Education - Curriculum & Instruction
    • Doctor of Education - Higher Education
    • Ph.D. in Communication
    • Ph.D. in Education - Character Education
    • Ph.D. in Education - Curriculum & Instruction
    • Master of Arts in Communication
    • Master of Arts in Communication - Political Communication
    • Master of Arts in Communication - Strategic Communication
    • Master of Arts in Government - Political Communication
    • Master of Arts in Journalism
    • Master of Arts in Law - Business
    • Bachelor of Applied Science in Criminal Justice
    • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies
    • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Journalism
    • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Rhetoric and Public Culture
    • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Strategic Communication
    • Bachelor of Arts in English - Communication
    • M.Ed. - Individualized Degree Program - Autism Certificate
    • M.Ed. in K-12 Special Education - Autism Certificate

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Doctor of Business Administration - Management
    • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
    • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
    • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Special Education
    • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Cognition and Instruction
    • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Industrial and Organizational Psychology
    • M.S. Psychology with an Emphasis in Gerontology
    • M.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Human Factors
    • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
    • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies
    • MS in Psychology: General Psychology
    • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
    • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
    • BS in Psychology
    • B.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Performance and Sports Psychology
    • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
    • BS in Early Childhood
    • BS in Elementary Education / Special Education (Dual Major)

    What is your highest level of education?

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?