Online Colleges and Schools
Most colleges have online courses or distance learning opportunities. Over 70% of 4-year colleges in the U.S. have undergraduate courses online, and almost 60% of these schools offer graduate-level distance education. Altogether, over 2000 public and private colleges offer online courses and over 1600 offer online degree programs.
If you're interested in online colleges, your best bet is to find accredited online colleges to ensure that you get a quality education. If you're worried about the cost of online education, rest assured, there are many popular affordable online colleges.
Online College Degree Levels
Online college degrees are available at the associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctorate level. Click a link to learn about top schools for each program level.
List of Degrees You Can Get Online
Online degrees are available in many industries, and online science, business, engineering, health, teaching, and law degrees are not uncommon.
Are Online Degrees Worth It?
Online degrees are worth it for students who need flexibility in their learning environment due to personal situations or career goals. If you have family obligations, a job, or other important personal commitments, an online degree may be the right choice for you.
Because of their continuous growth in popularity, online degree programs are much more accessible as programs have sprouted up significantly in popular degree areas such as computer science, nursing, and business. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education reported in 2018 that about 30% of all college students were enrolled in online courses. Employers have taken notice and view online degrees from accredited schools as valuable.
There are some important points to consider when determining whether an online degree is worth it for you:
- Flexibility offered by online degrees. Students taking an online degree may be able to study from locations of their choice or on their own schedules. This allows time for work, family, or other personal obligations.
- Potential cost savingsdue to lack of room and board fees and transportation costs. Tuition costs for online degrees vary, but the majority of online degrees cost the same or less than on-campus degrees.
- Variety of programs available. Schools now offer a wide range of online offerings, so you should check whether your degree program of choice is available online.
- School accreditation. Online degrees from accredited schools are taken seriously.
Online Degrees vs Traditional Degrees
There are several differences between online degrees and on-campus degrees, but the most obvious is that online degrees allow you the flexibility of learning at home or on your own schedule. This flexibility allows students to take time for family or work commitments that they have outside of school. It should be noted that for some programs, you may need participate in lab work, hands-on projects, scheduled participation, or take exams on campus.
Most colleges today (over 70%!) offer some form of online coursework. Due to the growing popularity, you can earn an online degree in almost any field that you can earn a traditional degree in. Some examples include an online business degree, nursing degree, or education degree.
Are Online Degrees Respected?
Employers are respecting online degrees more and more as the popularity of these programs continues to grow. Over 1600 colleges offer online degree programs, and this number continues to grow! A 2019 report by U.S. Department of Education found that even as college enrollment dropped, the number of students taking online courses rose by more than 5 percent.
Employers have reported that it's less important whether an applicant earned a degree online or through traditional education, but more so what an applicant's degree is in as long as it's from an accredited institution. This includes both bachelor's and master's degrees from online schools!
Which Online Colleges Are Accredited?
There are, in fact, over 2,000 accredited colleges offering online courses. When searching for online colleges, focus your attention on accredited online degree programs since accreditation proves that the school has met certain standards of quality .There are regionally and nationally accredited online schools; both forms of accreditation are trustworthy, though regional accreditation is typically more rigorous and, therefore, more prestigious. Transfer credits from a regionally accredited college are more widely accepted.
How to Get a Degree Online
Online degrees work very similarly to on-campus degrees in terms of degree requirements.
Select a schoolChoose a credible, accredited school that offers your chosen degree online
ApplySubmit your application and if applicable, the program you want to enroll in
Complete course requirementsTake all required courses for the online program, which are usually similar to the on-campus program
Earn your online degreeCongratulations, you've completed your degree!
Online bachelor's degree programs may include virtual classrooms to stream lectures and incorporate email, instant messaging, message boards, or video conferencing for communication and assignments. Online certificate programs work similarly, though certificate programs have fewer classes and take less time to complete.
How to Choose an Online College or University
There are many things to consider when you are deciding on your education. Some important factors to look for when choosing an online college include:
- Accreditation - Is the school regionally or nationally accredited?
- School quality - Is the school reputable or highly ranked? Will employers respect the school? Will transfer credits be widely accepted?
- Program diversity and availability - Does the school have the degree program you're interested in?
- Learning environment- What format and learning tools do the online courses and assignments use? Are the programs hybrid programs or fully online?
- Cost- Are the school's tuition, fees, and financial aid packages a fit for your budget?
- Student and career support - Does the school offer services that help their students, both academically and otherwise?
Accreditation - Is the school regionally or nationally accredited?
School quality - Is the school reputable or highly ranked? Will employers respect the school? Will other institutions accept credits from the school?
Program diversity and availability - Does the school have the program you are interested in?
Learning environment - What format and learning tools do the online courses and assignments use? Are the programs hybrid programs or fully online?
Cost - Are the school's tuition, fees, and financial aid packages a fit for your budget?
Student and career support - Does the school offer services that help their students, both academically and otherwise?
Select a school that adequately meets all your criteria and that you're confident will suit your needs. If you're not sure about what programs are the best fit for you, you might want to check out colleges that offer free courses online. Taking free online courses can help you determine your learning needs, and give you a sense of what you want out of an online college program.
How to Enroll in an Online College Degree Program
The enrollment process for online schools is similar to that of a traditional college. Steps to enrollment include:
Research. Decide on the degree program and find accredited online colleges from that offer your program of interest.
Apply for financial aid. Research aide, grants, and scholarships that you can take advantage of to better judge your overall degree cost.
Sit for standardized tests. Common required tests include the SAT, ACT, and the GED (if you did not yet earn your high school diploma). You should also sit for AP and CLEP exams that you are prepared for.
Gather application materials. Most schools will require you to provide your high school transcripts and proof of graduation, as well as recommendation letters and standardized test scores.
Apply. Complete the application process with the online school of your choice. You may need to answer questions related to your prior educational experiences and what you intend to study in college.
Enroll.Once accepted into a school and program, you'll need to choose classes to enroll in. An academic advisor can help you with these decisions.
If you're looking for something a bit simpler, some online schools also offer open enrollment, which only requires your high school diploma or GED. If you need help, you should be able to contact the school for help with enrollment, even if they don't have a formal admissions office.
Cost of an Online Degree
The cost of an online degree depends on several factors, including the degree level, the number of credits in the degree, whether the school is public or private, online course fees, and the student services offerings, just to name a few. That said, there are several affordable online degree options available that provide a quality online education at an affordable price.
Though some schools have similar or slightly lower tuition for online program credits, they might add fees for distance education. According to a report from WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, about 75% of schools have comparable tuition for online and on-campus courses, however, only 54% were comparable when added fees for online education were added in. That said, you might spend less overall due to housing and transportation saving. The flexibility of online degree programs may also make them a good choice, regardless of savings.
Consider your career goals as you evaluate whether you want to choose one of the cheaper online accredited college degree options.
Can You Get Financial Aid for an Online College?
Even if your tuition costs are within your budget, it's still in your best interest to check for available financial aid. Financial aid for online college courses may be available through the school's financial aid office. Additionally, you'll want to look for federally and privately funded scholarships, since you can get grant money from programs like FAFSA . Lastly, you should check if your school of interest offers work-study programs, alternate payment plans, or credit for previous education.
What Are the Best Online Degrees to Get?
You have many options when it comes to online certificate programs and online degree programs - the best online program for you will depend on your career goals, as well as your preferences with relation to academic rigor, program length, and cost.
What Are the Highest Paying Online Degrees?
If you're interested in getting an getting a high paying job with your online degree, you have a wide variety of degree types and career industries to choose from. Top paying online degrees exist in almost every job sector, so it's a matter of deciding which degrees suit your interests and goals. One popular online degree option that can open many doors in the business sector is an MBA, and several schools offer online MBA degrees.
Looking for additional lucrative career options with an online degree? Below, we've listed some high paying occupations, as identified by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and US News & World Report, and their related online degrees.
|High Paying Occupation||Related Online Degree||Median Annual Salary (2018)*|
|Registered Nurse||RN degree||$71,730|
|Computer Systems Analyst||Computer science degree||$88,740|
|Financial Advisor||Finance degree||$88,890|
|Electrical Engineer||Electrical engineering degree||$96,640|
|Marketing Manager||Marketing degree||$132,230|
If you're considering online education, you may want to read more about the best careers for an online degree.