Choosing to further your education is the first step to higher achievement in your life. Online degrees are increasing in popularity with adults as an alternative to brick-and-mortar high schools and colleges. E-learning fits their fast-paced lifestyles, allowing them to balance work and family life. An online degree offers flexibility and freedom to study when and where it's easy for you, at home, at work or while watching your child's hockey game or dance class. Distance learning enables you to achieve your degree at your own pace, fast or slow, without sacrificing your job or family.
Furthering your education is the gateway to living the life you always dreamed about. As your education increases, so does your salary and the opportunities afforded to you. The US Census Bureau 2004 population survey shows that high school graduates earn almost $10,000 more than their no diploma counterparts. Advance to a bachelor's degree? Add another $22,000. Go for the advanced degree in graduate school? Add $27,000 more. All told, getting more education puts big bucks in your pocket and opens more doors in your life now and in the future!
In the past, the educational pathways to continuing your education were limited by your ability to study at a traditional school during the daytime hours. Classes at night were minimal and often not in the areas of study you needed. If you wanted to complete your high school diploma while working at a rewarding job, or go back to finish the bachelor's degree you started a decade ago, your choices of programs and coursework were pretty narrow and limited to the geographic area you lived in.
Not so today. Online degrees have opened up a world of opportunity and advancement potential that was not possible just 2 decades ago. From online elementary schools to online grad schools, the advent of the digital and electronic age means that education at a top notch school can be attained across town, across the nation or across the world. Working full-time, raising a family, and attending school are possible and affordable with online degrees. Tuition for a bachelor's degree at a traditional school can range from $5,491 annually at a public college to $21,235 at a private non-profit college, while the cost at the number one online degree-granting institution-the University of Phoenix-averages just $14,820.
Traditional Degrees versus Online Degrees
What factors affect acceptance of online degrees in place of traditional college degrees?
- The institution - legitimacy and credibility of the school impact the degrees acceptance in the workplace. The higher the quality of the institution, the higher the online degrees perceived validity.
- The level - Associate's and Graduate degrees were found to be more acceptable than bachelor's degrees
- Program of Study - Knowledge based majors such as marketing, accounting or information technology have a higher acceptance level
- Industry - Fields most connected/wired to the internet have the highest value, whereas law and medicine value online degrees the least
- Individual Hiring Manager - Personal preferences greatly impact the perceived validity of the degree, but this factor is limited by the increasing growth in the e-learning degree industry
- Employee Overall Resume - Accomplished employees with industry experience related to the degree, who return to school are seen as self-motivated and have the highest level of degree acceptance
What are the Pros and Cons of Online Degrees?
There are many distinct differences between online education and traditional learning. For certain students, distance learning is a fitting option; for others, a campus-based school program is much more beneficial. By comparing the advantages and disadvantages of online learning you can decide if an online or campus program would be more helpful in achieving your goals.
- Flexible scheduling eliminates the need to attend a certain number of days at particular times each week.
- Ability to study programs not offered locally or at colleges not in commuting distance
- Average cost is lower than at many traditional private institutions
- Students don't have to worry about missed time due illness or work travel
- Scheduling conflicts which extend graduation dates at traditional schools can be avoided
- Many program offer shorter and year round semesters to speed up the degree process
- Studying online will develop familiarity with up-to-date technology and programs used by many employers
- Real world coursework targets the degree program only and eliminates extraneous general education classwork
- Physically disabled students can study in the comfort of their own homes
- Students can study at their own pace and have the course-work on hand, to reinforce or review difficult areas as needed
- Limited face to face interaction with fellow students and professors
- Verifying e-learning accreditation and mainstream acceptance by employers can be time consuming
- Ease of online cheating may downgrade perceived difficulty
- Lack of personal follow-up from professors may cause students to veer off-track who lack self-discipline
- Personal organizational abilities may hamper the learning process
Employers respect online degrees because e-learning provides similar levels of education and training as traditional campus based universities and colleges. It is important to check accreditation before beginning any online program. While the majority of online schools are valid and offer a high degree of return for the cost, some schools are merely diploma mills granting pieces of paper that would not stand up to most employer's background checks.
Verify that your online school is accredited by the United States Department of Education (USDE) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). They each maintain lists of legitimate accreditors.
Determining Your On-Line Education Program
- Start your education process by determining why you want an education and what your final goal is:
- Do you need more education to be eligible for a promotion in your present career?
- Are you looking to move in more personally fulfilling direction with a change in career?
- Do you desire to sharpen your skills and freshen up your resume to keep abreast of the competition?
- Do you want to finish a degree you started years ago?
The answers to these questions will help you determine if you need to learn only one new skill to get ahead, such as Java script, get a certificate to apply for a new job, like a human resource benefits specialist, or get a full degree to move in an entirely new direction.
- What type of program best suits your needs?
- 2 or 4 year program or graduate degree?
- Online only classes?
- Traditional in-person coursework for difficult subjects?
- Blended programs that use on-site residencies for some credits?
- Learning based on your schedule (asynchronous) or on-line simultaneously with the professor (synchronous)?
- Combined programs where you attend on-line and one night per week?
- Determine your academic program and search schools. Most online programs can guide you through the process with online help.
Many students assume online degrees will mean zero classroom learning time, but more and more distance learning programs are requiring "blended" e-learning classes with face to face professor contact requirements. Additionally, programs may give students "life learning" credits for work experience. They may also give transfer credit for previous school attendance. Students may also desire to learn face to face at a local university for subject matters they find personally difficult. The amount of credits that can be obtained outside the e-learning school should be discussed and factored into the student's programs.
The following accrediting associations are recognized by the USDE and CHEA and accredit entire institutions (as opposed to individual programs) in the United States:
- Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges (MSA), Commission on Higher Education
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (NEASC-CIHE)
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Technical and Career Institutions (NEASC-CTCI)
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission (NCA-HLC)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), Commission on Colleges
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (WASC-ACCJC)