We all know that online degrees have grown in popularity in recent years. The number of students who are pursuing online degree programs is expected to grow again—to 5 million by 2020. With these sort of numbers, it is safe to say that online degree programs have become mainstream.
An online college degree may offer students many things that an on campus education can't such as convenience, flexibility, and speed. Schools even offer super flexible self-paced programs where you get to drive your own schedule in a way that is most suitable to you.
Even better, with advancements in technology it may not be necessary to own a computer to earn an online degree. Many students use both phone and tablets instead of a computer.
Aslanian Market Research took a deep dive into what is driving these huge increases. Their study showed that the primary force for pursing online degrees is career aspirations. Do any of these factors describe you?
Primary Motivation for Pursuing Online Degrees
|I wanted a career in a new field
|The satisfaction of completing my undergraduate/ graduate education
|I was unemployed/underemployed and needed more education to get a new job
|It was a requirement by my employer/profession
|I was seeking a promotion/new position in my field
|I was re-entering the job market and needed more education
|I had just finished high school/GED
|Other personal reasons
Types of Degrees You Can Get Online
There are 4 basic types of degrees you can earn online. Each type of degree is a different fit for the particular online education you are looking for. Undergraduate degrees (associates and bachelors) are meant for first time degree seekers. Choice between the two may come down to subjects offered and length of degree.
- An associate’s degree may generally require approximately 60 credit hours of coursework that students earn through two years of full-time study. Students may pursue associate’s degrees to prepare to pursue specific career paths or to earn general education credits.
Some students transfer their associate’s degree credits to four-year bachelor’s degree programs. Credit hours vary from program to program, so please talk to the schools you are interested in regarding their credit requirements and credit transfer policies.
- A bachelor’s degree may generally require 120 credit hours of coursework that full-time students usually complete within four years. Be sure to look into 4+1 programs if you want a fast track to earning a bachelors AND a masters degree too.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate edged down to 6.0 percent in March 2021. The rate is down considerably from its recent high in April 2020 but is 2.5 percentage points higher than before the pandemic in February 2020. For those with a bachelor’s degree and higher, the unemployment rate was 3.7 percent in March, down from a high of 8.4 percent in April 2020.
- A master’s degree may generally be earned through two years of full-time study. Online degrees at the master’s level engage students in an in-depth and rigorous study of a subject typically connected to the student’s profession or undergraduate coursework. Master's degree subjects can vary greatly, from sports management to economics!
- Tacked onto a master’s degree, a PhD is usually the highest degree one can earn in an academic discipline. Online degrees at the PhD level are intended to help students master their subjects and, potentially, pursue careers as educators, researchers, or writers in their fields of interest.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers who earned an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $887 and $1,248 per week respectively, and workers with a high school education earned $746 per week in 2019.
Students enrolled in online degree programs—whether to earn an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree—often major in business, health and medicine, computers and information technology, or social science and criminal justice. Nearly 80 percent of students earning their online degrees transfer in credits from other institutions.vi
6 Reasons to Consider Earning an Online Degree
1. Convenience of Taking a Degree Online
Before you dive into your search for different online degrees, you might still be wondering about the benefits of online education. Why should you pursue an online degree? What's the advantage? And what's all the fuss? It's hard to separate fact from fiction when it comes to online college degrees — especially since so much of the published information comes from schools and students, who are usually biased. When all is said and done, the only substantive difference between a campus education and an online education is the building.
Even online education critics seem to share the idea that the Internet makes it possible unite students and instructors without long commutes or fixed class schedules. Working professionals can study at night. Stay-at-home parents can study during kids' naptime. Military members can study from any new post to which they are assigned. None of these people are lazy or prone to cutting corners. On the contrary, they are busy, ambitious learners, who simply need a better college design.
And because they are all good candidates for employment, employers are increasingly happy to accept their online credentials.
2. Remote Access for Rural Students
Thousands of students simply do not have access to a local college. The closest college may have an associated cost of commuting, which can be prohibitive. In the state of Wyoming, which covers 97,818 square miles, only 4 bachelors degree granting colleges exist.
In Nebraska, one high school district is the size of the entire state of Connecticut! Rather than accept college as an impossibility, residents of these far-flung communities can connect to the internet and earn their online degrees.
Online degree programs quite literally put the classroom at your fingertips.
3. Access for Students with Disabilities
Most traditional college classrooms aren't designed to accommodate students with disabilities. Online classes, by contrast, can be engineered to support students with intellectual and physical disabilities as well people who are deaf/hard-of-hearing and blind/low vision. Likewise, gifted instructors who lose the ability to teach in a traditional classroom can continue their careers, thanks to online functionality. 4.
4. Finish Previously Started Education
One-third of online college students (32%) have dropped out of a college-level degree or certificate program in the past. One of the top reasons cited is family. Pursing an online college degree program may offer needed flexibility to balance family, work and education. 5.
5. Online Degrees Are Environmentally Friendly
For every 2,500 miles you drive, you release one ton of carbon dioxide into the earth's atmosphere.[i] That's you, alone. If you lived 10 miles away from a college, and commuted 3 or 4 times every week, you'd create nearly 3 tons of greenhouse gases during the course of a 4-year degree. Along with 20 classmates, you'd be producing 60 tons! 6.
6. On Pace with the Future of Education
In 2006, the state of Michigan passed a law that all students must complete an online learning experience or an online class in order to graduate from high school. And the federal government plans to invest more money in online charter schools, for K-12 students across the country.
So it's apparent that tomorrow's students will be seeing more e-learning technology. And clearly, education authorities are recognizing the value and future of online degrees.
Soon, more and more colleges will develop online degree programs to help stretch their budgets and expand their enrollments. Already, major names in traditional education — like MIT, Harvard, Stanford, and Yale — are offering online podcasts of course lectures. It may one day be possible for students to choose specific courses from multiple schools, all across the globe, and build their own personalized degrees.
Until then, more than 4.6 million college students are already taking at least one course online.[ii] That adds up to 1 in 4 college students.
What Are Some Fast Online Degrees?
Fast is a relative term that is going to be custom to your situation. Thus, it is more important to look at the components of what makes a 'fast degree'. Many factors to finding fast online degrees are discussed below. Note: Online Schools mentioned as examples below are sponsored schools we work with.
- Frequent start dates. As an example, depending on which track you begin, Kaplan University has a start date every month.
- Short course duration. As an example, Ashford University offers students course durations of 5 to 6 weeks.
- Programs that accept transfer credits. Some online degree programs allow students to transfer more credits than others. Southern New Hampshire University and Ashford University both allow students to transfer up to 90 credits toward an undergraduate degree. Students who are able to take full advantage of this, could earn a bachelors degree in as little as 9 months.
- Programs that accept life experience for credit. Liberty University offers many opportunities for students to earn credits through professional certifications, workforce training and DSST exams.
- Competency-based programs. Schools like Western Governors University offer students the ability to demonstrate competencies by completing assessments. An assessment may be a traditional test, a project, an essay, or another practical demonstration of a required skill. The faster you can complete your assessments, the faster you’ll graduate. The average time to earn a bachelors degree at WGU is less than 3 years.
- Accelerated Degree Programs. These types of degrees require students to dedicate more time in a shorter window to graduate sooner. Northcentral University offers an accelerated MBA that allows students to graduate in as little as 12 months. Grand Canyon University offers a 3+1 program where students continue to take classes through the summer to earn their bachelor degree in 3 years. The 4th year is then used to earn a masters degree.
The more of these factors you are able to take advantage of, the faster you may be able to complete your online degree program. For example, Regis University combines short course terms (5 or 8 weeks), along with multiple start dates per year (6) and accept up to 90 transfer credits.
Why Is it Important to Pursue Accredited Online Degree Programs?
There are three main reasons you will want to make sure you research accredited online degree programs
- Funding. Degree programs that are not accredited are not eligible for federal funding. For example, this would be your Pell Grant, the Federal Perkins Loan, and Stafford Loans.
- Quality of education. Programs that are not accredited are not measured by a accrediting agencies to ensure they are providing a quality education to students.
- Transfer credits. If you start attend a non accredited online degree program and then seek to transfer to an accredited program, your credits will not transfer. The online degree programs on eLeanrers are accredited!
What Is Rolling Admission?
Rolling admission is a practice that some colleges adhere to. They allow students to submit applications over an extended period and usually notify the student about acceptance within a few weeks of applying. Online degree programs with rolling admissions AND multiple “start dates” throughout the year may be particularly attractive to students looking to earn an online degree.
Some may have start dates every week while others might have one per quarter. If you enroll and are accepted into a program today, it may be as soon as a couple weeks or as long as a couple months till you start classes.
If I Earn an Online Degree Will My Diploma Say "Online"
It’s highly unlikely, but check with your school to make sure. And an employer will only know that you completed your degree completely or partially online if you tell them. Many schools award online students the same diploma as their residential students, or students who earn their degrees on-campus.
Online education has become so widespread that even many Ivy League universities are offering online learning options for their students. Today’s students are often balancing work, school, and family responsibilities and don’t necessarily have the time to enroll in a traditional, on-campus experience. Earning your online degree doesn't’t mean you worked any less than those who earned their degree on campus—it just means that an online degree program was a great fit for you.
Am I Really Alone When I Study Online?
Definitely not! While you may be completing your courses online, you may still have interaction with other students and definitely with professors. You may participate in group work via email, and professors can facilitate class discussion by way of online forums.
Webcam technology may also allow a professor to conduct one-to-many presentations where she teaches a live lesson and answer questions in real time. You may even be able to webcam-chat with your professor and other students to discuss certain topics in more depth.
[i] Aslanian Market Research 2016 Online College Students [ii] ed.gov/about/offices/list/ous/international/usnei/us/edlite-structure-us.html [iii] bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm [iv]bls.gov/opub/ted/2015/median-weekly-earnings-by-education-gender-race-and-ethnicity-in-2014.htm [v] Aslanian Market Research 2016 Online College Students [vi] Aslanian Market Research 2016 Online College Students