Earning a degree opens up many opportunities for an individual. In fact, some career fields practically demand that you have some form of certification before you even acquire an entry-level position. However, traditional education comes with a number of barriers that keep many people, especially working adults, from continuing their education while still maintaining their current standard of life.
Juggling a full-time job and other responsibilities while also attending classes regularly throughout the week isn’t manageable for countless people, which is why online degrees serve as an alternative.
Online education acts as an alternative to a traditional degree and while it is still relatively new compared to traditional education, the benefits are numerous and they give people the opportunity to pursue new career paths while still maintaining their way of life.
Below is a guide covering everything about online degrees—the best ones to pursue and the reasons to consider getting one if you are serious about making a career transition.
What Are Online Degrees?
Online degrees are a flexible option for students that don’t have the means to regularly attend class. Usually taken advantage of by working adults, online programs give individuals the ability to schedule their classwork around them, instead of being made to attend class regularly. While somewhat new, the online degree field is continuously growing and becoming widely accepted in various career fields.
Today, private online schools, four-year universities, and community colleges all offer distance learning degrees for students. Before signing up for these programs, students should take time to study what the requirements are, the scheduling options, and evaluate their learning style.
Discovering the format of your distance learning program is important before you choose to sign up. Schools have various approaches to their programs and finding the right one for you is what increases your chances to succeed. There are several hybrid programs that schools allow, which give you a mixture of online and campus classes. Hybrid courses are typically for majors that require hands-on training.
If you are pursuing a career in fields that require less hands-on training, such as one in technology or new media, then you have the option of taking fully online courses. These courses can be taken from your computer entirely, without the need to ever go to campus.
Scheduling is another important thing to keep in mind when it comes to online degrees. Schools have varying degrees of scheduling. Some online programs are similar to traditional courses, where you have to complete tests and assignments by certain times throughout the semester.
There are other schools that have a more self-paced program where you are allowed to take as long as you need to complete the course load. Most classes have a program that falls somewhere in between, which typically involves students completing all of their coursework by the end of the semester.
Finally, before enrolling in an online program, prospective students should ensure that their learning style is right for the course. Students must have enough self-motivation to complete projects and assignments, without in-person assistance or the ability to reach their instructors as easily as they may be able to through traditional education.
Prospective students must also have a basic understanding of computers and applications. They should meet the technical requirements needed to complete and take courses. Depending on the online program, you may have to download or use various software, as well as have a strong internet connection.
If you have all of the resources and the motivation to pursue a new opportunity, then an online degree may be right for you and could be your path to this new career.
Are Online Degrees Credible?
A common fear associated with online degrees is if they have the same level of respect and credibility compared to traditional ones. The idea of showing up to a job interview and having an employer tell you your degree is meaningless, after spending lots of time and money pursuing one, is something no one wants to experience.
Luckily, online degrees are respected by most employers, especially for less hands-on majors. You don’t necessarily need to go to campus to learn about programming, web development, or databases, and your employer knows that. That is why they will accept your degree, no matter how you obtained it.
In most situations, the means in which you acquired your degree won’t even be mentioned, unless you volunteered the information yourself. There is no distinction between a traditional and digital degree and one isn’t valued over the other.
The common pitfall that many prospective students come across is the institution from which they receive their degree. There are many schools that offer online learning programs—some of which offer them exclusively. While these schools may seem enticing, they may not have a good reputation amongst employers, or the programs they provide aren’t accredited.
Accreditation is the process in which institutions of higher learning are evaluated by a peer review board. When a program becomes accredited and recognized by the Department of Education, students who take it are eligible for financial aid, can transfer credits, and the program is more widely respected by employers. This process is vital when pursuing higher education and you should always make sure that the courses you take come from an accredited school.
Before signing up for any online program, do some research and see what the local business community has to say about the school. Find out the rate of success of the graduates who have completed the program.
Instead of asking the school directly, look around, and find as many sources as you can in order to make an informed decision. By doing so, you increase your likelihood of receiving a degree from a school that increases your likelihood of getting hired.
Benefits of Pursuing an Online Degree
Flexible Schedule – Perhaps the most talked-about benefit of pursuing an online degree is the ability to fit education around your work schedule. People often find themselves worried that they have to put their life on pause in order to get a degree.
By learning online, you don’t have to go to class or worry about taking a test and being late for work. In most situations, you can create your own learning schedule. As long as you complete your assignments on time and receive good marks, you are well on your way to getting a degree and advancing your career.
Online Communication – A common myth that many people associate with an online degree is the fact that it is an isolated experience. While in some situations that may be true, there are many opportunities for students to communicate with their professors and peers. Some courses even require you to tackle group projects where you and your fellow students must communicate with each other.
When distance learning, students that take advantage of the communication options they have—emailing their professors and communicating with their peers as often as they can—get much more out of their learning experience.
New programs and advancements in technology have made it easier for students to communicate through text, video chat, and more, so the options are limitless when it comes to communicating.
Costs – Lower costs are another strong incentive for pursuing an online education. Higher education involves several fees, such as tuition, housing, parking, and others. You won’t have to pay for nearly as much when pursuing a degree online.
While you still have to cover your tuition fees, and online application costs, you don’t have to deal with housing costs or the long-term costs of commuting to and from your campus.
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Time Management – It’s easy to find yourself in a situation where you’re forced to be somewhere and you just aren’t engaged. Imagine being in a classroom and not picking up on what your professor is saying. Now you’ve missed something important that will surely be on the next exam.
That isn’t the case with online learning. Whether you’re listening to a recorded lecture or studying at your own pace, you don’t have to worry about the stuffy classroom setting and waking up in the early hours of the morning to get through an hour-long lecture. You learn at your own pace and take as much time as you need to complete your coursework.
The freedom to quickly cover things that you easily understand and focus on things that are more difficult with more time means you can manage your time more efficiently and take full advantage of the flexibility that comes with online learning.
The Best Online Degrees to Pursue
Due to their requirements, some degrees are much easier to pursue online than others. Typically, you want to take an online program that doesn’t require much, if any, hands-on learning. Programs involving computers and technology are some of the best to consider when it comes to pursuing an online degree. Below is a list of the best programs for distance learning.
Web Design – Today, it is becoming more and more necessary for business owners of all types to have a website. People are constantly browsing online to have problems solved or deal with various situations. Becoming a web designer puts you in a field that is constantly in high demand.
If you want to learn how websites work, how to create appealing webpages that function well on desktop and mobile devices, as well as learn various scripting and programming languages, then web design is a lucrative career option for you.
Software Development – Software development careers are in-demand and analysts expect the field to continue to grow as technology improves. Earning an average of over $100,000 annually, software developers design, develop, and debug applications of multiple types.
Pursuing a career in development means learning about operating systems, cybersecurity, online software design, and programming languages. The benefits are numerous and many of the skills you learn as a potential software developer can be used for other careers as well.
Statistics – As the technology field constantly grows, so does the need for statisticians. Statisticians assist with collecting and analyzing data to help with putting it to practical use. Earning a degree in this career field gives you opportunities to work in both the private and public sectors.
Many entry-level applicants must have a master’s degree in statistics for some of the higher paying positions, but the continued growth rate and high salary make it desirable for those that have a strong preference towards math, numbers, and data.
Information Security – You’ve probably come across news stories regarding major corporations getting hit with a cyberattack and having valuable information leaked. These situations sometimes put hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people at risk of having their private information stolen.
Cybersecurity is becoming more necessary today than ever before and pursuing a career in information security as an analyst will put you at the forefront of defending people’s data. There are online associate’s and bachelor’s degrees available for information systems and cybersecurity positions. These programs go over the current threats for software online and how to reduce risks associated with them.
Marketing and Advertising – Marketing is a large field with significant opportunities. The pay scale is very broad and you can make anywhere from $46,000 to over $100,000 a year, depending on the company you work with and your responsibilities.
You must be creative and have a strong understanding of what appeals to others in order to find success in this field, but the earning potential is significant. Entry-level positions typically require a bachelor’s degree.
Technical Writing – Technical writing is a field that is quickly growing. These writers are tasked with creating manuals, how-to guides, and other pieces designed to communicate technical information to a larger audience.
Technical writers work in multiple fields but are often found in the computer technology and engineering industry. A college degree is typically required for this type of work, but oftentimes work experience is needed along with it.
Human Resources – People who work in human resources are tasked with attracting and training potential employees, as well as keeping them happy in their current position. Understanding things such as salaries, benefits, training programs, and assisting employees are all aspects of working in human resources.
The need for specialists in human resources has seen a steady rise in recent years with companies needing to meet the constant changes in technology and new regulations.
Project Management – When a company wants to get something done, a project manager is usually needed. Project managers organize and keep things on schedule to ensure that a project is completed on time and meets the standards of their employer. You will find project managers in a wide variety of industries and they must possess several skills.
In addition to a salary that ranges from $80,000 to well over $100,000, project managers may also receive bonuses if tasks are completed on time or ahead of schedule, especially if the project comes in under budget.
Computer Science – With the current growth of technology, companies are in constant need of skilled computer scientists. For both senior and entry-level positions, computer scientists earn a large amount. Even with a two-year associate’s degree, a computer scientist can expect to make upwards of $40,000 a year.
Computer scientists have multiple career opportunities available to them. Working as a research scientist, programmer, network architect, or software and web developer are all potential job opportunities for computer scientists, and these opportunities are only expected to grow in demand as technology continues to advance.
These are only a small handful of the careers you can have after getting an online degree. From game design to nursing, there are multiple options available to you. Look up the degree programs offered for a school you’re interested in to find out everything they have available.
Finding a Job with an Online Degree
If you want to pursue higher education and have it fit your schedule, then getting an online degree is a great way to do so. Make sure to do research and look up a school with a good reputation so you have an easier time finding a position after you’ve completed your courses.
Many schools offer career guides and can help you with your job search—whether it’s interview training, help with creating your resume, or listing job offers from companies that already have a strong relationship with the school. Whatever the case may be, there are many ways to find a successful career while working towards your online degree.
For those who want to accelerate their education even further, online bootcamps provide a great opportunity. You can learn all the skills needed to find success in various career fields within as little as a few months to as much as a year. Online bootcamps offer multiple opportunities and programs for some of the most in-demand positions out there today.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.