With new challenges to in-person learning, students around the country and the world are pursuing online bachelor’s degrees more than ever before.
As an online student, your options for what you can study, and through which college or university, are vast. Whether you’re interested in a traditional liberal arts online bachelor’s degree or in a specific professional degree in something like information technology, you will definitely find what you’re looking for on the web.
That said, the number of options can be overwhelming and not all online programs are made equal. Some online bachelor’s degree programs offer more opportunities for interactive, hands-on learning than others.
Read on to learn more about earning your bachelor’s degree online and some of the best online bachelor’s degree programs out there.
Why Get Your Bachelor’s Degree Online?
There are many reasons to get your bachelor’s degree online. First of all, many students who would have been enrolled in on-campus programs are attending their classes remotely anyway. Second, virtual learning is currently the safer option due to COVID-19.
But beyond the confines of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many reasons you should consider pursuing online bachelor’s degrees.
To start, completing your degree online will definitely be one of the most convenient things you do for your education. Without having to commute or relocate, online bachelor’s degrees save you a lot of time daily and in the grand scheme of things.
Many online programs are designed with working students in mind. This means that many classes are asynchronous and can be viewed on-demand and at your convenience rather than live-streamed.
If you have other things going on in your life, especially major factors like work or childcare, an online bachelor’s degree might be the perfect fit. Most programs are designed to be flexible so that a student with other commitments doesn’t have to press pause on the rest of their life in order to pursue an education.
As long as you have a consistent and reliable Internet connection, access to an online education is as good as it gets. Unlike traditional higher education, which often requires relocation and sacrificing other aspects of your personal life, online education is really made to be accessible to all kinds of college students.
You can expect to spend less money on an online bachelor’s degree than you would on an on-campus program. This is because all of the added costs of a college education beyond basic tuition really add up. Without having to worry about moving costs, room, board, and other campus fees, your costs will be much more accessible. Finally, some colleges offer reduced rates or specific discounts to fully-online students.
Remember to apply for federal financial aid if you are eligible and if you are looking for help financing your education. Depending on the kind of program, you may be able to receive the same financial aid for your online degree program that you would for an on-campus program. This is because financial aid awards function the same for both kinds of programs, though whether you are enrolled as a part-time or a full-time student can make a difference in the kind of financial award you are offered.
National and Regional Accreditation for Online Colleges
Accreditation is one of the most important factors you should consider when researching possible online bachelor’s degree programs. You will want to make sure that the college or university itself is accredited. Be careful, there are definitely a number of suspicious, unaccredited online only institutions out there that will not be worth your time. These kinds of schools, known as diploma mills, are usually scams that do not provide legitimate or verifiable programs.
Accreditation is a stamp of approval from an accrediting agency or body. There are both national and regional accrediting bodies. If you’re looking at liberal arts or research universities, you will likely find regional accreditations, which are actually the most reputable of the two.
Besides general institutional accreditation, some individual degree programs have their own discipline-specific accreditations. Be sure you understand all of the accreditations that your program options have. Remember that without proper accreditation, your degree might end up being a waste of time.
A degree from an unaccredited school or program may be rejected as a requirement for other professional credentials like licenses and certificates, for example.
Online Program Types
Same or Similar Programs Online and On Campus
Many brick-and-mortar institutions offer online programs that mirror their on-campus programs. This means that your online program will not actually be much different from the traditional campus program the same university is offering.
Degree Completion Programs
Degree completion programs are online bachelor’s degree programs built for non-traditional students or transfer students. Students who started degrees elsewhere, either on campus or online, can transfer credits to degree completion programs to earn their bachelor’s degree online. This option also works well for someone who already holds an associate degree and wants to go on to get their bachelor’s degree.
Accelerated Bachelor’s Degree Online
Some students choose to pursue their online bachelor’s degree on an accelerated track. Though not all programs offer this option, many do because of how flexible and convenient these programs often are.
Students can complete an accelerated online bachelor’s degree in as little as two years. That’s half the time of what a traditional bachelor’s degree would take. That said, accelerated programs are demanding and fast-paced, so students who pursue this option typically put aside other obligations while they complete their programs.
Popular Online Undergraduate Programs
Though you can get your online bachelor’s degree in pretty much anything, there are a handful of degrees that are the most common and popular.
Below is a list of some of those fields.
Business is already one of the most popular undergraduate majors in the US. It’s an easy subject to translate to a virtual setting, since it is not a lab-based science or a studio-based art discipline.
Social sciences like political science, sociology, and psychology are very popular undergraduate programs. They make sense as the basis to any undergraduate education because of the broad liberal arts curriculum they usually require.
Like business, computer science as a discipline also translates well to an online-only format. In fact, computer science online programs may even have greater learning opportunities for students than in-person programs because, well, it’s computer science.
Different lessons and programs can be taught virtually and in real time. The fact that students and teachers are not in the same room really doesn’t present challenges in the same way that it might for other subjects. That said, colleges offering top online programs tend to use all kinds of programs and platforms that facilitate online instruction and smooth out potential difficulties.
Criminal justice is also a very popular career track for students pursuing online bachelor’s degrees. As interest in criminal justice as a field has grown, online criminal justice programs have popped up as a response.
Because of the nature of the subject, some programs may require that students complete certain aspects of their program in-person in their community. For example, a program might require a certain amount of practicum hours within the criminal justice system.
Many online programs still offer concentrations, giving you the opportunity to specialize in a particular area of the criminal justice system.
Human resources or human resources management is a very popular online option for students trying to jump start their careers. The program is often within a school’s business school or business faculty and focuses on all things HR.
Human resources is often considered a subfield of business but it’s also within the umbrella of human services, a larger category that also includes fields like social work and criminal justice.
In the age of digital marketing and social media marketing, the overall field of marketing has exploded. There is so much to learn and because so much of the work is done digitally, marketing is also a field that lends itself well to online learning.
Online bachelor’s degrees in marketing are quite popular. Some schools offer general marketing degrees while others offer more specialized degrees like digital marketing or business marketing.
Best Schools for Online Bachelor’s Degrees
The schools on this list are just a few of the best institutions out there that offer a wide variety of accredited and reputable online bachelor’s degree programs.
Arizona State University, or ASU as everyone calls it, is one of the largest universities in the country. While its brick-and-mortar campus is located in Tempeh, AZ, you can access ASU Online from anywhere in the world and apply to up to 300 different online degree and certificate programs.
As a well-known and reputable university worldwide, ASU is a great choice if you’re considering graduate school in the future.
Oregon State University, based on Corvallis, Oregon, has 80+ all-online programs as part of its E-Campus. Meanwhile, if you are based in Oregon and are interested in a hybrid program, you can also enroll in a program that would be primarily online and partially in-person. US News and World Report ranked Oregon State’s E-campus #5 in its ranking of top online bachelor’s degree programs.
Ohio State University is the largest state university in the state of Ohio. Similar to ASU, OSU offers a broad catalog of undergraduate degrees. Many of these programs are geared toward non-traditional students and transfer students who need maximum program flexibility.
The University of Florida in Gainesville, FL, is one of the top universities in the country and the top-ranked state university in Florida. Unsurprisingly, it also offers extensive online course offerings.
At UF, you can choose from over 170 different online programs that promise the same level of rigor and the same prestige as an on-campus degree. The university is committed to offering the same degrees that it offers its in-person students and making them more accessible to students online.
Penn State University, one of Pennsylvania’s major state universities, is known as a pioneer of online education, having started some of its programs as early as 20 years ago. The university promises online programs that mirror the traditional classroom programs for the same degrees.
Though Penn State welcomes traditional college students just out of high school for its online programs, it has specific guidance and recommendations for transfer students, military students, and returning adult students.
Conclusion: Online Bachelor’s Degrees Are the Future
When most things can be translated to online learning, why not get your bachelor’s degree online? Considering the cost of a traditional undergraduate education and experience, it makes sense that online bachelor’s degrees have become more popular in the last few years and are becoming even more popular in 2020.
If you know you want to get your bachelor’s degree but you’re not ready to commit to a brick-and-mortar campus, an online degree program makes a ton of sense. You won’t have to relocate, saving you time, money, and worry.
An online program also offers extensive flexibility and convenience, meaning you don’t have to interrupt every other aspect of your life.
Use this guide on online bachelor’s degrees to get you started in your search before you check out some of our other resources to guide you in the application process.