So you’ve decided to take your education online, but you (and probably your parents) still value the prestige that a college degree provides in the job market.
Fortunately, in today’s academic world, there are so many viable alternatives that offer the exact same courses and access to the same quality of higher education. It’s just a matter of how to find them.
Before you leap into hours of research, it’s important to take a few things into account:
If you’re in high school and exploring your options, you have the most flexibility to find an online degree program that fits all of your requirements.
If you’ve already started a degree - at a traditional 4-year college, community college, or you’ve earned some college credits through alternative routes - you’re probably going to be searching for specific programs that allow credit transfers and involve a bit more work to coordinate between your current/former school and the new online program you’d like to pursue.
You can expect to find similar price tags for online degree programs as you would for any traditional university program. Online does not equal free, though you might find significant discounts.
A degree program still requires course design and instruction from certified professors and universities, and fortunately, your diploma is worth as much in the eyes of employers as anyone else who attended school on campus.
If you were hoping to take your degree online because it would be cheaper, all is not lost. We would suggest taking online classes through other institutions which still provide college credit, and then transferring that credit into a university at a later date. You can pay as little as $80 for a 3 credit class through alternative credit providers, which can save you a fortune when compared to the cost of credits through traditional colleges, online or not.
This will come into play once you’ve narrowed down your list of options, but it’s something to consider in advance. A 4-year undergraduate degree will still take a similar amount of time - especially if you’re working full or part-time alongside it.
It is possible to complete a degree much quicker online if your classes are self-paced and you can move along quickly without other time constraints. But I would be realistic about the time needed to put into a degree.
If you’re new to the idea of obtaining a college degree entirely online, this site is packed with practical information and is the best place to start your search. Take the time to learn about their philosophy of online education and how they determine which schools meet their criteria.
They are prepared for all kinds of student scenarios - what level you’re at with higher education, any past experience, and any unique situation you find yourself in. OE is dedicated to reducing the challenges that come with choosing from an overwhelming number and types of online programs.
One of the standout features of this search engine is what they call Bachelor degree completion programs. This takes into account any college courses and credits you may have earned from other schools and provides you with options to finish a bachelor’s degree requirements online through a program of study (including general education courses, elective courses, and/or courses within a designated major).
Right from the jump, this search engine has a form to select the degree type you’re interested in, select the category of a potential degree program, and then specify the subject.
For example, I can choose a Bachelor’s degree, the category of Computers & Technology, and then specify Mobile Development. Hit “Find Your College” and boom - 12 online university programs are recommended in the search results to further explore.
If you need a little more direction, Best Colleges has provided a Top 10 list of their online school recommendations, plus extra resources to address student loans and scholarships.
They’ve made it their mission to coordinate online schools that offer some of the best financial assistance out there. You’ll see some crossover from the other search engines, but this site has taken the liberty to weed out any online programs that do not offer significant financial aid, scholarships, or loan opportunities.
If cost is your main factor to determine whether you can earn an online degree, I’d start here to ensure that you’re only considering degree programs that will be the most affordable.
This site is great especially if you’re interested in a specific school. You’ll find a comprehensive list of accredited online schools in alphabetical order to sift through, and also refine by degree level, whether they are a non-profit, or if they are military-friendly.
This 2020 list of accredited online schools and colleges covers over 32,000 fully online degrees at the associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral and certificate levels, PLUS all schools are accredited by agencies recognized by the Department of Education. They’ve done the homework for you, you just need to find the right fit!
As you go through our list of resources, you’ll immediately see the similarities between these search engines - the main focus is entering your search criteria for online schools. Whether you have an exact idea of your area of interest or you’re weighing your options, you can use the search box over and over again for every scenario.
The most important action you’ll take is visiting the individual websites for each online program. These search engines can only provide so much information; the rest is up to you to dig into the details. The cost, average time to complete, graduation rate, etc will factor into your decision and ultimately which setup will integrate with your lifestyle the best.
And finally, what I’m sure you’ll agree on after thumbing through these catalogs of online degrees, is that accredited online education is here to stay. There are literally thousands of degrees to choose from, all entirely online, from all manner of institutions big and small!