Looking for more information on online degree programs? Online degree programs—a virtual alternative to attending a physical college campus—are increasing in popularity, thanks in part to the leisures that come along with them. These leisures include flexible scheduling, lower costs, and the ability for students to complete school work on their own time. Because of these and many other benefits, online degrees continue to rally support among prospective students and higher education professionals.
With these advantages, It’s also no surprise that more and more U.S. students are earning degrees online, in whole or in part. In fact, the rate of U.S. students taking online college courses is growing at a rate of 3.9 percent per year. That body is comprised of 2.85 million students taking all of their degree courses online and 2.97 million using a mix of traditional and online courses to earn their degrees. In essence, online degree programs are becoming more mainstream than ever.
Popularity of Online Degree Programs
According to a recent study from Learning House, an estimated 3.4 million college students were enrolled in online degree programs in 2014, equal to almost 17 percent of all college students. In addition, the number of students interested in online degree programs continues to grow each year. Some studies predict that by 2020, online enrollment will represent close to 25 percent of all college students.
The competition among online degree programs has also intensified. As of 2017, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that online degrees are accessible in over 130 areas of study that encompass 23,276 different programs from online colleges. These programs are available in every degree level, including associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate as well as certifications.
Top Online Degree Schools
There are many popular online colleges, mostly credited for their affordability, military support, regional accreditation, high employment rate, and satisfaction rating. Here are three of the most popular online degree programs that consistently received high enrollment numbers:
- University of Phoenix
This university has a 62 percent recommendation rate and is regionally accredited according to the Department of Education. The University of Phoenix also has an annual tuition cost of around $15,000, making it one of the most affordable colleges in the nation. The university offers all degree levels, including associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, and certificates.
- DeVry University
DeVry University has a 61 percent recommendation rate and has received regional accreditation. This university has more than 20 degree options as well, with an annual tuition cost ranging from $15,280 to $19,568. DeVry offers associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees as well as certificate options.
- Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)
About 66 percent of SNHU students would recommend the school to someone else. The university is regionally accredited and its annual tuition costs about $11,500 for full-time students. SNHU offers opportunities to obtain bachelor’s and master’s degrees as well as certifications.
Along with these online schools, there are many colleges that can be a perfect match for your skills and interests. Get matched today with schools that are right up your alley.
How to Get an Online Degree
Online learning degrees are obtainable through traditional two-year colleges, four-year colleges, and online schools. These institutions offer a wide variety of online degree programs, though specific schools make use of a hybrid learning system, which blends online and traditional brick-and-mortar classes. Hybrid learning is more suitable for majors that prefer human interaction for learning skills, such as engineering or health and medical fields.
Online Degree Program Format
Formats for online degree programs vary and it’s recommended that students balance their use of self-paced and traditional classes to their schedule and learning styles. More traditionally-oriented classes assign and require students to finish regular homework, quizzes, and exams by preset dates throughout the class.
A self-paced program, however, encourages students to complete schoolwork at whatever speed they desire, as long as they complete the course within the required timeframe. Many programs fall somewhere in between these two strategies and require students to have their work submitted by a particular date at the end of the semester.
Time Required to Finish an Online Degree Program
Whether you enroll in a hybrid or fully-online school program will depend on how many hours a day you want to dedicate to schooling. The more credit hours you take at a time, the faster you will complete your online degree program. Most online degree programs do, however, follow traditional semester and annual schedules (with two years to complete an associate degree, four for a bachelor’s degree, etc.).
The upside to an online degree program is that you don’t have to physically attend a college campus, and therefore, can also keep your full-time job at the same time (or anything else you would prefer to be doing) while completing studies and assignments during your free time.
Benefits to Enrolling in an Online Degree Program
There are many benefits to enrolling in an online school, the most obvious being not having to leave the comfort of your home, office, or job to attend a class or lecture.
An online school can allow you to complete coursework faster than actually attending an on-campus school if you decide to go with the self-pacing routine. On average, online degree courses cost around the same per credit hour as equivalent courses on-campus.
Job Opportunities for People with Online Degrees
When most people hear online colleges, they immediately jump to the conclusion that you will have a harder time finding a job, and even if you do, your pay will be significantly less. This assumption is not true and online degree programs can actually lead to high paying careers, according to the following average salary figures of graduates of online degrees from Payscale.com:
- Online Master in Business Administration (MBA): $54,500
- Online Master’s in Health Administration: $96,000
- Online Bachelor’s in Information Systems: $80,800
The Cost of an Online Degree Program
Fortunately, because online schools do not have many of the costs of maintaining a traditional college campus, they can pass on those savings to their students.
On the other hand, if you’re attending a traditional college, your tuition will partly go toward the physical facilities that house lecture halls, libraries, teacher and administration offices, and much more. In addition, many online degree programs eliminate the need for traditional, more expensive textbooks and replace them with less expensive, more practical e-books, PDFs, and online articles and resources.
The Pros and Cons of Online Degree Programs
There are many reasons why you should try an online degree program. It typically costs less, is easier to balance with a job, and often receives high satisfaction rates.
In addition, if you want to enjoy the social aspect of college or feel you learn better in a brick-and-mortar environment, then a traditional degree program might be a better fit for you.
You should know, however, that the technology used to enhance an online degree program improves the educational experience. If it’s socializing you desire, some online programs even offer offline social gatherings in certain metropolitan areas.
Finally, whereas some employers might be suspicious of online degree programs, such degrees—as long as they are accredited—are becoming increasingly accepted as a path for busy professionals to advance their knowledge and skills.
Overall, online degree programs are growing in popularity among both students and employers. They might just be the ideal way for you to advance your education.