High-Demand Online College Degrees
Online associate, bachelor's, and graduate degrees are available from colleges and universities nationwide. These programs follow the same curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, ensuring a rigorous learning experience and job opportunities for graduates in their chosen field. However, web-based learning has certain advantages over on-campus programs. Most online programs offer a flexible schedule for completing assignments, and students rarely – if ever – need to visit their school's campus. In many cases, earning a degree online is also cheaper.
Our guides to online college programs discuss key considerations for students, such as researching school accreditation, paying for tuition, and determining a major field of study. We also provide directories that allow prospective learners to browse online undergraduate and graduate programs in different fields. Read on to learn more about online college opportunities.
Why Choose an Online College?
Online learning has surged in popularity over the past decade. An estimated 5.8 million students were enrolled in online courses – a staggering 263% increase from just 12 years ago. There's a reason online degree programs are on the rise. As technology has advanced, so have the capabilities for distance learning. In fact, 94% of academic leaders say that digital curricular resources have improved student learning, and it's estimated that half of all college classes will be taught online by 2019. While there are plenty of benefits to online education, most students tend to be attracted to online colleges for their low tuition and the convenience they offer.
One of the biggest factors drawing students to online colleges is the price. While a traditional college degree can set students back $85,000 on average, the total cost of an online degree is around $30,000. On top of cheaper tuition rates, distance students don't need to dole out money for pricey campus housing or commuter costs.
Because online students aren't confined to a classroom, they can complete coursework virtually anywhere – as long as there is internet access. This makes online learning particularly appealing for working professionals and students with family obligations or other responsibilities that make it hard to travel to and from campus regularly. Additionally, most online curriculum is delivered asynchronously, meaning that students can log on at any time and complete coursework at their own pace.
Is Online College Right For Me?
Despite what some students may think, online colleges are no less challenging than traditional colleges. Depending on a student's learning style, keeping up with online work may actually prove to be more demanding for some. When asked about the greatest challenges they face while studying online, a majority of students in a Learning House survey cited motivation, attention, and focus as their main concerns.
That being said, many students find the online learning experience to be extremely rewarding. These are some common traits of students who thrive in an online learning environment.
The lack of structure and face-to-face interaction in an online learning environment may make it easy for some assignments to slip through the cracks. Online students are responsible for their learning, and must be motivated enough to get work done on their own.
Learning from home, while convenient, can sometimes get too comfortable. Online students must be able to tune out the distractions, set deadlines, and complete their work on time.
Online learners need to have good time management and organizational skills in order to stay on top of their studies. It may be helpful to set up a quiet, tidy workspace to study.
Students should have up-to-date operating systems and web browsers to support their online learning. Most online degrees are delivered through learning platforms such as D2L or Blackboard, and students will be spending a majority of their time navigating these sites.
- Effective communicator
Students should feel comfortable reaching out to their instructor with questions and concerns. Written communication skills are extremely important, as online students typically interact with their classmates in online forums.
Online learning is constantly evolving; students should be prepared to adapt to different types of course delivery formats and ever-changing technology requirements. It's important for students to keep an open mind as they transition to the online classroom.
The Importance of Accredited Online Colleges
All of the online schools, at any degree level, featured on our website are accredited, ensuring that they meet high standards of quality. In order to be accredited, online colleges are evaluated based on criteria such as curricula, faculty, course offerings, facilities, financial resources, and support services. Accreditation in the United States comes from federal and state agencies as well as non-governmental bodies approved by the U.S. Department of Education. Accreditation not only demonstrates the quality of an online school, but can also determine whether credits are transferable to other accredited online colleges. To find out whether an accreditation agency is legitimate, make sure it is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Learn more about online college accreditation here.
Common Online College Majors
Online learning has come a long way over the years, and distance students today can pursue degree programs that match their interests from the associate to the doctorate level. While not every program is suited to the online environment, nearly 80% of educators find that generally, online learning is equal to, if not better than, traditional classroom learning. Some of the most popular undergraduate majors for online students include:
More students are choosing to pursue master's and doctorate degrees through accredited online colleges to expand their skill set and move up in their careers. The flexibility of online learning is particularly beneficial to professionals who want to earn an advanced degree while they continue working. Graduate programs that require students to complete practicum hours or internship experiences typically accommodate students by helping them find sites near their home. Some of the most popular graduate majors for online students include:
Paying For Online College
While accredited online colleges are typically cheaper than their brick-and-mortar counterparts, many online students still need financial help to ease the cost of tuition. Fortunately, an increasing number of online colleges now offer aid for distant learners in the form of scholarships, grants, loans, and occasionally, work-study programs.
The process of applying for student aid at an online college is similar to the application process at a traditional school. To be eligible, students must first fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA becomes available online on October 1 annually; students should start preparing their FAFSA form as soon as possible, as many awards are offered on a first-come-first-serve basis. Note that students applying for student aid must be enrolled at an online college that has been accredited by a federally recognized accreditation agency. The status of an online student (full time or part time) may also affect their eligibility to receive aid.
To learn more about paying for online college, review our guide to financial aid for online college, or contact an advisor at your prospective school to discuss financial aid opportunities for distance students.
As Seen On
- Huffington Post
- USA Today
- Faculty Focus
Search By Subject
Search our comprehensive school listings by subject. We've compiled the standout programs in each field so you can find one that matches your priorities.
Looking for an affordable degree? Explore our listings of the best and cheapest online colleges and universities. All the programs featured in our rankings are accredited, meaning that students can earn a degree from an online college that meets the highest academic standards without breaking the bank.