Online Certificates And Degrees – Quick Guide
Technology has advanced to an extent that none of us could have predicted years ago. We have witnessed some staggering changes in the past few years, among which is the prevalence of the internet. The internet has amalgamated into our lives to such an extent that it is nearly impossible to imagine our lives without it. For every task that we need to perform, it is the internet that we turn to. The internet has brought the world closer. With its help, you can expand your business to international territories and shop from a different country without any difficulty.
When the internet is bringing about such significant changes in nearly every field out there, why should education lag behind? Virtually everyone uses the internet for academics to conduct research and acquire more information. However, not many people are aware that it is quite possible to attain a degree online as well.
An online degree is a concept which needs to be understood so that you can understand your options. We are going to talk about the various aspects associated with online bachelor’s. We are also going to shed some light on your options with regards to an online university.
Before we move on to discussing more about online degrees, we feel it necessary to mention that the concept is still gaining acceptance. There are various fields which do not give much weight to these degrees, more of which we will discuss shortly. Thus, it is advisable that you have a strong reason to opt for the online mode of education. You should be able to convince people that this was indeed the right decision for you.
Selecting the right program for your online bachelor’s
Before we discuss the online college that you should opt for, we feel it prudent to point out just how important it is that you select the right subjects and program. People tend to be confused about this aspect if they do not have a career goal in mind. Should they look to attain online degrees in nutrition or should they opt for graphic design? You will find plenty of options, so it is advisable to opt for a systematic approach while making this decision. This would ensure that you do not end up taking a decision that you would have to regret sometime down the road.
The courses that you take should be in line with your interests. It is these courses which would decide the course that your future is going to take. Therefore, you need to make it certain that you do not make the decision carelessly. The time and effort that you invest in studying for the degree are not going to return. Hence, you need to make sure you have taken the right decision. Let us take a look at some ways via which you can decide the program that would be suitable for you and that would allow you to make a profession out of something that you love and enjoy.
Your preferences in high school
Before you decide on the subjects that you ought to take, there is a bit of introspection that you will be required to do. You need to think back on your high school days and decide the subjects that had managed to keep your attention intact. This would provide you with the much needed clue on what subjects you should focus on.
Make a list of subjects that you took in high school, and divide them into categories based on the ones you loved, the ones that generated curiosity within you, and the ones that put you to sleep. It is obvious that you should stay away from the subjects that induced sleep. Between the subjects that you were curious about and the ones that you love, you need to select the ones that manage to pique your interest presently. You need to ensure that the subjects you choose would manage to motivate you to go one step ahead and acquire more information about them.
There is no dearth of options that you will face when it comes to programs, so make your choice after a lot of consideration and ensure that you opt for something that would not make you sleep after a few years down the road.
How do you like to spend your time?
What is the activity that tends to keep you engaged? What is it that you like to do when you have some free time on your hands? This would provide you with some clue about where your interests lay. For instance, if the human mind fascinates you, you might want to acquire more information about online degrees in psychology.
Your interests would tell you about the kind of topics that would be suitable for you. You would be able to decide what is it that manages to keep your attention and interest piqued. It should be something that manages to engage you completely and you forget the sense of time when you are at it. This would give you an idea regarding the subjects that you would enjoy the most and that would offer you more ease. This will ensure that you find a career that you love.
Your future is at stake, so a practical decision needs to be made. As important as it is to ensure that you make a career out of something that you love to do, it is equally important to ensure that there is scope for growth in that career. Thus, it is advisable to conduct a bit of research to find out about the kind of careers you can expect if you opt for the fields you enjoy. All of us have to be practical at some point in our lives and while the idea does not appeal to us at that time, it is something that works for us in the long run. Therefore, if you find that the thing that you loved the most does not offer you an appealing career, go for the second best option.
Take the length of the program into consideration
While selecting a program, there are quite a few things that you need to take into account. Among these is the length of the program that you opt for. What is the period that you are comfortable with for completing the degree? There are certain fields that provide you with an opportunity to start with an associate degree or certificate while you continue to attend classes online to earn a doctorate. If you are contemplating dong online bachelor’s, you should know it tends to take a period of around 3 to 4 years to complete. Two to three years or even less time is taken in graduation level programs. Therefore, ensure that you have paid heed to this aspect of the program before you sign up for one.
How to choose the best online college
Once you have decided the program that you want to take up, it is the online university or college that you will have to switch your attention to. This is your career at stake and thus, the college you select should be one that would not let you down. There is a lot at risk, so nothing should be taken lightly.
Choosing a school can be rather overwhelming and the vast research that you are required to do might leave you confused. There are quite a few factors that need to be paid attention to when it comes to online schools. You need to keep in mind that not all programs are the same, and there are some which you will find to be more demanding than the others. The cost of the course also needs to be taken into account. To ensure that you opt for the best available option, it is necessary that you pay heed to the following factors.
An accredited online school
This is something that most people tend to overlook. They fail to realize the importance of ensuring that the school they opt for is accredited. Accreditation implies that the curriculum followed by the online college is in line with the educational standards that have been set by the National Educational Association. If you are unsure whether the school or college that you have settled for is accredited, you should take a look at the NEA website, which would provide you with a list of accredited schools and colleges. Make sure that you verify NEA certification before applying for any college online. Do not go by the information that the school offers you on its website. Do further research on your own.
Often, the course catalogs are available online. However, if this is not the case, you always have the option of contacting the school for a printed version. The catalog would provide you with crucial information about the objectives and goals of the course along with the time requirements, materials, and the level of ease you can expect with it. With this knowledge in hand, it would be easier for you determine if this is the course that you are interested in and whether you have what it takes to complete the course in the given time.
The administrative counselor
It is advisable that you talk to the admission representative of the school that you are interested in. This will help you acquire a better understanding of the structure of the school. There are certain questions that you should ask in these interactions. You should acquire information about the extent of the student-instructor interaction that would be present, whether students would be able to contact the professors, and what would be the medium for the same. It is also important to pay heed to the technological requirements for the online course, inquire about the technical support, and whether there are any means of peer-to-peer interaction. You need to ask these questions to every school present on your list as this will enable you to narrow down the best options.
Presence of a dedicated administrative team
When it comes to online experience, this is something that assumes a great deal of importance. You need to ensure that you opt for a school that would care about your educational experience. It should be one that strives to make it certain that success comes your way. Thus, you need an administrative team that would be prompt in its response, regardless of the means of your contact. There should be no delays from their side in sending out forms or applications. They should always be on top of things and should be the ones that would provide you with quality education with optimal guidance. A responsive administrative team also points to the fact that the school is dedicated to making sure your time with it is as smooth and hassle-free as possible.
Chance to earn life credits
It has become a common trend for schools to give credits to those who have had work experience in the field that they intend to major in. However, there is a limitation on how many life credits can be awarded and it is rare for that to exceed 25 percent. For this, you would have to contact the guidance counselor, who would then send you an application along with the requirements you need.
Number of students per class
When you take a look at brick and mortar colleges and universities, you find that their lecture halls are filled with hundreds of students. However, with online colleges, the situation is a bit different. They tend to have quite a large number of online students, but their class sizes tend to be small. This makes it easier to provide students individual attention and for them to acquire personal feedback. Thus, while looking for a college, opt for one that keeps the size of the class restricted.
Synchronous or asynchronous classes
You need to determine whether the college offers synchronous classes. It is a quite important aspect for an online learner. This is due to the fact that it provides you with an insight into the time requirements of the course. Synchronous teaching is the method that is employed by all campus courses. It means that students are taught in real time. With synchronous online schools, students are required to attend the classes at a particular time via chat, video or audio. Asynchronous classes are the ones with which you would not have to face any time requirements. You can read lectures or participate in discussions according to your feasibility. In this case, to ensure that the student is up to date and is not lagging behind, assignments and discussion deadlines are used.
Take a demo to test the waters
Before you take the plunge and sign up with any online college, it is advisable that you take a demo course to ensure that this is indeed the best option for you. Taking a demo class would provide you with the opportunity to come to terms with the technology that the online degree will require. You also need to keep in mind that while technology is a bonus, it cannot be a substitute for education. Therefore, in these demo classes, you also need to focus on the quality of education provided.
Find out about the alumni network
Take some time to acquire more information about the alumni network that your prospective online university has to offer. This can have a great impact on the direction that your career will take after you graduate. While applying for jobs, you will find that if you apply for a job offered by an alumni of your college, you would have a greater chance of landing it. This is because you share an experience with them, so they would be able to form a connection with you.
If you have credits from a former college or if you expect that you would need to transfer before the completion of your degree, you need to take the counselor of your college into confidence beforehand. Transferring credits can prove to be beneficial as you stand to save time and money, but an important point to keep in mind is that the colleges are not bound to accept credits from other institutes. Often, colleges accept credits only if the former school has been accredited by the same agency. These are some of the factors that you would have to keep in mind while selecting an online college.
The reputation of the online university also needs to be given utmost importance. It is this reputation that would give weight to your degree. Acquiring a degree is a lot of hard work as quite a bit of time and effort tends to go into it. You would not want all your hard work to be proven futile. Therefore, you need to take the reputation of the online college into account. There are several ways via which you can gauge the reputation of a certain place, some of which are mentioned below.
Opinions of students
You can seek out former students of the college who would be able to provide you insight into the kind of experience that the school provides. You should also read up on the reviews of potential schools and see whether there are any recommendations for it. You will find these reviews to be highly informative.
College rankings are released by quite a few reputable agencies out there. They would provide you with some idea regarding the opinion of the public about the school that you are contemplating attending and the quality of education that it has to offer.
When can you commence with the classes
While selecting a school, you also need to pay attention to the timings. If you want to start your program as quickly as possible, you need to opt for a school that would not require you to wait too much. There are certain online colleges that require you to apply six months before the classes are started, while there are also those where classes start after a few weeks, which allows you to commence with the program immediately. Hence, your feasibility with starting classes can dictate which college you should opt for.
College fees are quite variable. However, it needs to be kept in mind that high cost does not always equal to a better education. Thus, finances are something that you will have to pay heed to while selecting a school. Take a close look at the cost that each school presents you with. If you are contemplating relying on financial aid programs, you need to make an effort to ensure that the school you opt for would offer you such an opportunity.
How to ensure you do not sign up with the wrong school for your online bachelor’s
When career choices are being made, it is important to make it certain that the right decisions are taken at every step of the way. Failure to do so can jeopardize your whole career. For instance, when we talk about online degrees in computer science, if you do not acquire it from a reputable school, you would find it tough to get a job. It is also essential to keep in mind that not all online programs are safe. There have been multiple occasions where online colleges have been criticized for giving priority to profit instead of the quality of education. Lawsuits have also been filed for misinterpretation or fraud. Therefore, to ensure that you do not run into scams, it is essential that you do your research carefully. We are going to shed some light on the indicators that you need to look for.
The importance of accreditation has already been discussed above. It is a stamp of approval that a school gets, which lets employers know that the graduates of the program can prove to be worthy candidates for the job. Most colleges tend to mention their accreditation on their websites. However, you should not go by this alone. It is better to verify whether the accreditation that they mention is indeed legitimate. There are some institutes that mention fake credentials, so you need to make it certain that you do not fall into their traps. It is advisable to check the statistics of the school such as their graduation rates, retention rates and so on.
If a college does not offer you the option to transfer credits, you need to be wary and probe further. There is a chance that this option is not offered because other colleges do not find its courses at par with their academic standards.
It is also important to research the curriculum of the program that you want to take up. For instance, for online degrees in electronic engineering, it becomes important that practical skills are taught which are relevant to the field.
When you are doing online bachelor’s, you will find that academic assistance is something that you would require quite a bit. Therefore, it is advisable not to shy away from asking some tough questions to the representative. This will enable you to assess just how responsive the service is. If information is being withheld from you or if you feel that they are not providing you with the answers that you are looking for, you should see a red flag as this usually implies that they are trying to hide something.
It is important to ensure that you are fully aware of the terms and conditions of any financial aid package that you sign up for. If there is a school that pressurizes you to take loans, you should be suspicious. If it is private loans, you need to be cautious even more. It is important that you are provided access to financial aid counseling. If there is any shred of doubt in your mind, do not sign up for it.
Statistics do not lie
Always keep in mind that there is quite a bit of information that you can acquire via statistics. The number of student loan defaults is an example. A high number of student loan defaults should alert you regarding poor counsel with regards to financial aid. If you find that a certain program has a low completion rate, it is a sign that perhaps the program does not extend strong academic support to the students.
If the employment rates for graduates is low, you should be wary of the career service department of the school. This might even help you identify a bigger problem, which is that of diploma mills. They are those universities that provide online degrees which carry little value when it comes to jobs as they do not have a satisfactory quality of curriculum or there is no legitimate accreditation.
Things to keep in mind while opting for online degrees
Traditional schools are more than just places that provide degrees. They offer you a whole new experience. There is a whirl of activity which you would be able to have fun with if you opt for a university. This is not something that you would find in an online school. If you are contemplating signing up for an online college, make sure that you are well aware of what you would be missing out on. If you prefer solitude and do not like the idea of engaging in social gatherings, online education is the ideal option for you.
It is not easy for everyone to make time for campus life. There are some who have to juggle between various responsibilities. Thus, if it is flexibility that you are looking for, an online degree would be the best option for you. You would be able to do work at your own pace as per your convenience, which can be quite appealing for many out there. While you might miss out on campus life and interactions, the ease in your schedule may well prove to be worth it.
There is a misconception among students that online degrees tend to cost less. While this might be true in some cases, online education tends to cost the same as traditional education in most cases. Also, you need to keep in mind that financial aid programs provide less support for online degrees. Plus, there are some online classes that charge extra for classes and resources, irrespective of the fact that the student did not make use of those resources. This, in turn, can make online classes a lot more expensive than you had anticipated. It is due to this reason that you ought to ask about the cost of attending and ensure that you understand it to the last letter.
Before you get into a graduate program, you need to ensure that the degree from that school will be accepted by everyone. While different schools have different requirements, you will find that graduate program choices tend to become limited when you have an online degree. However, this is something that is changing gradually. It has been seen that if you acquire online graduation degree while working, your employer will be impressed as they will see this as a mark of your dedication. They would find you to be hard working and have the drive to improve yourself. There are, in fact, some employers who would pay for your classes and degrees if they feel that this would have a positive effect on your performance. If you are currently employed and want to go one step ahead in your education, you might want to talk to your employer about it.
Students tend to think that they would have it easy in an online program and these classes would not pose the same level of difficulty as the regular ones. This is a misconception that you need to get rid of. These days, due to the strict rules that have been enforced, online courses tend to be just as difficult as the regular ones. You might find that online classes are organized to such an extent that you will be provided with maximum information in minimal time. A professor who teaches both online and regular classes has gone on record to say that sometimes, an online course is more demanding.
As online courses gain acceptance, you now have more options with regards to your schedule. All that you need to do is be careful with regards to the program that you select.
Online degree vs. traditional degree: A comparison
There are quite a few factors on which the acceptance of online degrees depends. These factors include the likes of the company as well as the field, the type of degree, the institute, and the individual who is drawing the comparison. We are going to take a look at some of the factors to see how they can affect your degree.
The employers might be reluctant to hire someone with an online degree if it has been acquired from a place that is not very popular or whose name they have not heard. They are not completely off the mark as degree mills have given them a reason to worry. These types of universities may have legitimate names, but the degrees are bought rather than earned. Thus, your best bet is to ensure that you attain your online degree from a place that is well recognized when it comes to online education. This is not something that you would have to worry about in the case of traditional degrees.
The level of degree
Online bachelor’s degree tend to make people wary. It has been seen that very few consider it to be credible. Although there are many who believe these degrees to be acceptable, they draw a line when it comes to credibility. On the other hand, there are some who do not find them acceptable at all. As a result, this is a problem that you might have to face if you opt to get an online degree. However, if you choose the traditional route, you will not have to face any of these issues.
It has been seen that online degrees gain more acceptance in the fields which are more knowledge-based. For instance, online degrees in accounting are likely to be more beneficial as compared to online degrees in nursing.
There are some industries which accept online degrees with ease as compared to others. Technology and marketing are some areas where acceptance is more likely. On the other hand, medicine is something with which you are likely to have a tough time.
This is something which is not just limited to degrees. It has been seen that when it comes to hiring, there is quite a lot which rides on the personal preference of the person who is hiring. There are some for whom work experience matters more than academics, while there are others who tend to focus more on academics.
Qualities of the degree holder
It is not just the institute which makes your degree credible. You also have a role to play in this. Your resume has quite a bit of importance in deciding how an employer will perceive your degree. If you have been employed in a related field, have managed to excel in it and have opted for an online degree while working, your degree would be viewed with a lot more respect. Similarly, if you do not have work experience and there is no clear reason for you to choose an online course, you are likely to be treated with a bit of suspicion.
To sum up, online degrees are accepted if they have been attained from quality institutions and there are many factors involved in this. There are some fields where you will find them to be beneficial, while in others, they would prove to be a hindrance to your success. You also have a contribution to make in how your online degree is perceived.
How to apply for an online program
Once you have decided the school that you wish to enroll in, you need to take a step further, acquire more information about the place, and apply to it. Different procedures are followed by different schools.
The first thing that you ought to do is talk to someone who would be able to guide you through the whole application procedure. There are some schools which have a competitive admittance. For these school, you might need to write essays and present transcripts of your previous academic records and similar documents. There are also some schools that need to be applied to months in advance. Thus, it is rather important to know the right procedure beforehand.
Some additional factors to consider
Similar to traditional universities, you will find that there are various online colleges that have religious affiliations. They are mostly of Christian domination and tend to maintain a value-oriented base, which is apparent in their curriculum and their atmosphere. There are some students that might find these colleges to be a better option. While there might be some differences, on the whole, religiously affiliated schools tend to focus on morals and spiritual education in addition to education and career. Thus, you need to decide if this is something that you are comfortable with.
Career colleges and trade schools
Vocational education is appealing to working adults who are making a return to school. This offers them the opportunity to attain education in a specialized field within a short span without sacrificing their work. This education is designed to ensure that students are provided with hands-on experience along with professional training. The purpose of these schools is to ensure that the students are provided with the experience of a workplace. There are a number of accrediting institutes present to make it certain that vocational schools follow the standard requirements to provide training and support to the students. If you are contemplating signing up for vocational education, you would need to verify the program’s accreditation.
Access to technology
If it is online education that you intend to opt for, you would need to have access to technology. You will need to make it certain that you have access to a reliable and advanced computer at all times (or at least when it is time for you to study) and there are no problems with your internet connection. Every step of your education would require these tools, be it school work, discussions with professors and peers, or homework and exams. Every school or program tends to have its own technological requirement, which you can follow to attain the perfect online education. It is essential to keep the cost of getting technological equipment in mind when you are applying for schools.
Some colleges providing online degrees
Western Kentucky University
It is a public university located in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The online university was established in 1998 and at the moment, has around 2400 students enrolled in the program. It has acquired accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges for 59 online bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The university has 78 full-time faculty members for the online programs with the average teaching experience being 4 years. The programs cost $463 per credit hour. The university tends to retain nearly 81% of their new online students and the response time of the faculty is 48 hours. One drawback which is present in the offerings of this university is that it does not offer tech support to the students around the clock.
All in all, this university is quite reputable and has managed to attain a position in the world ranking. You ought to take a look at this university when it comes to getting an online degree.
Pennsylvania State University
It is another public university located in State College, Pennsylvania. The online program was established in 2000 and at present, the university has as many as 4300 students enrolled in the program. It offers 82 programs for bachelor’s and master’s and has been accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. It has employed as many as 315 full-time faculty members in these programs, who have a teaching experience of 5 years on average. These programs cost around $535 per credit hour. The university retains 72% of its online students, and the faculty response time is 24 hours. You will also be impressed to know that its tech support is available throughout the day for the whole week.
This university would not let you down and ensure that you are provided with quality education along with the guidance that you need.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
It is a private university which is located in Daytona Beach, Florida. The online programs were founded in 1993 and around 14000 students are enrolled in these programs at present. It has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges for the 31 courses that it offers. It has employed 94 full-time faculty members for its programs who have a teaching experience of around 6 years. The faculty response time of the university is 24 hours and complete tech support is provided to you at all times.
At the end of the day, it is not an easy decision to make. There are quite a few factors that would influence your decision. When it comes to making career choices, a lot of thought and consideration goes into it all as you need to ensure that you do not end up making a mistake that you would regret for the rest of your life. When it comes to deciding whether an online degree is the right option for you, you need to first be clear about your reasoning. Why is it that you want to opt for an online college? Is it because a campus life does not appeal to you? Do you have issues with regards to the timings? Are you working alongside your education? These are some of the questions that need answers and you need to be prepared for these questions to be asked time and again. When you apply for a job, upon seeing your online degree, these are the questions that you might be asked. You need answers that would manage to convince them that your decision had weight.
The program that you select needs to be chosen after a lot of consideration as well. It needs to be a program that would be of value for your career. You need to make it certain that the degree you acquire would have some worth in your selected field. You need to make sure that your hard work would not go down the drain.
While choosing a college, there are multiple things that you would have to take into account and you will need to ensure that it is the right place for you. Do not go for its face value. Ensure that you conduct a thorough research before you sign up for a place so that you face no problems in the future.
There is no denying that online colleges offer you a lot of ease and feasibility. However, if not treated with caution, they can turn out to be a liability. Do not fall into a trap and become a victim of scams. When we talk about an online college, it becomes all the more important to be on your toes at all times. Do not forget to verify every detail that you are presented with. This is your future at stake, so negligence is not an option. You need to make it certain that you are able to extract maximum benefits that an online degree has to offer. This will only be possible if you are cautious at every step and take your decisions wisely.