Online Degrees

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Online degrees have become increasingly popular for aspiring college students. Distance learning degrees can provide more flexibility in terms of coursework scheduling and the ability to learn from anywhere.

Online Degrees

While online learning is not for everyone, it can generally provide more control over how and when coursework can be completed. Some online degrees are more structured than others.

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You may have the option to choose between asynchronous or synchronous classes throughout your program of study. Online degrees can help give you the freedom you need to log in anytime from anywhere.

Online Degrees

There are many online degree options available. Most fields of study at least offer limited online course options, while many degrees can be earned completely online.

To learn more about a specific field of study and the online degree options available within it, you can click on the links below:

Online degrees are becoming more popular than ever, and with this increased interest, more schools are offering online options. These are just some of the degree fields available to pursue online.

Common College Online Programs

students following online lecture

Online degree programs are available at all levels of education. Because of this, more students are opting to start their schooling or go back to school for advanced degrees without having to leave the comfort of their homes.

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You can click on the links below for our more in-depth guides on each level of online education.

There are many fields of study available online at all degree levels. Earning a degree can help open the doors to new opportunities, rewarding careers, and great salary potential.

These are some common degrees pursued at each level and how they can influence your career potential:

Online Associate’s Degree Programs

associate degree student studying online

An associate degree is often used as a stepping stone for a bachelor’s degree or a more advanced degree, but it can stand alone as well.

Some of the most popular online associate degrees are:

  • Liberal Arts
  • Health Professions
  • Business
  • Law Enforcement
  • Computer Sciences
  • Engineering

Having an associate degree can help make you a more competitive candidate than someone with just a high school diploma, particularly when applying for technical or vocational jobs.

Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs

student getting his bachelors degree online

A bachelor’s degree is the most common degree people pursue, and there are thousands of majors to choose from.

Some of the most popular online bachelor’s degrees are:

  • Business
  • Criminal Justice
  • Accounting
  • Nursing (RN to BSN)
  • Education
  • Psychology

A bachelor’s degree can help qualify you to enter directly into a professional career.

Online Master’s Programs

masters degree student studying in a cafe

If you have a bachelor’s degree but want to advance further in your field, take on a managerial position, or transition into a new field, you might consider a master’s degree.

Some of the most popular online master’s degrees are:

  • Business Administration
  • Psychology
  • Accounting
  • Education
  • Nursing

A master’s degree is an advanced degree that can help distinguish you from other job candidates and help you qualify for promotions and professional positions. It may also qualify you for careers that are unattainable without a graduate degree.

Online Doctoral Programs

doctoral student studying online

A doctoral degree is the highest, most prestigious college degree. It is a degree pursued by those who want to specialize in their field of study, earn top credentials, and become experts in their field.

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Some of the most popular online doctoral degrees include:

  • Psychology
  • Education
  • Business Administration
  • Ministry and Theology
  • Nursing
  • Counseling
  • Leadership

Earning a doctoral degree can demonstrate your drive and passion for your field and distinguish you from other candidates. If you desire to teach at the college level in your field of expertise or conduct niche research, this often requires a doctorate.

Online Undergraduate Certificate Programs

Female Student Inspects the Car
With just a high school diploma under your belt, you may pursue an undergraduate certificate. Undergraduate certificate programs are designed to teach basic career skills to help students prepare for jobs.

Some of the most popular undergraduate certificates are:

  • Project Management
  • General Contractor
  • Licensed Practical and Vocational Nursing
  • Automotive Service

Earning certificates can help you boost your resume.

Online Graduate Certificate Programs

woman getting her online graduate certificate

If you have earned your bachelor’s degree and want additional, more specialized training, you can pursue a graduate certificate.

Some of the most popular graduate certificates are within the fields of:

  • Education
  • Health Sciences
  • Business

An online graduate certificate can allow you to update your skills and help you set yourself apart from other job candidates or earn a raise or promotion without disrupting your current work schedule.

How Online College Degree Programs Work

young teacher recording a lesson

Online students typically follow the same curriculum, view the same lectures, and have the same professors, assignments, and exams as on-campus students. They just don’t complete the entire program on campus.

These are some common features of online programs:

  • Virtual discussions: Since online students aren’t able to engage in in-person conversations with their classmates, they typically utilize virtual discussions instead. One common way to do this is through discussion boards that work like online forums. Discussions may also be done in chat rooms and voice or video calls. This provides opportunities to interact, provide feedback, and challenge the opinions of one another. Professors often grade students on their frequency of participation and the value of their posts.
  • Require self-motivation: Because online students often don’t have to attend class on exact days and times, their success depends largely on their own motivation. Students must find time to study and keep track of assignment due dates and exam dates.
  • Flexible formats: Online programs may be completed fully online or in hybrid programs, where some requirements are completed on campus. Some programs offer asynchronous classes, where you can complete courses at your own pace and don’t have set meeting times. Others offer synchronous classes, which have virtual lectures that meet at set times.

Another possibility in online programs is to accelerate your degree. Many online programs offer shorter, more intense courses or the ability to take courses year-round so that it is possible to graduate faster than in traditional on-campus programs.

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Online education can be a great way to earn a degree while still being able to maintain a job and personal commitments.

Popular Online Degree Programs

two accounting students solving homework together

There are many types of degree programs offered fully online that may prepare you for your desired career in a similar way as an in-person degree program.

  • Accounting and finance can prepare you for a career in accounting, financial consulting, or similar occupations by introducing you to accounting principles and procedures, financial analysis, taxation, auditing, and financial decision-making.
  • Business administration is designed to prepare you for leadership roles in the business environment by offering coursework in business management and marketing strategies, managerial accounting, and project management.
  • Criminal justice online degrees study all aspects of the criminal justice system, including the judicial and correctional system, criminology, and victimology.
  • Education online degrees come in several formats, such as elementary or special education, with core coursework focusing on the foundations of education, classroom management, and instructional design and planning.
  • Engineering includes several branches, such as chemical, electrical, civil, and environmental, and can teach you how to use various computer-aided design technologies to design and build infrastructure, systems, or equipment.
  • Healthcare administration can prepare you for leadership roles in healthcare by exploring topics related to healthcare operations, strategic management, and healthcare policies.
  • Information technology (IT) online degrees can introduce you to the fundamentals of IT and the study of computer systems and networks, IT security, and IT operations.
  • Liberal Arts combines several areas of study, including history, English, communications, and philosophy, which can help you develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills.
  • Nursing online degrees are typically designed to help you complete specific requirements to become a registered nurse and cover topics like person-centered care, public health, and evidence-based practice in nursing.
  • Psychology and counseling degrees online can teach you about abnormal psychology, lifespan development, human behaviors, and research methods.

While additional online degrees are available, these are some common programs usually offered fully online.

Pros and Cons of College Degree Programs Online

two college students studying online

There are a number of reasons students choose to pursue an education online. Perhaps the most common reason is the flexibility that an online degree program can offer. An online education is not for everyone though. There are a number of pros and cons for online college degrees to consider.

These are some pros that many online degree programs often offer:


  • Flexible scheduling
  • Faster completion time
  • Ability to study at your own pace
  • Login from anywhere
  • Access to more colleges
  • No commuting
  • Lower costs

While there are many potential benefits of online education, there are some cons to consider as well. These are some cons you may face when earning a degree online:


  • No face-to-face interaction on campus
  • Not all majors are available
  • Increased personal responsibility for assignments
  • Networking challenges
  • Requires self-direction and self-motivation

While pursuing a degree online is worth it for many students, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of earning a degree online and decide if it is right for you.

Choosing an Online Degree Program

two students looking for colleges online

Selecting a college doesn’t have to be an overly stressful affair. By doing your research, you can better ensure that you choose a school that fits your needs and goals.

These are some important things to consider when choosing an online degree program:

  • Accreditation: Regional accreditation can affect your ability to transfer credits, qualify for advanced degree programs, and qualify for financial aid, and many employers look more favorably upon degrees from accredited institutions,
  • Majors: It’s important to make sure that your desired field of study is offered. Some majors are difficult to find in fully online formats.
  • Resources: Schools may offer a number of helpful resources for online students, including digital libraries and textbooks, tutoring, career advice, and internship placement.
  • Transfer credits: If you’ve already had some schooling, finding a program that is transfer-friendly can help you save time and money. Some schools may allow you to earn credits for past work, military, or other experiences or through test or portfolio assessments.
  • Format: You may be able to take synchronous or asynchronous courses. Some programs may be fully online, while others offer hybrid options, with some classes taken on campus. You may also be able to complete your degree faster by taking accelerated classes.
  • Cost: It’s important to consider tuition costs, as well as other costs, such as internet fees, books, and travel expenses. Talking with a counselor at your prospective school can help you identify scholarship, grant, and loan opportunities to help with these costs.

The best online program for you is the one that has the field of study you are looking for and fulfills your personal needs, so it’s important to research the many different things that online schools can offer.

Typical Admissions Requirements

two university students cooperating on common project

Universities with online degrees typically ask for the same admissions requirements for their online and on-campus programs. Some common admission requirements you may encounter when applying to different schools and programs include:

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Official transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • SAT or ACT scores (only some schools require them)

The minimum education requirement for most accredited bachelor degree online programs is a high school diploma or GED certificate. SAT and ACT scores may or may not be requested depending on the school to determine placement level in general education courses or admissions eligibility.

Online College Degrees Accreditation

Online College Degrees Accreditation

While the quality of an institution and degree program can depend on numerous factors, some of the best online degrees are accredited.

Accredited educational programs and postsecondary institutions have met certain criteria set forth by regional accrediting agencies, which assess the quality of a school’s educational offerings and other resources. Accreditation can be especially important for online university degrees because it shows that the programs are up to nationally recognized education standards.

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You can use the US Department of Education’s accreditation database to search for prospective schools that are accredited.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

woman preparing for an examination

Yes! As long as the university is accredited, there are financial aid opportunities you may pursue. There are four main types of financial aid:

  • Grants
  • Scholarships
  • Loans
  • Work-study

In most cases, grants and scholarships are based on financial need, merit, or specific circumstances. Your school likely offers opportunities for these, and many other organizations offer them for a variety of reasons as well.

To see what federal grants or loans you qualify for, you may complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

Should I Get a Degree Online?

student listening to professor teaching online
Ultimately, whether or not an online degree program is right for you will be up to your own personal needs, goals, and interests. Online education is worth it for many students because of the benefits it may offer.

Some of the common benefits of choosing an online degree program are:

  • Convenience
  • Flexible pacing for coursework
  • Ability to work around busy schedules
  • Potentially cheaper costs
  • Potentially faster to complete (through accelerated courses or year-round scheduling)
  • Don’t have to move to attend
  • Earn a degree or credentials to qualify for promotions or new jobs

If these benefits sound good to you, then earning a degree online may be right for you.

Are Online Degrees Respected?

engineering student testing her project

While online degrees have become more popular due to technological advancements and other circumstances, some may question the quality of online degrees.

Online degrees can be just as credible and legitimate as in-person degrees. Some employers may favor job candidates who received an in-person degree, but many simply care about the quality of the institution or program itself. Accreditation can play an important role in assuring employers that your online degree comes from a well-respected institution.

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Online degrees from accredited schools with a good reputation are typically favored over university online degrees offered at non-accredited or lesser-known schools.

Can You Earn a Degree Online?

mature student studying online at home

Yes! There are thousands of fully online, accredited degree programs available at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and certificate levels. There are many more hybrid programs as well.

Some on-campus programs offer the option to take limited courses online as well. While not all majors are available online, most are, so there is a high possibility that you’ll be able to find a degree in your area of interest that you can earn online.

How Flexible Are the Degrees You Can Get Online?

male student participating in online discussions

Generally, online degrees are considered flexible because they can fit into most peoples’ lives fairly easily. You can “attend” class while making breakfast, over your lunch hour, or once your children are in bed for the night. You may even continue your studies while on vacation.

You may take synchronous classes in which you’ll participate in virtual lectures at set times or asynchronous courses that do not have set times. Even online students have strict deadlines. Your assignments will have due dates, and exams will need to be completed by a certain date and time. You may be able to take a self-paced program, though, which can be very flexible.

You will also have inflexible degree requirements, meaning you will be required to take certain major-specific courses and general education courses in order to complete your degree, just like on-campus students.

Will My Degree Say Online?

young student with virtual block mates doing online class
It is very unlikely that anyone would be able to tell you were an online student by looking at your degree. Degrees earned by online students are usually identical to the ones earned by someone who has attended classes on campus.

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Unless you’re attending a college that’s synonymous with online learning, your employers and others will have no way of knowing whether you attended college from your couch or a classroom.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor’s Degree Online?

young girl student studying at home

If you attend class full-time and participate in a traditional, 16 week, semester-based schedule, then you can typically earn a bachelor’s degree in 4 years.

By attending classes online, you may be able to earn your degree faster. You may take accelerated courses or attend year-round, even in the summer. This can potentially reduce the time it takes to 2.5 to 3 years. If you attend part-time, it will take longer to complete your degree.

What’s the Difference Between an Online College vs. Traditional College?

group of college students working together on a project

Making the choice between online classes vs. traditional classes isn’t always an easy decision. Both options come with plenty of pros and cons.

While the degrees you can earn and the information you can learn from online colleges and traditional colleges can be the same, there are differences between them to consider.

Online Colleges Traditional Colleges
  • Can be done from the comfort of home, or anywhere with internet
  • Don’t require you to move and typically require little to no need to commute
  • Typically have more flexible class times and may even be completely self-paced
  • Offer less communication with classmates and professors
  • May be cheaper
  • Require greater self-motivation
  • Offer the atmosphere, social aspects, and community of an on-campus experience
  • Require commuting, or potentially moving
  • Have set class times
  • Offer more opportunities to network and build relationships with classmates and professors
  • May be more expensive due to room and board, textbooks, and other fees

These are just some of the common differences that students consider when deciding between traditional and online colleges. It’s important to consider your own needs, goals, and interests when deciding which is right for you.

Is an Online Degree Worth It?

young college student discussing her report online

Yes, an online degree is worth it for many students. You can have the same professors, course material, assignments, and exams as on-campus students, all from the comfort of home, while fitting it into your busy schedule.

An online degree from an accredited institution has as much value as the same degree earned on campus, and a college degree has the potential to be extremely valuable! According to the BLS, the median weekly earnings of people with bachelor’s degrees is $1,432. In comparison, the median weekly earnings for those with just high school diplomas is $853. That’s a difference of $30,110 a year!

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College graduates typically have lower unemployment rates and higher rates of job satisfaction as well. Earning a degree can help open the door to new careers or help you qualify for promotion.

Getting Your Degree Online

student getting his degree online

Online learning has become more common due to technological advancements and the attractiveness of flexible scheduling.

Online degrees have many potential benefits, such as the ability to learn from anywhere, lower total cost of attendance, and the ability to tailor your schedule to fit your needs. Many online degree programs offer live instruction or asynchronous courses so you can interact with peers and professors in real-time or learn at your own pace while adhering to deadlines.

If you think earning your degree online might be a good fit, you can start by exploring online degrees offered by accredited colleges and universities today.

Ready to start your journey?
Elizabeth Abner
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.