Is an Online Degree Right for You?

If you’re thinking about going back to school, whether it be for your first or second degree, there are many things to consider. In an age where everything is done online, you might wonder whether you should enroll in an on-campus program or search for accredited online and continuing education degree programs?

Taking the online route, there are many benefits to choosing an off-campus program. Likewise, there are disadvantages. Many people—whether they hold full-time or part-time employment— decide to go the online degree route so they can continue working while earning and paying for their degree.

If you’re wondering whether an online degree is right for you, here are some of the benefits and disadvantages of an online degree.

Benefits of an online program

There are plenty of benefits to an online degree, and some of these advantages just can’t be offered with an in-person program. You can earn your degree anywhere, no matter where you are in the world. You can still be in a virtual classroom and learn, whether you’re traveling halfway across the world or are in your PJs in bed. Another benefit is that you aren’t limited to schools in your current region. As an example, you can go to a school in Massachusetts while living in Hawaii. However, out-of-state tuition tends to be higher than in-state tuition.

With online programs, you can do your schoolwork whenever you want and your class time is flexible. While online programs are still going to have deadlines for schoolwork, in an online setting, so you can typically do your work whenever you want as well as read and take the lessons on your own time. 8 a.m. or 8 p.m. classes don’t have to exist, unless you want them to.

Online programs are typically cheaper. While this depends on a program-by-program basis, online tuition is typically cheaper than on-campus programs. Also, you can learn and earn at the same time. There are many college students who work while physically being in the classroom. However, since online programs are flexible and provide more freedom, you don’t have to quit your day job to go back to school.

Disadvantages of an online program

Unfortunately, online programs aren’t perfect. While there are advantages to a remote classroom, you don’t get a classroom environment. You can’t ask questions and interact with students in-person, but you can do it in a virtual setting through tools like email.

If you ask your professor a question, you might have to wait anywhere from a few minutes or few hours for a response. You won’t get the campus experience with an online degree. Being on campus provides an entire experience and allows students to be around like-minded people, join groups and teams, and feel like they are part of a community.

Furthermore, there remains a stigma attached to online degrees, as if an online degree “doesn’t count.” One way to combat this, however, is to ensure your program is accredited. If it is, employers should regard your degree as a complete equivalent to a degree earned traditionally, on-campus.

Though cheaper than traditional college, online programs are still expensive. Whether you want to go back to school to pursue a field that specializes in all lines adjuster prelicensing training or get your MFA, be sure you are fully aware of the cost of your degree.

Probably the most important consideration with online schooling is that you have to teach yourself the material. While lessons and readings are provided and you can communicate with your teacher and fellow students virtually, you will still have to be a big part of your learning by teaching the material to yourself. There won’t be a teacher at the front of the classroom making sure you’re paying attention and engaging with the lessons.

If you’re self-motivated, enjoy working at your own pace, and love the flexibility that an online program provides, then an online degree is a great route. However, if you want more face-to-face time with your professors and fellow students while getting an on-campus experience, then you may find that a traditional route is the better option.