Online graduate programs are numerous and increasingly growing. So how do you sift through all your choices to make sure you’re picking the right ones? Several factors are important to consider when making a decision on extending your education; make certain not to overlook the following:
The most fundamental (and the one most students make the biggest mistake with) is accreditation. There are two distinctive bodies in accreditation-regional and national. Regional is considered the best, or rather “the gold standard” for accreditation and is the most widely recognized.
Not only are credits and degrees more broadly accepted from regionally accredited colleges, but regional is considered more prestigious than its counterpart. This is a factor that students should find incredibly important, especially when considering their (academic or not) future as it will lend to employability and recognition of the institution.
Regional colleges are similarly eligible for all tuition reimbursement programs, which are programs that allow employers to reimburse your tuition if you are studying in a work-related area. Among the numerous reasons, this could be a large factor in reasoning toward regional accredited organizations.
Some online universities even have world-class accreditation, which is sure to help your job prospects in the future. Employers are aware of how prestigious degrees from these universities are and will treat you accordingly during the interview process. These universities tend to have acclaimed research departments, to which you will have access, and provide a top-quality education to all of their students. Americans schools that have world-class accreditation, earn this ranking from the country’s academic sanctioning bodies, which ensures that your degree is recognized as one of the most valuable that is available online.
The best online programs will also have instructors who have taught online courses previously. Make sure you research your professors before you enroll in a program or class. If it’s their first ‘rodeo’ they might not understand how to properly cater to an online audience. The same goes for the student body. Don’t put student reviews on the back-burner; if they’ve been through the academic program you’re planning to take, it’s hardly unlikely that they have nothing beneficial to add. If the trend is poor, it’s advisable to go a different route. In the same way, brushing off red flags is a poor decision; if you have consistent difficulty in contacting someone about academic counseling or career placement services, it’s more than likely you’ll struggle when something more urgent or crucial comes up.
Find Online Degree Program Information
A good majority of information on any institution can be found online or by contacting the institution itself. It’s important that you are fully aware of the key aspects of a major academic commitment. To make it easier, here are a few schools that are well known for having good programs (and a few tidbits on why). But these are only a few. To find those closer to you or those that are more suited, there are websites (such as U.S. News) that offer information and rankings on the best bachelor programs and a generator that lets you know which online program may suit you best.
Westfield State University has claimed a top place on U.S. News as far as faculty training and credential among bachelor’s programs online, while Bellevue University in Nebraska has quite the reputation for student engagement and assessment. Because bachelor’s programs are degree-completion programs, these are some of the easiest to find suitable institutions for, if for example you don’t live in either of those states.
Top Online Business Programs
Kipling has rated Duke University (Fuqua School of Business) and Indiana University as some of the top best for business (Master’s programs). Carnegie Mellon and Stanford University are well known universities offering online programs for Computer Science and IT. Doctorates are also offered online; Johns Hopkins and Boston College are some of the few that offer these without having to step foot on their campus. Georgia Institute of Technology and University of Southern California are a couple of the handful that offer great engineering degrees; while Vanderbilt and Johns Hopkins are both great for health-related careers.
For the majority, there is no shortage in online degrees or universities that offer them. In short, though these universities are some of the many that are great for these specific programs, there are a handful of smaller (and perhaps more individually suitable) colleges that can accomplish the same. U.S. News ranks online degrees and the colleges that offer them a little differently though several factors like faculty credentials and training as well as student involvement (methodology more closely explained on their website) so there is no clear cut answer as far as putting education on the pedestal. The most important thing is to keep in mind both individual goals as well as the institution itself.
Author Bio: Mariya Rakutko is a junior at the University of Colorado and a staff writer for CollegeFocus, a website dedicated to helping students deal with the challenges of college, including housing, finance, style, health, relationships, and transferring from a community college to a four-year university.