get your degree online
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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.

Accreditation

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

online degree programs
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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.

Online degree information
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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.

You can follow CollegeFocus on Twitter and Facebook.

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18 Comments

  1. A couple of my classes for my MBA were online and I loved it because I could manage it around my schedule. That said, I definitely agree that you need to do research before choosing a program. There are a lot of bad ones out there, but there are definitely some good ones as well.

  2. Yes, you definitely need to make sure that the school is accredited. If your undergraduate school isn’t accredited, then it would be very hard to get into a Masters program somewhere because they won’t accept your degree! My friend learned that the hard way.

  3. I loved the flexibility of my classes when I took them online, but I always felt like I understood the classes better in person. It seems to be a special sort of person who can do their entire degree online. I never would’ve made it through.

    1. I think it depends on the class. There are some where you can learn just as good online, but others you should get some classroom time.

  4. I work at a university, so I’m a bit biased against online colleges. Always make sure it is not a for-profit. If it is, look elsewhere. Start with a brick and mortar university and find programs there.

    1. I could not second this enough. PLEASE make sure it’s not a for-profit college. Think about it this way… what motivation does a FOR-profit college have for failing students? None! They need money. So any for-profit college, like University of Phoenix or ITT Tech is a degree to take with a grain of salt.

      Look for state school online programs if you go the online route. In NY State, we have the CUNY and SUNY systems which both offer great online programs that are definitely accredited.

    2. There are many great regular colleges that now offer online degree programs. There is a big college in our state that does a great job at them.

  5. I have a few friends who have gotten their MBAs and Masters online and had great success. I personally would need a professor in the room with me to keep me focused, but these are great tips for those who are contemplating this course of action.

    1. I have some friends that did the same thing. I can learn just as well online as I can in the classroom, so an online course works for me.

  6. While getting your degree online is convenient, I think most places get a pretty bad wrap when you try to cash in with your credentials to get a higher paying job. I’d be very wary of getting an online degree in today’s climate. However, I think 8-10 years from now this will be the norm and the taboo will be gone.

    1. I think that can be the case, depending on the university. That thinking is shifting quickly, but you should think about it when you pick a program.

  7. Thanks for the post. There are so many schools out there that are nothing more than diploma mills. So many of the programs offered are just huge money makers for the schools. I got suckered into “Medical Billing and
    Coding”. Luckily it was at the local CC and I didn’t sink a fortune into trying to make a career change.

    I had seen so many commercials and ads about Medical Billing and Coding offered by both the local CC and a local “for profit college”. In my mind it was perfect, and I was hypnotized by the hype. I did not do my homework and find out for myself how many people actually found jobs as coders and at what rate of pay. The fact is very few actually find entry level work even after taking the required “certification” exam.

    After giving it some thought, I realized that the local CC is not immune from wanting to make money. At any given time at least 3 beginner, intermediate and advanced classes were in session. I figured for $200 in tuition for 3 semesters, plus $300-$500 in books for 3 semesters times 30 students is a solid return for the school. All it cost them was classroom space for 3 semesters and a part time instructor.

    1. You said something that is very important. Make sure you understand what course you are going after and why. Check to make sure your career switch is even going to pay off.

  8. That’s nice. Are there any FREE online degrees/courses available for foreign students?

    1. Harvard offers some free courses. Millions of people take them, but they won’t transfer anywhere. They are just to increase you knowledge.