6 Things to Know Before Choosing an Online Degree Program

With the many online degrees on offer today, deciding on the right one can be difficult. Every institution cleverly markets and packages its programs, making them all seem like the right choice.

But you know better: Not all are so. In fact, some programs are unaccredited and, therefore, aren’t worth much. So, what should you know before you pick an online degree program? Let’s find out.

1. Accreditation

Because online programs are popular, they’re also very profitable for schools. So, even without accreditation, some institutions rush to offer the programs, hoping to get accredited later. Others, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about the accreditation. They simply want to cash in.

Before you pick a program, you have to make sure that it is accredited by at least one reputable sanctioning body, like The Council for Higher Education Accreditation, for instance. One example of an accredited institution is Vanderbilt Peabody College, which is based out of Nashville, Tennessee.

Unaccredited degrees or diplomas aren’t worth the paper on which they’re printed. The courses might be incomplete, outdated, and won’t serve you well in the current workplace. Not only that, but they won’t be as recognized as diplomas from accredited schools. So, to avoid ending up with a worthless diploma, do your homework. Visit the accrediting council’s website, talk to the institution’s students, and read reviews.

2. Similarities to Traditional Programs

Besides accreditation, also look for similarities between the online program and its traditional counterpart. If differences exist in key areas, such as the time it’ll take you to complete the program, walk away. And time here doesn’t mean the number of years you’ll study.

No, it refers to the number of hours you should put into every course before you graduate. Next, look for the number of courses offered and the order in which they’re offered. Finally, look at the entry requirements students should meet before enrolling for the course. If everything mentioned above matches, you’re good to go.

3. Content Delivery

Once you’re sure the online institution offers accredited content similar to that of a traditional school, now focus on how it delivers this content. As you’d expect, this determines how fast and how easily you learn. But even so, don’t expect all schools to follow the same format.

Although all include pdf-format documents, images, videos, and video-streaming in their content, the best formats customize their content depending on the student and the course. In particular, keep an eye on how a school allows you to interact with your instructors as well as fellow students.

For example, in some courses, you only meet your instructors and colleagues online. In others, however, you both meet them online and in person. So, research the format best suited to your needs.

4. Flexibility

Although online schools customize their content and schedule to fit your lifestyle, each determines how much and how best to do so. For instance, although you determine how and when you do your coursework, you cannot extend your degree indefinitely.

Different schools have different time limits by which you must complete your course. Even the number of hours you must put in every week varies. So, before enrolling for a course, ensure its schedule matches yours.

5. Cost

When you find a course meeting all your requirements, look at your wallet before rushing to sign up. After all, although e-learning is famous for being cheap, it’s by no means free. In fact, whether online or otherwise, degree courses still attract tuition fees running into thousands of dollars.

What’s more, these fees vary per institution. As a general rule, the higher the fees, the better the quality of the degree. But this isn’t always the case. So, again, research a course thoroughly, ensuring it meets both your standards and budget.

6. Transferring Credits

Finally, you’ve chosen a course and you’re about ready to pay for it. But one thing holds you back – you’re currently enrolled in a traditional institution. What do you do? Do you sign up for the online program and then retake the courses you’ve already completed?

Or, do you give up on the online course, preferring instead to soldier on in the traditional course, even though it doesn’t suit your lifestyle? You do neither. You simply transfer the credits you’ve already earned from your current school to the online one.

However, there’s a catch. You can only transfer A, B, or C grades, and only if you earned them recently and, more importantly, in an accredited institution.


While online degrees have their fair share of advantages, all these advantages will be negated if you pick the wrong institution, so it’s essential that you do your due diligence if you want to pick a reputable institution, which will be respected by future employers.

Thanks to Zoe Price

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