Just as they sound, online degrees are degrees you can earn online, usually from the comfort of your own home or anywhere you can connect to the Internet. These degree programs offer courses through online portals and often allow students to have access to professors and fellow students through email and message boards as they work through each course. Textbooks, assignments, feedback, and grades are posted online, and students can usually maintain a flexible schedule while they earn an online degree.
The “fast” element of a fast online degree refers to the idea that students can earn an accelerated degree faster than the usual four years for a bachelor’s degree, for example. Online degrees are usually accelerated because of the more flexible schedule and larger number of terms offered in a shorter time period, which allows students to earn more credits in less time.
Nationally accredited online colleges are usually for-profit and offer students vocational, technical, or career programs. With technology advanced enough to support an online degree, many modern students have opted for the online option for various reasons. As with almost any choice in life, of course, choosing a faster online degree over a traditional degree has its pros and cons.
Whether an accelerated online degree is worth the money and effort or not really depends on the student. Accelerated online degrees can be advantageous for certain students, while others might find they prefer a traditional four-year college or university.
Online degrees work well for students who require a more flexible schedule because they are already working full- or part-time, have family members to care for outside of school, or want to get a degree in a shorter amount of time to start working sooner in their chosen field. Students who are parents or who are deciding to change careers often find online degree programs much more advantageous than a traditional degree program.
Another benefit to an online degree is the ability to get classwork done in a more solitary environment. Visual learners or learners who prefer to take their time and learn from the comfort of their own home might perform better while earning an online degree. Students can work on assignments at their own pace or even at odd hours that work better for their schedules and learning styles.
Some online degrees are also significantly less expensive than traditional four-year colleges and universities, especially when compared to private colleges and universities. Students should do their research and make sure the cost of any online degree program is worth it to them and compare their options based on their preferences.
For students who prefer to be with professors and fellow students in-person, an accelerated online degree program might not be as advantageous as a traditional degree program. Of course, many online colleges offer the option to pursue a degree that mixes in-person learning with online coursework, so students can get the best of both worlds. However, if a student wants a traditional campus experience, an online degree might not be the best fit.
Students pursuing an online degree should be ready to work at a faster pace, even though they can work with flexible schedules. Online degree programs often ask students to complete a course in fewer weeks than they would have during a traditional 16-week semester, especially since online degrees are often accelerated programs. Students who want to work at a slower pace might want to consider a traditional degree program instead.
Another potential downside to online degree programs is the required self-motivation. Though online degree programs often offer reminders for deadlines and professor correspondence that keep students on track, without the necessity of attending class, some students might find it difficult to motivate themselves to complete the work.
However, students who have worked hard in high school or other college courses and have been part of extracurricular programs like a high school honor society should have no problem remaining disciplined during an online degree program.
One myth about online college degrees is that they are less reputable than traditional degrees and that employers do not accept them as openly. This really depends on the type of degree and the reputation of the institution offering the online degree. When deciding where to study and earn an online degree, students should look for accredited institutions.
For a college or university to become accredited, a reputable third-party accrediting agency must evaluate and validate the institution and determine that it has met established education standards.
Nationally accredited institutions are different from regionally accredited institutions, and the Department of Education might not recognize some nationally accredited universities. Take a look at the U.S. Department of Education’s website to make sure any institution you’re looking into is listed, or that institution might not actually have any accreditation.
You can find a list of the top 41 nationally accredited online colleges, but here are ten of the top nationally accredited colleges to look into first.
California Coast University was founded as a private liberal arts school in 1973. The school is based out of Santa Ana, California, and has about 8,000 students at any given time. The flexible online degree has been designed for working professionals.
Founded in 1997 by a group of governors hoping to create a school to fit the needs of 21st-century students, Western Governors University is mission-driven and non-profit.
Founded in 1951 in Southern California focused at first on radio and electronics for returning servicemen and working women, Grantham University has expanded to feature over 50 degree programs and reach students across the country with online degree options.
Founded in 1933, Columbia Southern University seeks to combine high-quality online learning with general education skills to enable life-long success. CSU has a full range of studies available and boasts a student-first, family-oriented culture that caters to non-traditional students.
Founded in 1931 by a former Marine Corps officer, American Public University System is recognized as a top university for professionals in the national security, military, and public safety sectors and offers over 200 academic programs with flexible degree options.
A Los Angeles attorney founded Abraham Lincoln University in 1996 as a law-focused school offering programs in general studies, business administration, criminal justice, and legal studies.
Founded in 1900 in Stillwater, Minnesota to educate America’s up-and-coming business class, Rasmussen has expanded to physical campuses located in Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Kansas with a digital campus for distance learners.
Programs offered at Southwestern Oklahoma State University include Nursing and Allied Health, Education, Business, and Psychology. Like other online colleges, SOSU offers online degree programs, interactive television (ITV) webinars, and blended program combining in-person classes with a distance option.
American National University’s areas of focus include healthcare and nursing, information technology, and cybersecurity with programs available at all levels from diplomas and certificates to master’s degrees. Classes are available online, on-campus, or as part of blended degree programs mixing online and in-person coursework.
Accreditation: ABHES, ACCET, and ACCSC
East Coast Polytechnic Institute was founded in 1966, focused on STEM-related fields and Healthcare. Though online classes allow for flexibility, students have the option to attend one of their physical campuses in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Florida.