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Online College Degrees

April 7, 2021 | Staff Writers

Degree Finder
BestValueSchools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Thanks to top-ranking college and university online programs, quitting your job or moving to a new city to earn a degree is no longer necessary. Accredited online degree programs offer the same learning instructions, professors, and faculty used in traditional universities. This means students will graduate with high-value credentials. 

If you are thinking about online college degrees, you will find everything you need to know in this article.

Most Affordable Online College Degrees

Many students interested in taking online classes often ask if they are cheaper. In general, online degree programs are less expensive compared to degrees from traditional degree-awarding institutions. 

Tuition is usually the highest cost of studying in on-ground higher learning institutions. This varies depending on several factors, including your nationality, which country you want to study, the chosen specialization, the duration of the study, and the type of degree (Ph.D., Master’s, Bachelor, and associate). 

Colleges and universities typically require fewer resources to offer online programs, which accounts for the difference in costs in most cases. 

Also, the cost of attendance is considerably reduced for online education. There is usually no need to pay for accommodation or spend money on transportation. Obtaining a student visa and the extra cost of food and entertainment are equally nonexistent. Study materials, such as books, are cheaper because they are downloadable. 

If you are considering an online college degree, chances are, you want to find the most affordable options. Here is a list of some of the most inexpensive colleges offering online bachelor degree programs:

  1. Tennessee State University
    • Online college ranking: 2020 Most Affordable Online Bachelor in Psychology, English, and Information Technology Degrees 
    • Institution Type: Public, Nonprofit
    • Undergraduate tuition: $4,200 per year
  2. Georgia Southwestern State University
    • Online college ranking: 2020 Most Affordable Online Bachelor in Human Resource Degrees
    • Institution Type: Public, Nonprofit
    • Undergraduate tuition: $5,970 per year
  3. Aspen University
    • Online college ranking: 2020 Most Affordable Online Bachelor in Business, Early Childhood Education, and Substance Abuse Counseling Degrees
    • Institution Type: Private, For-profit
    • Undergraduate tuition: $4,500 per year
  4. Fort Hays State University
    • Online college ranking: 2020 Most Affordable Online Bachelor in Philosophy and Computer Science Degrees
    • Institution Type: Public, Nonprofit
    • Undergraduate tuition: $6,650
  5. Eastern New Mexico University-Main Campus
    • Online college ranking: 2020 Most Affordable Online Bachelor in Mathematics and Aviation Degrees
    • Institution Type: Public, Nonprofit
    • Undergraduate tuition: $7,492
  6. Georgia Southern University
    • Online college ranking: 2020 Most Affordable Online Bachelor in Sociology and Public Administration Degrees
    • Institution Type: Public, Nonprofit
    • Undergraduate tuition: $5,766
  7. Union College-KY
    • Online college ranking: 2020 Most Affordable Online Bachelor in Substance Abuse Counseling, Law Enforcement, and Counseling Degrees
    • Institution Type: Private, Nonprofit
    • Undergraduate tuition: $6,750
  8. Minot State University
    • Online college ranking: 2020 Most Affordable Online Bachelor in Human Services Degrees
    • Institution Type: Public, Nonprofit
    • Undergraduate tuition: $6,087
  9. William Woods University 
    • Online college ranking: 2020 Most Affordable Online Bachelor in Cyber-security Degrees
    • Institution Type: Private, Nonprofit
    • Undergraduate tuition: $7,050
  10. Southern Utah University
    • Online college ranking: 2020 Most Affordable Online Bachelor in Journalism and Communications Degrees
    • Institution Type: Public, Nonprofit
    • Undergraduate tuition: $6,006

Online Degrees Most Likely to Get You a Job

Online degrees were considered less valuable in time past because of sharp practices by some unscrupulous diploma mills. But all of that has changed in more recent times; even the cheapest online MBA is respected as any expensive MBA from a brick-and-mortar university. 

How Favorably Do Employers View an Online Degree?

Most employers are particular about the quality of education applicants get from schools. Thankfully, many online colleges are accredited, putting them on a level playing field as traditional universities. 

In general, most future-minded employers tend to view online degrees not only as equal but even more favorably than degrees from brick-and-mortar schools. Students can choose any accredited online college program without the fear of getting stuck without a job after graduation.

What Are the Online Degrees Most Likely to Get You a Job?

All online degrees are not designed equally. Some have great job prospects and will get you a job pretty quickly after graduation, while others are generally not highly sought after in the marketplace.

Here are some of the options that are likely to land you high-paying jobs:

  1. Statistician: The demand for statisticians is on the rise due to the rapid advancements in the field of technology. Candidates in this position collect and analyze data for practical use in both public and private sectors. Earning an online master’s or bachelor’s degree in statistics is an ideal qualification for entry-level positions. 
    • Average salary per year: $84,060
    • Job growth rate over the next decade: 34%
    • Online degree programs: Master’s in Statistic or Bachelor’s in Mathematics
  2. Physician Assistant: These professionals assist other medical practitioners, including doctors and nurses, to treat patients in hospitals or physician’s offices.  In addition to taking a graduate-level course, physician assistants are required to be licensed. 
    • Average salary per year: $104,860
    • Job growth rate over the next decade: 37%
    • Online degree programs: Master’s in Physician Assistant
  3. Software Developer: Candidates who work in this position possess technical prowess and creative abilities that make them highly valuable to their work. Besides developing codes for computer programs and apps, they also maintain and update existing software. Earning an online bachelor’s degree in computer science is a good place to start for most entry-level positions.
    • Average salary per year: $101,790
    • Job growth rate over the next decade: 31%
    • Online degree programs: Master’s in Computer Science or Bachelor’s in Computer Science
  4. Information Security Analyst: The demand for information security analysts is on the rise as the need for data security increases. A job in this position ensures that all data breaches in an organization are prevented by effectively monitoring security threats. Students can earn an online associate’s degree or online bachelor’s degree in this field of study. 
    • Average salary per year: $95,510
    • Job growth rate over the next decade: 28%
    • Online degree programs: Information Systems and Cyber Security Degree
  5. Occupational Therapist: This professional assists individuals who require help to perform their daily tasks due to disabilities or temporal injuries. Occupational therapists can find employment in schools, hospitals, and homes. Students interested in this field should consider getting an online master’s degree in occupational therapy.
    • Average salary per year: $83,200
    • Job growth rate over the next decade: 24%
    • Online degree programs: Doctorate in Occupational Therapy or Master’s in Occupational Therapy
  6. Operations Manager: This position is best suited to candidates with a bachelor’s degree in operations management, as it prepares them for effective coordination of an organization’s operations. Typical duties include formulating and enforcing organizational policies. Operations managers also manage human resources, financials, and all day-to-day operations. 
    • Average salary per year: $100,410
    • Job growth rate over the next decade: 9.1%
    • Online degree programs: Bachelor’s in Logistics or Operations Management 
  7. Financial Manager: The position of a financial manager is crucial to the survival of any business entity, as it deals with the organization’s fiscal health. Financial managers are in charge of producing timely financial reports and profit projections. In addition to a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance, prior on-the-job experience is great for students considering this career. 
    • Average salary per year: $125,080
    • Job growth rate over the next decade: 18.7%
    • Online degree programs: Master’s in Business Administration or Bachelor’s in Finance, Business Administration, or Accounting 

Another excellent online degree program that can get you a job fast is an online associate degree in criminal justice. The course prepares students for debates on social issues, such as environmental protection, women’s right, and freedom of speech. With a criminal justice degree, candidates can work as probation officers or police offers. 

Choosing an Accredited Online Degree Program

Simply put, accreditation certifies that an independent body has verified that an institution’s academic programs meet specific standards. Online college degree programs are accredited based on the same guidelines and standards as traditional degree programs. Students looking to pursue online college degrees can be confident that these programs meet strict standards of higher education.

As a potential online student looking to enroll in an online bachelor program (or for any other online courses), it is important to verify the accreditation status of the online program you are considering. The program should be currently accredited, or else you risk wasting your time, effort, and money on a bachelor’s degree that is potentially worthless. 

Keep in mind that although accreditation is beneficial to all parties involved, it is still voluntary. That means a university or college may operate and provide online education without being accredited.

How Do Online Degree Programs Become Accredited?

The process of accrediting an online program usually involves the school providing evidence that they meet certain standards. This first step is typically a self-review by the online learning institution. The next step involves checking the institution’s claims by a team of administrators and faculty from similar schools. 

But accreditation is not a one-time event. A recognized accrediting agency continues to monitor the online program to make sure they stick to the standards. Usually, programs are re-accredited periodically – typically after several years. 

While national accreditation is more common among for-profit schools, reputable nonprofit institutions typically undergo regional accreditation. Regional accreditation bodies usually carry out rigorous inspections and reviews. 

In the US, these agencies are recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the US Department of Education. The accrediting agencies include:

  1. Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  2. New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  3. Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  4. Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  5. Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
  6. Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

An online program is expected to pass the same rigorous accreditation process that traditional degree programs go through. The standards are not lowered just because the courses are offered on an online learning platform or through an online class. This explains why employers view college degree programs offered via online education as valuable as any bachelor’s degree from on-ground schools.

Accreditation is crucial as it indicates that an online learning institution provides the highest quality of education, whether they offer a bachelor’s program or a graduate program. Online education programs, particularly college and university programs, must meet specific academic standards, including:

  • The capacity to provide adequate academic support to students
  • Curriculum requirements
  • The progress rate of students
  • How well students are prepared when they complete the online courses (upon graduation)
  • The quality of the school’s faculty

Online college degree programs have institutional and programmatic or specialized accreditation. The former covers the entire university, and the latter applies to particular schools, departments, and degrees. College students pursuing online education need to ensure that the program has both types of accreditation.

Accreditation ensures that students obtaining the same qualification, such as a bachelor’s degree, can compete on a level playing field, with no one getting a better education at a particular online college or university. 

Students running online nursing programs in one university, for example, can go toe to toe with other nursing students from other schools, whether the courses are offered in a traditional or online learning platform. 

How Can You Determine If an Online Degree Program is Accredited?

You can determine the accreditation status of an online degree program in the following ways:

  1. Check the Institution’s Website 
    Check to see if the online school is accredited. A good place to start searching is on the online program’s website. The usual practice for most accredited online learning institutions is to have a link to their accreditation status somewhere on the homepage of their site. 

    Information about an online degree program shouldn’t be difficult to find on the school’s website. That’s because any accredited online college will be proud to display their accreditation status since they know it is among the first things that knowledgeable prospective students will want to know. 

    You should tread with caution if you can’t find that information on the website of any online program. Consider asking the institution’s officials for clarification when in doubt.
  2. Check with the Accrediting Agency
    A scam online program can lie about its accreditation status. For this reason, consider going a step further to confirm the accreditation status of online college degree programs from the accrediting agency that accredited the online program. Legitimate accreditation agencies will list the current accreditation status of schools in a way that is easy for the prospective online learner to find.
  3. Verify from the CHEA or US Department of Education
    Even if an online program is duly accredited, the accrediting agency may not be recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the US Department of Education. It is best for any student considering distance education to look up the accrediting agency on the US Department of Education’s website or CHEA. Finding the information on these sites is pretty straightforward, making it easy for any prospective online learner to quickly verify if accreditation agencies are duly recognized. 

What Are the Benefits to an Accredited Online Degree?

There are several advantages to earning a degree from an accredited online program. Some of the benefits include:

  • By attending an accredited online degree program, employers will receive and trust your qualification better. They will be confident that you have the quality education and employable skills they need.
  • As a student pursuing a degree in an accredited online school, you are eligible for financial aid. During your undergraduate degree program, the support you can receive can be in the form of loans, work-study programs, grants, and scholarships.
  • If you ever need to transfer credits between schools, it will be a lot easier to do so if you attend an accredited online school, as other educational institutions will trust and receive your earned credits from your previous school. 

Online Degree Programs and College Courses

Choosing an online degree program can be an uphill task, especially for a recent high school student. Besides the plethora of online bachelor’s degree programs available, there is the usual confusion in deciding between similar bachelor programs, such as BA versus BS degrees. 

Here are some steps to help you choose the online degree program and college courses that will suit you best. 

  1. Consider the subjects that interest you the most back in high school. A good way to determine this is to make a list of topics that you disliked, create another list of topics that you wanted to explore but didn’t quite like the teacher, and make a third list of topics you loved and excelled at. Subjects on the “totally disliked” list are often a no-no, and you should discard them. Focus on narrowing your degree program choices to the other two lists.
  2. Think about the hobbies you absolutely enjoy, such as things you like to do whether you don’t get paid. Some of these hobbies can indicate degree programs that will be best for you.
  3. Research the careers you are interested in and try to match them with the online courses you may want to study. If you intend to work for a year two before proceeding to university, finding a position in the career or field you hope to work in later will be a great idea, as it allows you to gain work experience that can come in handy when you finally enroll in an online bachelor’s degree program. If you are hoping to take the associate degree route, perhaps because you are already working with a high school diploma, consider online courses to improve your career prospects.
  4. Compare the length of the online program, and choose something that works for you. You may want to start from an online certificate program or an associate degree. You may choose an accelerated program and finish a lot earlier than the typical traditional university student. The good thing about online education is the sheer number of options it offers.
  5. Research each online degree program before enrolling. If you find a course that resonates with you, check to ensure that the online program is legit. If a school’s online program seems perfect for you but lacks accreditation, it is best not to enroll in the program. You should also inquire about the type of technical support available and financial aid available for eligible students. While online college is usually less expensive than their traditional counterparts, it is not surprising to find distant learners seeking student loans. Find out if financial aid in the form of grants and scholarships are available for the program before you sign up. Lastly, read student reviews to generalize what other students like you think about the online program.   

What Types of Students Benefit from Pursuing Online Degrees?

Most recent high school graduates prefer to further their education in a traditional college or university. However, online bachelor programs are becoming a more popular choice even among fresh high school grads in recent times. This is not unconnected with the scheduling flexibility, pacing options, geographic flexibility, overall lower costs, and the numerous other benefits of taking online courses.

Having said that, certain types of students are more suited to pursue an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or any other graduate degree. These types of students include:

  • Nontraditional learners: The adult student who didn’t go on to college immediately after high school can pursue an online bachelor’s degree program they want. Nontraditional learners may have family and other responsibilities that will make coping with an on-ground, campus degree program a bit too tasking. Many online bachelor’s degree programs run asynchronously, allowing for greater scheduling flexibility. A student can choose to pursue accelerated online courses that run for about 8-weeks or opt for the traditional 16-week course. 
  • Working Professionals: Working adults who want advancement in their careers do not necessarily need to quit their jobs to focus on earning additional qualifications. Whether it is an associate degree or bachelor’s degree, working professionals can enroll in online university programs and graduate with ease. Some organizations require working adults to earn a master’s degree or at least a bachelor’s to take on management-level positions. Working professionals can benefit from the opportunity to take online courses without leaving their jobs. 
  • Distant learners: A student doesn’t need to travel halfway across the world to attend a university of their choice. Online degree programs can be accessed from just about anywhere, as long as the student has access to a computer with an internet connection. Thanks to geographic flexibility, many top universities and colleges offer online certificate and degree programs, making distance education more attractive.  A student can earn any of the different categories of higher qualifications, including associate degree, bachelor, and a graduate degree from the comfort of their home, or at least without relocating to the city where the college or university is located. 
  • Those Looking to Save Cost: While tuition can be the same in both traditional and online degree-awarding institutions, certain costs are not associated with running online courses. For example, there will be no need to pay for accommodation, whether on or off-campus and digital versions of textbooks are a lot cheaper than physical options. Also, online courses can be accelerated, leading to lower total costs. 
  • Disadvantaged high school students: Choosing an online college program may be the only option for underserved students, such as students of color and high-school students from low-income households. Nowadays, not having any money is not enough to stop high school students from furthering their education. They take online courses for free to earn college credits.

Where Can You Find Online Degree Programs and College Courses?

There are nearly countless online colleges and universities to choose from when it comes to finding online degree programs. However, it is important to choose fully accredited online programs. A few of the best online colleges and universities include:

  1. The University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
    Accreditation: Regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  2. Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, North Carolina
    Accreditation:  Regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  3. Wesleyan College, Macon Georgia
    Accreditation:  Regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  4. California State University-Sacramento, Sacramento, California
    Accreditation:  Regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  5. John Brown University, Siloam Springs, Arkansas
    Accreditation:  Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission
  6. Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina
    Accreditation:  Regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  7. The University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida
    Accreditation:  Regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  8. LeTourneau University, Longview, Texas
    Accreditation:  Regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  9. Ohio University-Main Campus, Athens, Ohio
    Accreditation:  Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission
  10. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
    Accreditation:  Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission

Here are some of the most popular online degree programs to consider:

  1. Business Administration 
  2. Computer Science 
  3. Engineering 
  4. Psychology 
  5. Criminal Justice 
  6. Education 
  7. Nursing 
  8. Information Technology
  9. Marketing 
  10. Accounting 
  11. Logistics and Supply Management
  12. Sustainability 

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BestValueSchools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
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