Online Learning Degrees: Clarity and Confusion

If the date was 1971, or even 1981, and you were considering college, the decision would be pretty simple. Mail out some applications (yes, with real stamps on real envelopes), and wait to get accepted. Once you get accepted, load up the car, hug mom, hop in, and zoom off to college.

For those of us from those generations with jobs, families and responsibilities, times have changed.

We’re a decade deep into the 21st century, and online masters and bachelors degrees have entered the higher education market with whirlwind force. Now, considering college opens a Pandora’s Box of questions, conundrums, and confusion. To many thinking about going back to school, the online learning degree is a clear choice. For many, it has clarified their decision on whether or not they should get a degree or continue their education.

But that’s where it gets confusing. Although the convenience of an online learning degree is desirable, some people aren’t sure whether online learning degrees are competitive with traditional degrees. Is an online degree as legitimate as one from a brick and mortar university? It’s a question worth asking, since the legitimacy of your employment future hinges on a valid degree. Unfortunately, the simple answer is “yes,” “no,” and “maybe.” In order to really understand whether an online learning degree is truly legitimate, you have to consider each online degree options by asking several key questions.

First, find out if the institution provides an actual degree, such as a B.A. or a B.S. If they are simply handing out certificates of completion, this is not the course of study you should pursue. Make sure that you’re pursuing a bona fide degree. Additionally, the online school should have online learning degrees beyond the baccalaureate level. See if they offer master’s degrees or doctorates.

Next, rule number one in considering a college is the accreditation rule. Earning a degree from a non-accredited institution will limit your possibilities when it comes to getting a better job in the future. Go accredited. Not only should a school have national accreditation, but they should also be regionally accredited, which gives a stronger assurance of the legitimacy and trustworthiness of the school.

Online learning degrees are not to be repudiated simply because they are earned online. However, some employers don’t like degrees which come from online-only schools. Name-recognition plays a key role in the trustworthiness of degrees. If you choose to go the online route, it’s best to choose a school that has online options in addition to the actual school site.

It may be hard to decide between a traditional degree and an online degree, but it’s a good problem to have. There are many advantages to the online route. As long as you think carefully and choose wisely, online learning degrees may very well come out as your best consideration.