A note on accreditation: Determine whether or not the schools you are considering are accredited. This website only lists accredited schools. See our article on the importance of accreditation for more information.
Types of Online Degrees
Over half of all online students are enrolled in 2-year colleges. Because of the variety and usefulness of 2-year online programs, many are using them to advance their careers, develop specialized skills, or prepare themselves for transfer to a 4-year baccalaureate program. Two year colleges usually take 4 semesters of about 15 credit hours each (considered full time) and require completion of 60 credit hours. Two year college programs generally have 3 components:
· General education/Liberal arts and sciences courses
· Major/Specialized courses (if you are concentrating on a specific discipline)
· Electives (Courses you choose to compliment the rest of your program)
If your plans include the possibility of transferring to a 4-year college after completing your associates degree, you will need to check with the 4-year colleges you're interested to see which courses will be accepted for transfer. Many 4-year colleges will only accept the general education/liberal arts courses as equivalent; others are more liberal, especially with online business and liberal arts programs.
Associate degrees are usually given by technical, community or junior colleges. Some 2-year colleges are housed within a larger college or university that offers more advanced degrees. You can carry a part-time load, if that suits your purposes and lifestyle, but usually financial aid is only extended to fulltime students. On the other hand, if you want to accelerate your studies and finish early, speak with an advisor at the school to make sure you are following the required sequence of courses.
Associate of Arts (A.A.): The Associate of Arts degree is granted for completion of (primarily) general education or liberal arts courses. This type of online degree is useful for students who plan on transferring to a 4-year college after receiving their A.A. degree, or want a broad, non-specialized knowledge base.
Associate of Science (A.S.): The Associate of Science degree also has a core of liberal arts and sciences courses that must be completed, but unlike the A.A. degree, also has a core of early division prerequisite courses in specialized fields such as engineering, science, math, and agriculture, that require certain courses before continuing with the desired program at the 4-year baccalaureate level.
Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.): The Associate in Applied Science degrees are not intended for transfer to 4-year colleges, but geared toward preparing the student for a specific occupation upon graduation. These programs offer a wide variety of specialized programs that allow you to join the workforce in the field you have chosen. If you later plan to attend a 4-year school, they likely will transfer only the liberal arts/general education credits earned.
Online Certificate and Diploma Programs
Career Certification Programs: Sometimes called Occupational Certificate Programs, career certificate programs are generally intensive programs in a specific area of job related expertise. Usually 18 credits or longer, certificate programs are designed to provide the necessary skills so that the student can begin work in a specific occupation upon completion of the program. A wide variety of practical training courses exist online. They take less than 2 years to complete.
High School Diploma (G.E.D.): Anyone desiring a high school diploma can earn it at home. Online G.E.D. programs will allow you to finish this important basic degree. If English is a second language, or reading has been difficult for you, there are programs online to help you get that diploma. Some 2-year colleges also incorporate obtaining a G.E.D. into their first year program.
4 Year Online Degree Programs
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.): The Bachelor of Arts degree is a 4-year "undergraduate" degree, requiring at least 120 credit hours (including any transfer credits accepted from accredited programs). The B.A. degree is granted after the successful completion of the equivalent of 4 years full time study with heavy emphasis in liberal arts and sciences, providing a broad, non-specialized knowledge base. Online programs conferring a B.A. degree can sometimes be completed in less than 4 years.
Bachelor of Science (B.S.): The Bachelor of Science degree also requires the completion of at least 120 credit hours, with a strong core of liberal/general education courses, but is discipline specific. This means you must declare a "major" by choosing to concentrate in a specific subject area, then complete required courses in that particular discipline, along with electives that will round out your undergraduate program. You will work with a counselor or advisor to plan your program so that you will have everything completed in the correct sequence before graduation. Following graduation, many people continue on to graduate (master's level) programs to build on the knowledge gained and increase their potential for greater earnings.
Master of Arts (M.A) and Master of Science (M.S): Master's degrees programs are available online in many areas. There are good reasons to continue with higher education after receiving your bachelor's degree. A master's degree will give you continued depth and expertise in an area, and opens up doors for higher paying jobs in many areas.
Master's level programs can be from 30 to 60 credit hours long, depending on the discipline or profession.Correspondingly, it will take from 1-4 years to complete. The work is more focused on a specialty area and research of some sort is usually involved. Sometimes a master's level degree will be included with a doctoral program, but most times you will need to complete your master's work before beginning work on your doctorate.
Two popular types of specialized master's programs are listed here. Again, be sure you check to see if the online program you're interested in is accredited.
Online Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.): An M.B.A degree is an advanced degree in business management and is a highly valuable asset to the person who desires a leadership role in the business world. Online programs do an excellent job of preparing a student for the top paying jobs the M.B.A. will qualify them for. A related degree which is becoming more popular is the master's degree in information technology, or M.I.T..
Online Master of Education (M.Ed.): Online master's degrees in education are becoming a popular choice for teachers already in the profession seeking to further develop their skills and move to a higher pay bracket. A M.Ed. or M.S. in Education usually requires the completion of 36 -48 credit hours. Some programs will accept a limited amount of transfer credits. Those graduating from 4-year colleges go directly to a master's program and enter the working world equipped with an advanced degree. Because each state has its own requirements for licensing or certification of teachers, it is wise to check with your state for specific course requirements.
An online master's level program is offered in nearly every field and discipline. Finding the program that fits your goals and lifestyle will take some time, but the benefits of an advanced degree are many.
Online PhD Programs:
Doctorate degrees are the highest level of degree programs available and imply the highest level expertise in a given discipline. Programs can be combined with a master's program, but most students finish their master's degree before going on for their doctorate. Entering a doctoral program is a big decision. It can take 4 to 6 years to complete and involves concentrated, high level study and research under the direction of leaders in that field of study. A doctorate degree, or Ph.D., will allow you to teach at the college level, take positions of leadership in the area of study, or conduct research in that area. All doctoral programs involve research and publishing on the special area you choose. Top paying jobs in any field are usually held by those holding a Ph.D. or equivalent. Some of the most popular online doctoral degrees are:
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
Doctor of Engineering (D.Eng.)
Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)
Doctor of Public Health (D.P.H.)
Importance of Choosing With Care
Finding the right degree program will involve some research on your part. The payoffs gained by starting and working through the program you select will give you monetary rewards that compound throughout your life. Completing a degree program will also increase what you know and can do, as well as increase your confidence and self-esteem. Good luck! And remember - we're here to help.
If you need more information on accredited online degrees, programs or information on online colleges & universities, please call our friendly advisors toll free at: 1.888.281.2822
Directory of accredited online colleges and universities nationwide.
By Laurie Jerome-Pertilla