List of Accredited Online Degree Programs
For decades, the number of people earning college degrees has been steadily increasing. College graduates typically enjoy many benefits, including higher wages, lower unemployment, and access to better jobs. One notable development in higher education over the past 20 years has been the rise of online learning. Today, prospective college students have more options than ever to earn online associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees, along with certificates, in a wide array of fields.
Online degrees are available in 137 popular subjects, with 37,556 unique programs offered at online schools. Notably, every school on our website is accredited by an organization recognized by the Department of Education. On this page, we provide a list of the number of online colleges offering degrees in every subject as well as any program-specific accreditation students should pay attention to and average salary statistics.
In this comprehensive online degrees guide, we also dive into various degree levels and programs, how to complete your degree quickly, and the most important things to know about accreditation. We also provide information about the cost of an online degree and career options for online college graduates.
|a||Online Schools||Programs||Annual Salary||Accreditation|
|Art & Design||63||169||$69,322||NASAD|
|Art History||11||22||Not reported||Institutional|
|b||Online Schools||Programs||Annual Salary||Accreditation|
|Business||533||5,621||$99,619||AACSB ACBSP IACBE|
|c||Online Schools||Programs||Annual Salary||Accreditation|
|CAD/Computer Aided Drafting||4||5||$94,602||Institutional|
|Construction Management||54||101||$96,238||ACCE ATMAE|
|Counseling Psychology||69||125||Not reported||Institutional|
|Creative Writing||43||96||Not reported||Institutional|
|d||Online Schools||Programs||Annual Salary||Accreditation|
|Data Science||160||405||Not reported||Institutional|
|Dental Hygiene||23||40||Not reported||Institutional|
|e||Online Schools||Programs||Annual Salary||Accreditation|
|Early Childhood Education||194||559||$59,381||CAEP MACTE NAEYC NCATE|
|Education||518||7,986||$66,247||CAEP CEA MACTE NCATE|
|Elementary Education||180||518||$55,838||CAEP MACTE NCATE TEAC|
|Emergency Management||118||356||Not reported||Institutional|
|Engineering Management||94||245||Not reported||Institutional|
|Exercise Science||49||134||Not reported||Institutional|
|f||Online Schools||Programs||Annual Salary||Accreditation|
|Forensic Accounting||33||52||Not reported||Institutional|
|g||Online Schools||Programs||Annual Salary||Accreditation|
|Geographic Information Systems||69||179||$85,942||Institutional|
|h||Online Schools||Programs||Annual Salary||Accreditation|
|Health Education||145||258||Not reported||Institutional|
|Healthcare Informatics||172||438||$74,931||CAHIIM CAHME|
|Healthcare Management||301||880||Not reported||CAHME|
|Holistic Medicine||11||18||$82,343||ACAOM CNME|
|Human Resources||243||698||$91,774||AACSB ACBSP|
|i||Online Schools||Programs||Annual Salary||Accreditation|
|Information Technology||281||1,512||Not reported||ABET|
|Interior Design||13||21||$66,682||CIDA NASAD|
|j||Online Schools||Programs||Annual Salary||Accreditation|
|l||Online Schools||Programs||Annual Salary||Accreditation|
|Landscape Design||2||2||Not reported||LAAB|
|Legal Nurse Consulting||2||2||Not reported||ABHES|
|Library Science||85||272||Not reported||ALA|
|m||Online Schools||Programs||Annual Salary||Accreditation|
|Marriage & Family Therapy||45||157||$74,137||AAMFT COAMFTE|
|MBA||411||2,455||Not reported||AACSB ACBSP IACBE|
|Medical Billing & Coding||30||55||$89,943||ABHES|
|Medical Office Administration||23||38||$89,943||ABHES|
|n||Online Schools||Programs||Annual Salary||Accreditation|
|Nurse Practitioner (NP)||155||721||Not reported||ACEN ACEN CCNE NPWH|
|Nursing||391||2,808||$90,592||AANA ACEN ACEN ACME CCNE|
|o||Online Schools||Programs||Annual Salary||Accreditation|
|Occupational Safety||32||79||Not reported||ABET|
|Occupational Therapy||28||43||Not reported||Institutional|
|p||Online Schools||Programs||Annual Salary||Accreditation|
|Personal Training||5||11||Not reported||Institutional|
|Pharmacy Technician||11||15||$74,931||ACPE ASHP|
|Project Management||167||464||$96,115||AACSB PMI-GAC|
|Public Relations||84||137||Not reported||Institutional|
|r||Online Schools||Programs||Annual Salary||Accreditation|
|Radiology||32||73||Not reported||JRCERT JRCNMT|
|RN to BSN||278||307||Not reported||ACEN|
|RN to MSN||54||130||Not reported||Institutional|
|s||Online Schools||Programs||Annual Salary||Accreditation|
|Secondary Education||147||530||$63,327||CAEP NCATE TEAC|
|Special Education||282||1,241||$62,128||CAA CAEP|
|Speech Pathology||20||24||Not reported||CAA|
|Substance Abuse Counseling||70||130||$74,137||CACREP|
|Supply Chain Management||149||326||Not reported||Institutional|
|t||Online Schools||Programs||Annual Salary||Accreditation|
|Teaching||358||2,056||$66,225||CAEP MACTE NCATE TEAC|
|v||Online Schools||Programs||Annual Salary||Accreditation|
|Veterinary Technician||5||8||$74,931||AVMA COE|
|Video Game Design||25||45||Not reported||Institutional|
|w||Online Schools||Programs||Annual Salary||Accreditation|
Overview of Online College Degrees
Online education, also referred to as virtual learning, is the process of taking educational courses remotely. As of 2018, 14% of undergraduate college students and 30.7% of graduate students were earning their degrees exclusively online. Many students are attracted to online education because of its convenience and self-directed nature, and in some cases, because of its lower cost when all factors are taken into consideration.
Is It Possible to Get a Degree Entirely Online?
Although many students are aware they can take select classes online, some wonder if they can earn their entire degree online. The answer is yes. Hundreds of highly regarded colleges and universities offer 100% online degree programs that enable students to take every class online. Programs are available from traditional schools, research institutions, and specialty schools, such as religious colleges. The curriculum and coursework for these degrees are comparable to those of on-campus degrees, and the courses are often taught by the same instructors. If you think you might prefer virtual learning, you might consider earning one of the most popular online bachelor's degrees, such as business, nursing, health science, history, psychology, biology, and communications.
There are a few majors—such as nursing and social work—that require students to engage in experiential learning activities under the supervision of a professional. In these instances, online students are usually able to complete this requirement at an approved facility near their home.
In rare instances, a school may require online students to come to campus for brief periods of two to 10 days for orientation or other types of in-person learning events. This requirement is usually stated on the program pages of school websites.
Fully Online Bachelor's Programs
There are numerous 100% online bachelor's degree programs to choose from at a wide range of prices. A 2020 report on online education revealed that, of online bachelor's programs, 57% are fully online, rather than hybrid.
Just like earning an on-campus degree, the first couple of years of your online program will provide you with a broad education in a number of essential subjects, such as math, social sciences, language arts, and natural sciences. You'll also take several introductory courses in your major. During the last couple of years of your four-year degree program, you'll take upper-level courses and electives related to your major and possibly a minor, if you wish. Throughout it all, you'll have ample opportunities to interact with your instructors and network with peers via the school's online learning system.
Fully Online Master's Programs
With relatively few exceptions—such as music performance, anthropology, or studio fine art—there is an online master's degree program for nearly any subject you might want to study. According to The Changing Landscape of Online Education, 2020 report, close to 75% of online master's degree programs are fully online, rather than hybrid. In addition, many colleges are planning to add between three and six new online master's programs each year. The same report notes that about 40% of students enrolled in master's programs are earning their degrees entirely online.The self-paced classes and flexible schedules of online programs appeal to many master's students, who are often working adults with full-time jobs and other commitments.
There are various types of schools where you can pursue an online or in-person degree, including:
- Community Colleges: At these two-year colleges, students can earn associate degrees or certificates or complete many general education requirements before transferring to a four-year university. Community colleges are generally operated by the local or state government, and they typically accept all students and charge low tuition fees.
- 2 Year Universities: Unique to the virtual learning landscape, there are some online schools that enable students to earn bachelor's degrees in as little as two years through accelerated programs.
- Public Colleges: Public colleges and universities vary dramatically in size and scope. They typically offer bachelor's degrees in a wide range of subjects, as well as master's degrees and doctorates. Because public schools get funding from the states that operate them, they are generally able to charge lower tuition rates.
- Private Colleges: Similar to their state-run counterparts, private colleges and universities offer degree programs at all levels: bachelor's, master's, and doctorates. These schools are funded by student tuition, alumni gifts, and endowments, and may be more expensive to attend than many public colleges. Private colleges can be further categorized:
- Non-Profit: As non-profit organizations, non-profit private schools are required to reinvest any profits back into the school. Funds are often used to enhance facilities, hire additional instructors and staff, and expand the number of programs offered by the school.
- For-Profit: For-profit private colleges operate like any other for-profit businesses, with profits going back to investors. There are many types of for-profit universities, career colleges, and technical schools, and many of them exclusively offer online programs.
What is the Easiest Degree to Get Online?
What is easy for one student may be challenging for another and vice versa, which is why no one particular degree can be considered easier than others. However, for many students, earning a degree online can be easier than taking the traditional route due to flexible schedules, self-paced learning, and the availability of online student resources, such as tutoring and academic advising. Virtual learners may also find it easier to identify the best program to fit their needs because there are so many online programs to choose from without having to leave home.
What is a Good Degree to Get Online?
There are many good degrees to get online, and they are available at all levels, from associate to doctoral degrees. When choosing one, you might want to factor in your personal learning style and strengths. Online courses are often asynchronous, which means you'll most likely do a great deal of reading and writing and have somewhat less direct contact with your instructor. If, for example, you're the type of student who needs interactive explanation and demonstration to understand a certain topic—such as mathematical calculations—you may find it challenging to earn an online degree in a math-heavy subject like finance or accounting. On the other hand, you might excel at online research and writing, in which case you might do well in an online degree program for human resources or communications. If technology is already a strength, you might be well suited to earn an online degree in data science or information technology.
Online Degree Level Overviews
With thousands of possibilities at five different degree levels to choose from — associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctorate, plus certificates — selecting an online degree can seem overwhelming at first. There are various factors students consider when choosing an online program. These factors relate to career goals, finances, coursework, and transfer credits. This page is designed to help prospective students explore their many options and make the right choice in their online program.
Online associate degrees typically can be completed in two years and are available for a variety of programs. Online students who've graduated from an associate degree program will often be more competitive in the job market, especially in technical and vocational fields, compared to those with only a high school diploma or GED. Online associate degrees are also a solid stepping stone for those looking to earn and transfer credits to a four-year institution so they can continue on to more advanced degrees.
Bachelor's degree programs can usually be completed online in four years. Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees are available online in almost any area of study imaginable, from popular subjects such as engineering to less common subjects such as personal training or Christian counseling. Graduates of an online bachelor's degree program will find themselves qualified for a wide range of jobs, or they may advance their studies by pursuing a master's degree.
Online master's degree programs are a valuable option for students hoping to pursue graduate-level education at a flexible pace, as many programs are designed to allow online students to continue full-time work while completing their studies. Online master's degrees typically take two years to complete and are available in most subjects. Many schools, such as Dallas Baptist University, Liberty University, and Southern New Hampshire University Online, offer over 100 different online graduate degree options.
Obtaining a doctoral degree is one of the ultimate ways to achieve excellence in a field, and there are a variety of online doctorates available. The time required for completion of these degrees varies, depending on whether the online student is full-time or part-time. Many degrees are available at a reasonable rate from highly recommended institutions, such as The George Washington University and Texas A & M University-College Station. Prospective doctoral students can explore degree offerings in business, psychology, computer science, and a wide variety of other subject areas.
Certificates are available online for students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Online certificates can serve as a supplement to a degree, or as a standalone qualification. There are over 7,000 online certificate programs to choose from, many leading to job opportunities as physical therapy assistants, occupational therapy assistants, dental assistants, and veterinary technicians.
Popular Areas of Online Study
There are many areas of study that an online student might focus on, and deciding which subject to study in college can be a challenge. Students may select a major based on future career goals, interest or skill, or expected salary in a given field. Some of the most popular online degree programs among students include business, criminal justice, art and design, education, liberal studies, engineering, healthcare, computer science, English, information technology, and public health. Read on for more information about these areas of study.
Online business degree programs aim to develop overall analytic, writing, and project management skills as well as an understanding of how organizations work. Those interested in accounting will find many online programs to choose from at all degree levels, and graduates may qualify for jobs ranging from auditors to accountants. Finance is another popular specialty for those seeking an online business degree and 253 schools offer fully online finance degrees, potentially leading to careers in financial management, budget analysis, and financial advising. Students hoping to pursue business careers related to business management or administration might be interested in learning more about online human resources or management degrees.
A career related to law enforcement, the correctional system, the courts, or perhaps all three may begin with an online degree in criminal justice or a related subject such as forensics, corrections, and criminology. Those who'd like to learn about crime from a social perspective may be interested in an online criminology degree, of which there are multiple levels available, even an online doctorate. Others may prefer to take a more hands-on approach to deal with crime by studying law enforcement online and preparing for a career in the police force or police administration. Those interested in cracking cases might be interested in exploring available online options for undergraduate degrees and graduate degrees in crime scene investigation or forensic science. In total, there are 1,033 programs available to prospective criminal justice online students.
Those looking for a creative degree will appreciate our rankings list of schools that offer fully online bachelor's degrees in art & design related areas. Graphic design degrees are a popular route for online art & design students, with 49 online graphic design degrees available at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and certificate levels. Prospective online art students will also find a number of fine arts degrees available, as well as degrees in music and film production. An online art & design degree can lead to a wide variety of career opportunities, from positions in art education to roles in advertising, web design, and media. Whatever talents and interests an individual may have, OnlineU has information about the online degree programs best suited to meet the student's career goals.
For those who are passionate about teaching, pursuing an online education degree will provide the skills necessary to make a difference in the lives of others through education. Of the 5,652 education degrees available fully online, students will find degrees tailored to a wide variety of specialties. The breadth of available online degrees in education can lead to a variety of specializations, including elementary education, early childhood education, curriculum and instruction, administration and leadership, higher education, reading and literacy, and special education. Pursuing an online education degree will help students realize their dreams of becoming teachers, principals, higher education administrators, and more.
The broad umbrella of liberal studies is a smart choice for online students who are hoping to expand their worldview and develop stronger critical-thinking and communication skills. The field of liberal studies includes a wide array of online courses, from English to anthropology, physics to mathematics, psychology to music. There are 216 associate degrees, 971 bachelor's degrees, 287 master's degrees, and 2 doctoral degrees in liberal studies subjects available in a fully online format. Because career paths for graduates with an online liberal studies degree vary widely depending on the program of study, looking over our more specific subject pages will help prospective students learn more about the many available options.
Engineering may be the ideal field of study for anyone who enjoys applying scientific skills to real-world problems. Online engineering programs are available at the introductory level for new students, with a number of options at both the associate and bachelor's levels. For those more experienced in the field, online master's and doctoral degrees in engineering are available as well. Interested students should also research what engineering specializations appeal to them, as online programs are available in areas such as electrical engineering, civil engineering, software engineering, and mechanical engineering. Graduates of an online engineering degree program may find work at research labs, governmental agencies, large corporations, construction sites, or small companies.
A wide range of healthcare-related degrees are available online, including programs in nursing, pharmacy, nutrition, personal training, public health, respiratory therapy, healthcare administration, and medical and dental assisting. These online degree programs prepare students interested in promoting health and wellness to ensure others maintain healthy lives. Careers in healthcare vary from hands-on positions, like working as a dental assistant, to more administrative roles, such as working behind the scenes to provide others with exceptional care. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that many of these in-demand careers have a bright outlook. Online degrees in healthcare-related fields are available at all levels, with a variety of associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate degrees to choose from.
What Medical Degrees Can You Get Online?
Some people assume that health care-related degrees can't be earned online because they often require hands-on, experiential learning modules called practicums, fieldwork, or internships. However, many accredited colleges and universities have overcome this barrier and now offer online degrees in a wide range of health-related subjects. Nursing degrees at every level are some of the most popular online programs. Other options include associate degrees in medical assisting, medical office administration, and sonography; bachelor's degrees in health science and health care management; and master's degrees in speech language pathology, public health, and counseling.
Can You Get an MD Degree Online?
No, currently in the U.S., there are not any universities offering accredited online MD degrees. There are a few programs at foreign schools, but these programs do not prepare graduates to become licensed MDs here in the U.S.
Computer programmer, systems analyst, web developer, systems or network administrator, and software developer—these are just some of the many in-demand jobs available to people who have earned online computer science degrees. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employers will add more than half a million well-paying computer science jobs over the next 10 years. Online learning has created opportunities for distance learning students to earn degrees at every level, preparing them for jobs in this field. There are 632 online computer science degrees available. These include specializations in such fields as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, computer networking and telecommunications, and software design and development. Online students can expect to start with coursework in programming languages, operating systems, and data structures before moving on to their choice of specialty subjects.
Online students considering a degree in English may be surprised to discover how versatile this option can be. In addition to careers as writers or editors, English majors can work at publishing companies, advertising agencies, PR firms, universities, and other information service providers. Coursework for an online degree in English will focus on developing analytical and critical-thinking skills and effective writing and communication abilities. Students will also choose to study many types of literature. In the process, they will discover how to analyze and critique writing. There are more than 300 online degrees in English available at all levels, with a variety of associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate degrees to choose from.
Where computer science focuses on programming and innovation, information technology focuses on building and maintaining existing technologies. Given today's technology-driven world, it's not surprising that the Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects the IT field to grow 11% over the next decade, generating more than 500,000 new jobs. Online learning enables students to prepare for these jobs by earning degrees at every level, from associate to doctoral. There are 1,188 online degrees available, many in the most popular specializations, such as cloud computing, big data, and cybersecurity. Online students pursuing undergraduate degrees will find that the coursework generally focuses on business-level information systems, applications, and basic programming. Those at the master's or doctoral level will study advanced IT concepts and practices with a heavy emphasis on research. IT professionals can also enhance their credentials by earning an online certificate.
From preventing the spread of infectious diseases to encouraging schools to provide healthier lunches for children, public health professionals aim to improve the wellbeing of individuals, communities, and the population at large. Most public health job opportunities are found in government agencies. These positions generally require a graduate degree, and prospective students have 375 master's and 51 doctoral online degrees to choose from. Online doctoral programs fall into two categories: the Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) for those preparing for clinical work in healthcare and policy, and the Doctor of Philosophy in Public Health (PhD) for those who want to pursue research and academic positions. Online students who opt for one of the 113 undergraduate degrees in public health will be well qualified for entry-level positions in healthcare administration and related fields. A bachelor's in public health is also a common stepping stone to advanced degrees in law or medicine.
Choosing and Applying to an Online Program
Once you've determined the subject and degree you would like to pursue, you'll need to decide which online program to enroll in. There are several important factors to consider when selecting the specific program that will best meet your needs, such as the reputation of the school for teaching that subject, any options for adding a concentration or area of emphasis, and the degree to which you can customize your program through the choice of electives. Another important factor is your return on investment, meaning the cost of the program as compared to your increased earning potential over the course of your career. On OnlineU.com, we rank schools by ROI, making it easier for you to use this factor as one of your decision criteria.
As you conduct your school search, you might also want to investigate the school's virtual learning environment before making your final choice. Some useful questions to ask are:
- Are the courses entirely asynchronous, allowing you to complete work on your own time, or are elements of the courses synchronous, requiring you to be online with the instructor at specific days and times?
- Does the school require you to come to campus for any live learning events, and will you have the time and resources to attend these sessions?
- Will you be able to meet the expected demands of the courses in addition to your other time commitments?
- Will you have access to financial aid and student support services if enrolled online?
Once you've settled on one or more programs, you're ready to apply. Prospective students use the same process to apply for online programs as they do for traditional programs, and they must meet the same admissions standards. To submit an application for an online degree program, start by visiting the school's website. You may be directed to submit an online application directly to the school, or you may be asked to submit your application through one of the communal college application portals, such as the Common App.
If you are applying to an associate or bachelor's degree program, you will probably also be asked for:
- Transcripts from your high school or GED program
- One to three letters of recommendation
- A personal essay or statement
Some schools may also request test scores from college entrance exams, such as the SAT or ACT. If you are a transfer student continuing with a bachelor's program or applying to an online master's or doctoral program, you will most likely be asked for additional materials, such as transcripts of your previous college coursework and a resume or curriculum vitae.
Online College Accreditation
One of the most important factors in choosing an online degree program is ensuring it has been accredited by an approved, independent agency. Accreditation means that the college or university has undergone a thorough evaluation. In this process, coursework, faculty, and student resources have been determined to meet high standards for quality and value. All of the schools listed on our website have been accredited. Visit our accreditation page to learn more about specific types of accreditation and how they impact transfer credits and financial assistance. These are important considerations for online students when choosing a specific higher education program or school.
Frequently Asked Questions About Accreditation
Are Online Degrees Legitimate?
The vast majority of online degrees are legitimate, coming from accredited colleges and universities. Accreditation is the most important indicator that a school—its programs, staff, facilities, and services—have been thoroughly reviewed and found to meet accepted standards of quality and academic rigor set by the U.S. Department of Education. The best online college degrees will be regionally accredited, but there are also many reputable online programs available from nationally accredited schools.
What all students should avoid is enrolling in a "diploma mill," meaning a business that is awarding degrees that are not legitimate and have no value. Some diploma mills openly sell fictitious degrees, while others try to disguise themselves as legitimate educational institutions. When conducting a school search for online accredited programs, examine each school's website carefully. Some warning signs to look for are:
- Promises of quick and easy degrees, achievable in only a few weeks or months
- The absence of any information on accreditation, or claims to be accredited by an agency that is not approved by the U.S. Department of Education
- Flat fees instead of fee schedules for tuition costs and other related expenses
- Limited information on the programs, curricula, or faculty
- A lack of financial aid information
Are Online Master's Degrees Legitimate?
Yes, in today's educational landscape, many reputable colleges and universities are offering legitimate degrees through online-only master's programs. As long as your master's degree is from an accredited school, it has the potential to carry the same level of respect as a traditionally earned degree. An online master's degree from an accredited institution shows that you have studied the same curricula, completed the same graduate-level coursework, and demonstrated your mastery of the course materials and skills through assessments and examinations.
Which Online Schools Are Nationally Accredited?
Historically, there have been two types of accreditation: regional and national. While many schools are regionally accredited, some—often technical colleges, trade schools, and for-profit online universities—are nationally accredited.
Which Accreditation is Best for Online Degree Programs?
Regional accreditation is generally considered to be the more prestigious, indicating the highest academic standards. It is generally best to choose a school with regional accreditation if you are seeking an online degree in an academic subject, intend to apply for financial aid, plan to enter a field that requires licensure or a credential, or think you may want to pursue a higher level degree in the future. On the other hand, if your goals involve attending an online career school or trade school, you may want to consider both regionally and nationally accredited schools.
How Do I Get My Online Classes Accredited?
Students do not have to take any steps to get their online classes or online degrees accredited. If the school you attend is accredited, your classes and your degree will automatically be accredited.
FAQs About Length of Online Degree Programs
What is the Fastest Online Bachelor's Degree?
If you're hoping to earn a bachelor's degree quickly and you have not yet accumulated any college credits, your best option is to choose a 100% online accelerated degree program at an accredited online college. Accelerated programs usually feature up to 12 short (four-, six-, or eight-week) terms scheduled consecutively year-round, which allows you to complete all of your graduation requirements in about two years. You'll find that there are accelerated programs available in many fields, including business, marketing, and health, so you can choose among many subjects to study.
Are There Any One Year Degrees?
Depending on your history, you may be able to earn a bachelor's degree in one year. There are several schools that offer accelerated, one-year degree programs online, but you will need to have some prior college, work, or military experience, and you may need to score well on placement exams to "test out" of some courses. Using this same approach, there are also online master's, associate, and certificate programs that can be completed in one year.
What Degree Can You Get in Six Months?
There are a number of master's, associate, and certificate programs that can be completed in six months through accelerated online programs. However, unless you have completed a fair amount of coursework already and/or have significant military service or work experience, you're unlikely to be able to get a bachelor's degree in six months. Even with transfer credits and "earned" credits for life experience, it will probably take at least one year to complete your bachelor's degree online.
Can You Get a Four-Year Degree Online?
Yes, you can easily get a four-year degree online. Many colleges and universities offer bachelor's degree programs through distance education in a wide range of subjects, including sociology, project management, early childhood education, and more. The degrees are the equal of traditional, on-campus degrees, and they typically do not state that they were earned online.
Cost of Online Degrees
At each college degree level—associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral—there are programs available at a wide range of prices. The most expensive component of any online college degree is tuition. One way to compare tuition across schools is to multiply each school's per-credit tuition rate by the number of credits you'll need to earn to graduate. When checking school websites for these data points, be sure to locate the correct tuition rate for the level of degree you're pursuing. Some schools charge different rates for on-campus and online students or different rates for in-state and out-of-state residents. Notably, however, many online schools charge out-of-state students the same rate as in-state students, which can cut down the cost when compared to on-campus programs.
However, all prospective students need to factor in a number of other expenses when calculating the potential cost of an online degree. Some items to consider include books and supplies, annual and one-time-only fees charged by the school, interest on student loans, childcare costs, and transportation costs related to on-site learning activities.
How Much Does a Four-Year Online Degree Cost?
The cost of an online four-year degree can vary dramatically, mainly due to the wide range of tuition rates among the schools offering bachelor's degrees. Of the best online bachelor's degrees with the highest return on investment, annual tuition rates range from $6,450 to $47,740. Multiplied out by four years, total tuition costs range from $25,800 to $190,960.
Are There Free Online Colleges?
Although there are a few online school programs that tout tuition-free degrees, these programs are not really free, as they charge enrollment and testing fees that, when added up, can be comparable to the tuition at some online schools. However, many states, community colleges, and four-year universities offer "last-dollar" scholarships for students whose federal and state aid don't cover the full cost of tuition.
Financial Aid Considerations and Resources for Online Students
At most schools, online students are eligible for financial aid packages, just like their on-campus counterparts. The most desirable forms of financial aid are grants, scholarships, fellowships, and work-study programs, generally provided by the federal or state government or by the schools themselves. Aid from these sources does not have to be paid back. Some students may also be eligible for other types of financial assistance. For instance, active duty military and veterans, along with their dependents, are often entitled to tuition discounts. Some schools also have partnerships with organizations, and members or employees of these organizations may gain access to tuition assistance. Federal and private loans are another useful option, although students will need to pay back the loans with interest. For the vast majority of financial aid programs, the application process begins by filling out the FAFSA form.
Perhaps the one circumstance in which online students will face a different financial situation than traditional students is at the doctoral level. Many on-campus Ph.D. candidates secure "fully funded" degrees. Essentially, they receive a tuition free education and possibly even a stipend in exchange for teaching and contributing to research projects at the university's research facilities. Because these fully funded programs require the recipients to be on campus to perform the work, online Ph.D. candidates are generally not eligible for these programs.
We've put together a Guide to Financial Aid for Online Students, where you can find detailed information on the various types of aid available, the application process, tax implications, and additional resources.
Jobs You Can Get With an Online Degree
Today, there are relatively few subjects that aren't covered in online school programs—these include graduate-level study in law or medicine—so you can prepare for most occupations through online college programs. People who have earned their degrees online are often equally eligible for jobs requiring a college education as those who've attended college in person.
The BLS has identified quite a few occupations that are expected to grow substantially over the next decade, and many of these require degrees that can be obtained online. For example, some high-growth occupations that require a bachelor's degree include health services manager, information security analyst, mental health counselor, data scientist, and operations research analyst. Some in-demand occupations also require a master's degree, such as statistician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, and speech language pathologist.
What Careers Can You Get With a Two Year Degree?
Most occupations that require only a two-year degree fall into the fields of computer technology, engineering, office support, education, health care, transportation, and law. Some specific occupations you can prepare for with an online associate degree or certificate program include computer support specialist, electrical engineering technician, bookkeeping clerk, and medical assistant, among others.
Degrees That Lead to High Paying Careers for Online Graduates
High paying occupations can be found in many different fields with varying educational requirements, creating numerous opportunities for prospective college students to choose career paths that will be both rewarding and lucrative. The following is just a sampling of online degree programs to consider, with salary data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- An Associate of Applied Science in Computer Science can lead to a career as a computer support specialist, with a median annual salary of $55,510.
- A Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Political Science degree can lead to careers as Government agency administrators, with median salaries of $98,890, and political campaign fundraisers, who earn $118,430 a year.
- A Bachelor of Science in Computer Science can lead to careers as computer hardware engineers, software developers, and computer network architects, all with median annual salaries over $100,000.
- Graduates of Master in Education - Educational Leadership programs might become educational administrators, with a median salary of $97,500.
- A Master of Business Administration can prepare graduates for careers as chief executive officers, with a median annual salary of $197,840.
- Graduates of Doctor of Nursing Practice programs might become chief nurse executives, and earn a median annual salary of $125,000.
Is Getting an Online Degree Worth It?
Getting an online degree can definitely be worth it, depending on your circumstances. Having the ability to attend classes on your own schedule is ideal if you work full time, have a family, or have other constraints that make it challenging to attend traditional classes. Online programs also give you more options for enrolling in the best program for your needs without having to move to a different location.
Additionally, online degrees are becoming widely accepted in the workplace, which means that getting a college education online will likely lead to the benefits of earning a degree in general, including access to higher-level, better-paying jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), people who've earned bachelor's degrees earn, on average, about $500 more per week than those who have a high school diploma. Multiplied out over a typical career, that amounts to $26,000 more per year and around $1 million more over a 40-year span. When you consider that the total tuition cost for four years at the schools on our Best Online Bachelor's Degrees list ranges from $25,800 to $190,960, you can see that the initial investment of time and money has the potential to yield a high return.
Is an Online Master's Degree Worth It?
Given the flexibility, ease, diversity, and affordability of online-only master's programs, about 30% of students are opting to follow this path. According to BLS data, earning a master's degree has the potential to lead to mid-level positions and increase your annual earnings by $13,000 above what you'd earn with a bachelor's degree, which adds up to about $520,000 over a 40-year career. Although all students need to weigh the alternatives for themselves, you may find that the benefits of earning an online master's degree will be well worth the time and money you invest.