Are you considering an online degree? If so, you probably have several questions, one of which is whether online degrees are really worth the time and money. The pros and cons of online or in-classroom degree programs may help you determine whether they are right for you.
Pros and Cons of Earning a College Degree
Let’s begin by considering the advantages and disadvantages of attending college. Are you really going to need that diploma? The answer is yes if job stability and financial security are important to you. Consider this data from the federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- With a high school diploma, you stand to earn a median salary of $809 a week, and you’ll see a 6.2 percent unemployment rate for jobs for which you qualify.
- With a bachelor’s degree, your median pay rises to $1,334 weekly, and your potential unemployment rate drops to 3.5 percent.
- Continue with your education to earn a professional or doctoral degree, and your salary is likely to be above $1,900 a week, with an unemployment rate under two percent.
While these are averages, they clearly show that you are more likely to find the right job the more education you have, and when you get it, you’re more likely to earn a higher salary.
A college education will broaden your worldview and help you to step outside your comfort zone. Also, you learn independence, time management, and other relevant skills while testing your abilities and skills.
On the flip side, there’s no denying that earning a college degree costs money, and you’ve probably heard horror stories about students graduating with huge debt. It’s a good idea to talk to a financial counselor at the college you’re considering to see if there are grants, scholarships, and loans for which you can apply.
Earning a college degree is also time-consuming. If you are attending right out of high school, you may take four or more years to earn a bachelor’s degree. If you have other personal or professional commitments, you may find your free time severely limited while attending classes. Ask yourself if this is the best time to pursue a college degree, as the timing looks different for everyone. If you do decide now is the right time to pursue a degree, good time management skills are essential to keep your head above water.
College can also be stressful, and you need to keep a clear head and stick to your schedule to avoid falling behind, which can be anxiety-inducing. It’s important to have a good support network behind you to encourage and help you when needed, whether that’s a spouse, parents, or friends. Students should also seek out and utilize their college’s counseling services. These counselors specialize in supporting students in navigating their educational journey.
Pros and Cons of Earning Your Degree Online
Earning your degree online comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities. First, let’s look at the pros: a big one is the increased flexibility of taking classes wherever you are, whether at your dining room table or the local cafe. If your program features asynchronous courses, you can take them at a time that’s convenient for you. This is a great benefit for parents, who can tackle coursework early in the day or late at night after the kids are in bed.
Online education can also save you money. Some colleges may charge less for online courses, and you will save money on transportation and parking fees, as well as the cost of room and board. Keep in mind, however, that some online programs may require you to attend in-person orientations, and if there is an internship requirement, you may need to drive to the location where it’s held.
An online degree program may also allow you to earn your diploma in less time. Many online programs feature accelerated terms, and you may have a different schedule for class completion from on-campus students. You may be able to take courses during the summer and holiday periods when in-person students traditionally go home.
But there are also drawbacks to online education. Developing a relationship with the professors and your peers can be challenging. Most professors will have online office hours, but since you are not sitting in their classroom, you may not be able to establish a rapport with them as you would if you were there in person.
Online education also requires an extra dose of self-discipline and determination. For example, when you come home after a hard day at work, it takes an act of will to sit down and study all evening. If you are not genuinely motivated to earn this degree, you may find it challenging to keep up with the workload, especially if you’re taking accelerated courses.
Depending on your situation, going to school online can also be doubly stressful. Many online students work full- or part-time or have family commitments. To succeed in your online education, you’ll need to learn to manage stress and know when to step away from the laptop for a few hours.
Do Employers Take Online Degrees Seriously?
Increasingly, employers realize that a degree from an accredited online institution carries as much weight as a diploma earned traditionally. A 2018 study by Northeastern University showed that a majority of human resource managers surveyed, 61 percent, believe online programs are equal in quality to those learned in-person. Seventy-one percent said that they had personally hired someone with an online degree or credential.
As the technology for the delivery of online degrees grows and improves, these numbers will likely rise. At the time of Northeastern’s study, 16 percent of all higher ed enrollment was online. The pandemic was only one factor that saw an explosive rise in this number since then. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, by 2020, 75 percent of undergraduate students took at least one course online. Statistics like that make employers far more likely to view online learning favorably.
Are Online Degree Programs Right for You?
Online degree programs are a good fit for some students, but not all. Perhaps the most prominent indicator of success is your level of motivation. If you genuinely want or need a degree to further your career and succeed in life and are willing and able to make adjustments as necessary to make that degree happen, you are likely to succeed in your online program.
The programs are most challenging for those with additional commitments. For example, parents with young children may be unable to devote the necessary time to an online program. However, taking courses part-time rather than full-time may help. Consider taking it slow and testing out the waters with one or two classes before you commit fully to your program.
When researching possible online programs, remember that the admissions staff at your intended college can be a great source of information. They can answer questions about the workload you’ll have and the courses you’ll need to complete for your degree. They can also point you toward possible financial assistance through grants, scholarships, or loans. Take advantage of their expertise so that you’re sure to find a program that is the best fit for your needs.