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What to Look for in an Online Degree Program

Even with rising Education costs and high unemployment rates it still pays to have a college degree.  (See:  The Difference a Degree Makes in Unemployment Levels)  One way to save a lot of money on your education is to use an online degree program. Many “Bricks and Mortar” Universities are offering on-line degrees as well in an effort to expand their student body without having to build additional buildings. So both the student and the University benefits. You can even work while taking classes because most online degrees do not require you to be present at a specific time so you can view the lectures and do the homework at a time that fits your schedule. Tim McMahon~ editor

Online Degree Programs

Through the power of the Internet, people can actually spend their entire time in “college” from the comfort of their homes. Degrees from Accounting to Zoology can be earned entirely online. But you need to be cautious.

For those looking to get an online education, it can be tough to determine which schools are legit in offering a certified degree and which are simply out to just steal your money. Also, even if they do offer a degree is it actually worth the time and money or is it not worth the paper that it was printed on? Let’s take a look at what you should look for when researching these online degree programs.


The number one thing you must look for when looking at online degree programs is whether or not they are accredited. There should be a link somewhere on their site that leads to their accreditation statement.

If the school indicates that they are accredited, are they recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation? You need to look at this because while it is not illegal to do, many programs will create their own accrediting bodies and accredit themselves. You can try searching the Council for Higher Education Accreditation website to see if your desired online degree program is on there.

Degree Program Staff

Before applying for the online degree program of your choice, it’s best to do some research to find out who will be teaching your courses. Stay away from teachers that all have their degrees from the same place you are trying to get your online degree from. While it is normal for a faculty member or two to have gotten their degree from the place they are teaching, if everyone that is on staff is an alumni of the institution, that may suggest the institution is simply a diploma mill.

Interaction With Staff & Work Submission

Keep in mind when looking at these programs to see if there are deadlines as to when work can be submitted and if you can easily talk to your professors so they can answer any questions you may have. Be wary of schools that simply tell you “keep up with good work” without offering any sort of constructive criticism or telling you what you have done wrong. Chances are if a school has an extremely low failure rate, something isn’t right and they are most likely passing anyone who can spell their own name.

While getting the degree is important, more important is being able to land and hold a job afterword. Institutions that simply sell degrees and not education will leave a trail of bad-will behind them at employers, making it extremely difficult for you to land an interview, let alone get the job. If you are able to get the position, your odds of being able to perform satisfactorily with a limited education are slim. Find an institution that offers you the opportunity to earn that diploma; it will pay off!

Cost of Online Degree Programs

Keep in mind the cost of the online program when looking at different schools. Generally all online programs accept financial aid. Be sure to read the costs fully. Unfortunately, many of these schools that scam people try to push you to apply for loans that you will be approved for because the costs of the education are outrageous. Think about it. Would you pay $50,000 for a one year program that gives you a certificate? Sadly, many people have and now they are out of a job and have tons of debt to repay.

Unfortunately, within the U.S. many of these for-profit schools rely on Stafford loans in order to make their money. They will push these loans because the government has made them so easily available and almost anyone is approved for them. The problem is that they come with extremely high interest rates. Be wary if a school’s program is trying to push one of these loans on you as they are just doing it so they receive a portion of that loan for the school.

Where to go from here?

After deciding what type of program you would like to pursue, it’s now best to do your research. Make sure that the program you want to apply for is actually accredited and that the costs aren’t outrageous. You should also take a closer look at who is teaching and how much the cost will be. Nothing can be worse than wasting a year or two of your time on a program that is ridiculously expensive and provides no advantage toward future Employment . Look out for some of these warning signs and you should be fine.

For more information on what to avoid in an Online Degree program see “Choosing an Online College

About the Author:

Written by Tyler Cook for the team at www.criminaljusticecollegeguide.com, where you can find information about online institutions offering degrees that range from corrections officer certifications to paralegal degrees.

While studying from home you might also want to check out 10 Awesome Jobs You Can Do From Home



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