What to Look for in an Online Degree Program

By: Bailey Smith

You are tired of hitting a dead end with your career and you are ready to take the plunge into the world of distance education to get the degree and skills that you need to move ahead. But with so many options now available in online education, how do you know how to choose the best online degree program and what do you look for? As overwhelming as the options may seem, there are some very simple things to look for that can help you in choosing the program that is right for you.

The first thing you need to consider is exactly what are your goals. If you wish to advance, or perhaps enter into, a specific field you need to check to see what the professional qualifications are for that particular career path. For example, if you are in the health care field and you know that you need a program that will prepare you for the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) certification exam, then you want to look for programs like the University of Cincinnati's Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management online degree program that will give you the foundations that you need for certification. So look for programs that are not only providing you with a valuable base of knowledge and building your skills but that is also aimed towards giving you the preparation that you need to obtain the certifications or licensure required by your particular field of interest. Also, keep an eye open for programs that may be related to or compliment your existing expertise. For example, if you are an educator in a particular discipline and you would like to further your career by obtaining a master's degree, do not get discouraged if you can not find an online graduate program in your specific discipline. You may instead consider pursuing an online graduate degree in Education. The Master of Education in Educational Leadership from the University of Cincinnati, which is a a principal licensure program, or the Master of Arts in Teaching online degree program offered by the University of Saint Mary would be two good examples. So keep this in mind when selecting a program.

Another factor that you need to consider when choosing an online degree program is, of course, cost. As with traditional classroom education, tuition can vary from school to school and even region to region ranging anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars per credit hour to $500 plus. When considering cost also keep in mind that financial aid may be available for most programs and do not forget to factor in the cost of books and supplies etc. when applicable. Also, time frame for completion may be important as well. Does the program have a set schedule of progression or is it completely a move at your own pace set up? If time management or the over all time of completion is an issue you will want to keep this in mind when comparing programs.

One essential aspect to look for, is to be sure that the programs you are choose are regionally accredited and meet educational guidelines. This way you are assured of getting a quality degree. Lastly, you will need to pay attention to admission's requirements. Some programs are relatively simple and require only an undergraduate degree from an accredited university or a minimum GPA. Others may require specific credentials, test scores, and letters of recommendation. If you are worried about standardized tests or do not have recent scores(within the past five years) you may want to consider a program that has alternative admission guidelines or that offer probational admissions to allow you to begin your enrollment even if all of the requirements can not be fulfilled.

Keep these simple things in mind and you are sure to find an online degree program that is perfect for you.

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