As a working adult, you’re tied up with multiple responsibilities – both professionally and personally. At this stage of life, making a career switch or taking up a study program to help you climb the corporate ladder is a brave and important step. Online degree programs could prove to be your best bet.

In this article, we will explore why online degrees are a great choice for working adults, the pros and cons of enrolling in an online program, and a step-by-step guide to choosing a program that works for you.

Online degrees have become extremely popular, especially during the pandemic. According to a survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of undergraduate students enrolling for an online course was 97% higher in 2020 than the fall intake in 2019.

With this substantial increase in popularity, a large number of working adults also recognized the opportunity to learn and advance their careers through online degree programs.  

Some common reasons why online degrees have become a wise choice for working adults include: 

  1. Flexibility:
    One major reason for their popularity is the flexibility they offer in terms of time and location. As a working adult, you could attend classes and complete your coursework in the comfort of your home, with just the availability of a stable internet connection. This means you can study and learn when you have the time, fitting it around your work schedule. Based on your commitments, you could choose a course load that works for you. If you have the time, you can often take a heavier course load, or a lighter load when you have a busier schedule.
  1. Asynchronous Learning:
    Online degrees allow you to explore an asynchronous learning pattern, which means you can access course materials and lectures at a time convenient to you. This is a huge benefit for working students who have varying work schedules and need to attend to other commitments.

Related: Synchronous vs Asynchronous Classes

  1. Balanced Work-Study Schedule:
    Online degrees provide the opportunity to balance work and education without the need to commute to a physical campus. As a working student, this could help save both time and money on transportation, allowing you to dedicate more hours to your studies.
  1. Wide Array of Options:
    Online degree programs often offer a wide range of degree options, so that you choose a program that aligns with your career goals and interests. You can pursue your education without the need to quit your job, and the skills and knowledge gained through an online degree could possibly enhance your career prospects.
  2. Cost Involved:
    Choosing to study online could also be easier on the pocket. Many online degrees for working adults prove less expensive than attending college in person. Data suggests that when tuition and the cost of attendance are compared between an online degree and a 4-year-long in-person degree, the online degree is cheaper by $36K.

Related: Why Should You Consider an Online Human Resource Management Program?

There are several types of online degrees available to students. Some of the popular ones include:

  1. Certificate Programs:
    Online certifications focus on offering training in a specific skill or area of expertise. These programs are shorter in duration compared to degree programs and are designed to enhance professional skills. For example, common certificate programs in the field of business include digital marketing, social media management, project management, and many more.
  1. Associate Degree:
    Online associate degrees usually take around two years to complete. This degree program provides a foundation in a specific area of study and can serve as a stepping stone towards further education or entry-level employment.
  1. Bachelor’s Degree:
    Online bachelor’s degrees are undergraduate programs that typically require around four years of full-time study. This degree covers a wide range of disciplines, including business,  psychology, nursing, computer science, and a lot more.
  1. Master’s Degree:
    Online master’s degrees are graduate programs that usually require one to two years of study, and usually require a completed bachelor’s degree. This degree program offers advanced knowledge and skills in a specific field, such as healthcare, business administration, engineering, and education. 
  1. Doctoral Degree:
    Doctoral degrees available online, also known as online PhD programs, are the highest level of academic achievement. These programs typically require several years of study and research beyond a master’s degree and are available in various fields of study.

While these are the common types of online degrees available by academic level, the curriculum might differ based on the institution, subject, and type of program you wish to pursue.

When evaluating an online degree program, some critical factors to consider could be:

  • Accreditation:
    Make sure the online degree program is accredited by a recognized accrediting agency. A program’s accreditation guarantees that it adheres to a set of quality criteria and that your degree will be recognized by other educational institutions and potential employers.
  • Program Reputation:
    Check the standing of the program and the institution that is giving it. Look into the ratings, comments, and reviews left by current or previous students. Your value of the degree increases if you attend a recognized, long-standing program.
  • Program Structure and Flexibility:
    Assess the program structure and delivery methods. Examine whether the program is completely online or if there are classes that you must attend on-campus. Consider the program’s flexibility, including the possibility of part- or full-time study, as well as the availability of asynchronous or synchronous learning.
  • Course Offerings and Curriculum:
    Review the course offerings and curriculum of the program. Look for a comprehensive and up-to-date curriculum that covers the necessary knowledge and skills in your field of interest. Consider the availability of elective courses, specialization options, and opportunities for hands-on learning or internships, if applicable.
  • Cost and Financial Aid:
    Consider the cost of the online degree program, including tuition, fees, or any additional expenses. Exploring your financial aid options, such as scholarships, grants, or payment plans, can help make the program more affordable. Evaluate the return on investment of the program in relation to your career goals.
  • Technology and Learning Resources:
    Assess the technology infrastructure and learning resources offered by the program. You may want to ensure that you have access to a reliable online learning platform, digital resources, libraries, and any specialized software or tools required for your field of study.
  • Student Support Services:
    It’s wise to assess the support services provided to online students. You could look for services such as academic advising, technical support, online libraries, tutoring, and career counseling. Strong student support services can greatly enhance your learning experience and help you succeed in your studies.
  • Faculty Qualifications and Support:
    Explore the qualifications and expertise of the program’s faculty members. Check whether they have academic credentials that are relevant to your study program. Look for evidence of faculty support and engagement, such as availability for virtual office hours or personalized guidance.
  • Graduation Rates and Alumni Outcomes:
    As a working student, you need to investigate the program’s graduation rates and the career outcomes of its alumni. Higher graduation rates indicate student satisfaction and program effectiveness. Explore whether the program has a strong track record of producing graduates who find success in their chosen careers.
  • Career Services and Alumni Network:
    Lastly, don’t forget to explore the career services offered by the program, including job placement assistance, networking opportunities, and access to alumni networks. 

  1. Define Your Goals
    Your journey to choose an online degree program should ideally start with you clarifying your educational and career goals. Write down the fields of studies that interest you and what level of degree you want to pursue (e.g., bachelor’s, master’s, etc.). Don’t forget to consider your passions, skills, and long-term career aspirations.
  1. Research Online Programs
    Next, conduct thorough research on different online degree programs related to your field of interest. When you start your research, look for reputable colleges, universities, or online institutions that offer accredited programs. You can explore their websites, course catalogs, and program descriptions to understand the curriculum, course requirements, and learning outcomes.
  2. Evaluate Program Structure
    Examine the program structure and the methods of delivery. Understand if the program is entirely online or requires any on-campus components. Determine if the program offers flexibility in terms of part-time or full-time study.
  3. Assess Course Content and Curriculum
    Review the course content and curriculum for the online degree program and evaluate the depth of the curriculum, the availability of elective courses, and the opportunity for specialization within your chosen field.
  4. Explore Financial Aid Options
    Check financial aid options available with the program, including scholarships, grants, and loans, to determine what resources are available to help fund your education. Research any specific financial aid opportunities for online students.
  5. Review Admission Requirements
    Understand the admission requirements for the online degree program. Check the prerequisites, application process, deadlines, and any required standardized tests. Ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria and gather all necessary documents for the application.
  6. Seek Student and Alumni Perspectives
    Reach out to current students or alumni of the online degree program to gain insights into their experiences. Gather insights into the program’s quality, faculty support, career opportunities, and overall satisfaction.
  7. Make a Decision
    After considering all the factors listed above, make a well thought-out, informed decision. Now you will be able to select an online degree program that best aligns with your goals, interests, and resources. Apply to the program and follow the admission process outlined by the institution.

Remember that choosing the online degree program that aligns with your work schedule is an important decision and can immensely contribute to your educational and career success. So gather as much information as you can about your program before you make a decision.

Online learning may or may not be the first choice of every student. If you’re someone who’s contemplating whether you should apply for an online degree program, we recommend looking at the pros and cons listed below before you make your decision.

Pros of Online LearningCons of Online Learning
Flexibility: Can access materials and lectures anytime, anywhereLimited face-to-face interaction with instructors and peers
Convenience: No need for commuting or relocationPotential for technical difficulties and internet connectivity issues
Self-paced learning: Can study at your own speed and revisit material as neededRequires strong self-discipline and time management skills
Variety of resources: Access to a wide range of digital resources and multimediaPossible lack of hands-on or practical experience, depending on the subject
Personalized learning: Ability to tailor learning to individual needs and preferencesIncreased reliance on self-motivation and self-direction
Cost-effective: Can save on transportation and housing expensesLimited networking opportunities compared to in-person learning

The advantages and disadvantages of online study might vary based on individual preferences and specific online learning platforms or courses.

Studying as a working professional might seem daunting at first. But with a little planning and research, it doesn’t have to be. If you’re a working professional and want to go back to college to upgrade your skills, or even resume studies you never completed, then enrolling for an online degree could prove to be a great choice for you.

Just remember to make sure you choose a program that not only aligns with your interests but also allows you to balance your work commitments daily. Explore our platform to find the program that best fits your educational needs. 

Why should you enroll for an online degree program?

Enrolling in an online course today offers compelling advantages. Some of the common advantages include: 

– Flexibility to study at your own pace and on your own schedule.
– No need to commute to a physical campus. 
– Diverse course options ranging from academic subjects to skill-based training. 
– Access to expert instructors through recorded lectures, live sessions, or virtual office hours.
– Cost-Effectiveness as online courses tend to be more affordable than traditional on-campus education.
– Excellent way to upgrade your skills or learn something new. 

Can you get an online degree that pays well?

Absolutely! There are multiple degree options available that help you earn a decent salary upon completion of the program. As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some top-paying online degrees include economics (median salary of $105,630 in 2021), information systems security ($102,600), and business management ($102,450).