8 Ways To Tell if Earning an Online Degree Is the Right Move for You

young man taking classes on a laptop

On the fence about pursuing a degree? Especially when it comes to online programs?

You’re not wrong to wonder. It’s a big step, a sizable commitment, and there are lots of things to consider when making your decision.

But you’re not alone. At ODUGlobal, we’ve helped over 20,000 students get online degrees or certificates over the past 35 years. And over time we’ve observed the patterns that make online college a good fit for someone. After all, we want to see you succeed, and we only want you to join us on your educational journey if it’s a good fit for you, your lifestyle, and your goals.

Read on for eight important questions to ask yourself as you make a decision about your next step.

1. Do you want to advance your career?

There are many ways to advance in your career. For instance, you could stick around at your job for years, work hard, and hope you’re both noticed and appreciated by management and eventually promoted. Or, you could network like crazy and get lucky by talking to the right person at the right time. But these often aren’t the most efficient or effective approaches to climbing the career ladder.

To reach your career goals, it’s important to learn new skills that will both increase your abilities and make you more valuable to employers — whether you stay at your current company or move along to a new one. In other words, earning an online degree can open new doors and opportunities for you. And the great part is that you get to pick which direction you go.

2. Are you interested in pursuing a passion or interest?

While many students pursue online degrees in order to advance in their careers, other students do it to more deeply explore a passion or side interest. Curious about what makes people tick? Consider an online degree in psychology. Fascinated by the ever-shifting housing market? Look into pursuing an online real estate degree. Always tinkering with your PC? Check out an online bachelor’s in computer science.

Whatever your interest, there’s probably an online degree or certificate program to match. And don’t limit yourself to your hobbies; online degrees are also a great way to test out a new career path. Take a few classes to follow that interest and see if it points you toward a rewarding new career direction.

3. Would earning a degree increase your confidence?

Say you have a dream of attaining a certain role or entering a new field. In most cases, there’s more than one way to get there. You can read books to increase your knowledge, network with people in that field, and try to teach yourself new skills. And sometimes that stuff works! But a lot of individuals find that after it’s all said and done, what they’re ultimately lacking is the most important element in accomplishing your goals: confidence.

It turns out that there’s something really powerful about learning directly from experts, having access to the most up-to-date information and materials, applying your new skills in a safe space, and putting your new knowledge to the test. And there’s something even more magical about having that degree in hand, knowing that you did it and you now have proof to show to the world. That confidence can’t help but come through as you interview for that new job or march into that exciting new industry.

4. Do you have time?

One of the great things about online degree programs is that they can fit into your busy life. A lot of online courses are asynchronous (i.e. you can view and complete lessons at a time convenient to you within the perimeters of the class) meaning you can get coursework done in the early morning before your 9-5, during your lunch break, or after the kids go to bed at night. Online courses are much more flexible than in-person college classes.

But that doesn’t mean they take no time at all. Like any college-level degree or certificate, online programs are a commitment of time and energy. Before you take the leap, make sure the other aspects of your life will allow for that commitment.

5. Do you work well independently?

As mentioned above, many online courses are asynchronous, which makes it very different from a traditional college experience. While this flexibility is a wonderful thing for many students, it can also be a challenge for students who have trouble managing their time or working independently.

Even asynchronous courses require that work is completed within certain time frames. So if you have trouble managing your time, you may want to look for synchronous classes, which happen live, at scheduled times, and can feel more like a traditional in-person class.

6. Do you have past credits that might transfer?

Did you earn a college degree years ago? Have you taken community college classes? Do you have military training? If so, you likely already have credits that you could apply toward your new online degree. All you have to do is request your transcripts and the transfer counselor or academic advisor at the school you’re considering will be able to tell you which credits are transferable.

Keep in mind that some colleges have special arrangements with other school systems that make the transferring process extremely easy. For example, at ODUGlobal, if you already have an approved associate degree from a VCCS college or partner college, you may already be well on your way to your bachelor's degree. Also, through our plusODU program, you can gain guaranteed acceptance into ODU with an established pathway from a partner college.

7. Do you qualify for financial aid?

One big reason that students pursue online degrees is that the cost may be much lower than in-person programs in your area. So you may wonder if financial aid or scholarships are available on top of those savings. Fortunately, the answer is yes! 

For example, at ODUGlobal, students can apply for a variety of scholarships and fellowships or apply for financial aid through ODU. In addition, students with military affiliations can access special tuition rates, tuition assistance, and financial aid. So before you assume you can’t afford an online degree, make sure you explore all of your options.

8. Are you located somewhere that lacks educational opportunities?

There are thousands of colleges and universities in the U.S. But that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s one near you — or one that offers the degrees or programs you’re interested in. Luckily, technology is rapidly advancing and has transformed the educational landscape. Today, many prestigious institutions are offering online programs that are accessible by anyone, no matter where you live. 

So think outside the box. Look around at other colleges in other states, Google the programs you want to pursue and find out where they’re offered. Make sure the school you’re considering is accredited, well-respected, and well-reviewed. Then get ready to say hello to your new future.

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