Should You Continue Your Education with an Online Degree?

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LaptopThere is a battle raging right now about the usefulness of a graduate degree, or even of any college degree at all. Joining the fray right now is the online degree space.

A number of colleges and universities offer online degree programs, and there are online schools completely in the Internet education space. My husband teaches online classes for Utah State University, and one of them is a graduate-level course mostly aimed at teachers working on their master’s degrees.

While my husband’s students find it useful to continue their educations online, since the master’s degree will come with a pay increase, not everyone is in the same boat.

What is Your Online Degree Worth?

First of all, you have to decide what you’re trying to accomplish with your online degree, says Chris Cullen, Managing Director at Infinia Group and former Chief Marketing Officer for The Johns Hopkins University. “The benefits of an online degree are direction relational to the goals of the student,” he says.

If you are just trying to continue your learning for your own benefit, and don’t really care to use the degree, it might make sense to use free online learning resources and open courseware. However, if you feel that advancing your education is essential to your career, either to receive better credentials or qualify for higher pay or a promotion, it might make sense to take advantage of the convenience of online classes.

But you still need to beware. Classes like those my husband teaches, and the online MBA programs offered by numerous respected and major universities, are fully accredited, and you enjoy the prestige of that particular university.

It’s a different story with a totally online institution. “It is safe to say that a completely online credential still does not afford the leverage and opportunity that any conventional degree does,” Cullen says.

“The job market is competitive,” he continues. “If the online credential is a basic requirement to advancement in your company or career path, the source may be mostly irrelevant as long as it is accredited.”

Look at your goals, and the requirements of your career. In some cases, all you might need is particular certification, and once you accomplish that — whether you take the required courses online or in person — you can advance. In other cases, though, an online education might just be expensive, and leave you with a degree that is considered inferior to those from more traditional schools.

Besides, there are some benefits to continuing your education in a classroom environment. I remember the stimulating discussions and exchange of ideas in my own graduate program. These are experiences that aren’t as robust over the Internet.

Cullen agrees: “[I]f a student is hoping to share the same conversations, and benefit from the same category prejudices of college graduates, at least for now an online education still carries a reputational asterisk.”

What do you think? Is an online degree worth it? Would you continue your education online?

(Photo: CollegeDegrees360)

{ 14 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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14 Responses to “Should You Continue Your Education with an Online Degree?”

  1. I definitely agree with you that if you want to take the courses to increase your own knowledge in an area or to learn a skill, it is a great idea as it is probably more cost effective and flexible then attending classes. However, if you are hoping that the online degree/certification will look good on your resume, I’m not sure we’ve reached the point where employers see it that way yet. It definitely helps if the online degree/certification is affiliated with a well known school though.

  2. I have a couple friends who are professors in Louisiana that are upset that the degree is being ‘watered down’ with totally online classes. They are getting incredible pressure from the university to do the online classes though.

    Then I know other professors who are fine with it. It does seem to be easier for the student. I take classes online so I certainly would work on an online degree.

  3. I definitely agree that online classes are great to learn for your own benefit as it is more cost effective and flexible compared to attending a class. I wouldn’t do it thinking that it would boost your resume as I don’t know if employers really look highly on those degrees/certifications. It does greatly help if the online degree/certification is affiliated with a well respected brick and mortar school though.

  4. freeby50 says:

    A lot of the online degrees are from the for-profit colleges like Kaplan and Phoenix. I’d strongly discourage people from getting those degrees from the for-profit companies. They just cost too much for what you get.
    I’d trust an online degree from a state college to be better quality for lower price.

  5. admiral58 says:

    I wouldn’t get an online degree, but for some maybe it’s worth it

  6. Shirley says:

    I have taken several online courses in subjects that interest me, but only for my own benefit in knowledge. I have no intention of returning to the workforce.

  7. I’m thinking of becoming a Certified Financial Planner, and if I do, I am ABSOLUTELY doing it through an online program.

    Yes, many online degrees are worthless. So are many in-person, traditional degrees, especially those from most for-profit institutions and those that are impractical and have a low difficulty level. Some are worth just as much online as from an institution in person, though, especially many certifications, not only for financial planning but also for real estate and certifications that boost the value of technical degrees. No one cares HOW you passed the test, only that you did.

  8. I see the benefit in taking online courses as a component of your degree program, but I am entirely against entire academic programs being taught online. There is an essential component that is lacking, and it undermines the value of the degree completely.

    • You mean the social component? For many college kids, that’s just another way of saying, “I hung out with my friends and bought beer with my student loan money.” true, those friends may ultimately morph into valuable business associates later in life – but few people go to college for the business connections.

  9. I personally completed my degree online through Daytona State College. Which is a fully accredited institution. Almost all of the professors I had online were extremely helpful and gave useful assignments. Although I took my last 2 years of class online for my Bachelors, I was still able to go to the physical school whenever I need too.

    I considered getting my masters from an online exclusive institutions but I struggled choosing a major as well as only being able to communicate online and on the phone. The price for a Master’s degree online is just as expensive as one you are able to take classes online and attend. In the end I decided to wait on getting my masters as I already have a job I enjoy.

  10. Jeff @ Money and says:

    I personally know someone who went over 40k into debt at one of those online degree places and now must pay it back to the tune of $340 a month for the next 20 years. She was already in her 30’s and didn’t really know anything more than she “needed a degree.”

    I would caution anyone to consider all of their options before going into heavy student loan debt. You might have a better option at a local community college and might just even get a better education to boot.

  11. Glen Craig says:

    As with any course you have to look at the school it’s from and see its accreditation. Not all online courses are the same. I’ve found some online courses may even be more difficult then the in-class counterpart.

    You need to look at your career and ask if the courses, or degree, will help you earn more wealth.

  12. Shafi says:

    If you’re already employed, you don’t have to go for a master’s degree. Instead, what you can do is learn what you want to learn without seeking promotion.

  13. Wayne says:

    It depends..
    If you are getting a degree on-line to get a degree… not going to be worth it.
    If you find course material that you find interesting and can help with your job skill development.. then you should be able to justify taking the course. If you can find enough material/coursework to develope your marketability AND get a degree, then get a degree..
    The problem is finding course material that fullfils your job/skill requirements and also the degree requirements. One of the basic purpose of getting a degree is that it widen’s your view/scope of the world. Unfortunately, you can’t tell if it’s worth the effort until you take the course….so… I positive…. it depends…

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