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Can you earn a ‘real’ graduate degree online?

One of the growing trends in education is to go online. There are plenty of free online classes and educational resources [3], but the reality is that many of these free courses are simply meant for your own enrichment. You might be able to access OpenCourseWare from MIT for free, but these free resources will not provide you with a degree, and you can’t receive college credit for completing these courses.

But that doesn’t mean online courses are useless. Indeed, many accredited colleges provide ways for you to earn your degree entirely online [4]. You just have to be willing to pay.

“These courses are not free,” says Don Nations, a career and education coach at DNA Coaching. “There are some great classes available online for free but almost no regionally accredited school will allow you to take it and receive credit from the institution.”

Pay for a Legit Degree

“Many online degree programs are very expensive,” says Nations. And he’s right. I was looking into online MBA programs, and found that some of them cost $50,000 to $100,000 to complete. That’s quite the chunk of change. I only looked at accredited programs from schools like the University of North Carolina, Washington State University, and Arizona State University.

“I have a Master’s degree from the University of Maryland,” says Hank Coleman, “and it was earned 100 percent online.” His degree doesn’t come with asterisks; no one looking at his resume would have any idea that he earned his degree entirely using the Internet, through the University of Maryland. His records just show a degree from a respected school.

“There is more legitimacy in taking online courses from a college or university that has a rich history as a brick and mortar institution,” Coleman says.

You also have to be wary of programs that are entirely based online, without offering accredited on-campus courses.

“Many online degrees may not qualify someone to compete for a job which would enable them to pay off their school loans or make the investment in the degree worthwhile,” Nations says.

It really does make sense to vet the online program before you sign up.

“The prospective student needs to be clear on goals, desired career and financial condition before entering any educational program,” Nations says.

Also, be aware that some programs aren’t completely online. You might have to meet in person once or twice during the semester. You should also realize that legitimate online graduate degree programs aren’t any easier than many of their “real” world counterparts. My husband teaches graduate courses online, and he requires just as much from his online students as from the students he teaches in person.

An online graduate degree can provide you with a certain amount of flexibility, but you have to be a certain type of person to succeed. Self-motivation, discipline, and an ability to learn with less hand holding is necessary if you want to succeed with an online course or an online degree.

(Photo: Todd Morris [5])