College has never been more expensive, and a degree has never more been more beneficial to finding a job. This combination has prevented many people from advancing in their careers or from pursuing further education. A number of online degree programs have come into existence to help people that cannot afford the time or money for college or a degree program, but unfortunately not all of them are a good bargain. Those who are interested in online degrees need to make sure they find an accredited program – programs that have been evaluated and approved by licensing organizations. Otherwise, the student may find himself out of money and with no valid degree to show for it.
How Online Degrees are Structured
Online degree programs can vary, but in general they follow the same basic structure. Classes are taken online through the computer, though the student may need to purchase textbooks or other materials. There is a real instructor who records or live-streams classes to students, and is available to answer questions through e-mail or video chat. Students interact with each other through chat rooms and message boards, and all assignments and tests are submitted to the instructor electronically. Some online programs will require students show up to labs or physical classrooms for lessons occasionally. How many classes a student can take at once or how often the class meets is determined by the program, but most are designed to fit into a student’s busy schedule.
Costs of Online Degree Programs
Online degree programs are usually significantly cheaper than traditional degree options, but they are not free. Programs differ in how expensive they are, but many can be arranged so that students pay by class or term session instead of being responsible for a large lump sum payment. The base of the cost is tuition, and it may be due at the beginning of the semester or the program, or be payable in installments. On top of tuition, there may be other fees such as registration or material costs, and all require access to a computer and internet. Financial aid is available from most accredited programs through the school or the federal government to help offset these costs.
Different Types of Programs
Online degree programs vary from basic certificates of study to masters level degrees. Very few require a prior degree for associates or bachelors degrees other than a high school diploma. There are many areas of study available as well including traditional liberal arts, sciences, design and specific career paths such as paralegal, criminal justice, medical assisting or transcription and others. Aside from the different areas of study, some programs will require a larger time commitment or that students take multiple classes at once or in a pre-determined order.