Earning a bachelor's degree is a smart move that can provide graduates with a positive economic outlook. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those who chose to earn a bachelor's degree made $16,068 more per year than those who held an associate degree, and $22,516 per year more than those who earned only their high school diploma. That's not bad for putting in four years worth of work toward a college degree!
In addition, those who earned a bachelor's degree enjoyed a low unemployment rate of 3.5 percent in 2014; that's much lower than the 4.5 percent for associate degree holders, and better than the 6 percent for those who held only a high school diploma.
Students who want to pursue their bachelor's degree might find strong advantages to attending school online. The online bachelor's degree offers students an opportunity balance their education, work and personal life in a way that makes sense.
Dr. Kelly Barton, president of Barton Education Consulting, has a doctoral degree in educational leadership and a master’s degree in education. She has over 25 years of experience teaching and helping students and families.
Why Get a Bachelor's Degree?
For many industries, the bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement for moving into entry-level positions. Those who go straight into the workforce with their bachelor's degree in hand are prepared with in-depth research skills, strong knowledge in their field, and the clear ability to get things done. These advantages might be even more pronounced among those who have earned their online bachelor's degree, as strong self-discipline and time management are requirements for success at any online college.
Dr. Kelly Barton, president of Barton Education Consulting, mentions a few other reasons why the bachelor's degree is a good idea.
"It generally takes between 18 and 24 months to complete an associate degree," Barton said. "Choosing to complete a bachelor's degree, which generally takes four years, is a better option since the bachelor's degree is a conduit to graduate education. Graduate education is important as it begins to enhance a potential employee's application."
The financial factor is also a big draw. "According to data from the US Census Bureau and the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, it only took approximately 10 years to recoup the cost of a bachelor's degree, which is much better than in 1980 when it took 22.5 years," Barton said.
How Do You Enroll in an Online Bachelor's Degree Program?
The enrollment process tends to be very streamlined; however, there is a great deal of information required by the admissions office, which can make the process seem more tedious than it really is. This is how it usually works with any school, whether traditional or online. Keep in mind that if the enrollment process seems too easy, or it seems that everyone gets in, that particular school might not be of the highest quality.
You can also fill out a request form to ask for more information on any school you're considering. Information students will need to provide includes:
- Information on existing student loans
- Proof of U.S. Citizenship
- Street Address
- Email address
- Topic of Study
What's the Difference Between Studying Online and on Campus?
There are numerous differences between online and traditional education, some of which are obvious right from the start. For instance, online programs allow students to complete either all or a majority of the work online, without ever setting foot in a classroom. Online education makes strong use of technology, including video lectures, chat rooms, message boards and more. Classes tend to be shorter, especially in accelerated programs, which might allow those who enroll in online bachelor's degree programs an opportunity complete the work in less than the typical four years.
There are some things that should not be different when it comes to online and on-campus programs, however. The idea that online courses are easier is a myth; a reputable school will offer online courses that are just as challenging as that of the traditional counterparts. Online students can also expect the same amount of coursework for the same amount of credits, even though their classes might be shorter.
Does Location Matter for Online Bachelor Degrees?
When traditional schools were the only option, location was one of the key points to consider. Today, online education brings degree programs to those all over the world, meaning that location isn't much of an issue, if at all. But there are some cases in which the physical locations of an online school might matter.
"Students should pay attention to the physical locale of their online program when they are required to attend mandatory cohort meetings or when they are required to take cumulative exams, oral boards, etc. in person on campus," Barton pointed out. "That being said, it's more important for students to make sure that their online programs are accredited and provide for multiple opportunities for live interaction."
What Industries Does Online College Serve?
There was a time when online bachelor's degrees were seen as nothing but slips of worthless paper from diploma mills — and unfortunately, that was often true. That has changed significantly in recent years, as regulations and oversight have come into play. Today students who pursue online bachelor's degrees are more likely to graduate from a respected, reputable and accredited school, with their degree just as strong as that of someone who attended a traditional brick-and-mortar institution.
Some industries are quick to look to online learning as a place to find great job candidates. For instance, careers in information technology, business administration, graphic design, marketing, accounting and the like lend themselves very well to online degree programs, as most — if not all — of the work can be done on the computer. In addition, the finely-honed tech skills online graduates tend to pick up during their degree pursuit translate into skills they can use on the job.
However, it is important to note that online college can provide bachelor's degrees in almost every field. Even those that require hands-on training, such as nursing, offer hybrid options that allow students to complete most courses through online means but meet in a traditional classroom to complete certain laboratory or clinical components. With the flexibility of online degrees, students are no longer limited to choosing a traditional degree simply because their chosen field requires it.
1. Earnings and Unemployment Rates by Educational Attainment, Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm
2. "How Employers View Your Online Bachelor's Degree," U.S. News and World Report, March 4, 2014, Devon Haynie, http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2014/02/28/what-employers-really-think-about-your-online-bachelors-degree
3. Interview with Dr. Kelly Barton, August 19, 2015