Factors to Consider When Choosing an Online Degree Program

By the year 2020, 65 percent of all jobs in the U.S. will require advanced education beyond high school, according to a study by Georgetown University[1]. In recent years, learning online has proven an excellent alternative for a growing number of students pursuing advanced degrees to meet the needs of an expanding job market.

Before applying at a university, students interested in an online degree program should check that their college of choice is regionally accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Accreditation means that an institution meets minimum standards of quality, signals to employers that you have earned a valid degree in your field of study, and ensures that the college or university is committed to institutional improvement over time.[2]

Arizona State University (ASU) for example offers more than 100 degrees online and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges. This federally-recognized body provides assurance to students, parents, and all stakeholders that ASU meets clear quality standards for educational and financial performance. In addition to ASU's Higher Learning Commission accreditation, many of ASU's academic programs carry specialized accreditation specific to the field. Learn more about ASU’s accreditation here.

Students should also review their college’s reputation and academic brand. Attending a reputable university shows employers that the student’s degree is legitimate. One way to determine this is through program requirements. Schools like ASU require that students pursuing their degrees online earn the same number of credits as students attending classes in-person. ASU’s online courses are also taught by the same faculty teaching on ASU’s physical campuses.

A university with high graduation and job placement rates signals to prospective students that the college offers strong academic support both in-person and online. In 2014, ASU awarded over 14,000 undergraduate diplomas, and 90% of ASU graduates get job offers within 90 days of graduation.

As the demand for highly educated workers continues to increase, the prevalence of online degree programs will continue to grow. For students looking to expand their current skillsets and/or compete in today’s job market, a degree from a reputable university like ASU will increase their chances of future employment.

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