Everything You Need to Know About Online Degree Programs

Anita Narayan, U.S. News & World Report 

What should I know about online degrees?

Online degrees are becoming more mainstream. They offer flexibility that can be a real benefit to students who have major responsibilities outside of school, such as working or caring for family. Studying online can eliminate the need to commute or relocate for school. You can take classes and earn your degree while fulfilling your other commitments.

If I’m considering an online education, where should I start?

First, decide what discipline and degree you want to earn. According to our user data, online MBA programs are particularly popular. Second, be sure to confirm the program you are interested in is accredited and offers support services, like the ability to meet with your advisers virtually. Finally, find the program that is the best fit for you. This is the most important thing to consider as you weigh your options, and might include your field of interest, career goals, faculty you want to learn from, funding, schedule and more.

How do I choose the right program for me?

U.S. News & World Report’s Best Online Programs rankings provide in-depth information on more than 1,500 accredited programs in a range of disciplines. We also offer articles and guides on our site, with advice from online education experts, to help prospective students in their journey.

1. Business administration

According to Babson Survey Research Group, more students are enrolled in this field than any other degree program. It's considered the most sought after because it allows for versatility in the work place and qualifies graduates in multiple fields of business.

2. Healthcare administration

Blending business knowledge and medical practice, healthcare administrators are finding an increasing demand for their services. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a growth rate of 23 percent between 2012 and 2022, much higher than the national average for all other occupations.

3. Hospitality

Due to the easy availability of online degrees, hospitality is quickly becoming one of the most practical options. Working for a hotel, cruise ship, casino, entertainment park, professional sports team or restaurant also means never a dull moment on the job.

4. Human resources

The need for HR specialists has grown in recent years, with businesses having to comply with new healthcare regulations while seeking to implement changing technologies into training programs. The median annual salary is $57,000 and often requires only a bachelor’s degree for entering the profession.

5. Marketing

In addition to being creative, marketing experts must study demographics, a product’s function and cost analysis to anticipate what the public wants. Considered key players in the business field, marketing assistants can earn up to $60,000 a year, with directors earning as much as $200,000. With growing demand for marketing gurus, an online degree seems a wise investment.

Many students pursue professional certificate programs focusing on targeted skill areas, such as marketing, or change leadership. Paul Krause, CEO of eCornell and Associate Vice Provost for Online Learning at Cornell University, adds, “Often taught by the same high-caliber faculty and instructors who teach in a traditional degree program, certificates take significantly less time to complete and can be a great way to enhance your resume and open the door to new opportunities within the span of a few months.”