Is an Online Degree a Good Investment?

While online degrees may offer a level of flexibility not available in traditional classroom based instruction, there are some things to be aware of. Degrees from online institutions used to have a stigma associated with them. While brick and mortar institutions of higher learning have been around for hundreds of years in the U.S., online learning is relatively new.

Will you be able to find a job if you get a degree from an online college or will it be seen as inferior to a traditional classroom based program? Is an online degree credible? What can you look for to ensure you find a credible program from a credible college?

I’m happy to say that if you do your homework and pick the right school, an online degree can be a good investment.

Potential Pitfalls

As alluded to earlier, the perception of online degrees can be seen as being inferior to those taken in a traditional setting. However, as online degree programs have continued to mature and many traditional schools are offering online instruction, employers are starting to take notice and are more accepting of degrees obtained this way.

According to a article, a study by Excelsior College and Zogby International surveyed 1500 CEOs and 83% of them find an online degree as credible as a traditional degree. This survey was conducted in 2009 so it wouldn’t be surprising to see that number increase as online programs have matured.

83 percent of executives in the survey say that an online degree is as credible as one earned through a traditional campus-based program.
— CareerBuilder.Com


Besides the perception issue, there are some other things to be aware of when attending an online college. The choice to attend an online program shouldn’t be based on money alone – online programs aren’t necessarily cheaper – especially when they are functionally equivalent to classroom instruction. Spending thousands of dollars and a few years of your time on the cheapest instruction you can find will not help with the perception issue.

High Drop-Out Rate

Consider that drop-out rates for online colleges are higher than traditional instruction as well. This could be caused by a number of factors, but if you want an online degree, be sure to consider these before determining if this is the right direction for you to go.


Online instruction still takes time! The days and times may be more flexible allowing you to work a job, but getting a credible degree still takes a significant amount of time. If you can’t commit the time, have discipline to attend or avoid distraction, an online institution may not be a good fit for you.


Although online instruction is given in a group setting, you will have to be comfortable working more independently than if you were in the classroom. Group assignments will still come up with an online degree, but you will have to work without face to face contact. Depending on your learning style and social needs, this may prove to be difficult.


Once you pay attention to the potential pitfalls of getting an online degree, you can probably see some of the great advantages that goes along with this type of learning.

If you are already working full time and can’t afford to take a few years off from your career (who can?), online institutions can be a great way to help you further your career by offering flexible hours.

Cost can also be a factor in that you wouldn’t have to pay for expensive room and board through the school, nor parking and food fees. Online degrees can be cheaper than the equivalent classroom instruction, but this will vary by college and program.

What one person may find as a downside, another may find a benefit – being able to work independently in the space YOU are comfortable with can be extremely beneficial.

Be mindful of the cost of your education and make sure you understand that the primary benefit of attending an online college is for flexibility – not cost savings. If you find an online only program that is too cheap to be true, it probably is.

The great news is that many traditional classroom based colleges have seen the benefits of giving students the flexibility of learning remotely and have offered online programs of their own. As a general rule of thumb, employers will find traditional classroom based colleges that offer online programs the most attractive option when compared to colleges that only offer online instruction. Be sure to do your research and find what works best for you. Heck – even Harvard offers online learning programs!

Best Programs for Returning Adults

College Factual has rounded up a list of schools that offer programs ideal for adults returning to school or other non-traditional students who need flexible options. This ranking stresses online programs who have met rigorous accreditation standards. Take a look at this ranking as a good start to finding the best online program for you!