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When choosing an online education, it’s important to understand some basics so that you know exactly what you’re looking at. There are a few options to consider: online programs, online course and online certificates. An online program is set up for students to get a degree – Associates, Bachelors, Masters or Doctoral.

Online courses are exactly that – courses. You can take them for personal enrichment, as a supplement to a degree program, or in a blended education environment which combines both online learning with attendance in a physical school.

Online certificates are typically a collection of courses created for a student to be certified in a specific trade, such as fashion merchandiser, or an enhancement to a degree, such as a specialty within the medical field.

Online is On the Rise

The number of people enrolling in online programs for their degree is on the rise. The Sloan Consortium reports that the number of students enrolled in online degree programs has more than tripled in the last five years, and for good reason.

  • Convenience: In regard to convenience, earning your degree online can’t be beat. You set the hours for studying and course completion that works for you, not your professor or your school.
  • Cost: The cost for online programs is typically less than a traditional brick and mortar environment. Tuition is often lower, and in many cases you can order online text books. You also save money on practical things such as gas, parking, clothing expense, eating on the run, and even dormitory costs.
  • Mobility: The obvious perk of online programs is going to school in your pajamas if you so choose. But you can also be in class at your local coffee shop, while you’re traveling out of town, on the park bench while your kids play at the playground – anywhere you can bring your computer, you can be in class.
  • Respect: Employers are recognizing degrees from accredited online schools as equal to any traditional brick and mortar institution. Earning your degree from a reputable online school is an excellent door opener to a challenging and rewarding career in almost any field.

With an ever-growing increase in degree options and almost countless numbers of high quality online educators, there is a program out there for just about everyone. Whether you are straight out of high school, or returning to school after some years, distance learning is a great choice for earning your degree. Many people are in a demanding season of life, perhaps working full time or raising children and wonder how school can fit in to their busy schedules. The answer: enroll in the school that works with you.

The Same Me, Only Better

Some aren’t even looking to begin a new career, they simply want to gain the knowledge to benefit their current position.

For example, consider the new mom or dad. Any parent has seen countless books on the market that address issues such as “how to get your baby to sleep through the night”; “how to manage your sanity through the toddler years”; “kid friendly meals for the picky eater”; “does my child have a learning disability?”; “how to be your child’s best friend”; the list goes on and on, and so do the opinions. Navigating through these resources can be a full time job in and of itself! Choosing to get a degree in Early Childhood Development can take the mystery and sometimes overwhelming magnitude out of the enormous call to parenthood. Not only are these courses invaluable as a parent, your degree can also jump start a career in care-giving or formal education; should you wish to pursue this type of employment at some point in your future. Online programs for Early Childhood Development are a fun and flexible way to feel best equipped for the best job in the world…the job of Mom or Dad!

Acceleration: aka Stepping on the Gas

As convenient and schedule friendly as online programs are, there is another option for grabbing that degree and hitting the career path running: Accelerated Online Programs. Here is a breakdown, comparing traditional programs and accelerated programs:

  • Associate's degree – A traditional associate's degree takes two years; the accelerated path takes one year to 20 months.
  • Bachelor's degree – Instead of four years, an accelerated bachelor's degree can be earned in two years or more.
  • Dual Bachelor's/Master's degree – A 4+1 program allows an undergraduate to complete a bachelor and master's degree program in five years instead of six or more.
  • Master's degree or MBA – One year to 18 months is the average length of time in order to earn an accelerated master's degree or MBA.
  • Doctoral degree – A doctoral degree program can be completed in three years or more instead of the traditional five to six years.

As you would expect, an accelerated program is more demanding and your commitment to completing the assignments means a much more rigorous schedule, perhaps even doubling your workload. This may not be a good option for someone who works full time, or has extensive family commitments; however, in the right circumstances, accelerated programs are an outstanding choice for saving time and money on your education. Degrees from accelerated programs are attractive to employers because often times the work is project based and replicates on the job experience, which is a valuable skill to offer when applying for your career.

Before you choose an accelerated program, you’ll need to ask some questions. If you have transfer credits, you may be able to transfer them to a new program, which could shorten the time commitment even more so. Don’t assume; this may not always be allowable. Also, financial aid may have different criteria than traditional online programs or a brick and mortar school. If you have researched online programs extensively, but have chosen an accelerated program, it’s best to start your research from scratch so that you aren’t surprised at any differences between the two.

Full List of Online Program Subjects