Are Online Degrees Really Worth Anything?

Over the last 8 years I’ve been exploring the idea of going back to college to earn a graduate degree. I’m not exactly sure what degree I would pursue, but my interests are focused on some sort of management or engineering based program.

Like most “mid career” individuals, leaving a stable job for one or two years to pursue an advanced degree is simply out of the question. Who’s going to pay for my family’s living expenses, mortgage, insurance bills, and property taxes?

The Stigma of Online Degrees

The concept of pursuing an advanced degree online was fascinating, but I was turned off by the stigma associated with such degrees. It seemed like nearly every internet page I visited online had an advertisement for an “online degree” from some unknown university.

“Get your MBA in as little as 3 months!” said one such online degree factory.

Still unable to find an alternative, I gave the idea of an online education another chance and after an extensive amount of research, I’ve determined that my initial snub of online degrees was not warranted at all.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave the last 10 years, you’re probably very familiar with degrees offered by the University of Phoenix, Capella, and DeVry Universities.

These are the schools I used to think of when I heard of online education, and while they may offer a quality education, they weren’t exactly what I was looking for.

What I did learn through my research is there are an increasing number of well known “prestigious” universities offering quality, cost effective online degrees including Penn State, Notre Dame, Auburn University, and the University of Massachusetts.

In fact, many of these renowned colleges and universities offer 100% online degree programs in conjunction with on campus versions and make no distinction on your college transcript or printed degree.

For example, Texas A & M University has one of the top petroleum engineering programs in the world and makes absolutely no distinction between their online and on campus programs. 

You will earn exactly the same degree you would earn if you studied on our campus in College Station, Texas. The standards for admission, course work, and graduation are the same, and your diploma will be the same as those for students who come to campus to study. You are welcome to come to campus to walk through the graduation line with your classmates, too.

What Do You Want Out of Your Online Degree?

If you are looking for the prestige associated with an Ivy League college, then an online degree is probably not for you. 

On the other hand, if you want to improve your knowledge base or learn about something new that will benefit your career or personal interests, chances are there is a program out there worth your time and money!

No matter how much knowledge you may have in a particular area it may not be enough to advance in your career without obtaining a degree.  An online degree may be your ticket for a promotion, professional license, teaching credential, or other milestone.

Put yourself in the position of the hiring manager or recruiter for a company you would like to work for.  What would you think of someone’s online degree?  Everything else being equal, you probably wouldn’t know they earned the degree online unless you asked.

A Wall St. investment bank, or prestigous consulting firm may think twice about hiring someone with an online degree, but I believe those of us working in the “real world” can benefit greatly from such degrees especially when we are able to demonstrate that we learned something from them.

So, what degree will I pursue, and when I will be enrolling?  Only time will tell I suppose, but I have a few ideas of which colleges I may like to “attend”.  I’d also be interested in hearing any of your experiences with online education and what your impressions of online degrees are!

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