5 Best Online Degree Programs: So you’ve decided to return to school but aren’t yet prepared to return to a typical classroom? With the flexibility to learn on your own schedule combined with the credibility of a legitimate degree, online programs open up a world of opportunity. We’ve done the research to find five of the best online degree programs for motivated self-starters looking to advance their education and career.
These innovative programs span a range of interests, from healthcare to business to computer science. The curricula are challenging but engaging, taught by the same prestigious faculty that teach on-campus. And while online learning requires discipline and time-management skills, the reward of earning your degree while still working or raising a family is well worth the effort.
If you’re ready to learn and inspired to succeed, these 5 universities offer the best online programs to help you get there. Let’s take a look at the degrees, courses, and resources that make these the best online programs for ambitious learners. The future is yours to shape – now let’s get started!
The Rise of Online Education: Why Now Is the Time
In the past decade, online education has gone a long way. What used to be seen as inferior to the traditional on-campus experience is now a viable, flexible option for ambitious learners. Here are a few reasons why now is the time to consider earning an online degree:
- Access to Elite Schools: Stanford, Harvard, and Cornell are among the highly regarded institutions that now provide both undergraduate and graduate degrees online. You can get an Ivy League education without leaving your living room.
- Affordability: Online programs are often more affordable than traditional degrees. You can avoid costs like room, board, transportation, and parking fees. Some schools offer discounts for online students or charge less per credit. Financial aid and scholarships are also available.
- Convenience: Online education fits your schedule. You can watch lectures, participate in discussions, and complete assignments whenever and wherever you want. No need to commute to campus every day.
- Up-to-Date Programs: Online degrees frequently focus on in-demand, cutting-edge fields like data science, cybersecurity, UX design, and digital marketing. You can prepare for an exciting new career in a fast-growing industry.
- Valuable Skills: Success in online programs requires discipline, time-management, and technical skills that are useful for both work and life. You’ll build independence, learn effective virtual collaboration, and get comfortable with tools like web conferencing software, learning management systems, and online libraries.
While online education isn’t for everyone, for self-motivated learners it can be a pathway to a prestigious new degree, an affordable education, an in-demand career, and skills that translate beyond the virtual classroom. Because of the growing number of online options, more people than at any time have access to a college education. Isn’t it about time you began taking advantage of whatever that technology has to offer?
Choosing the Right Online Program for You: Key Factors to Consider
Choosing an online degree program is a big decision. To identify the best fit for your requirements and goals, you need to examine numerous things.
Program Reputation and Accreditation
Make sure any program you consider is accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Accredited schools meet high standards of quality. You’ll also want to research the program’s reputation and consider rankings, reviews, and ratings from sources like U.S. News & World Report.
Flexibility and Convenience
A good online program will offer flexibility so you can balance your studies with work and life. Look for options like part-time or accelerated tracks, multiple start dates per year, and 24/7 access to learning materials. Some schools also have on-campus requirements, so check if that works with your location and schedule.
Areas of Study and Specializations
Search for schools that offer majors or concentrations in your areas of interest. The program should provide courses and learning experiences tailored to your goals. Specializations, hands-on components, internships, and career counseling services are all pluses.
Cost and Financial Aid
Compare costs at different schools, including tuition and fees. See what kind of financial aid, scholarships, grants, and student loan options they offer. An affordable, accredited program that aligns with your needs is the ideal choice.
Student Support Services
Look for a school that provides support for online learners like virtual student centers, online tutoring, IT help desks, disability services, and counseling resources. Make sure you’ll have access to professors and advisors when you need them. With the right support in place, you’ll thrive in your program.
Following these recommendations will assist you in locating a degree program online that will be a perfect fit for your goals and desires. Now get out there and start exploring your options!
Top Online Masters Programs Outside India
Online degrees are ideal for ambitious learners looking to advance their careers on a flexible schedule. Here are some of the top online master’s programs available outside of India:
MBA (Master of Business Administration)
A master of business administration (MBA) degree is one of the most flexible and economically profitable degrees available. Many highly ranked colleges, such as the University of Florida, Penn State, and Massachusetts University, offer online MBA programs. Coursework covers areas like finance, marketing, management, and analytics. An MBA can open the door to career opportunities like management consultants, marketing managers, and financial analysts.
Master of Education (MEd)
For those interested in education, an online MEd provides advanced training and can lead to career growth as a teacher, administrator, or education policy analyst. Schools like Western Governors University, Concordia University, and Grand Canyon University offer online MEd degrees with concentrations in areas like curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, and special education.
Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT)
In today’s digital world, an MSIT degree is in high demand. The program provides in-depth knowledge of areas like software engineering, cybersecurity, and web development. Top schools offering an online MSIT include DeVry University, Colorado Technical University, and Stevens Institute of Technology. Career options with an MSIT include software engineers, web developers, database administrators, and information security analysts.
Master of Public Health (MPH)
An MPH degree provides broad knowledge about public health issues and prepares you for leadership roles. The field of epidemiology healthcare policy, environmental health, and medical education are among the topics covered in the program. Schools like Walden University, Capella University, and American Public University offer online MPH programs. Career opportunities include health educator, epidemiologist, and public health program manager.
Going back to school can be challenging, but the rewards of earning an advanced degree are well worth the effort. With many reputable schools offering online master’s programs, you can achieve your goals on a flexible schedule that fits your needs. Choose a field of study that ignites your passion and get ready to open new doors of opportunity.
Accelerated Online Degree Programs: Finish Fast, for Less
Accelerated online degree programs are designed for ambitious learners who want to finish their degree quickly. Many prestigious schools now offer accelerated bachelor’s and master’s degrees you can complete in as little as 12 to 18 months. These intensive programs are not for the faint of heart, but if you’re highly motivated, they can save you time and money.
Reduced Time Commitment
Accelerated programs compress the same high-quality curriculum into a shorter period through more concentrated study. Classes may meet more frequently, require more work between meetings, and offer shorter breaks. The focused schedule reduces wasted time so you can finish faster.
By finishing in less time, you’ll pay less in tuition and fees. You may be able to return to work sooner, allowing you to earn more money. Some schools offer additional discounts or scholarships for accelerated students.
Convenient Online Options
Many top schools offer accelerated degrees online, including business, healthcare, education, and technology programs. Online learning provides maximum flexibility and convenience. You can study from anywhere on your own schedule.
Challenging But Rewarding
Accelerated programs move at an intense pace, covering a lot of material in a short amount of time. You need to be an independent, motivated learner to keep up. However, the focused curriculum and faster completion can be very rewarding. You’ll enter or advance in your career sooner with a prestigious degree.
Some highly-ranked schools offering affordable accelerated online degrees include:
- Southern New Hampshire University
- Western Governors University
- Wilmington University
- Colorado State University Global
- University of Massachusetts Lowell
Accelerated online degrees aren’t right for everyone, but if you’re eager to earn your degree quickly and advance your career, they offer an efficient path to success. If you work hard and endure, you can achieve your goals faster and at a lower cost.
The Best Free Online Courses to Advance Your Career
Continuous learning is one of the most effective methods to grow your profession. While degrees and certifications are valuable, you can pick up useful skills and knowledge for free through online courses. Here are a few of the greatest free online courses to help you advance in your job.
Coursera offers over 3,000 courses in various subjects from top universities like Yale, University of Toronto, and Rice University. Many of the courses provide video lectures, readings, quizzes, and assignments. Once you complete a course, you’ll earn a shareable electronic Course Certificate for a small fee. Popular career-focused courses include “The Manager’s Toolkit: A Practical Guide to Managing People at Work” and “Writing for Career and Publication.”
EdX is a nonprofit online learning platform with over 2,500 courses from 140 institutions including Cornell, Dartmouth, and Wageningen University. Like Coursera, courses provide video lectures, interactive exercises, and discussion forums. Many classes are self-paced while others follow a weekly schedule. Some popular picks for career development include “Supply Chain Management Fundamentals” and “Six Sigma Green Belt.” Upon completion, you can earn a verified certificate for a fee.
Udemy is one of the largest platforms for online courses with over 155,000 video courses in 65 languages. While many of the courses do charge a fee, Udemy offers a selection of free courses as well. Career-focused course topics include leadership, marketing, and software engineering. The courses are all taught by independent instructors, so quality can vary, but many provide useful skills and the opportunity to earn a certificate of completion.
Alison offers over 750 free online courses in a wide range of topics. The courses provide 3 to 4 hours of content with assessments to test your learning. While the courses are more basic overviews, they cover useful workplace skills like communication, critical thinking, and digital literacy. Alison’s certifications and diplomas are also internationally recognized. If you want to catch up on important career skills, here is a terrific place to start.
FutureLearn partners with over 140 universities and institutions worldwide to offer free online courses in various subjects. Course content typically includes videos, articles, discussions, and quizzes. Many focus on career skills like leadership, digital marketing, and data analysis. Similar to EdX and Coursera, some courses provide the opportunity to earn a Statement of Attainment for a fee. FutureLearn is a great platform if you want to learn a new skill from a top university.
How to Find Scholarships and Financial Aid for Your Online Degree
Financing your online degree is certainly possible, even if you’re on a tight budget. Many schools offer scholarships, grants, and student aid specifically for distance learners. Here are some tips for finding money for your online education:
Check with your school’s financial aid office. Schools that offer online programs often have dedicated financial aid for online students. Inquire about merit-based and need-based aid, as well as any grants or scholarships that may be available to you. Fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid, generally known as the FAFSA form, to find out your eligibility for need-based support.
Look for outside scholarships. Websites like FastWeb, Cappex, and Peterson’s offer large databases of scholarships. Search for ones targeted at online learners, your program of study, or your demographic. Many private organizations, nonprofits, and companies also offer scholarships. Be prepared to write essays, provide references, and meet any other requirements.
Explore student loan options. Federal student loans like Stafford and Perkins loans have low fixed interest rates and flexible repayment plans. Some private lenders also offer student loans and loan refinancing for online students. Make sure you understand the terms before borrowing.
Ask about employer tuition reimbursement. If you’re employed, your company may offer tuition reimbursement or assistance for job-related degree programs. You’ll need to meet any requirements, like maintaining a minimum GPA, and you may need to stay with the company for a certain period after earning your degree.
Consider a tuition payment plan. Most schools will work with you to set up an affordable payment plan to pay tuition and fees over time with no interest charges. Payments can be automatically deducted from your bank account, ensure that you never fail to make a payment.
With some digging, you can find ways to finance your entire online degree. Cast a wide net, explore all your options, and don’t get discouraged. With the right financial assistance, your online degree is absolutely within your reach.
Tips for Success in an Online Degree Program
Succeeding in an online degree program requires dedication and time management skills. Here are some tips to help you thrive:
Focus on Time Management
Online courses require discipline since you don’t have scheduled class times. Set a routine to log in and participate regularly, and treat it like an in-person class. Make a schedule to keep you on track and set deadlines for yourself to complete work.
Find Your Motivation
Staying motivated is key. Set short and long term goals to work toward. Reward yourself when you achieve them. Connect with classmates to build a support system. Discuss challenges and successes to keep each other motivated.
Find a quiet, distraction-free place to study. Turn off notifications on your devices. Let family and friends know that you need to focus during certain times. Take short breaks when you start to feel distracted or frustrated.
Actively participate in discussions and assignments. Engage with your instructors and ask questions. Build connections with your classmates through online discussions and study groups. The more you participate, the more you will benefit from the program.
Utilize All Resources
Take advantage of all resources provided like online libraries, tutoring, and technical support. Don’t hesitate to ask your instructor or advisor for extra help if you start to struggle. They want you to succeed and can provide guidance.
Following these useful tips for success in an online degree program will help you stay on track, motivated and excel. Make the commitment to fully engage in your courses and take advantage of all resources available to you. Stay dedicated and organized, treat it like an in-person program, and before you know it, you’ll be graduating with your degree in hand!
Meet Innovative Educators Leading the Online Learning Revolution
Online education has provided learners all around the world with new chances to develop vital skills and information. Some of the most innovative educators are creating highly engaging and interactive courses that are accessible anytime and anywhere.
Sal Khan, Khan Academy
Sal Khan is a pioneer in free online education. His organization, Khan Academy, offers over 6,000 video tutorials teaching everything from basic math skills to college-level science and economics. Khan’s simple, straightforward teaching style makes learning complex topics easy to understand. The lessons are available in over 36 languages, reaching millions of students worldwide.
Daphne Koller, Coursera
Daphne Koller co-founded Coursera to provide universal access to a high-quality education. Coursera partners with over 200 leading universities and organizations to offer courses in topics ranging from machine learning to yoga. Over 77 million users from around the globe have enrolled in Coursera courses. Koller’s vision is to open up education through online learning and create a more fair and just world.
AI safety startup Anthropic focuses on developing techniques to ensure artificial intelligence systems behave ethically and remain beneficial to humanity. Anthropic’s educational programs, led by Dario Amodei and Daniela Amodei, teach AI how to be respectful, honest and beneficial through self-supervised learning. They aim to build AI systems that respect human values and priorities.
Udacity, founded by Sebastian Thrun, David Stevens, and Mike Sokolsky, offers “nanodegree” programs to teach in-demand tech skills. They collaborate with industry giants such as Google, Facebook, and Mercedes-Benz to build programs in areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning engineering, and self-driving car engineering. Udacity’s mission is to train a new generation of tech leaders and innovators to solve humanity’s most pressing challenges.
Online education is transforming how we learn with innovative educators and organizations opening up opportunities for personal and professional growth. The leaders pioneering new models of accessible, engaging education are enabling millions of students to gain knowledge and skills that will shape our future.
So there you have it, five of the best online degree programs for motivated self-starters. These programs make it easy to obtain a respected degree from anywhere, regardless of your goals—whether they involve advancing your profession, learning useful new skills, or simply following your passion. The hard part is over – the research has been done and the options laid out for you. Now comes the fun part: exploring the programs that pique your interest, choosing a path, and taking that first step towards your goals. You have so much talent and potential, and the drive to make your dreams a reality. Now go unleash it! The world is at your fingertips.