Online degrees are offered by many institutions these days. If you are considering a career change or if you are finally ready to pursue your true passion it seems that obtaining your degree is as easy as turning on your computer. However, there are a few things you should know before enrolling into an online degree program. Answering the following three questions can save you time and money before you enroll for the next semester.
1. Is an academic credential required to achieve your career goal?
Talk to people who are doing the work you want to do. Find a mentor if possible. Ask them what is truly required as opposed to having the school representative tell you. The mentor is less likely to have a vested interest in you attending the school.
Tip: Attend professional association meetings for your chosen profession and network, network, network.
2. Is the institution accredited?
Even though accreditation by an institution of higher learning is voluntary, it provides a level of assurance to the public that it maintains minimum standards of educational quality. It also means that the institution is eligible to participate in Federal Student Aid programs if the accreditor is recognized by the United States Department of Education. Depending on your chosen field, employers may require that your credential be from an accredited institution. Not all institutions offering online degrees are accredited.
Tip: Ask the school representative if the institution is accredited and check out the accreditor. Visit http://www.ed.gov for a list of recognized accreditors. Don’t forget to check with the accreditor to ensure the school is actually accredited by them.
3. Does it sound too good to be true?
Guaranteed jobs. Free money for school. Millions your first year. If it sounds too good to be true it is. No school, online or not, accredited or not, can make these promises. Most schools have a state regulatory agency in addition to the accreditor to which students may file complaints. In many states this information is publicly available through the Open Records Act or similar legislation. Ask to speak with current students or graduates to get a feel of what it’s like to really attend the school.
Tip: Contact the state regulatory agency for information on your prospective school. The agency name is often found in the school catalog.
Guaranteed jobs! Free money for school! Millions your first year! If it sounds
too good to be true, it is. No online degree program, accredited or not, can make
these promises and deliver.
· Career College Association (www.career.org) provides a directory of over 1200 member schools who share in its mission of excellence in higher education.
· Peterson’s Guide (www.petersons.com) allows you to search a database of accredited Career Colleges by educational program and location.
· Visit http://studentaid.ed.gov for free information on funding your education.