Online Degrees: Programs by Subject and Salary Potential

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Earn a Degree Online Programs by Subject and Salary Potential

As universities have launched a comprehensive selection of undergraduate and graduate programs, they have also concentrated on expanding their menu of online degree concentrations. In 2014, students had access to more than 36,000 unique degree programs online, ranging from associate degrees in nursing to doctoral degrees in education administration.

Best Degree Programs Online

    • Business
    • 1

      University of Memphis

    • 2

      University of North Carolina at Pembroke

    • 3

      Liberty University

    • 4

      Fayateville University

    • 5

      Dallas Baptist University

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    • Psychology
    • 1

      Fayateville University

    • 2

      University of Wyoming

    • 3

      Missouri Valley College

    • 4

      Liberty University

    • 5

      Brescia University

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    • Teaching
    • 1

      University of Southern Mississippi

    • 2

      Liberty University

    • 3

      Mayville State University

    • 4

      North Greenville University

    • 5

      University of Florida

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    • Nursing
    • 1

      Adventist University of Health Sciences

    • 2

      Broward College

    • 3

      Pensacola State University

    • 4

      Albany State University

    • 5

      Indian River State College

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    • Computer Science
    • 1

      Clayton State University

    • 2

      Columbus State University

    • 3

      Liberty University

    • 4

      University of North Carolina at Pembroke

    • 5

      Hodges University

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    • MBA
    • 1

      Arizona State University

    • 2

      Pennyslvania State University – World Campus

    • 3

      George Washington University

    • 4

      Louisiana State University – Shreveport

    • 5

      Northeastern University

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    • Engineering
    • 1

      Eastern Kentucky University

    • 2

      Daytona State University

    • 3

      Ferris State University

    • 4

      University of Southern Mississippi

    • 5

      Florida Atlantic University

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    • Accounting
    • 1

      University of Memphis

    • 2

      University of North Carolina at Pembroke

    • 3

      Liberty University

    • 4

      Belhaven University

    • 5

      Brescia University

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    • Communications
    • 1

      Columbus State University

    • 2

      New Mexico State University – Main Campus

    • 3

      The University of Texas of the Permian Basin

    • 4

      Valley City State University

    • 5

      University of Florida

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    • Criminal Justice
    • 1

      University of North Carolina at Pembroke

    • 2

      Fayateville State University

    • 3

      Missouri Valley College

    • 4

      University of Wyoming

    • 5

      Liberty University

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    • Biology
    • 1

      Troy University

    • 2

      North Carolina State University at Raleigh

    • 3

      George Mason University

    • 4

      Mississippi State University

    • 5

      University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point

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    • Marketing
    • 1

      Bringham Young University – Idaho

    • 2

      Liberty University

    • 3

      Dallas Baptist University

    • 4

      Langston University

    • 5

      Minot State University

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    • Information Technology
    • 1

      Albany State University

    • 2

      Middle Georgia State University

    • 3

      Clayton State University

    • 4

      Liberty University

    • 5

      Columbus State University

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    • Political Science
    • 1

      Pennyslvania State University – World Campus

    • 2

      Fort Valley State University

    • 3

      University of Massachusetts Amherst

    • 4

      University of Wisconsin

    • 5

      California Baptist University

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Explore Online Degrees In Top Fields
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Subjects 2014 median pay Degree Programs Online Schools accreditation
Accounting $65,940 2,695 900 AACSB
Art $58,250 1,347 437 NASAD
Biology $71,940 98 67 ASBMB
Business Management $74,090 13,838 1,558 AACSB
Communications $50,950 1,921 775 ACEJMC
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Online Degrees 101

For students considering an online education, developing an understanding of online learning, what it requires, and how it can impact future career decisions is an important step before making a decision. There are a number of reasons why students enroll in an online program, such as a desire to get a better job, dissatisfaction with their campus-based school, a preference to study online, flexibility and convenience, accelerated courses, diverse curriculum options and more.

Who Gets a Degree Online?

Online students come from all walks of life. He or she might be a new freshman (high school graduate), a returning adult student, a transfer student from a community college, or a working professional seeking industry-specific credentials. Whatever the reason for attending or the type of student, every prospective student shares the same common concerns and questions about online learning, degree requirements and more.

You might want to get an online degree if you:

Want a flexible schedule
Want to advance in your career
Live in a rural area, without access to local degree programs
Are an international student
EXPERT Q&A: How do online degrees work?

Can I earn a degree entirely online?

Yes. Depending on the specific institution and program, students can finish their entire associate or bachelor’s without stepping foot on campus. For students seeking more personal contact, blended or hybrid degree formats are available. In hybrid/blended degree programs, students complete a portion of their coursework through online and on-campus courses.

What does the online classroom look like?

Today’s online classroom is a bedroom, the park, the coffee shop — it is wherever the student has a computer and Internet connection. Institutions with online degree programs typically use a centralized learning platform that serves as a virtual classroom and allows students to complete and submit their assignments, interact with classmates, email and chat with instructors and more.

How flexible is online learning?

Flexibility depends on the instruction format — asynchronous or synchronous. Asynchronous programs offer a greater level of flexibility, allowing the student to study at times convenient to them. However, students are expected to complete their coursework, examinations, and assignments within the confines of scheduled due dates. Typically speaking, online courses last anywhere between 12 and 15 weeks.

How long does it take to finish an online degree?

That answer is entirely dependent on the student. Time to graduation has numerous factors: the degree level, the program of study, and the course load students take each semester. For example, bachelor’s degree programs typically require between 120 and 128 credit hours to graduate. That means the online student must take 15 to 18 credits each semester to graduate in four years.

Who teaches the online courses?

Online courses are taught by the same faculty that teach on-campus classes. In most cases, online degrees are mirror images of their campus-based counterparts.

Special Considerations for:

High School Students

Is an Online Degree Right for You?

There are a variety of reasons why a high school student might consider starting college at an online university. They might be working while completing school and require a more flexible schedule. They might live in an area with few higher education opportunities close by and be unable to relocate closer to a physical university. Or their temperament and learning style may be more suited to an online learning environment.

Whatever the motivation, high school students should ask themselves the following questions to determine whether an online degree program is right for them:

Should You Go from High School Grad to Online Student?
Are you comfortable researching, studying and communicating online?
Yes No

Perhaps you should start your post-secondary education with a campus-based or hybrid program.

Can you set your own study schedule and stick to it?
Yes No

Perhaps you should start your post-secondary education with a campus-based or hybrid program.

Have you spoken with an academic advisor about online learning options?
Yes No

Speak to an academic advisor at your high school and return to this question.

Have you researched specific colleges and their online programs to make sure they’re a good fit?
Yes No

Start exploring different college options and their online programs in detail. Community colleges, four-year universities and private schools have a wide range of options to consider. Try to narrow down what might make sense to your academic and professional goals.

It looks like you’re ready to get serious about an online degree.

Community College Students

Should You Finish Your Degree Online?

For community college students nearing the end of their associate degree programs, they might think about completing a bachelor’s degree online. Prospective community college students should ask themselves the following questions before transitioning to an online program:

Should You Transfer from Community College to an Online Program?
Are you okay communicating with students and submitting materials to professors online?
Yes No

Maybe a campus-based four-year degree is your best bet. Or, try a hybrid program to test the online learning waters.

Are you self-disciplined with your school work?
Yes No

Maybe a campus-based four-year degree is your best bet. Or, try a hybrid program to test the online learning waters.

Have you started researching online degrees?
Yes No

See what’s out there. Call schools, talk to counselors and then resume your path once you better understand your options.

Have you narrowed your search to a specific online degree program? Does the program accept your community college credits?
Yes No

When narrowing down, make sure your target schools accept your community college credits. Now is also the time to explore your financial aid opportunities.

It seems like you may have found one or more online degrees that work. Now is the time to research financial aid options to make your online degree as affordable as possible.

Working Professionals

Can an Online Degree Advance Your Career?

Working while earning a degree may sound daunting, but it’s not impossible, especially when pursuing an online degree. An online degree program can be ideal for full- or part-time working adults who can’t pursue a degree on a traditional brick-and-mortar timeline. As a result, online class schedules and timelines are typically designed with the non-traditional student in mind, meaning students have the flexibility to take classes whenever and wherever they can.

Additionally, some degree-granting institutions also offer accelerated programs or award credit for existing professional or military experience. This type of flexibility lets working students customize their online degrees, allowing them to work at their own pace, which can be much more manageable when one also has to juggle work and family at the same time.

Career Advancement

While working and pursuing an online degree simultaneously is no small task, it can have big impacts on your career. The main benefit for already-working individuals to return to school is that the higher the education level, the more marketable you become to employers. At a time where middle-aged Americans are delaying retirement for an additional 10 to 20 years, staying relevant and competitive in the job market is an increasing concern.

The primary advantages for working individuals returning to school are earning promotions and salary increases within a current occupation, and switching job functions or industries altogether. As a general rule, the higher degree attained, the higher potential salary earnings. On average, individuals holding a bachelor’s degree earn $2.3 million across their lifetime, while their counterparts with only a high school diploma can expect $1.3 million.

The take-away? Earning a higher degree can help you increase salary within your current occupation, but if you aim to change jobs, choose your field and degree wisely.

Lifetime Earnings by Educational Attainment

Source: The College Payoff Study (2014) by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce

Is it Time to Further Your Education With an Online Degree?
Are you ready to juggle work and family life to continue your education online?
Yes No

Try rearranging your work and family schedule to make time for continuing your education online. Or, assess your goals to see if you have time to complete your degree at a slower pace.

Do you have 9-12 hours a week that you can dedicate to each of your online courses?
Yes No

Try rearranging your work and family schedule to make time for continuing your education online. Or, assess your goals to see if you have time to complete your degree at a slower pace.

Are you comfortable submitting work online and communicating with instructors and peers in chat rooms, email and digital forums?
Yes No

Consider your options to take courses at a traditional school. Many adult degree programs offer night classes and weekend schedules for working individuals.

Have you researched online programs that allow you to transfer existing credit or earn credit from your work and life experience?
Yes No

Start digging into your prior work and education experience to see what credits you are eligible for. Then find degree programs that fit your career goals and your previous experience.

Sounds like pursuing an online degree while working is right for you.

Steps to Enrolling in an Online Program While You’re Working

Diving in to an online degree program doesn’t have to be daunting. Follow these steps to stay organized and keep your priorities in check.

  • Select a program1

    Online schools offer a variety of degree programs and fields of study on par with that of traditional schools. Choosing between the various degree levels from certificate up to doctorate requires taking a look at your current professional path and planning your future career goals. Knowing if you want to move up in your current industry or switch directions entirely will help you choose a field of study, as well as decide how advanced a degree you’ll need.

  • See what existing credits you can transfer2

    There are two main ways to gain credits towards an online degree from previous experience: transferring existing credits earned through prior education, and earning credit for the knowledge that you have attained from work and life experience.

    The former involves transferring eligible credits course-by-course or applying an associate’s degree towards a bachelor’s degree. The latter includes demonstrating college-level knowledge that you have acquired through professional and personal life such as military training, industry certifications, and work experience. This usually involves a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) portfolio, where you present a resume and work examples to demonstrate your knowledge. Both will reduce the overall cost of an online education and place you on the right track for your experience level.

  • Check if you are eligible for reduced tuition3

    Aside from traditional scholarships and grants, working professionals seeking online degrees have several other possibilities for reduced tuition available to them. Military personnel are eligible for federal tuition assistance and living stipends. Many employers also offer reimbursement for continuing education or online degree program costs.

    Check with your manager or human resources department to see if these benefits are available to you.

  • Create a plan with your employer 4

    Just as you would with your family, be open with your employer. Let your boss know that you’re planning to pursue an online degree while working, which means you may occasionally need to scale back on certain work responsibilities or adjust your working hours. Work with your boss to understand your priorities and areas where you may be able to scale back and help your boss find a reliable back up person, in case of emergencies.

    In addition to helping you juggle everything going on, this also shows your boss that your job is still a top priority, one that you’re still taking seriously despite the changes.

  • Set realistic goals and timelines5

    Earning an online degree requires a lot of time and commitment, as does a full- or part-time job and balancing the two can be challenging for anyone. Don’t overload yourself all at once.

    Before committing to an online degree program, take a couple online classes first to get an idea of how things work, how your life would be as a working student, and to find out what you’re capable of taking on. Understand – and accept – that it may take a little more time to complete a degree and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you stay on track. Discussing your goals with an academic advisor—yes, many online schools have them too—can get you on the right path towards earning your degree.

International Students

Can You Get a Degree Online?

Many online degree programs also serve international students, usually defined as an applicant living outside of the US, a non-US citizen, or US citizen who earned a high school diploma, undergraduate degree, or completed some undergraduate degree coursework outside of the US.

Some colleges offer international students benefits such as reduced tuition, application fee waiver, and no admissions test for some degree programs. These benefits, however, vary by institution, so be sure to speak with an admissions counselor to learn about the benefits that are applicable to your online degree program of interest.

Admission requirements will vary from college to college and even online program to program, but, in general, international students can expect to submit the following:

  • TOEFL, IELTS, or other English language proficiency test scores
  • All academic records and transcripts, typically in the original language and accompanied by a certified line-by-line English translation
  • Statement of purpose
  • Resume
  • Completed application form
  • Non-refundable application fee

Will You Need a Visa to Study Online?

Colleges offering online degrees are not authorized to grant student visas for international students who wish to study in the US. However, those who wish to complete a degree program entirely online from outside the US may enroll in as many online classes as desired for academic credit towards a degree without a student visa. Fully online programs do not require international students to enter the US so a visa isn’t necessary. Some international students, however, are subject to restrictions.

Below is a breakdown of things international students should keep in mind before enrolling in an online degree program.

Visa Type
ACADEMIC RESTRICTIONS / GUIDELINES
  • Required for academic and vocational studies. For non-immigrant F visa holders, only three credits per semester in an online course or distance education course can be counted towards a degree. F1 and M1 visa holders must travel to the US. Additionally, F1 visa holders must maintain full-time enrollment and typically cannot take online or distance courses for credit; therefore, cannot earn a degree online.
  • Required for participation in an approved exchange program. For non-immigrant J visa holders, only three credits per semester in an online course or distance education course can be counted towards a degree. J1 visa holders must maintain full-time enrollment and typically cannot take online or distance courses for credit; therefore, cannot earn a degree online.
  • Required for taking short, recreational, non-credit courses in the US. Not required for fully online courses.