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5 Things to Do Before Seeking a Bachelor's Degree Online

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Getting a Bachelor's Degree is the first step toward increasing your earning potential and excelling in your career. Maybe you've been in business for some time and are interested in getting a degree to help further your career. Perhaps you already hold a BA in one field and want to get another one in a different field to improve your operations and enhance your business acumen.

Going to school online is one of the easiest, most convenient ways to get your bachelor's degree. An online degree just as useful and valuable as one from a brick-and-mortar school. Here are a few things to look for when deciding to obtain your bachelor’s degree from an online school.

Make Sure the University is Accredited

The highest watermark for a college is to be accredited. Most of us hear that magic word repeatedly when searching for a college - online or otherwise. That's because it's a way to judge the quality of a particular school and acts as a means of accountability to ensure colleges are actually providing an acceptable education to their students.

Accreditation itself has many important effects on the schools themselves, ultimately holding them to a consistent high set of standards. Employers also tend to look for candidates who attended accredited schools when they assess resumes. So going to an accredited school isn’t just good for your education—it’s good for you career, too!

Look into the School's Reputation

A school’s reputation is critical to how valuable a degree from that school can be. Always look into how other students saw their experience and what kind of curriculum you’ll be facing. Watch out for a school that’s not accredited. Check the technical requirements and be wary of diploma mills. Here are a few sure signs the school is probably a diploma mill:

     They get aggressive with trying to contact you

     They use a lot of buzzwords and jargon to make themselves sound official when they're not

     The classes don't have any exams or interaction with professors/fellow students

     The only admission requirement is a credit card

     They offer degrees based on work experience, a resume, or a CV

     You can get a degree in 30 days or less

     They offer flat fees for both bachelor's and master's degrees. Real colleges do not work that way.

     They try to tell you the university is unable to be accredited. That's untrue.

     There are no faculty listings.

The biggest red flag is if the college offers U.S. citizens degrees but is physically located in a different country. Online colleges are an excellent way to get a degree but be sure to investigate and insulate yourself from any possible scams before making a commitment.

Understand the Common Degree Options

Knowing the type of degree, you want to get is crucial to success. The variety of offerings in most online bachelor's degree programs focus on business, healthcare, and science-related fields, but can branch out further depending on the college. Some of the more common offerings for online degrees fall into these categories:

     Behavioral Science

     Psychology

     Accounting

     Business Administration

     Health Care Administration

     Occupational Safety

     Marketing

     Social and Criminal Justice

     Education Studies

     Early Childhood Education

     Health and Human Services

Most of these are Bachelor of Arts (BA) degrees, but occasionally, you'll find a bachelor of science (BS) degree in some of the fields. BS degrees usually fall in the information tech and health categories more so than any other fields. The difference between the two types of degrees is fairly straightforward: a BS takes a laser-focused approach to the subject of the degree and often requires more credits directly related to the major. It's rooted in practicality and pragmatism, with the whole purpose of preparing degree-holders for the more challenging aspects of a particular field. BA degrees, on the other hand, focus a bit more on exploring liberal arts along with the subject matter of the degree itself. Each one has distinct advantages depending on the occupation, discipline, and career field.

Understand Tuition Costs

So, what factors go into determining tuition costs at an online college? First, there’s the fact you won’t be on campus; that alone should shave some of the overall cost from the final tuition amounts. As with all colleges, there will likely be lab or technology fees. These can be a flat fee or be assessed on a tier (based on how many credit hours you're taking).

There will likely be a flat cost per credit hour, making up the entire total of the tuition cost. Students are also generally responsible for buying their books and other necessary course materials. Tuition can also vary based on the state. On average, in-state tuition for the entire bachelor’s degree at an online school is around $38,496 and closer to $54,183 for out-of-state tuition. Many schools have a tuition calculator on their web sites and can point potential students in the right direction for financial aid and tuition assistance.

Ask About Admission or Transfer Requirements

When it comes to admissions and transfer policies, every online college is a bit different than traditional brick-and-mortar schools. Begin by talking to an advisor before filling out your online application. After that, it's merely a matter of going through the admissions process as succinctly as possible. The school will typically advise you and answer any questions you have regarding the process. A little proactivity goes a long way in this area. Some online colleges may require admission testing or application fees, so be sure to conduct detailed resource prior to making a commitment. If you’re transferring from another school (online or traditional), make sure you understand the school’s transfer requirements.

Transferring credits from another school requires approval from the school you're transferring to. Some online colleges take up to 90 or so approved credits to apply toward your new degree field, but that approval is based on various metrics determined by the college. Part of the admissions process is also understanding graduation rates and finding resources for potential financial aid. It may seem like a lot of steps to take but getting it right ahead of time is the best overall method for ensuring you optimize you experience and get the most out of obtaining your online degree.

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