How to Know if an Online Degree Is Right for You

Four Methods:Questions to Ask When Considering an Online DegreeKnowing if an Online Degree Is Right for YouResearching Degree ProgramsLocating Resources

If you're considering getting an online degree, you'll need to be aware of the pitfalls as much as the potential positives. It takes a certain kind of person and a certain set of circumstances for a student to be successful in an online degree program. To find out if an online degree is right for you, follow the steps below.

Questions to Ask When Considering an Online Degree

Sample Online Degree Questions

Method 1
Knowing if an Online Degree Is Right for You

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    Consider your personal characteristics. Being successful in getting a degree online requires certain skills and characteristics. The following characteristics are helpful in knowing whether pursuing an online degree will suit you:[1]
    • Self-discipline: Since an online degree requires that students attend class on their schedule, it takes some degree of self-discipline to obtain an online degree. If you're the type of person who needs someone else to be accountable to in order to get things done, an online degree may not be right for you. On the other hand, if you're happy organizing your schedule, getting on with regular studying and meeting deadlines, it's likely to work well for you.
    • Reading comprehension: Without traditional classes, lectures go out the window. Online programs require you to read the lectures. If your reading comprehension is not that great, you may want to consider traditional classes over online ones. You may find more video lectures accompany many courses online though; ask what the mix is and decide if that works for you.
    • Writing skills: Online classes require students to communicate with each other and with professors mostly in writing. If your writing skills are not so great, you may find online classes more difficult than traditional face-to-face classes. However, this is a great opportunity to improve them too, so don't use this as a barrier to getting started.
    • Computer skills: Taking classes online means you will be on the computer for much of your day. You will need to be proficient using email and the internet and will have to learn how to use your school’s online software. Usually there will be clear instructions for using the software and a contact person should you run into problems.
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    Consider your home environment in general. If you're studying online, how will this impact others in your household? Will they be accommodating or supportive? It can be helpful to explain to them that even though you're not going to a college physically, you're still working just as hard (if not harder) to obtain your degree and that you'll need space and peace at certain times of the day in order to study. Consider carefully how this will work within your own household dynamics.
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    Identify your goals. This includes both personal and career goals. What career path are you interested in taking? Are you looking for the college experience, a flexible schedule, more time at home with your family, or new social opportunities? If you're looking to meet new people or to live the college experience, you may not want to choose an online degree. On the other hand, if you're after spending more time with your family or having a flexible schedule, you may find that an online degree is a good choice.

Method 2
Researching Degree Programs

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    Research online degree programs. Visit some college websites to determine if the degree you are interested in may be obtained online.
    • If the program or parts of the program you want is not available online, you will need to enrolling in traditional face-to-face classes. In some cases, you may be able to do some of the work online but have a component where attendance is essential. Consider whether this can be worked into your budget and time availability.
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    Determine if any of the available degree programs could help you meet your goals.
    • Do any of the programs sound as if they could help you achieve your goals? If your dream is to become a botanist, for example, and there are no online degree programs related to the field of botany, you may want to skip the online degree and obtain yours in the traditional manner. However, if you have always wanted to work in the law and find several paralegal degree programs available in your area, online school may be the right choice for you.
    • Are most elements of the degree suitable but one or two key areas are missing? Investigate whether you'll get the qualifications you're after by pursuing the degree and taking a few extra shorter or tailored courses to fill in the gaps.

Method 3
Locating Resources

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    Think about the resources you have available. Getting a degree online means you need to have regular access to a computer and high-speed internet service, as well as a comfortable and quiet place to work. [2] Computers are reasonably cheap but renting one can be even cheaper and enables you to access the latest products and software without having to shell out the total cost. As for internet access, if you can't afford high speed internet at home, some options for places to work on your classes include:
    • The public library. Many public libraries provide computers with high-speed internet access for patrons. Check with your library for restrictions on use of the computers; it's no good if you're only permitted half hour slots here and there!
    • Your college’s computer lab. If you're pursuing your online degree from a local college or university, its computer lab should be available for your use during lab hours. Check with your school for more information.
    • A restaurant or café that offers wifi. Many restaurants, cafés, and coffee shops offer customers free wireless internet services.


  • Find out about accessibility to tutors, lecturers and any other relevant person. Does the university provide set times for general online chats or can you email when needed? Having some form of access to the professor or teacher is an important part of feeling that you can get support when needed and that you are a part of the college community even though you're not physically present.
  • Are there peer review experiences? These can be tough when you're studying online as you don't see your fellow students and reviews can be harsh when other people don't have the usual constraints of knowing and seeing one another. You'll need to be prepared for this but also be aware that some of the peers will be extremely supportive and thoughtful, so it can be a very useful learning process.
  • Consider whether it's possible to meet up with fellow students doing the same online course. Some colleges encourage this where it is possible locally, and you might find that the support network of knowing a few of your students is invaluable.


  • Have in place back-up plans for disruptions to your access to the college. This is especially important when deadlines approach and essays, etc., are due.
  • Be aware of the penalties for plagiarism. Just because you're learning off campus doesn't mean you can get away with copying work!
  • Always keep copies of whatever you submit in case of problems with any submission program your college uses.

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