In today's competitive business climate, it's almost impossible to imagine the days when people were able to succeed with limited or no higher education. But as recent statistics suggest, those who complete advanced degrees earn considerably more than those with just a basic level of education. In fact, some studies suggest that those who hold a Ph.D. earn an average of $35,000 more per year that those with just a B.A.
Unfortunately, nothing comes without a price. And with the exception of buying a home or new automobile, few things are more costly than a degree at a four-year university. Current prices range between $9,000 to $35,000 per year and climb even higher at some prestigious universities. Despite the cost however, people still need to earn a degree. And this need has given rise to the offering of online education as a means of completing the same coursework at a significantly reduced cost, often ranging between $20,000 to $30,000... for all four years!

Buyer beware

Many four-year and technical colleges have begun offering entire degrees online, enabling students to complete the work on their own time without having to worry about commuting and many of the other costs that factor into a physical classroom. Best of all, online course offerings allow modern students to work a day job and "attend" classes at night or on the weekend, providing the ability to not only pay for the coursework itself but also work toward achievements they may not have been able to afford time-wise if only offered through a physical classroom.

As with anything offered through the web, online universities require due diligence in terms of background to ensure that the coursework you purchase will actually be recognized by employers and other universities should you decide to transfer. And that leads to the No. 1 concern related to online education: accreditation.

Start your search here

There are a number of organizations and resources on the web that enable you to select the right online university based on your desired career path, most notably, an organization that provides reviews and direct links for accredited online education programs throughout the United States. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education provides a searchable online database of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs.
But before you begin requesting information, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind that will enable you to select the best program available.


How does the school use technology? Some may pour their efforts into the latest novelties, like tablets and other mobile devices, which is fine as long as the primary focus is on the content, not the technology itself. Look for a fundamental academic base that's rooted in an established curriculum with structured coursework.

Structured coursework

With more and more people heading online, educational institutions are now in a rush to compete against each other to tap into a practically limitless pool of enrollment. As a result, some programs may be quickly assembled and not as rigorous as their physical-classroom counterparts. When comparing online universities, make sure you examine a sample syllabus or curriculum before choosing a particular university. This will enable you to complete a simple point-by-point comparison. Note: an in-depth syllabus is usually indicative of a more well-thought-out program.

Transferable credits

Accreditation is given to universities that adhere to a nationally-recognized system of curriculum. And depending on the type of accreditation they hold, you may or may not be able to transfer credits earned for online coursework to another university. To get the most for your money, make sure your credits are transferable so you can build upon your online studies down the road if you so choose.