Is an Online Degree Equivalent to a Traditional Degree?

September 27, 2013

Online DegreeWith the rise of the Internet, bringing with it advanced technology and the ability to interact online – including via video – more students are interested in the opportunities that arise from Internet courses. My husband teaches online courses for the local state university in our town. These classes count toward a degree.

Not only is it possible to take a few online classes to fulfill degree requirements, but some programs even allow you to earn your entire degree online, without the need to step foot inside a classroom. While this might sound like a great idea, the reality is that not all online degrees are created equal – and some aren’t as respected as traditional degrees.

What Makes an Online Degree Legitimate?

Where you get your online degree matters. In fact, Drexel University offers three qualifications to help you determine whether or not your online degree will be competitive with more traditional, offline-earned degrees:

  1. Accreditation: This is the most important qualification for an online degree. It needs to be from a regionally-accredited school. Before you fork over the cash for an online degree program, make sure the school is properly accredited. That makes a big difference when it comes to credibility.
  2. Traditional Campus: According to Drexel, 89 percent of academic believers agree that an online degree is just as legitimate as a more traditional degree – as long as that online degree comes from a school that has a traditional campus. This is an advantage for you as well. If you get a degree through North Carolina’s online MBA program, an employer isn’t going to know that you completed the online program. Going to school online doesn’t matter if you get a degree from an accredited university that also has a “regular” campus.
  3. Established Brand: The rise of online degrees from established, respected schools can be a great help for students who might not have the time or ability to move to a prestigious campus. If you can get your online degree from a respected school with an established education brand, so much the better for you. You can enjoy the prestige without the need to uproot your family and trek hundreds of miles to the campus.

There are plenty of degree mills out there that will grant you a degree or certification in almost anything. Unfortunately, many of these sites are not considered as reputable as others. Getting an online degree from a “school” that pumps them out constantly is not usually a wise path to follow, since you could very well end up with a degree that no employer respects.

When you choose to complete your degree through an online program that meets Drexel’s three requirements, you are far more likely to succeed. Your program of study is likely to be just as rigorous as the offline version (my husband’s courses are all at least as tough as their offline counterparts). Plus, you’ll end up with an online degree that many employers won’t even realize was obtained without you setting foot in a classroom.

What do you think about online degrees? Leave a comment and let us know.


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Miranda writes about personal finance almost every day. An experienced freelance writer, she's covered your money online and in print from every angle and is always looking for new ones.

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