Tackling Online Degree Programs:
Finding the Right Program for You
Consulting a book that
outlines various online degree programs is a good idea,
but it is likely that the book will not be an exhaustive
listing of all programs available. This is because new
programs may have been added since the book was written,
or perhaps they only listed the most sought after. The
best place to search is on the Internet. If you are
going to be using the Internet to earn your degree,
the program had better have some good, accessible information
on the 'Net. Some resources to help you get started
are in the Degree
Programs section of this Web site.
And, of course, you can always type the desired degree
into your favorite search engine to see what you get.
I have found that none of these options is
likely to be exhaustive, so if at first you don't find
the perfect program, search a little further.
Browsing the featured
online programs directory will give you an overview
of several online schools and the programs they offer
and allow you to request information from the schools
that most interest you. Generally, each school will
send you an e-mail containing links to their site and
many will follow up with a phone call within a few days.
Take this opportunity to ask questions. Dont forget,
however, that you will likely be speaking with an admissions
counselor and he or she may not be able to offer all
the specifics you need. A really good recruiter will
offer other sources for information. For example, Capella
University has an associate licensing specialist
to answer questions about programs designed to help
you obtain licensure. You can also contact the program
director for information specific to your program of
Some important questions to ask before selecting a
program are described as follows:
Is the school accredited and by whom?
The school should be accredited
by one of the six major regional accrediting bodies
or another recognized agency. There are times when it
may not matter if the school is accredited, but make
this determination very carefully. You could run into
problems if you later pursue a higher degree, want to
transfer credits, or apply for a job. It is a good idea
to check the website of the agency the school claims
to be accredited by and verify the school is listed
on their site.
Does the specific program have any special
Learn about accreditations that are important to your
specific program. CACREP accreditation for counseling
programs can make it much easier to be licensed in other
states. APA accreditation for doctorate level clinical
psychology programs is necessary for licensure in some
states. At this time, the APA has not accredited any
online programs in clinical psychology. The right accreditation
is essential in many fields.
Are you required to spend any time on campus?
Some programs require an orientation period on campus
while others are completely online. Chances are, if
going into counseling or a similar field, you will be
required to make one or more trips to have face-to-face
contact with your instructors and fellow students. This
can add a considerable amount of additional cost. Be
to ask if room and board are already included in tuition.
Generally, travel to and from the school is not
factored into the overall cost.
Is there an internship or practicum requirement?
In some programs, like counseling, you will also be
required to do an internship or practicum as part of
your curriculum. This will have to be coordinated between
the university and a supervisor that you select. Be
ask what the requirements are and what type of assistance
the school offers in helping you arrange this type of
position. Make sure that a suitable place exists in
What is the cost of the program and the refund
What type of financial aid is available and
how do you apply for it?
Dont forget to ask about programs specific to
your situation. For example, many online programs offer
lower tuition for military members and their spouses.
How will information be delivered email,
What is the rate of employment for graduates?
What is the rate of success on licensing or
How long is the program expected to take for
completion? What is the time limit for completion?
How many online programs does the school offer?
How many years have they been offering your degree?
How many students are in the program? What
is the student to faculty ratio?
Are there former graduates that I could contact
about their experience?
To protect student privacy, many schools will not allow
this. However, they may be able to contact former students
to ask if they are willing to speak with you. It never
hurts to ask. You may also be able to find some
information in an alumni newsletter that would indicate
graduate success and satisfaction with the program.
This list is by no means exhaustive, so make certain
you ask every question you can think of that might be
important to your future. If at first you do not get
the information you need, keep asking and consulting
different sources until you are satisfied. The initial
search may be time consuming, but will be well worth
when you are able to realize your career goals. Making
yourself aware of the details beforehand will make for
much more enjoyable and satisfying experience.
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