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Blog » Personal Growth to Prosper » Weighing the Pros and Cons of an Online Degree in 2024

Weighing the Pros and Cons of an Online Degree in 2024

Just a couple of years ago, online education seemed like a pipe dream. The ability to provide students and individuals with access to the necessary resources, tools, and information to complete professional studies online and in a completely remote setting was once something educators and institutions could only dream about.

However, that quickly changed, and in part due to the pandemic, online education is growing faster than ever before. More and more individuals are taking advantage of online education, which allows them to schedule flexibility and improve autonomy without compromising their time, personal, or professional responsibilities.

Online learning has become one of the fastest-growing market segments in the education industry. Current estimates suggest that online learning has grown by more than 900 percent since the turn of the century. In fact, by 2027, more than 57 million students are expected to be studying or attending classes online.

Through technology, schools, colleges, and higher education institutions can now provide world-class training without requiring students to be present in person. Students can now access important materials from anywhere in the world and at any time while still having the necessary schedule flexibility and autonomy of part-time learners.

The ROI of an Online Degree In 2024

Studying for a degree has become more of a privilege, considering the soaring cost of higher education in places such as the United States. Having the opportunity to study, even part-time, online can help a person fulfill their educational needs and advance their career prospects.

However, when looking to pursue an online degree, it’s important to carefully evaluate the return on investment (ROI) a person is likely to expect after completing several years of hard work and determination and paying thousands of dollars for a recognized degree.

How an online degree can provide a return on investment:

New career opportunities: Expansion of career opportunities is one of the most important and perhaps valuable returns on an investment that a person can expect. Labor market conditions are continuously changing, and having the ability to solve complex problems and provide sophisticated solutions through your studies can help boost your career advancement.

Salary Potential: Working for years only to receive the same amount of money can be a strong demotivator for many people. However, looking at what an online degree can provide you regarding earning potential should give you some idea of whether it’s worth your time and money to pursue a specific course or training program.

Network opportunities: A degree should provide the necessary skills and ability to build valuable relationships with prospective employers, business leaders, and industry experts. By having the opportunity to learn from these individual players, you have the chance to improve your industry knowledge and better understand the ins and outs of the industry.

Critical skills: Labor market conditions are quickly changing, and having the right set of skills can help set you apart from other competitors and help you become more employable within a dynamic job market. The online degree you choose should provide you with critical skills, knowledge, and the ability to adjust to a changing environment.

Being committed to learning or studying online, whether full-time or part-time, comes with a series of challenges that each person may have to face throughout their degree. However, by weighing out the return on investment of studying online, you’ll be certain that you have made an informed decision that can help put you on a path of educational and career success.

Pros of an online degree

Here’s a look at some of the positive things to consider when deciding whether an online degree fits you best.

Improved work-life balance.

Studying is not only reserved for younger generations. These days, people of all ages are heading back to college or university to further their education and improve their employability.

Online learning allows people to both work and study simultaneously, minimizing the need for people to attend in-person lessons. While there are some elements of having to attend class, such as through an online video conference call, these are perhaps less demanding, and students can access classes or materials from anywhere and at any time.

More than this, an online degree allows you to access course material at a pace that suits your schedule without feeling overloading yourself. Students can complete tasks remotely, submit projects online, review material at their capacity, and structure their learning around their schedules.

Numerous degree options

Over the last couple of years, higher education institutions have made more courses and learning material available online, enabling students from anywhere in the world to access the required learning opportunities.

For example, students in the U.S. can now complete an MBA in Australia, without ever having to leave the country. Students in Africa can now access high education opportunities offered in European and Asian countries and still commit themselves to their personal responsibilities.

The ability to learn has become increasingly democratized with online learning, enabling a globalized population of students who can now drive innovation and transformation from all corners of the globe.

Industry-specific training

Something that has become more popular in recent years is private for-profit companies offering learning courses and training programs to students. Many corporate companies have started promoting this initiative to improve corporate and social governance and, more importantly, provide students with industry-specific training.

Although these courses are not necessarily recognized degrees or diplomas, they still provide students with the insight they need to accelerate their careers in a highly competitive and digital job market.

Applying yourself to one of these degrees lets you learn from thought leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, business owners, and company directors. Being able to pick an expert’s mind on a specific topic or ask them essential questions can be more valuable than any formal degree or training you’ve previously received.

Better global opportunities

Something else to keep in mind with an online degree is the ability to access global opportunities. Sure, an in-person degree might enable you to network with previous classmates or alumni who have attended the same school as you, but with an online degree, you can easily link with a professional or student from anywhere in the world.

Intercultural communication is a highly sought-after skill that can be extremely valuable in the workplace, especially in a highly globalized economy. The ability to effectively communicate and work with professionals from various cultural and professional backgrounds can help you learn more about the world than you initially anticipated.

While you might not see your classmates every day or have the chance to spend one-on-one time with them, such as in-person study sessions, an online degree could ensure that you work with like-minded individuals who can help you understand concepts through a different perspective while broadening your knowledge about culture, people, and social interactions.

Cons of an online degree

Unfortunately, there is a somewhat negative side to studying online. However, this depends on the field of study and a person’s ability to adjust to a new way of doing things.

A wider margin for error

Unlike in-person experiences, online studying allows you to have a wider margin of error, which isn’t always good.

Take, for example, an individual studying online to become an accountant — while they may have all the theoretical knowledge and ability to conduct several auditing and accounting exercises, their margin of error tends to be bigger as they have more tools and resources at their disposal.

What this might boil down to is that more people will find themselves in situations where they heavily rely on external support, not necessarily basic ingenuity or inventiveness, to resolve issues through critical thinking skills.

Inability to connect and exchange

Sure, we’ve said that studying online can help broaden your access to learning from other people, especially if your classmates are people from different parts of the country or even the world. However, the limitation here is that not many people are always comfortable connecting with fellow students online or willing to interact with their peers unless it’s strictly educational.

Online learning restricts some people from connecting with others, as there is no direct interaction with people in person. Virtual communication is often restrictive and can make it difficult for people to effectively share ideas, express their interests, or convey emotions.

Connecting with other peers online almost requires you to do more or feel as if you have to put in more effort than when fostering a new friendship with someone in-person. Having to learn an entire personality through online interaction isn’t easy and requires any person to have a keen sense of interpersonal skills already.

Digital requirements

Having a strong internet connection, computer, or laptop is a strong prerequisite for any person looking to pursue an online degree. Besides having all the necessary hardware and accessories, having the right programs and software can come at an additional cost and is often not included in annual tuition fees.

Acquiring new tech, whether a laptop or even a specific program, can quickly become expensive. Not many institutions provide these tools beforehand, and they sometimes require students to carry these costs themselves.

Additionally, there’s no guarantee that the device you decide to use or the program you’re being trained on will be readily used in your field one day. Sure, some institutions train students on industry-specific digital programs to help prepare them for the workforce. However, these instances are often far between with online degrees.

Cost burden

Believe it or not, an online degree can sometimes be more expensive than traditional or residential training. Data reveals that the average online bachelor’s degree can range from $40,962 at public in-state programs to roughly $62,756 at private schools. Among approximately 146 private institutions, the average tuition cost for an online bachelor’s degree is more than $62,700.

Comparatively, many public institutions charge an average of $331 per credit for on-campus in-state students, while in-state online students will pay $338 per credit. This difference is even more noticeable in some places, such as Marshall University in West Virginia, which charges $300 per on-campus in-state tuition. In contrast, online in-state tuition starts at $368 per credit.

Unfortunately, online education is more expensive. Maintaining online courses, training personnel, employing a tech support team, and paying faculty members can quickly become expensive.

However, it’s important to mention that not every college or university will charge such high premiums. Many private institutions may offer their courses more affordable, seeing that they already have the people and faculty to maintain their online courses. Additionally, short courses may be taken adjacent to other training programs to help lighten the cost burden for students.

Which is better, online or an in-person degree?

Deciding which is better, an online degree or the opportunity to study on-campus and in-person, mostly depends on your needs and whether you can justify the return on investment that you will receive from pursuing a degree.

Being well-educated and having the necessary credentials can help you during your job hunt and provide you with the skills you will one day need in the workplace.

While studying is a full-time commitment, depending on your course or field of interest, making the right choice comes down to the things you value as important and how much effort you’re willing to put into completing formal education.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Julia M Cameron; Pexels

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We uphold a strict editorial policy that focuses on factual accuracy, relevance, and impartiality. Our content, created by leading finance and industry experts, is reviewed by a team of seasoned editors to ensure compliance with the highest standards in reporting and publishing.

Stock Risk and Financial Technology Writer
Pierre Raymond is a 25-year veteran of the Financial Services industry. Driven by his passion for financial technology he has transitioned from being a quantitative stock picker, to an award-winning hedge fund manager, credit risk manager to currently a RISK IT Business Consultant. Pierre is the cofounder of Global Equity Analytics & Research Services LLC (GEARS) and a current partner at OTOS Inc.

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