Online learning is no longer a niche option for those interested in pursuing higher education. Most, if not all, universities offer at least some courses and programs online, allowing students to take advantage of a flexible learning environment while they balance jobs and family.
As far back as the 1980s, students have had the option to study from afar, leveling up both their earning potential and their knowledge at the same time. Over the decades, online learning has become increasingly prevalent, and during the pandemic, it reached even greater heights.
Today, many students still opt to learn from home. More students than ever are considering online degree programs, and the number of accredited online colleges is growing all the time. But how can an online degree enhance your career? And what are the educational benefits and advantages of e-learning?
If you’re contemplating an online degree vs. a traditional degree, let’s look at six of the most compelling ways an online degree can enhance your career prospects.
1. Choose from a Variety of Courses and Programs to Fit Your Career Goals
Ever-greater numbers of students are choosing to pursue their education online. As of 2021, 61 percent of postsecondary students were enrolled in at least one online course, while a full 28 percent were taking classes exclusively online. That means if you choose to pursue this route, you’re in good company.
Additionally, there is a wide range of courses and programs available over the internet. This means there are many options available to you when choosing the right online degree. While having choices is great, it can also be overwhelming.
The best way to sort through your choices is to first make a list of potential programs in which you might be interested. If you already know exactly what degree you want to pursue, all the better. Then, make another list of what you want to see in a program, including:
- Pacing – How quickly do you have to complete it?
- On-campus requirements – Do you have to show up in person at all?
- Cost – Will you pay more to attend certain institutions, and, if so, how much?
These factors will help you narrow down the programs that will work for you, making the decision less daunting. Note that admissions officers are available to answer your questions as well.
2. Develop Your Time Management Skills
Time management skills are critical in both academia and the professional world. Those who show up on time (meaning a few minutes early), juggle to-do lists without dropping important tasks, and set appropriate boundaries when others ask things of them are likelier to succeed.
Luckily, time management and online studies go hand in hand. With online programs, you often get to choose how you schedule your time. Learning to block out work periods and chunk assignments to get them done in a given time frame are skills you’ll naturally develop as you move through your program.
These skills can improve your career prospects dramatically. If you’ve made it through an online program, it’s almost guaranteed that you can tell interviewers you’ve developed certain skills. These usually include, but aren’t limited to:
- basic scheduling, time-blocking, and organization
- breaking down complex tasks into discrete and manageable chunks
- working with others to get projects done in a manageable time frame
- knowing when to help others versus when to prioritize your own time
- understanding how to overcome procrastination and help others do the same
These are all skills that employers are looking for in any field, from education to nursing, business to therapy. Best of all, once you’ve learned them, you’ve learned them for life.
3. Enhance Your Skills With Respected and High-Quality Programs
At the outset of online learning, specialty universities without longstanding institutional affiliation predominately offered online courses. This made online certificates and degrees a little more suspect in the eyes of the public and potential employers. After all, how could they verify the quality of your online program?
This is no longer the case. Many online programs are highly respected and have become accredited (though watch out for those that haven’t). Meanwhile, almost all major universities now have online offerings offered globally. This means there’s a vast array of valuable online degree programs, so you can be sure you’ll find one that fits your needs.
Among the most popular programs are nursing, business, social work, and education, all of which help set you up for employment in a particular field. A master’s program can help you level up to earn more money and pursue more advanced positions, while an undergraduate degree could kick-start your career.
4. Build Your Network
Online degrees give you something that interviews, office parties, and conventions simply can’t: networking on a global scale. Making connections in virtual classrooms, over email, and through LinkedIn can dramatically expand your network right from the comfort of your couch. You can then count on that network for the rest of your career.
The career advancement possibilities of having a robust network are hard to overstate. They include:
- Relationships with professors that can lead to letters of recommendation, apprenticeships, new education opportunities, and introductions.
- Relationships with peers who may connect you with opportunities at their companies after graduation or further down the road.
- Plenty of people you can ask when you have questions about your field, your job prospects, and even your life.
- Connections of connections, which can become interviews and job offers.
Taken together, a powerful online network combined with membership in a professional association or two can lead to amazing opportunities down the road.
5. Gain Confidence with Technology
There’s a considerable level of technology proficiency in e-learning. If you are not yet confident—and many people aren’t, even in today’s digital age—then an online program will help you get over the hump. Online degrees require you to know how to set up online accounts, integrate various apps and programs, log in from anywhere, use Wi-Fi and data wisely, and troubleshoot when necessary.
By simply having to handle these tasks, you are learning valuable skills that are applicable in any field. Because the importance of tech skills to the job market increases every day, this is a significant perk of any online program and can act as a significant career boost.
If you find technology overwhelming, that’s okay. Google holds an answer to almost any question you can imagine, and learning to leverage searches and perform quality research is another valuable skill. You can also make use of student support resources provided by your online program.
6. Prepare for Career Advancement or Career Change
Oftentimes, people want to change careers but feel stuck. Perhaps you feel like you can’t afford it, there’s no time in the day for education, or you won’t be able to make the jump without experience in that field. That’s where online programs can make all the difference.
Distance learning and career growth are intertwined in a virtuous circle. The lower cost of online education helps you contain your total costs. The flexibility means you can continue working or caregiving to help you pay for your degree.
In this way, online degrees not only offer a path to career advancement, but they can also facilitate a complete career change. If you’re hoping to move to a new field, you should consider an online degree for career change today.
Learn More, Today
Curious to learn more about online programs and what they can do for you? We invite you to look through the list of available programs from the University of Minnesota. You may also contact us with questions or to learn more about applying today!