Are Online College Degrees Worth the Investment?

Considering an online degree? Is it worth the investment?

Getting a college degree online appears to be more popular. But are college diplomas earned online becoming more accepted in the workplace? Are online college degrees worth the investment?

Receiving a college degree from only attending school through the internet can be a good investment. However, it will depend on several factors that are similar to college degrees obtained by physically going to classes at a traditional university. The investment success of an online college degree is influenced by additional criteria that is not relevant to a traditional college education.

How is the investment success of an online and traditional college degree similar?

For the purpose of this article, investment success is defined as graduating college and being able to land in a career. One that is rewarding professionally and financially. It does not make a difference if a degree is earned strictly through online work or by physically attending classes each day. There are similarities in investment success for both.

  • A college degree in many instances is just a fulfillment to be employed. In many cases, it does not guarantee someone a lifelong career or financial stability. It does not matter if you earn a degree online or through a traditional method. If you do not have a good network of contacts after graduation, it will likely not make a difference of having an online degree or not having one. There are numerous college graduates today unable to find good employment following graduation. They are often underemployed. This results in being hired in a job where their degree probably does not make a difference.
  • A college major choice will also often be similar to the investment success for an online degree and a degree not obtained through the internet. Unfortunately, there are just some college majors that have better odds of employment compared to others. If a person majors in something that has a hard time finding work, there really will not be much of a difference if a degree is earned online or not. It will just be hard to find a job. However, networking does often cancel this out. If a good networking contact can get your foot in the door at a job, it may not matter if a degree is earned online or not. A good contact following college graduation almost always increases the chances for success.
  • The investment success of a college degree is only really worth it when a job and career can be obtained from earning a diploma. Networking is the key to the investment paying off. It does not matter if a degree is earned online.

Are online degrees becoming more accepted by employers?

The investment success of an online degree is reliant on how acceptable they are to the people that do the job hiring. Because attending a university online is becoming more common, there is no longer quite as large of an issue with employers and online degrees. But some guidelines should be followed by going to school online. These parameters do not guarantee employment with an online degree, but they do improve the chances.

Type of Degree

As previously mentioned, the type of degree might not matter with a good network for job opportunities. However, as an example, a person that gets a medical degree online may not be taken as seriously in some instances. Someone that becomes a doctor online without any hands-on training might be something employers avoid. This is just an example. There are other instances where time in a class might be taken more seriously.

School Reputation

There is good news for many college degrees earned online. Most of the time they do not state on the diploma the education was gained through working only online. Employers may never ask how a degree was earned if it was obtained online through a school that has both internet and traditional classes. The only exception to this might be with a college that is known to only provide online education.


Getting a degree through an accredited online university is a major factor in it paying off with getting employed. If a school is attended that is not properly accredited, the diploma might be worthless.

Quick Degree

Online college degrees obtained very quickly are almost always a red flag. If a diploma is earned in a year through online work compared to the same degree that normally takes four years or more in the classroom, employers will be very quick to discount this.

Are Online Degrees Accepted by Employers?

How might an online degree affect employment?

  • An online degree might get your foot in the door to a job that requires it. But a 4-year traditional degree might land a position higher up the ladder.
  • Often higher degrees, such as a master’s or doctorate, equal higher pay in some jobs. An online degree of higher education may not be as widely accepted with some hiring managers.
  • Employers with traditional values might be opposed to job candidates with an online degree.
  • An online degree may or may not be useful depending on the career. Someone that becomes a doctor through online studies might have a challenging time getting a full-time physician position.
  • Having an online degree might just not matter if a job position just requires a college diploma of any kind.
  • The good news, some employers might look at an online degree as being more positive over attending a traditional university. It may show the hiring manager the person is motivated, organized, and determined.
  • For many employers, a degree earned online is much less important than experience and background. A person’s work history may play a more important role in landing the job depending on the employer.

Are online colleges more expensive compared to traditional education?

It is not easy to say if getting a degree online is less expensive compared to earning one by physically attending classes. It really depends on the university. However, many colleges offering online classes charge the same price per credit hour no matter if a class is online or not.

Tuition is not the only expense of attending a college. By going to school online there may be a reduction in many fees, such as parking. In addition, there would be a reduction in the cost of commuting to class each day. Although the tuition from attending an online college might be more money, there may be other savings that cancel out an increased cost.

A student would need to do a good cost comparison to determine if it makes financial sense to attend classes online.

What are the differences in going to college online compared to traditional classes?

Traditional College

  • Advantage of more structure
  • Interaction with teachers and other students is face to face
  • Often feedback from teachers is much faster
  • Commuting to school can take time
  • There are likely added fees for attending class in person each day and using campus facilities

Online College

  • Interaction with teachers and other students is online and not in person
  • A certain college major may not be offered through online study
  • Online learning can offer much more flexibility compared to being in a classroom and there is no commute
  • Students are often able to work at their own pace
  • Online classes will require a person that is organized and has the discipline to do it.


Comparing a degree earned online to one by attending classes at a traditional university might not have much of a difference in the price once additional fees and expenses are taken into account. Many universities charge the same price for classes if they are taken online or in the classroom. A careful cost comparison would need to be made depending on the college to see if financially it makes sense to earn a degree online.

Although online education is becoming more accepted in the workplace, I am not sure if a college degree earned outside a traditional classroom is just as valuable. The return on investment really depends on landing good employment once a diploma is obtained. There just does not seem to be a lot of evidence being in favor or not in favor of online college.

The real value with most college degrees in today’s world is also making the right contacts. Networking in school can mean all the difference. This might be an argument to an online college degree not holding as much weight because face to face time is limited or non-existent.

I looked into going to school at one time through online course work. I have to say I was apprehensive on the end value of the diploma. Also, I found in many instances the places offering the degree I was looking for was more expensive per credit hour online compared to a traditional four-year university close to me.

Because there does not seem to be conclusive data on if an online degree is better compared to going to class in person, I would say getting an accredited degree from an online school is probably still better than not going at all. Yet, it is still just as important to not go into large amounts of debt to obtain it. There might even be more of a case for going through school with no debt for an online degree.

What do you think of online college degrees? Did you go through school this way or know someone that did and had success?


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