Should I do an online degree?

Want a degree but don't want to go to uni? There's a way to get one without even leaving the house. But how do online degrees work? What do they cost? And do employers take them seriously?

girl doing online degree

You can watch videos of lectures from home

What is an online degree?

It’s a degree you earn through studying online instead of physically going to uni. You can get them through:

  • The Open University
  • Traditional unis that have online versions of their degrees
  • Independent course providers – there are new ones springing up all the time but be cautious as their ‘degrees’ don’t carry as much weight as traditional providers’
  • Foreign universities

Is getting an online degree the same as a degree from uni?

Yes. If a degree is from a reputable institution, it’s still a degree whether you did it virtually or not. “Our degrees are university degrees from the University of Derby,” says Michelle Boardman from University of Derby Online Learning (UODL). The only difference is the mode of study.”

Is it cheaper to do an online degree?

Costs vary according to the course, but on average it’s half the price of a uni course. You can expect to pay from £12,000 for a BA and £6,000 for an MA.

How long does it take to get a degree online?

That depends on whether you’re studying full time or squeezing it in around work/family/running a marathon/climbing Mount Kilimanjaro/volunteering etc. You can do it in three years if you’re prepared to bust a gut, but the average time is four to five years.

Do employers take them seriously?

It depends on the institution. If you’re aiming for a career that requires a credible, industry-recognised qualification, make sure your course is accredited by a professional body.

If you’re doing a degree simply to enhance your career prospects, often a degree on your CV is good enough. However, don’t underestimate the value of the whole uni package.

“A degree is an achievement regardless of how it’s obtained,” says Olwen Merchant from credit card company Capital One, “but university isn’t just about obtaining a degree. It’s an opportunity to leave home, learn to live independently, meet new people, live in a different city and get involved in extra-curricular activities,” she says.

“I would probably have reservations around why an 18-year-old would choose to study online and miss out on all the fun stuff.”

What are the pros of studying online?

  • Cost: It’s significantly cheaper than going to uni. Plus you can usually spread the cost over time.
  • Flexibility: You can fit your studies around your life. You can also take an extended break from studying if you need to.
  • Location: You can study anywhere: office, bedroom, park bench or beach if your laptop’s charged up.
  • No travelling: Yep, no schlepping to lectures with a hangover.

…and the cons?

  • Motivation: You need a ton of this. “You really have to be dedicated otherwise it’s very easy to just brush it off and not work,” says Amy Moody, 25, who’s studying Psychology at University of Derby Online.
  • Distractions: The fridge, the kettle, the remote control. “It’s extremely easy to get distracted. Listening to lectures and looking at PowerPoint slides does get a bit tedious, but you have to pay attention,” says Amy.
  • Loneliness: Socialising via a screen doesn’t give you that touchy-feely friendship with fellow students. This may not be a big deal for some, but for others this could make studying online a lonesome experience.
  • Technology: As brilliant as it is, it can let you down. And you need it for pretty much EVERYTHING if you’re studying online.

How do online degrees actually work?

Lectures are in virtual classrooms using podcasts and videos – there are live lectures where students can ask questions, and narrated PowerPoint presentations. In most courses you’ll be expected to participate in online seminars, post in class discussion boards, and complete assignments with other students.

What happens if I need help with an assignment?

Most courses have a personal tutor available on email or phone to help with the academic side, and an online advisor for the non-academic issues, such as IT problems, assignment submission, payment of fees etc.

“We aim to make our student’s study experience as straightforward as possible, so there is always someone on hand to talk to,” says Michelle.

What courses can you do?

You can study most subjects except the ones where you need hands-on experience (medicine, engineering and teaching.)

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015

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