Should I do an online degree?

With the internet being what it is, you can get practically anything on there. And that includes a uni degree. But what does an online degree cost? Do employers take them seriously? Should you do one? Read on as we explain all you need to know.

A young woman is sitting at a computer. She is researching online degrees. This is a wide-angle image.

What is an online degree?

Online degrees are exactly like a traditional degree except all your studying is completed through an online course instead of physically going into buildings and/or a campus. Here are some places that offer online degree programmes:

  • The Open University (probably the most well-known of all the online colleges/unis)
  • Brick and mortar unis that have online versions of their degrees
  • Independent course providers – there are new ones springing up all the time. But you’ll have to be cautious as their ‘degrees’ don’t carry as much weight as traditional providers’
  • Foreign universities

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

100%. If a degree is from a reputable uni, it’s still a degree; regardless of where you end up completing the work from. 

“Our degrees are university degrees from the University of Derby,” says Michelle Boardman from University of Derby Online Learning (UODL). The only difference is where the students study.”

Is it cheaper to do an online degree?

Costs vary depending on what you study, but on average an online course is half the price of a uni course. In case you don’t have those numbers memorised, that’s roughly £12,000 for a bachelor’s degree and £6,000 for a Masters.

How long does it take to get a degree online?

That depends on whether you’re studying full time or going part-time so that you can still work/take care of family/run a marathon/volunteer etc. You can do it in three years if you’re prepared to make your textbooks and essays your best friends, but the average time is four to five years.

Do employers take online degrees seriously?

It’s all well and good getting an online degree, but what’s the point if you don’t know the answer to “Do employers take online degrees seriously?” After all, a degree is about your education and career. 

Honestly, it depends on where you get it from. If you’re aiming for a career that requires a credible, industry-recognised qualification, then you’ll have to be a bit more selective. Basically, this means that you should make sure your course has some sort of education accreditation from a professional body.

If you’re pursuing higher education simply to enhance your career prospects then you’ll be fine with an online degree. Generally speaking, employers view a degree, whether it’s online or in person, on your CV as enough. However, don’t underestimate the value of the whole face to face uni experience.

“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 extracurricular activities,” she says.

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

What are the pros of online degrees?

  • 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 other stuff going on in 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. All you need is a fully charged laptop.
  • No travelling: Yep, this one’s probably the best part. You don’t have to worry about missing the train cause of a killer hangover. 

What are the cons of online degrees?

  • Motivation: You’re gonna have to go it alone a lot of the time which means you have to get yourself to work. “You really have to be dedicated otherwise it’s very easy to just push it to the side and prioritise literally anything else,” says Amy Moody, 25, who’s studying Psychology at University of Derby Online.
  • Distractions: Netflix, the fridge, the kettle, the remote control. Anything is better than staring at that unfinished essay, right?. “It’s extremely easy to get distracted. Listening to lectures and looking at PowerPoint slides does get a bit tedious. So you really have to learn good time management to succeed in online education,” says Amy.
  • Loneliness: Socialising via a screen doesn’t exactly make for the greatest setting to get to know your fellow online students. This may not be a big deal for some, but others may get pretty lonely while doing online uni. Just something to keep in mind when making your decision. 
  • Technology: As brilliant as it is, power cuts and buffering internet still exists. Those can be a serious problem when you need it for pretty much EVERYTHING if you’re taking online classes.

How do online degrees work?

Lectures are in virtual classrooms, usually using podcasts and videos. There are also live lectures where students can ask questions, and narrated PowerPoint presentations

It’s also worth mentioning that 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 online degree programs have a personal tutor available over email or phone to help with the academic side. On top of that, there’ll be an online advisor for non-academic issues, such as IT problems, assignment submission, payment of fees etc.

“We understand that long-distance learning can be tricky. That is why we aim to make our student’s study experience as straightforward and enjoyable as possible, so there is always someone on hand to talk to,” says Michelle.

What courses can you do an online degree in?

You can study most subjects except the ones where you need hands-on experience and/or specific equipment i.e. medicine, engineering and teaching.

Next Steps



By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 10-Apr-2022