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What You Need to Know Before Going Back to School Online

What You Need to Know Before Going Back to School Online

According to Accredited Schools Online, business is the most popular online course of study, accounting for more than 25 percent of the students who are furthering their education via the Internet today. Therefore, if you are considering taking these types of classes, you are certainly not alone.

However, going back to school is never a quick or easy decision—especially if you’re thinking about taking online classes. With so many options available, you want to do your due diligence to make the best decisions for you. This starts with educating yourself about the options that are available across a wide variety of factors, such as your desired course of study, how much you are willing to invest, and which school to attend.

Desired Course of Study

One of the very first decisions you need to make when going back to school online is what course of study you wish to complete. This will tell you which schools are open for you to consider based on which ones offer that particular degree or certification.

If you are after your Bachelor’s degree in business, you have a number of concentrations that you could obtain. These include accounting, administration, finance, management, marketing, and sustainable enterprise management, among several others. Some schools even give you the option of earning various certificates upon completion of the coursework. Some examples of associate-level business certificates are Accounting Fundamentals, Hospitality Fundamentals, Retail Fundamentals, and Retail Management. Bachelor’s level certificates to consider are Business Administration, Digital Marketing, Sales Management, and Supply Chain Management.

If it is a Master’s degree that you’re after, some of these level programs available online are Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Management, and Master of Science in Accountancy. Depending on the school, you may also be able to choose a concentration such as accounting, energy management, health care management, or technology management.

How Much You’re Willing to Invest

Once you know which classes or courses you need, your next decision is how much you are willing to invest to complete them. The answer is different for everyone, so you basically need to take a look at your own circumstances to continue. Figure out up front how much cash you have on hand to fund your educational endeavors or, subsequently, how much you need to borrow. How much does a typical degree cost?

COLLEGEdata reports that in-state public colleges generally cost about $23,000 per year, whereas private colleges are just about double, coming in closer to $46,000 annually. However, online colleges tend to have a much lower cost range as Guide to Online Schools indicates that the average online student will pay anywhere from $5,700 to almost $23,000 per year. This is good news as it typically means that you can obtain your degree at a much cheaper rate online.

Additionally, U.S. News & World Report warns that sometimes there are hidden costs associated with online degrees. In their article titled 4 Hidden Costs of Online Degrees, for instance, they state the need to watch for increased costs due to taking a minimum number of classes, technology fees, and travel expenses. It all adds up and can dip into your educational budget, causing you to spend much more than you anticipated or can afford.

So, before you go any further, you need to know exactly how much cash or credit you have to work with, leaving yourself a little cushion in case any unforeseen expenses come up. Remember that you’re investing in yourself, so this may require some short-term sacrifices to reach your long-term goals. However, if you don’t have a lot of cash, you still have some options, so read on.

Which School to Attend

With a clear idea of the courses you need and the amount of money you’re willing to invest, it is now time to figure out which school you want to attend. This requires finding one that fits into the parameters you’ve set both in regard to courses available and finances, and also choosing the one whose diploma you would proudly display on your wall. While it may take some time to locate the right one for you, it will be time well spent as you will be one step closer to earning the degree you want.

If you are solely after the education and couldn’t care less about earning a degree, there are a few free online resources to consider. Select one of these options and you can learn what you want without ever having to pay a dime. Some of the most well-known options include Coursera, Khan Academy, and MIT OpenCourseWare. Certain courses do allow you to earn a completion certificate upon payment of a small fee.

Obtaining your online degree or certification means assessing your courses, your budget, and your school-related options first. But once you’ve done that, then you are more prepared to make the right schooling choices for you.

To learn more about taking online courses, Accredited Schools Online offers A Guide to Online Schools which is a free resource that goes more in-depth about these particular factors, helping you make more informed decisions when it comes to furthering your education—and your small business!

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by Christina DeBusk // Freelance writer, author, and small business consultant committed to helping entrepreneurs achieve higher levels of success.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.