Online Degrees: More Popular than Ever

Online education is an increasingly popular form of obtaining advanced degrees, from an associate's degree to a doctoral degree.

In fact, an estimated 12.2 million students were enrolled during the 2006-07 academic year in college-level, credit-granting distance education courses, according to the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics. In addition, of the approximately 11,200 college-level programs designed to be completed entirely through online education, 66 percent were degree programs.

How Advanced Degrees Help

One reason behind this drive to attain advanced degrees might be the current economic instability that is being felt worldwide. People are worried about losing their jobs or are trying to increase their salary. The numbers show that both goals can be achieved by earning an advanced degree.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of unemployment decreases as one's level of completed education increases. While the unemployment rate among those with less than a high school diploma was 7.1 percent in 2007, the rates among those with a high school degree or higher dropped below 5 percent. The unemployment rate was 3.0 percent among those with an associate's degree, 2.2 percent among those with a bachelor's degree, 1.8 percent among those with a master's degree and 1.4 percent among those with a doctoral degree.

Data from 2007 also demonstrate that one's pay scale increases as their level of completed education increases. The median 2007 earnings for an individual with a high school diploma but no college was only $31,408. That figure jumped by 23 percent, reaching $38,480, for those who have earned an associate's degree. Individuals who earned bachelor's degree saw an even greater jump of 33 percent over those with associate's degrees, with median 2007 earnings of $51,324. Graduates with master's degrees reported median earnings of $60,580, while doctoral graduates' median earnings that year were $77,844 - more than double the median earnings of those with only a high school diploma.

Types of Online Degrees

With recent growth among the online education community, one can earn just about any type of degree online:

  • Associate's Degree: Generally a two-year degree, an associate's degree is an undergraduate degree that typically requires a minimum of 60 semester credit hours to complete. Associate's degrees are especially popular among those taking distance learning courses. In fact, more than half of degrees earned online are associate's degrees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
  • Bachelor's Degree: Typically requiring 120 to 128 credit hours, a bachelor's degree is generally earned in four to five years. Students enrolled in bachelor's degree programs will take several general education and elective courses, as well as courses focused on a particular area of study, or a student's "major."
  • Master's Degree: The next phase of one's college education is earning a master's degree. Individuals enrolled in a master's degree program usually spend one to three years of concentrated study in a specific field of knowledge. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, college graduates with a master's degree can expect to earn $2.5 million over their lifetime.
  • Doctoral Degree: The highest academic degree one can attain, a doctoral degree is commonly referred to as a Ph.D., or Doctor of Philosophy. Earning a doctoral degree generally requires four to six years of study beyond the master's level. According to the U.S. Census, only about 1 percent of Americans hold research-based doctoral degrees, making earning one that much more prestigious.

As long as you know what you are going to school for, you should follow the study tips we have given to better your educational experience.

College at your convenience, enjoy the benefits of an online education.
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