Accredited-Online-SchoolsThe rise of accredited online schools in recent years has been dramatic, driven by a few key factors that are accelerating the growth of degree programs conducted entirely through online discussion, videoconferencing and even accelerated pacing. These online programs offer a few key benefits to today’s students, not the least of which is the ability to work through lectures, complete reading assignments, and finish homework or research papers, on a highly flexible schedule. Classroom meetings are exchanged for a schedule of assignment due dates and mandatory online discussion posts. Attendance requirements are replaced with the ability to show up and complete work on a relatively independent schedule, fitting a degree into a full-time job or making it work as a stay-at-home parent.

Those two groups characterize what might be the two most common kinds of students for an accredited online degree program. Typically, these programs cater to those students who need to work full-time or more in order to afford both their education and their monthly expenses. Stay-at-home moms and dads can also depend on these programs to grant them access to popular programs without taking important time away from a new arrival to the family. Older, non-traditional students also benefit from these programs, which are easier to adjust to than a classroom-based alternative.

Features of the Best Accredited Online Schools

Choosing among today’s online programs often presents students with a number of key benefits, almost all of which are deeply associated with online access anytime, anywhere. When it comes to choosing the best online schools and programs, however, a few features can make it easier to pick a great program and enjoy long-lasting rewards that continue well after graduation and entry into the workforce. Among the best features to look for in an accredited degree program:

1. Access to Professors

Students who opt for an online degree program should never have to feel as if they cannot contact their professors to clarify assignment guidelines or to discuss grades given on exams or other tasks. The best schools offer numerous ways to contact professors, from standard emails to online discussion posts, videoconferencing, and more.

2. Interaction with Other Students

The great thing about opting for online degrees in today’s high-tech world is that it no longer means a one-way system of communication. Today, students can interact among themselves as well as with the professors charged with teaching each course. The best online programs leverage tools like videoconferencing and document collaboration to help their students discuss their opinions and ideas, coming to a greater understanding of the subject matter at hand.

3. Accelerated or Standard Courses

Because there’s no classroom setting that demands a single pace for every student, those who are comfortable learning at an accelerated pace can often opt for accelerate coursework that allows them to earn their degree much more quickly. Look for online schools that offer a combination of accelerated and semester-length courses, and feel free to mix and match course lengths to correspond with work schedules, content comprehension, and other concerns.

4. Legitimate, Regional Accreditation

Any program can claim to be accredited, but not every program will offer the right kind of accreditation for long-term degree viability. The best online schools are those accredited by major regional bodies, like the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Accrediting bodies like these ensure that degrees are of the highest caliber, and they ensure that those degrees can be used when applying to jobs, applying to graduate-level or doctoral education programs, or even qualifying for federal financial aid.

How to Find the Top Accredited Online Schools

With the number of online degree programs growing seemingly by the day, it can often be hard to tell which schools are legitimate and which ones might not offer the best value for their tuition prices. When choosing an online school, there are three key pieces of information to look for that will reveal the institution’s reputation and its educational quality.

1. Rankings

Sources like The Princeton Review, U.S. News and World Report, and College Board, all rank schools based on their academic programs, the prestige of their degrees, and the quality of any online programs they offer to students. These rankings, done both on a national and regional level, are a great method of insight into each school’s long-term merits and value.

2. Accreditation

As mentioned earlier, a great online degree should be accredited by a recognized, regional body that ensures the quality of the school’s programs no matter which way students pursue their degree. These include the aforementioned Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, as well as bodies like the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, among others.

3. Unique Benefits

Finally, each online school should offer some unique benefits. For instance, online programs through the Penn State Global Campus offer in-state tuition to Pennsylvania residents for a significant cost savings. West Virginia University’s online programs are offered through the Southern Regional Electronic Campus for in-state tuition no matter which state a student calls home.

Ivy League programs, offered through the likes of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, pair online convenience with offline prestige. Even programs like those offered at Kaplan University, an entirely online institution, have gained a great deal of prestige in recent years as distance learning has become mainstream.

Popular Areas of Study at Accredited Online Schools

Though it’s easy to find virtually any program online through the country‚Äôs top accredited schools, there are a few that stand out as the most popular and the easiest to complete entirely online without attendance required in a traditional classroom. There are three specific programs that offer the best online experience and offline prospects, making them among the top contenders for distance learning students nationwide.

Business Programs

Some of the best undergraduate and graduate degrees in the business field can be completed online, including the prestigious Wharton MBA from the University of Pennsylvania. Bachelor’s degrees in this field are easy to find online, with many of them being offered by large state schools with highly affordable tuition rates.

Perhaps best of all, the business field is broad and growing in size. That means graduates will be able to translate their degree into offline success after graduation. With the same classes and skills as those who attended more traditional bricks-and-mortar classes, employers won’t even be able to tell the difference between distance learning students and their on-campus peers.

Accounting Degrees

Accounting represents one of the fastest growing fields in the country, and those graduates who complete at least a bachelor’s degree in the field have a good shot at landing a job quickly and with a competitive salary. That might explain why accounting is growing so quickly both online and offline for today’s students. Thanks to this rapid growth, there is also no shortage of accredited accounting degree programs online at virtually all levels.

Whether from a public or private university, online programs leverage the power of videoconferencing, lecture podcasts, and traditional textbooks, to teach students the value of ethical approaches and the nature of the accounting profession. At the end of the program, students are equipped with the skills they need to land an entry-level job and work toward eligibility for the prestigious CPA exam and certification.

Psychology Degrees

Online psychology programs are growing more popular as those in the profession look to integrate higher learning with a demanding work schedule. While undergraduate degrees in the field can certainly be completed online, the largest area of growth is in the graduate and doctoral-level programs that allow existing professionals to take their practice and their professional knowledge to the next level. These degrees help professionals increase their own chances of a promotion, landing roles in leadership and management without sacrificing their list of clients or responsibilities while they complete coursework and earn credits.

Great Online Programs Await Today’s Students

Whether in one of the three fields mentioned above, or in dozens of other areas, today’s online programs are larger, more in-depth, and more technologically impressive than ever before. With the right accreditation and a price that works for each student, it’s easy to find a great school that will lead to great learning opportunities and career prospects in the future.