University Headquarters (HQ) is an industry-leading, independent educational organization that provides independent college rankings using a proprietary formula to create first class unbiased rankings. The team at University HQ strives to provide accurate and trustworthy rankings that highlights the best programs for each degree type.

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What Online Degree or Field are You Interested In?

The experts at University HQ help answer your questions about earning an online degree from a university or college. Earning your educational degree online or on-campus can lead to better career opportunities and higher earning potential for graduates. For some students, there is an easy answer to the choice of career path options and academic degree field of study they are interested in. It may be a life-long wish formed in early childhood or the profession that is a family tradition. For most students, the academic education choice and career path is not so simple. Selecting a career and field of study (academic education path) should involve careful thought for prospective students. The best way to make the education choice is to put some time and effort into the process. This can increase your chance of making a great choice and finding a satisfying and rewarding career, whether you are considering only on-campus programs or online educational degree programs.

There are many choices for fields and careers. In terms of education popularity, computers and technology rank near the top as does healthcare and related fields. Education and social services have a middle rank along with the arts and communications. Science is in the top ten along with the business fields. The vocational trades and transportation also form a significant part of the top career fields. Depending on the academic field or career path you choose and how your school search goes, it may be best for some students to earn an online bachelors, masters or even a doctoral degree.

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Online Degrees & Career Paths

How to Earn Your Online College Degree

  • Select fields that hold your interest and mesh with your skills and abilities
  • Research majors that support that field/career
  • Research accredited schools that offer the field and major during your school search
  • Select one or more that suit your needs and preferences for on-campus students, online distance education, or hybrid attendance depending on your learning style
  • Apply for admission
  • Apply for student aid/financial aid

What is the difference between Online Classes vs. On-Campus vs. Hybrid Classes?

Campus learning is synchronous learning, in which students gather at the same time and place to participate in classroom work. Campus learning centers around a physical campus and students must either live on or near the campus or commute to their lessons. It does have many advantages. Students can live in a community of scholars and interact with faculty and other students through face-to-face interactions. Students learn valuable socialization skills. However, campus learning typically requires students to leave their homes, jobs, and families to attend school. This may not be practical for people that work or have other important obligations that require their presence.

Online courses makes education accessible to millions of people that either cannot, or prefer not to, attend classes on a physical campus. These include associate online degrees, bachelor's online degree programs and master's online degree programs. Online education permits full- or part-time attendance for working people, business people, and persons that for various reasons cannot attend on-campus. One field that offers many online classes and ultimately an accredited online degree programs, is the business field. This is especially useful for graduate online students who are trying to reach their career goals. Online learning is asynchronous, meaning that online students learn individually and at different times. Online education provides flexibility as online students can access class content on their schedules rather than on the school’s schedule.

The hybrid method combines on-campus courses and online coursework into a custom or school-made online degree program. Some online students may prefer to take as many courses as possible online and attend on-campus classes only as required. Other students may prefer to attend on-campus classes except for the times or courses that they cannot fit into their schedule. The hybrid approach accommodates many types of student situations. Over the last decade online education programs have become even more popular and online students can now find online programs in almost every single education category, which are:

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Typical Online Degree Program Requirements

The below-listed items provide an overview of typical online degree requirements:

Associate degrees online require approximately 60-65 semester credit hours. Online students can complete the degree in two to three years.

Online bachelor’s programs typically require 120-125 semester hours and online students can complete the curriculum in four to five years. The typical online experience is often completed in four to six or more years because many online students attend an online program part-time while managing full or part-time jobs, businesses, or other obligations.

The master’s degree requires a online bachelor's degree program. In addition to the pre-requisite level of education, a graduate degree curriculum, including graduate online programs, requires 30-36 hours of coursework and a dissertation or capstone project.

Academic Standards

Associate and bachelor’s programs accept high school graduates or GED diploma holders. However, they may apply other academic standards to the admission process as well. The college and major you choose can require completion of the SAT or ACT exams and may have a minimum score necessary for entry. Once you are in the program, you are often required to maintain a certain average GPA (grade point average) in order to remain. Colleges and universities sometimes make use of academic probation or suspensions in order to make sure the students in their online programs are dedicated to learning.

Potential Exam and Experience Needed

Many schools and majors require admissions testing for undergraduate and graduate online school admissions. Undergraduate admissions typically ask for the SAT or ACT to rate students on learning potential, and efficiency in reading, science, and math. In a similar way, graduate schools require general or specialized tests. Some schools do not require them, and many secondary education institutions have procedures that can waive the exam in cases of substantial life or work experience.

Some fields also value experience and put a higher value on industry experience. Students who have both experience and some form of graduate degree or professional online degrees from an accredited institution, will have better career opportunities with employers. Nursing is an example, as is teaching, of a field in which various levels of education require hands-on experience as either a prerequisite or a learning mechanism.

Important Questions to Ask

How long does it take to earn a degree online vs. on-campus?

The time required for online completion of an online degree and on-campus should be about equal at most schools for most online students and campus students. The standard for a four-year online college degree is eight semesters whether online or on-campus. Some online schools appeal to students by offering accelerated programs. Accelerated curricula condenses the requirements into fewer courses to speed up graduation. Many students can accelerate graduation by attending online, but this requires a much heavier than usual credit-load.

  • Online attendance can avoid scheduling bottlenecks. Students may find on-campus classes unavailable, and that can cause additional semesters of attendance.
  • Online classes in the summer months can help online and/or traditional students accelerate graduation.
  • Online students can take a full course load of 15 semester hours when they have time and resources available. The lower typical costs of semester hours online, as opposed to on-campus rates, can help online students take more courses.

How much does an Online Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s degree cost?

The average cost of an associate degree online is about $4,500
The cost of an online bachelor’s degree program is about $12,000
The average cost of an online master’s degree program is approximately $7,500

Does the school have the major(s) you’re considering?

University HQ recommends that online students carefully consider the available college majors at any school they may select. The college major and related coursework will affect your level of preparedness upon graduation. Students should look carefully at coursework and faculty qualifications; they should carefully determine if the program can provide a strong educational foundation in the field of choice.

How many students graduate “on time,” in four years?

On-time graduation is an important measure of student performance. Schools design their bachelor’s degree courses of study to support four-year completion with an average of 15 credit hours per semester. Students may prefer or fall into a pattern of 12 or fewer semester hours, but this will lengthen the amount of time it takes to earn your bachelor’s degree. The items below describe the on-time completion rates across all majors and college degree programs.

Chart- On-Time Completion Averages for Four-Year Schools

  • At public colleges and universities, the four-year rate is about 35%
  • At private colleges and universities, the four-year rate is about 53%
  • At public colleges and universities, the six-year rate is about 65%
  • At private colleges and universities, the six-year rate is about 68%

What kind of accreditation does the program hold? How is it regarded in the field?

Accreditation is a vital part of the selection process for online or on-campus bachelor’s degrees. Accreditation is an assurance of quality education relied upon by students, graduates, employers, and other educational institutions. The US Department of Education appoints independent organizations to conduct accreditation assessments. They can grant or deny accreditation based upon objective educational standards. The Department of Education established a set of regions and appointed an agency to verify accreditation of the schools, colleges, and universities offering higher education within those territories. There are two types of accreditation; they are regional accreditation and national accreditation.

National Accreditation is a type of assessment that compares elements of a school with other similar schools across the entire US. The types of schools that can get national accreditation include some online-only schools, vocational schools, and schools with special classifications like faith-based organizations. National accreditation works well when the agency has Department of Education recognition.

Regional accreditation is the most influential and widely accepted type of accreditation. Regional accreditation is intensive and thorough. The standards include the best -performing institutions in a multi-state region.

Accreditation reviews the policies and details of the school’s approach to education. It considers resources for education like libraries and laboratories. Regional accreditation reviews faculty qualifications and experience. It can be institution-wide or cover a single department or program. When focused on a small part, it is called programmatic accreditation.

Programmatic accreditation focuses on a single part of a school, and it is often a single program or department such as an MBA program, English department, or Computer Science program.

Program accreditation often has special impact because it is narrow and focused. Some accreditation groups offer a kind of special endorsement such as an online accounting or MBA program with an endorsement from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

Software, Technology & Skills Needed for Your Major

In the technology-driven global economy, nearly every type of business uses technology. Most businesses and companies have some involvement with Internet technology or at least they use computers, and every business has an interest in keeping electronic records secure. Technology and computers are everywhere in modern workplaces, and students and graduates must be comfortable with varying degrees of technology.

The basics involve computer literacy and familiarity with operating systems and common electronic devices. Software typically requires a learning curve and graduates that can learn quickly have an advantage over those that do not have a level of comfort with varying types of software. Technical fields and occupations require technology skills. Skilled trades increasingly need technological experience. For example, truck driving today, not considered a technical trade, involves GPS, onboard computer, and electronic time management and logistical tracking. Further, the truck engine and motor controls operate through electronic systems, and many truck drivers have some level of mechanical ability to fix small issues on their vehicle so they can keep driving without long, or expensive, stops. Continue reading to learn which professional online degrees and degree levels are right for you.

Types of Online Associate Degrees

An online associate degree is the fastest and lowest cost way to get a college degree. Students can select an associate in order to earn an online degree that opens entry-level jobs and lays a foundation for a bachelor's degree.

What You Can Expect with an Undergraduate Associates:

  • The average salary of all employees with an associate is $33,500 per year.
  • The average cost to get an associates is $36,000.
  • The time to completion is two to three years.
  • The average lifetime earnings for an associate graduate is $1.04 million.
  • The average salary for an associate grad is $39,015.

The most popular online college degrees or academic degrees that are the most familiar to people in the United States are the A.A., A.S. and the A.A.S. You want to look for 2 year online associate degree programs that are accredited by a regional or national education institution in order to transfer your credits to a four year college to complete your undergraduate online college degree. You should always consult with your academic advisor to prepare for your future college education path.

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Types of Online Bachelor's Degrees

A bachelor's degree online can add thousands in annual income and hundreds of thousands over a lifetime of earnings. Attaining a bachelor’s degree will give you access to more options for jobs and careers.

What You Can Expect with an Undergraduate Bachelors:

  • The median US salary for employees with a bachelors is about $33,500.
  • The average cost to get an online bachelor’s degree is about $47,000.
  • The time to completion for an online bachelor’s degree is four years of full-time attendance. The typical completion time for full and part-time online attendance is six years.
  • The average lifetime earnings for those with a bachelor’s is $2.1 million.
  • The average salary for a bachelor’s degree grad is $50,900 per year.

The most popular education courses and academic degrees that are the most familiar to people in the United States are the B.A. and B.S. Read more below to learn about the different 4 year bachelor degree types.


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Types of Online Master's Degrees

An online master's degree can add thousands in annual income and hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime of earnings. Students can choose fields that hold high interest and growth potential. While these degrees take longer to earn, they are a requirement for many jobs in academic sectors and much in demand in healthcare and public sectors.

What You Can Expect with a Graduate or Masters:

  • The average salary of employees with a master’s is about $33,500.
  • The average cost to get a master’s degree online is $29,000. However, you must have a bachelor’s already to attend most masters online programs.
  • The time to completion is usually four years for your bachelor’s, plus two years for the master’s, or six years
  • The average lifetime earnings with a master’s are $2.70 million.
  • The average salary for master’s degree Grads is $62,000 per year.

The most popular academic degrees that are the most familiar to people in the United States are the M.A., M.F.A. and M.S. Read more below to learn about the different 2 year master's degree types that are available.


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Earning Potential of the Most Popular Online Degree Fields and Occupations

There is a direct relationship between salary and completed online degree levels. The incomes of associate, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctoral degree (professional online degrees) graduates rise with their education level. The level of completed academic online degrees has the same type of effect as years of experience. One should note that, with technology and innovation forcing high rates of change, the best candidate for a given job may be a recent graduate that has been immersed in the latest technologies and best practices.

  • Computer Information Systems is the field concerned with information technology and information security. Data and electronic systems form the core of many businesses and are an essential part of nearly every business.
  • Chemical Engineering is the study of industrial and commercial processes for producing chemical compounds. These compounds include fuels, lubricants, fertilizers, and solvents. Chemical engineering seeks efficiency and productivity. Today, it must also contain environmental and social awareness.
  • Medical Assistance is the field of study that consists of a wide range of support duties and functions in medical treatment settings.
  • Medical Technology is the study of laboratory and technical processes that support medical treatment. These include laboratory testing that require attention to details, precision, and accuracy. Medical testing is necessary to support sound medical decisions and effective patient care.
  • Electrical Engineering is the field of study that equips graduates to design, build, research, and plan electrical power systems. The field is broad and covers power generation on large scales for national and regional entities as well as tiny devices that require microscopic scale circuitry.
  • Construction Management is the field that combines budget, finance, and construction site supervision. Construction management affects the operation and outcome of building and construction projects.
  • Nursing involves delivering medical and practical care to patients. The study of nursing involves a wide range of specializations including pediatrics, mental health, anesthesia, and oncology.
  • Physical Therapy is the study of physical treatments that can reduce interference with normal daily functions from the effects of illness, disease, or disability. Physical therapy applies principles of biology, physiology, and other muscle-skeletal studies.
  • Aeronautics and Aviation Technology is the study of mechanical flight, commercial flight, and experimental flight. The range extends from the immediate airspace to orbital space.
  • Pharmacology is the study of medical compounds, drugs, and other natural or human-made substances and their effects on the human body and its life systems. Pharmacy is the study or dispensing medications, and it is a subfield of pharmacology.

Most Popular Occupations & Careers

Salary can vary within a field of study depending on the specific occupation class selected. Technology and innovation continuously raise the need for education and training, Employers must ask for higher levels of education, and they pay higher salaries to get the necessary qualifications. Technology and innovation can create a sharp increase in demand for particular occupations and skillsets with the occupation classes. In some cases, the best-qualified workers are recent graduates with current technology backgrounds.

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  • IT Managers supervise an organization’s computer infrastructure and data management systems. They oversee critical functions like retrieval and analysis of information and management of database systems.
  • Senior Chemical Engineers are supervisors in industrial settings like chemical plants. The senior engineer supervises other engineers. Their duties include managing engineering staff, approving technical reports, and reviewing product design and specifications. They perform administrative duties related to managing staff including staff development, budgets, and training requirements. The senior chemical engineer implements the continuous assessment and improvement of processes and designs.
  • Medical Assistants work in teams with doctors, nurses, and specialists to deliver patient care. The work can vary with the type of organization. For example, in large hospitals, medical assistants work with a wide range of departments and specialties including mental health, emergency care, and intensive care units.
  • Medical Technicians perform laboratory tests and other analytic procedures, such as blood tests and specimen examinations. Medical technicians play a key role in efficient and timely medical care because laboratory processes inform broader medical decisions on patient condition and patient care. Accuracy, precision, and timeliness are important to this function.
  • Electrical engineers design and build electric powered systems. They implement components for electric powered machines and devices that use electricity. Engineers focus on the generation of power to the device or product. These items can include any electric-powered system, device, or machine. Electrical engineers also research, create, and improve products and devices.
  • Construction Project Managers manage building or other construction projects. Most of the work is administrative including cost estimating and budgeting. Some duties are quality control, scheduling, logistics, and project milestone completions. Project managers review designs and help create bids and proposals. Those with years of experience can get markedly higher pay.
  • Nurse Anesthetists work in medical settings including surgery to administer anesthetic compounds to patients. The role requires examination of medical histories and patient profiles to design the most effective combination of medical formulations to accomplish the goals of the procedures. The anesthetist must carefully monitor patients to balance tolerance with effective anesthesia, maintaining the proper level of anesthetics to prevent injuries and contribute to a positive patient outcome. Nurse anesthetists help educate and assist students to ensure proper training.
  • Senior Physical Therapists work with individuals that have injuries, illnesses, or other conditions that interfere with physical movement. Physical therapists provide treatments and pain management. They treat a wide range of patient conditions. The focus can vary each day from mild ankle sprains to paralysis or ischemic strokes. Senior physical therapists design treatment programs to increase function and allow patients to have maximum ability to complete activities of daily living with as little assistance as possible.
  • Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers ensure the safe flight of aircraft from one place to another by physically piloting and landing a variety of aircraft. They must manage equipment, weather systems, GPS, and ensure passenger safety. They work with air traffic systems, electronic communications, and civil aeronautics safety systems.
  • Pharmacists provide advice and information to patients, customers, and the general public. They can advise and perform vaccinations. Pharmacists often work for pharmacies and drugstores; they also play important roles in hospitals, care facilities, and medical clinics that employ in-house pharmacists to dispense drugs to their patients. Hospital and clinical pharmacists must analyze both in-patient and out-patient medication regimens; they must pay close attention to details, accuracy, and potential drug interactions.

Annual Salary by Occupation

OccupationsEntry LevelMid-CareerLate Career
IT Manager$63,800$79,700$100,400
Chemical Engineer$67,400$87,500$123,900
Medical Assistant$30,800$34,800$39,500
Medical Technician---
Electrical Engineer$66,800$84,500$110,500
Project Manager$56,000$77,700$90,800
Nurse Anesthetist$139,600$160,100$177,600
Sr. Physical Therapist$75,500$79,700$89,000
Flight engineer$61,000$71,200$90,000

Choosing an Accredited College

Selecting an accredited college is an essential step in finding and completing an on-campus or online degree program. At all levels of education, accreditation adds to the value and usefulness of the degree and it guarantees wide acceptance for the credit hours earned in pursuit of a degree. The school can have national, regional, or programmatic accreditation. Regional institutional accreditation and regional programmatic accreditation is the ideal combination for most students at two or four-year schools.

However, you need to be aware that some fields can have special program accreditation from agencies dedicated to high-quality education in that particular field. If your field of study has one accrediting agency that is the gold standard for accreditation in the field, you should do your best to find a program accredited by that agency.

Online vs. On-Campus vs. Hybrid

Students should choose online, on-campus, or hybrid types of attendance based upon their situations. Online education is ideal for students that wish to continue working while pursuing a degree. The advantages of online learning include lower costs and flexible class attendance. Students have a wide range of freedom to choose when to access course content.

Additional Questions

Does the College Have Post-Graduate Job Placement Help & Assistance?

Students should look for post-graduate job placement and career counseling when selecting a school. You first job can boost the early stages of a career. It is not too early to plan for life after the online degrees program completes. The inquiry should go in depth on this subject. Students should know whether there is a department dedicated to job placement and counseling. They should ask about the size of the program and the types of counseling, coaching, and interview preparation assistance it offers.

A school, college, or university is more than a collection of classrooms and teachers. A school is a community of alumni, supporters, corporate partners, and sponsors. It should be an engine for networking and referrals for graduates.

Why You Need to Consider the Overall National Rankings of the College and The Effects on Your Career or Salary

The best school for any student is the one that best meets his or her needs and preferences. Rankings are only one way of examining the right school. Rankings can make a difference in the way employers and other educational institutions you’re your academic achievement. They can work for or against graduates when seeking jobs to start careers. Schools with high rankings can support interview and positive hiring decisions that may yield higher salaries than lower ranked schools.

No matter how you feel about it, rankings are a factor, and they can affect salary ranges and job offers. When examining school rankings, employers value high graduation rates, low rates of drop-outs, and high indicators on graduates finding high-paying jobs. Employers can use rankings to help predict the level of performance from graduates of a particular school or type of school. However, ranking is not more important than selecting a school that meets your needs and complements your objectives. When all things seem nearly equal, then rankings can be an excellent factor to add to the equation.

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