How to Earn an Online Bachelor's Degree

A college graduate.
There are many ways to earn an online bachelor's degree. Doug Berry / E+ / Getty Images

Earning an online bachelor’s degree can help you do better at your job and become eligible for promotions. Many upper-level positions are only offered to applicants that have completed bachelor degrees. Earning an online BA can give you the chance to learn new skills and learn about a subject you are passionate about. Additionally, studies have shown that the average college graduate makes approximately one million dollars more during his or her lifetime than the average high school graduate.

Who Should Earn an Online Bachelor's Degree?

Online bachelor's degree programs are ideal for mid-career professionals looking to further their education during off-hours. A growing number of younger students are also enrolling in online programs after graduating high school. Additionally, many students that have earned online associate’s degrees choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree through the internet. In order to be successful, online students must be motivated and able to work independently. Because most online coursework consists of independent reading, students should be proficient in English reading and writing. (See: Is Distance Learning Right for You?)

School Accreditation

Accreditation is the most important factor to consider when selecting a school. Don’t spent thousands of dollars towards a “diploma mill” degree that won’t be accepted in academia and the workplace. If you want your degree to be recognized by employers and other colleges, make sure that the online college you choose is accredited by the appropriate regional board.

Alternatively, you may choose to enroll in a college accredited by the Distance Education Training Council. Although degrees from DETC accredited colleges are accepted by a large number of employers, it is not always possible to transfer these credits to other colleges.

You can determine whether or not a school is accredited by visiting the Department of Education’s website.

(See: Check Any School’s Accreditation Status)

What Else to Look for in an Online Bachelor's Degree Program

In addition to proper accreditation, make sure that your online college offers students the chance to speak with a counselor who can help plan an individualized course of study. Check to see that the bachelor’s program has been around for a while (five or more years) and has a large number of satisfied graduates. Talk with former students to see what you can learn from their experiences. (See: Choosing the School for You)

Types of Bachelor's Degrees

There are many different types of bachelor’s degrees. The three most popular are the bachelor of arts, the bachelor of science and the bachelor of fine arts.

Bachelor of Arts (BA) – This degree is generally awarded to students studying academic subjects. Students earning this degree may choose to start a career or pursue further studies such as a master’s degree. The BA generally requires at least 120 semester credits, usually spread evenly between general education and major requirements.

Bachelor of Science (BS) – This degree is usually awarded to students studying technical, career-oriented subjects. Most BS degrees are considered terminal and most students pursue a career after graduation.

The BS degree generally requires at least 120 semester credits, the majority of which are completed in the major.

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)- This degree is awarded to students studying a visual or performance art. Most graduates seek a career in the arts after completing the degree. The BFA generally requires at least 120 semester credits, the majority of which are completed through fine arts courses in studio or lab settings (as opposed to lecture courses).

The Testing Option

If you have subject-specific expertise or are an exceptional test-taker, you may be able to complete many bachelor degree requirements through passing exams. Several regionally accredited online colleges allow students to complete a degree entirely by passing exams. Be aware that the tests are difficult. If you do not have prior knowledge, you may need to spend an extensive amount of study time.

In many cases, it is easier to simply take a class. (See: Diploma Programs That Turn Test Scores and Life Experience Into College Credit)

Combining Credits from Multiple Schools

If you have college credits from multiple schools, you may be able to combine them into a single transcript by using a credit bank or by enrolling in a school that has a liberal credit acceptance policy. Don’t let your credits go to waste – a few credits from two or three schools could shorten your study time by a semester or more. (See: Credit Banks)

Don't Give Up

Best of luck in your online studies. Earning an online bachelor’s degree can be a challenge. But, many happy graduates have found the hard work to be more than worth it.