5 Tips for Choosing an Online Degree Program

Whether you’re a traditional student entering college for the first time, looking to further your career with additional education, or changing careers, choosing the right program can be challenging. At UC Online, we’re here to help guide you through your educational journey and provide support from application to graduation.

With over 100 programs and certifications offered through UC Online – we understand that finding the perfect degree for you can be overwhelming.

Not sure what program may be right for you or even where to start? Read our five helpful tips below for insights that may help you narrow your choices.

1. Make a Self-Assessment.

Self-assessments can increase your awareness and help you identify important aspects such as values, interests, and skills. To start, think about how you’d answer the following questions:

  • What am I interested in and passionate about?

Pursuing a career in a field you feel passionate about can energize your future work life. Have the courage to follow your passion as a major, especially if it has career potential.

  • What are my strengths and weaknesses?

Are there specific areas where you excel? Is there a way to channel these toward a major? College is far more enjoyable if you can focus your studies on a field that comes more naturally to you.

  •  Is this a field I’m going to enjoy? What classes or subjects do you enjoy?

If you’ve taken college classes in the past, ask yourself – what classes did I enjoy the most? What careers are within that field? Why did I enjoy those classes so much? You may find that you love math and hate English. This reveals that you may be more interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), so you may want to pursue a STEM career.

  • Does my personality fit the field I’m thinking about entering?

For example, those entering the healthcare field and dealing with patients daily are often open, empathic, extroverted, and want to help people.  Others, like engineers, are often strategic, analytic, and problem solvers.

Asking and answering these questions may help you narrow down your interests, whether that’s a STEM field, a communication degree, or a career within human services. Keep note of the information you’ve found and refer to it while going through the process of choosing a degree.

You may even want to reference degrees at a category level or through an area of study with our program explorer tool – review degrees from a higher level – from business to information technology to healthcare and many more areas of study. You can find our degree explorer tool here.

2. Understand Your Education Options.

This is extremely important. It will help you find the right program for you. Depending on your prior education and career experience, some levels of education may be a better fit than others. We’ll dive into the degree levels below.

An Associate Degree: Often, this degree can be completed within two years (without any transfer credits). For example, an associate degree may be an associate of science (AS) or an associate of applied business (AAB). After earning their associate degree, some students may transfer into a bachelor’s program; others use it to go straight to work.

Bachelor’s Degree: This degree often requires completing a four- or five-year college program. Most students earn a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science Degree (BS). Like the associate degree, you can go straight to work after earning or work toward your master’s degree (depending on the master’s degree and admission requirements).

Graduate Degree: Graduate degrees are advanced degrees pursued after earning a bachelor’s degree. As mentioned in the bachelor’s degree section, some master’s degrees can be earned after completion. Others may require a specific amount of work experience as an admission requirement.

Examples of graduate degrees are a Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), or MEd (Master of Education). Students generally earn a master’s degree after two years of study – the length of the degree will depend upon its total credit hours.

Certificate Programs: Certificate programs can vary. Some are created with undergraduate studies in mind, while others are designed for graduate studies. Depending on the program, some may even fit into an associate level-degree or a master’s degree – allowing you to earn a certificate plus an additional degree with few or no additional credits beyond the associate or master’s degree. For more detailed information on specific certificate programs, please get in touch with one of our Enrollment Services Advisors.

3. Think About Career Potential, Advancement, and Salary

You’ll want to assess your career options before earning your degree. Does this degree lead to the career I’d like to pursue? What are the career paths for this degree and the growth potential within this field? What’s the average salary post-graduation and the earning potential throughout my career with this degree? These are all important aspects to consider when choosing a degree. For more in-depth information, read our blog post: How to know if your degree choice aligns with your desired career path.

4. How Much Time Do You Want to Dedicate to School?

Don’t only think about the day-to-day time that studying and earning your degree will take. Although that’s an extremely important factor in pursuing any degree, you’ll want to research if the degree or career path requires additional education.

For example, suppose you’re entering the public health field and earning your associate degree. In that case, you’ll likely need to earn your bachelor’s or master’s degree for more career opportunities within public health beyond entry-level positions.

Another example is a master’s in business administration (MBA), this extremely popular master’s degree is a diverse degree that can span fields and is aimed at those looking to grow and further their careers in management or leadership positions. Some higher-level positions require this degree, and earning an MBA may increase your earning potential throughout your career.

You’ll want to consider those additional degrees and credentials you may need throughout your career and where your education can take you. Although this isn’t a necessary step, it will help give you a clearer image of your potential career path five, ten, or even fifteen years from now.

5. Research and Gather Information from Valuable Resources

The last piece of advice we’ll leave you with is to seek information from others. A great resource is individuals already working in the field you’re interested in. Speaking to people who work in the field can allow you to understand what it took to make it to their current careers and what it’s like to work within the field.

Our Student Success Coordinators at UC Online also have a wealth of information – they understand the ins and outs of UC degrees and can help answer your questions; they can provide helpful information and resources about career options with a specific degree and give insight into curriculum and admission requirements.

Another resource is alumni who’ve gone through the degree program you’re considering and working in the field you are interested in – they can give you firsthand information about the program and degree. They can share the steps it took to get to their desired career path.

Still, trying to figure out your degree path? Don’t dismiss online tools such Meyers Brigg Type Indicator or our online Associate Quiz that will help guide you to the perfect associate degree. Although these quizzes and assessments won’t give you a definite answer to what degree is perfect for you, they can help you uncover valuable insights about yourself that can lead you to your future degree and career.

What’s Next?

Explore the online degree programs UC offers and compare similar programs with our program comparison tool. Ready to take the next step? Talk to one of our knowledgeable Enrollment Services Advisors today.

birds eye view of students working at a round table with laptops and study materials
Need additional student resources?
Already an online student? UC Online has additional tips and tricks to ensure you are on the path to success. Check out our Student Resources section for what you need to maximize your learning.
Corporate Taxation professionals having a meeting
Helping You Build a Better Business Through Continuing Education
Employee recruitment and retention is crucial for the growth and profitability of an organization and should be a high priority for every business. At the University of Cincinnati Online, we want to help develop and retain your employees through our Business Partnership offering.

Sign up for updates from UC Online

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.