What are Some Primary Motivations for Enrolling in an Online Program?

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by Carol Aslanian

People pursue higher education online for a myriad of reasons. Enrolling in a degree program no longer means picking up and moving to wherever a school is located. The flexibility of online degree programs allows students to learn on their own time and schedule their work around current jobs, family responsibilities, and life in general—how appealing! And when you add to that the technological innovations in education, the reasons that students choose online education over traditional on-campus education aren’t what they used to be.

I want a career in a new field.

We don’t always immediately know what job we want to have for the rest of our lives, and as a result, sometimes you’re not working in the field that you want to make a career in. It’s a big decision, and it’s a good idea to contemplate the subject for a long time, sometimes years. Going back to school to get an online degree for the career path you do want to pursue may be a great idea for you, your family, and your future.

Most online degree programs are convenient because they give students the ability to schedule their coursework and lesson time around important things in their lives—especially their current career. Online education may be ideal for someone who wants to switch careers, maybe wants to earn another type of degree to do so, and has to work full-time while earning that degree.

I want the satisfaction of finishing my degree.

Life’s circumstances can interrupt even the most dedicated of students. There’s a sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing all the work that goes into earning a degree and everyone should experience that at least once in their lifetime. Earning a degree may also make your family members proud of you in a way you’ve never experienced before. If a part of you has always wanted to finish what you started, an online degree program may allow you the flexibility to do so without putting other parts of your life on pause.

I’m unemployed or underemployed and need more education to pursue a new career.

Similar to changing your career, earning a degree might give you the experience, knowledge, and credentials needed to prove yourself to a potential employer or move on to the next step in your career. Of those online students surveyed, 10% of online undergraduate students and 9% of online graduate students said that they moved to a full-time position from a part-time position after earning their degree.[i] And after graduating from an online degree program, 9% of undergraduate students and 10% of graduate students found a new job after being unemployed.[i]

I want to keep up-to-date with the skills and requirements of my current job.

Taking an online course, even to work towards earning a graduate certificate, may give you new insight into skills needed in the field you have experience with or are currently working in. Technology is constantly evolving, and so are the requirements of certain professions. In many fields, there is an ever-present opportunity to learn something new or familiarize yourself with a new technology that’s used on the job. Enrolling in an online certificate or degree program may give you the tools, knowledge, and skills needed to stay on top of industry developments and trends at your job.

I was seeking a promotion/new position within my field.

While promotions and hiring always varies by company and industry, some students earn their online degree because they want to move up or change positions within the company they’re currently employed. Ten percent of undergraduate online students and an impressive 21% of graduate students reported that they received a raise as a result of completing their studies; 6% of undergrads and 7% of grads received a promotion; and 9% of undergrads and 13% of graduate students received both a raise and a promotion.[i] So while it’s not guaranteed that earning an degree will result in more money or an advanced title, it has been proven to help some people achieve the next step in their careers.


Sources: [i] http://www.aslanianmarketresearch.com/sites/default/files/2014%20Online%20College%20Students%20Final.pdf

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