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How To Earn An Online College Degree

As unemployment continues to rise nationwide, many people have made the decision to go back to school. What if you are simply not in a position to take off several months or years from work to finish your degree or earn a degree in a completely new field? A popular option that has now become legitimized is online education. Online education offers a great amount of flexibility for those that have full-time jobs, families, and just do not have the time to pursue a traditional on-campus education.

My wife finished her master's degree in adult education about a year ago. She earned her degree 100% online through the University of Phoenix. This is an accredited university and she fully qualified for federal financial aid and loans to pursue her advanced degree. Several years ago, I graduated from the College for Financial Planning through a distance learning arrangement. This was back in 1995, and was really a few years before online classes became available. Nonetheless, I was able to study on my own and go and sit for proctored exams. It took approximately 3 years, but I was able to graduate from the program. Shortly thereafter, I entered a California-based law school pursuing a law degree through distance learning. The program was completely approved by the California Bar and would have allowed me to sit for the bar exam after four years of study. After completing the first year, I made a decision that this was not a career I wanted to pursue. I often revisit the idea of studying law again, not sure if I will ever get back to that. I do find it fascinating that a person can earn a law degree completely online, sit for the Bar Exam, and become a fully licensed attorney in some states. At this point in time, California is one of just a few states allowing a person to become a licensed attorney through distance learning. There are several states that are beginning to become open to this concept. I would not be surprised that within the next 10 years that a majority of the states will make allowance for full licensing as an attorney after earning an online degree.


Today, I want to address some of the legitimate and frequent questions that come up on the topic of online learning.

1.  How do I know if an online program is legitimately accredited or not?

To find out if an institution is accredited, simply go to the United States Department of Education website and do a search. Before you sign up for an online degree or educational program, be sure that it is accredited appropriately as required for your planned occupation. This can be a little tricky since there are so many different accreditation organizations. What you need to do is a little reverse engineering. For example, if you want to become a licensed teacher and earn your degree online, I would contact your state Department of Education and ask them what the academic accreditation requirements are for obtaining a teaching license. Once you find out what the requirements are to obtain a license, you will then have the parameters you need to check out the available online universities to be sure they are appropriately accredited. This is a very important step in the process, as almost all online education programs are accredited by some organization.  Not too far from where I live, in the Orlando area, there was a recent scandal over a law school that had not received accreditation by the American Bar Association. Even though the school had not been accredited, several hundred students enrolled in and graduated with a law degree only to find out later that they were unable to become licensed as attorneys. My recollection of this whole situation is that the school ultimately did get accredited and most of these students were later able to take the Florida Bar Examination. I really scratch my head and wonder why anyone would pay thousands of dollars to attend a law school without knowing whether or not they could sit for the bar exam after graduation.

2.  Will the government provide grants and loans for online education?

There is plenty of money available from the government to earn a degree online. The fully accredited universities offering online degrees, have comparable financial aid opportunities to their off-line counterparts. If you qualify for financial aid at a traditional college, you should also qualify for similar financial aid if you choose to go the online route. Legitimate online universities will have financial aid specialists that will assist you with grants and loans. The process is really no different than what is required if you are seeking to obtain financial assistance to get your education through a traditional campus.

3.  What are the best websites to use the search for online education programs?

4.  Do traditional college campuses offer online education?

Many bricks and mortar campuses have entered the world of online education. This is becoming more and more common. The opportunity for online learning for most traditional college campuses, does not typically include all courses. The expectation of most traditional college campuses, is for students to take at least some of their coursework in person. Although, we are starting to see a number of traditional colleges students to earn degrees completely online.

5.  Free Online College Classes

One of the most interesting resources that I discovered while writing this article was the Open Courseware Consortium. This program offers more than 1800 free online college courses. Many of the courses include complete lecture notes and some even offer videos of lectures. These are not courses that you will receive college credit for attending, but you will benefit from the valuable educational opportunity. This is perfect for someone that is interested in in acquiring knowledge in a specialized area, but does not necessarily need to earn a degree.  Top 10 Universities With Free Open Courses.

6.  Other interesting websites about online education

Correspondence Law schools approved by the California Bar


California Southern University
1840 East 17th Street, Suite 240
Santa Ana, CA 92705-8605
(800) 477-2254
Oak Brook College of Law and Government Policy
P.O. Box 26870
Fresno, CA 93729-6870
(559) 650-7755
MD Kirk School of Law
700 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 260
Los Angeles, CA 90010-2900
(866) 963-5475 and
(213) 386-7280
Taft Law School
3700 So. Susan St., Office 200
Santa Ana, CA 92704-6954
(800) 882-4555
University of Honolulu School of Law
1609 Tully Road, Suite 4
Modesto, CA 95350-4030
(209) 577-3161
Northwestern California University
School of Law
2151 River Plaza Drive, Suite 306
Sacramento, CA 95833-4133
(916) 920-9470

Top Christian And Bible Based Online Schools

Moody Bible Institute

Regent University

Liberty University

More Resources About Online Education

From CBS News

MBA Degrees Online: Getting The Most For Your Money

Top 10 Myths About Online Degrees

Have you earned a degree online? Let's start a discussion on twitter. Share your online learning experience and follow with #onlinelearning (Example Twitter Post: My wife earned an online degree from University of Phoenix #onlinelearning).  Alternatively, you can post your comment in the comment section below.  Follow our Twitter conversation

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James L. Paris
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