Choosing an Online Degree

There are so many things to think about when choosing an online degree. The Imagine America Foundation might not be able to help you decide whether you want to be a nurse or an auto mechanic, but we can help you pick a school that will give you the career training program you need! Here are three important things to consider when choosing an online school:


This is a crucial component of choosing an online degree, choosing a school: accrediting agencies help ensure that schools and their programs meet certain standards and comply with various best practices. There are accrediting bodies that operate nationally, regionally, and programmatically. If you’re unsure whether your prospective school is accredited, talk to the admissions office to ensure they’re in good standing with the appropriate agencies. It’s also worth taking a little time to research whether your program of interest has its own accrediting body.

Graduating from an accredited school can be a determining factor for employers when they make hiring decisions and attending a non-accredited institution can cost you time and money in the long run if you decide to change institutions after you’ve begun: many accredited schools cannot or will not accept a transfer of credits from an unaccredited school.

In addition, accreditation helps determine whether a school can accept federal funding on behalf of students. If you intend to pay for any portion of your education through the federal student aid programs, you’ll need to make sure the institution you’re enrolling at is approved to accept those funds.

Visiting campus

There may be some classes that just can't be taken online. This is likely to depend primarily on the program you’re taking and what your career goals are. Your school may also offer some additional benefits that are best taken advantage of in person: libraries, career centers, financial aid offices, and other resources might be located on-campus only.

If there’s any aspect of your career training program that you expect will require you to be on campus, it’s always a good idea to go check it out. Planning a visit of the campus can also help give you a sense of the school’s identity, personality, or values. Taking the time to chat with staff or instructors face-to-face can give you a great foundation for your education with the school—even if you don’t ever step foot on campus again. Consider this when choosing an online degree.


Many students assume that because it’s online it’s definitely cheaper. But that’s not always the case! While your school may not have facility costs to pay for, they still have plenty of other expenses, including trained and experienced instructors, curricula and course materials, and those accreditation fees to keep them in good standing. Your costs will also vary if you’re not going to school on-campus: you won’t have any commuter expenses, but you will need to ensure you’ve got the right equipment and technology at home to complete your coursework.

Take a look at the tuition and all fees associated with your online education and compare it to the cost of other online or nearby programs. Factor in what you would be spending whether you decide to attend class on-campus or from your home and make the right decision for you.

Ready to find the right online school and program for you? IAF has a directory of online career training schools can help you find the best fit for your education and career goals. We even offer scholarship programs  that allow high school seniors, current and honorably discharged military personnel, and adult learners to receive a $1,000 discount on their tuition at partnership institutions.

Apply for scholarships using our mobile app!

The IAF app delivers tools and resources perfect for students of all ages, high school counselors, and career college and university administrators. Matching your school with scholarship opportunities and checking application statuses has never been easier.