Some Factors to Consider When Selecting a Program
More often than not, life happens while you are busy making plans for the future. Then one day you wake up with a job that makes you unhappy and a family that would make you happier if you could better provide for them. Even if you live close to a college campus, it could be difficult for you to go back to a traditional classroom as your children and your job still need you there for them when most classes are offered. When you sit down to decide where to enroll for your online accounting degree, here are some things that you should consider.
Choose an Accredited Institution for Your Online Accounting Degree
There are many resources for online, including listings of universities and colleges who offer online accounting degrees. As you browse through the institutions, check that each one you put on your list for consideration is accredited to national level boards. Opting for a distance learning institution that isn't accredited means you will have invested all of your time and money into an online degree you may never be able to use.
Campus Visits or Strictly Online?
Some online accounting degree programs will need you to visit the campus from time to time. This could be for exams at the end of every semester or even just for orientation and graduation. If your first choice university is in Texas and you are studying from Maine, this might be difficult for you, either financially or because leaving work or kids behind for a week poses a problem. Take the time to research your university's policies on required campus visits. This may affect enrollment timing if, for example, a campus visit is necessary before beginning coursework and you are only able to take off from work in December.
There is a common misconception that because you are not attending the bricks and mortar part of the university, tuition costs will be less than traditional classroom study. Unfortunately, this is not often the case. The operating costs of higher education institutions are not centered around the upkeep of the grounds. Universities budget around securing and retaining high level professors and quality support staff. Even if you are studying online for your accounting degree, you will still be liable for these costs. In addition, consider the higher salaries commanded by those required to keep up the online services as opposed to the groundskeepers required for garden maintenance on campus.
When considering online accounting degree options, keep in mind that although you will not need to factor in room and board into your costs, you may still need textbooks and other study supplies. You may also find that calls to advisors and fellow students will push up costs, not to mention the amount of coffee you will need to buy to stay awake during the major balancing act you are about to undertake.
Are Other Classes Required?
If you are considering a Bachelor's Degree and you have no earlier formal education credits, you might be required to take other classes which may not be relevant to your field of study. These are required for the university's accreditation to relevant state or national boards. Factor any additional classes into your decision. If you do not feel an English class will help with your online accounting degree, consider breaking up your education between an Associate Degree at an institution that doesn't need additional classes and transferring these credits towards a Bachelor's Degree at another.
Class Times and Time Zones
One of the key concerns with distance learning is the times and mediums through which classes are offered. In some cases, you may be able to log on to your classroom at any time to catch a lecture, while other online accounting degree institutions may have set class times, just as they would if you were attending classes at the university itself. While some distance learning students may find that a set schedule encourages them to get the work done, others may find that they simply can not work at the set class times. Keep in mind the difference between time zones when considering this factor. For those that have full-time jobs (whether at home or in an office), a difference in time zones could work in your favor as it could mean that a class offered at 6pm in California requires you to log on only after your children are in bed in Pennsylvania.
One of the most difficult things for students working towards an online accounting degree is the lack of interaction with fellow students. Study sessions were created to clarify difficult concepts and to stay motivated, even when the going gets tough. When choosing a distance learning institution for your online accounting degree, consider the level of interaction students are able to have with each other. Whether it is an email list of fellow students or you have the opportunity to meet with them once a semester, it is important to know you are able to meet with other students. These days, online universities usually offer chat rooms for each class. Some online classrooms even have a feature where students can whisper to each other during lectures. Whether it is about what you had for breakfast or a new economic theory, this is an important part of education, regardless of where you are in life or in the country.
Everyone's life has a few challenges and often families are short on either time, money or both. Take the time to investigate the repercussions of dropping a class or a semester for when life does happen. In traditional universities, students are not encouraged to take on more classes than they can handle, distance learning students should not be required to do so either. You may only be able to spare enough time and money for one course. Or you may start with three and a family emergency may require you to cut your workload for a semester. Before enrolling for your online accounting degree, take the time to look at the policies your institution offers for refunds and minimum course loads. After all, you never know when life is going to happen. Look at where you are now.