Are online college degrees worth the time and money?

Does it pay to get an online college degree? Recent research into the benefits of a college education suggests that the answer is “Yes! And in more ways than one.”

There are a lot of things to consider when trying to decide whether to pursue an online college degree. Earning an online college degree requires a lot of time and effort. Online degree programs are typically just as rigorous and academically demanding as traditional degree programs. Earning an online degree also requires a financial investment. The costs of tuition, fees, and books will have to be covered, either up front, or through student loans, which will have to be paid back eventually.

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That said, it’s important to keep in mind the many benefits that come along with earning a college degree. A 2010 study by College Board points out that a college education correlates with a number of significant short-term and long-term benefits for individuals and families that leave little room for doubt that an online college degree from an accredited college or university remains an extraordinarily good value. The benefits revealed by study include the following:

1. Higher earnings. People with college degrees earn more money than those that don’t. The median income of employees with bachelor’s degree working full-time year-round in 2008 was $55,700, which is $21,900 more than the median income of high school graduates. The median income of people with a master’s degree was a full $33,500 higher! Even those who only complete some college tend to do better financially than those without any college credits at all. Individuals with some college but no degree earned 17% more than working individuals with only a high school degree. Over an entire lifetime, people with a bachelor’s degree earn a full 66% more than those who work full-time without a college degree.

2. Better job prospects. People with college degrees are more likely to be employed and to have a job that they actually like. While employment for those at all other education levels declined between 2007 and 2010, employment for those with at least a bachelor’s degree actually increased by 2% overall in 2010. Overall, the unemployment rate for people with at least a bachelor’s degree is about half that of people without a college degree. Among all Hispanic, black, and white adults, the unemployment rate goes down significantly with every level of increase in educational attainment. College graduates are also more likely to secure jobs with good benefits, like health insurance and pension plans. Finally, the higher the level of education the more likely people are to be happy with their jobs.

3. Better health. People with college degrees tend to lead healthier lives. Smoking rates among college graduates are significantly lower than the smoking rates among people without college degrees. When you add to this to the fact that individuals with higher levels of education are more likely than those with lower levels of education to engage in exercise, it’s not surprising that college-educated adults are also less likely than others to be obese.

4. Healthier, more successful children. The children of parents with college degrees are typically healthier and more likely to do well in school. Just as people with college degrees tend to be less obese, children living in households with more highly educated adults are less likely to be obese than children whose caregivers don’t have college degrees. Moreover, children with at least one parent with a college degree tend to be better prepared for school and, while in school, are more likely than other children to engage in educational activities with their parents. Perhaps most importantly, children of parents who earned a college degree are more likely to earn a college degree themselves.