7 Ways Online Education Can Help You Get Ahead

If you’re ready to take your career to the next level, online degree programs may be the key

By Greg Scott Neuman
Posted 2011

Get Ahead with Online Education
Get Ahead with Online Education

Most people in today’s workforce are looking for ways to advance. Whether you want a raise, a promotion, or perhaps a lateral move to a more rewarding or lucrative position, online education can probably help. That’s because web-based learning offers you the opportunity to study on your own schedule and complete classes at your own pace. It’s ideal for adults with family, work and other responsibilities.

Before getting specific about how distance learning can help you, here’s one piece of absolutely critical advice: Pursue online degree programs only at colleges and universities that hold regional accreditation, which is the highest form of accreditation in the U.S. National accreditation is acceptable for certificate-granting vocational and technical schools, which are generally not eligible for regional accreditation.

With that in mind, here are seven ways that online education can help you get ahead:

1. Self-enrichment. Like many people, you may have earned a degree specifically to enter your chosen profession. But perhaps there is a another subject that you have always been passionate about. An online degree program can allow you to study what you love in your spare time, and at your own pace. Such an education can give you a unique and valuable perspective on your career; for example, a web developer who earns an art history degree may discover a whole new world of design possibilities.

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2. Continuing education. Many professions require you to take a certain amount of continuing education (CE) credits to maintain licensure. This is often an annual obligation, but in some industries CE is only necessary once every two or three years. Online classes are a very convenient way to comply with CE requirements, which will keep you in good standing with both your employer and the licensing body that regulates your profession.

3. Add a new skill. In many professions, the credentials you need to enter the field are just the starting point. Further degrees or certificates allow you to add something new to your skill set, which makes you more valuable to your current employer and more attractive to those who might someday want to hire you. Online education is ideal for adding new skills, because it give you the ability to start when you’re ready and finish at your own pace.

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4. Stay on top of the latest developments. Almost all employers respect a worker who knows about all the latest advancements in her profession. It shows that you are dedicated to your job and interested beyond the level of just getting a paycheck. Online courses can help you keep up with the latest developments in your field without having to travel to conventions and seminars all over the country.

5. Network. Online classes are generally filled with students from many different places – perhaps even some from other countries. It’s a great opportunity to get to know people who are in your field but live elsewhere. Their perspectives will broaden your horizons and increase your understanding of important subjects. And if you ever have to travel or relocate, having contacts in different areas can be of immense value.

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6. Earn your master’s degree. A master’s-level education is quickly becoming the way to excel in many fields. If you want to pursue an executive position with a major company, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is essential. Teachers who want to achieve tenure now usually need to earn a Master of Arts in Education (MAEd). Online degree programs allow you to pursue such credentials without interrupting your career to go back to school.

7. Go into business for yourself. If you want to be your own boss, there’s a lot you need to know. Picking up the skills you need to run a successful business – such as accounting and management – is best done while you’re still safely employed by someone else. If your employer offers tuition assistance, you may even be able to get them to pay for it! Online education can help you develop the necessary skills while keeping a full-time job. Then you can strike out on your own once you’re fully prepared.

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