Best Online Master’s in Counseling

Find top-ranked online master’s in counseling degree programs to help students prepare for careers as hospital mental health program directors, marriage and family therapists, private practice counselors, or licensed school counselors.

Best Online Master’s in Counseling

Frequently Asked Questions About Counseling Degrees

Why get a master’s in counseling?

After earning a counseling-related undergraduate degree, most students continue on to earn a master’s degree in counseling either online or on campus.

Back to top.

What areas of expertise are there?

Students will likely choose a focused path in areas such as substance abuse counseling, school counseling, mental health counseling, marriage and family therapy, or pastoral counseling. Depending on the chosen track, students can expect to explore areas such as abnormal psychology, mental health disorders, counseling techniques, and developmental psychology.

Back to top.

What are the credentials for getting a master’s in counseling?

A master’s in counseling program is typically 60 credits, and students must also complete comprehensive exams.

Back to top.

What can I do with a master’s in counseling?

Graduates can then go on to earn licensure and gain employment as hospital mental health program directors, marriage and family therapists, private practice counselors, or licensed school counselors.

Back to top.

Best Online Master's in Counseling Degree Programs

How do we determine the best online counseling master's degree programs?

Methodology

Pursing your degree online doesn’t mean you need to settle for a inferior school. Today, most universities and colleges offer online degrees, and many respected schools are seeing significant growth in their numbers of online students.

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why influence — i.e., the academic impact of faculty and alumni associated with a school — gets at the heart of what is truly best in education. The combined influence score of a college or university’s top academic influencers is the best indicator of academic excellence. For our online degree rankings, we focus on the academic influence of faculty and alumni in the specific disciplines we’re ranking.

If you are serious about finding the best online colleges, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching, and whether their graduates themselves are advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence. Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Influence, as measured by our InfluenceRanking engine, provides a ranking that is free from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

50 Best Online Master’s in Counseling Degree Programs

  1. #1

    Florida State University

    #157 institution's historical influence
    #174 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    32%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    40K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1270/28

    Tallahassee, FL

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MS in Counseling and Human Systems
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  2. #2

    University of Alabama

    #183 institution's historical influence
    #94 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    35K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1210/27

    Tuscaloosa, AL

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Rehabilitation Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  3. #3

    University at Buffalo

    #176 institution's historical influence
    #1348 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    75%

    Student body

    28K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1250/26

    Buffalo, NY

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MS in Rehabilitation Counseling
    • Required Credits: 48
    • Completion time: 2.5-3.5 years
    • Format: Online
  4. #4

    University of Nebraska Omaha

    #1602 institution's historical influence
    #970 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    82%

    Graduation

    49%

    Student body

    13K

    Omaha, NE

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MS in Counseling

    Concentrations

    • Student Affairs Practice in Higher Education
    • Required Credits: 38
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  5. #5

    University of Kentucky

    #199 institution's historical influence
    #541 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    96%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1195/25

    Lexington, KY

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Counseling in Counselor Education

    Concentrations

    • Clinical Mental Health Counseling
    • Rehabilitation Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    REQUEST INFO
  6. #6

    San Diego State University

    #334 institution's historical influence
    #189 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    37%

    Graduation

    76%

    Student body

    34K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1215/25

    San Diego, CA

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MS in Rehabilitation Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: 3.5-4.5 years
    • Format: Hybrid
  7. #7

    Virginia Commonwealth University

    #404 institution's historical influence
    #994 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    91%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    26K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1165/24

    Richmond, VA

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MS in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  8. #8

    North Carolina State University

    #223 institution's historical influence
    #176 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    46%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    31K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1335/29

    Raleigh, NC

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MEd in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
    • Required Credits: 12
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    MEd in College Counseling and Student Development
    • Required Credits: 12
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  9. #9

    Wake Forest University

    #327 institution's historical influence
    #48 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    32%

    Graduation

    89%

    Student body

    8K

    Winston-Salem, NC

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MC in Master’s in Counseling

    Concentrations

    • Clinical Mental Health
    • School Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  10. #10

    Naropa University

    #726 institution's historical influence
    #1139 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    100%

    Graduation

    31%

    Student body

    <1K

    Boulder, CO

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Mindfulness-Based Transpersonal Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: 3 years
    • Format: Hybrid
  11. #11

    William James College

    #3920 institution's historical influence

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Student body

    <1K

    Newton, MA

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: 2.5 - 3 years
    • Format: Online
  12. #12

    Adler University

    #3482 institution's historical influence

    Student body

    1K

    Chicago, IL

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  13. #13

    University of Southern Maine

    #1294 institution's historical influence
    #365 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    88%

    Graduation

    36%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1055/22

    Portland, ME

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MS in Counseling-Rehabilitation
    • Required Credits: 54-63
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Hybrid
  14. #14

    University of North Texas

    #448 institution's historical influence
    #1391 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    84%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    35K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1155/24

    Denton, TX

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MS in Rehabilitation Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: 3.5-4.5 years
    • Format: Online
  15. #15

    Nova Southeastern University

    #1060 institution's historical influence
    #678 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    14K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1175/24

    Fort Lauderdale, FL

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MS in Counseling

    Concentrations

    • Applied Behavior Analysis
    • Clinical Mental Health Counseling
    • School Counseling
    • Substance Abuse Counseling
    • Substance Abuse Counseling And Education
    • Required Credits: 33
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  16. #16

    Prescott College

    #2487 institution's historical influence
    #493 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    98%

    Graduation

    49%

    Student body

    <1K

    Prescott, AZ

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MS in Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  17. #17

    Bradley University

    #1120 institution's historical influence
    #344 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    76%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1170/25

    Peoria, IL

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Counseling

    Concentrations

    • Clinical Mental Health Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  18. #18

    Webster University

    #1085 institution's historical influence
    #814 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $29K

    Acceptance

    53%

    Graduation

    55%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/24

    Saint Louis, MO

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Psychology

    Concentrations

    • Counseling Psychology
    • Required Credits: 48
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  19. #19

    Union Institute & University

    #2168 institution's historical influence

    Tuition + fees

    $16K

    Graduation

    38%

    Student body

    <1K

    Cincinnati, OH

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  20. #20

    Colorado Christian University

    #3934 institution's historical influence

    Tuition + fees

    $25K

    Graduation

    61%

    Student body

    6K

    Lakewood, CO

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

    Concentrations

    • Marriage And Family Therapy
    • Substance Use Disorders
    • Required Credits:60- 68
    • Completion time: 4 years
    • Format: Online
    REQUEST INFO
  21. #21

    Marshall University

    #847 institution's historical influence
    #1031 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    89%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1045/22

    Huntington, WV

    View profile

    MA in Counseling

    Concentrations

    • Clinical Mental Health Counseling
    • School Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  22. #22

    Southern New Hampshire University

    #1348 institution's historical influence
    #1034 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    37%

    Student body

    84K

    Manchester, NH

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    REQUEST INFO
  23. #23

    Liberty University

    #988 institution's historical influence
    #116 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    50%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    75K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1150/24

    Lynchburg, VA

    View profile

    MA in Human Service Counseling
    • Required Credits: 30
    • Completion time: 1.5 years
    • Format: Online
    MA in Addiction Counseling
    • Required Credits: 48
    • Completion time: 2 years
    • Format: Online
    MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: 2 years
    • Format: Online
  24. #24

    Regent University

    #1606 institution's historical influence
    #554 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    50%

    Graduation

    61%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1105/22

    Virginia Beach, VA

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: 2 years
    • Format: Online
    MA in Marriage, Couple And Family Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: 3 years
    • Format: Online
    MA in Human Services

    Concentrations

    • Counseling
    • Trauma And Crisis Counseling
    • Biblical Counseling
    • Grief Counseling
    • Required Credits: 30
    • Completion time: 2 years
    • Format: Online
    MA in Human Services-Addiction Counseling
    • Required Credits: 30
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  25. #25

    Hampton University

    #619 institution's historical influence
    #666 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $29K

    Acceptance

    36%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    4K

    Hampton, VA

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Counseling

    Concentrations

    • General Counseling
    • Required Credits: 31
    • Completion time: 1.5 years
    • Format: Online
  26. #26

    Bellevue University

    #3549 institution's historical influence

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Graduation

    23%

    Student body

    9K

    Bellevue, NE

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  27. #27

    Fort Valley State University

    #2139 institution's historical influence
    #154 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $6K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    43%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    905/17

    Fort Valley, GA

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MS in Rehabilitation Counseling and Case Management
    • Required Credits: 61
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  28. #28

    Nyack College

    #2212 institution's historical influence
    #1082 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $26K

    Acceptance

    97%

    Graduation

    43%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    945/20

    New York, NY

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Mental Health Counseling
    • Required Credits: 63
    • Completion time: 3.5-4.5 years
    • Format: Online
  29. #29

    Oral Roberts University

    #1075 institution's historical influence
    #798 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1114/21

    Tulsa, OK

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Professional Counseling
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    REQUEST INFO
  30. #30

    Amridge University

    #5818 institution's historical influence

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Graduation

    25%

    Student body

    <1K

    Montgomery, AL

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Professional Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    MDiv in Professional Counseling
    • Required Credits: 96
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  31. #31

    University of Nebraska at Kearney

    #2579 institution's historical influence
    #545 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    88%

    Graduation

    59%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1079/23

    Kearney, NE

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MSEd in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  32. #32

    Immaculata University

    #3113 institution's historical influence
    #629 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $28K

    Acceptance

    82%

    Graduation

    70%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/21

    Immaculata, PA

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MS in Nutrition Education and Counseling

    Concentrations

    • Tracks: Nutrition Education and Counseling
    • Clinical Nutrition
    • Required Credits: 63
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  33. #33

    California Baptist University

    #2034 institution's historical influence
    #1289 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    11K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1100/21

    Riverside, CA

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MS in Counseling Psychology
    • Required Credits: 62
    • Completion time: 3.5-4.5 years
    • Format: Online
    REQUEST INFO
  34. #34

    Plymouth State University

    #2982 institution's historical influence
    #327 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    89%

    Graduation

    58%

    Student body

    4K

    Plymouth, NH

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MEd in School Counseling
    • Required Credits: 48
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
    • Required Credits: 63
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  35. #35

    Truman State University

    #1036 institution's historical influence
    #1189 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    75%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1250/27

    Kirksville, MO

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Counseling

    Concentrations

    • Mental Health
    • School Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  36. #36

    Baptist College of Florida

    #6803 institution's historical influence
    #651 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1006/18

    Graceville, FL

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Counseling
    • Required Credits: 30
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  37. #37

    Lamar University

    #1185 institution's historical influence
    #749 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    37%

    Student body

    14K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/20

    Beaumont, TX

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MEd in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: 3.5-4.5 years
    • Format: Online
    MEd in Counseling and Development

    Concentrations

    • Marriage Couple and Family Counseling
    • Professional School Counseling Online
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: 3.5-4.5 years
    • Format: Online
  38. #38

    Lindsey Wilson College

    #6270 institution's historical influence

    Tuition + fees

    $26K

    Graduation

    40%

    Student body

    3K

    Columbia, KY

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MEd in Counseling And Human Development
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  39. #39

    Winston-Salem State University

    #2464 institution's historical influence
    #1448 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $6K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    960/17

    Winston-Salem, NC

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MSRC in in Rehabilitation Counseling
    • Required Credits: 63
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  40. #40

    St. Bonaventure University

    #1100 institution's historical influence
    #881 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $37K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1135/22

    Saint Bonaventure, NY

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MSEd in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: 3.5-4.5 years
    • Format: Online
    MSEd in School Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: 3.5-4.5 years
    • Format: Online
  41. #41

    Brandman University

    #3448 institution's historical influence

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    95%

    Graduation

    8%

    Student body

    8K

    Irvine, CA

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Psychology: Counseling

    Concentrations

    • Counseling
    • Required Credits: 48
    • Completion time: 2.5-3.5 years
    • Format: Online
    MA in Psychology: Professioanl Clinical Counseling

    Concentrations

    • Professional Clinical Counseling
    • Required Credits: 63
    • Completion time: 3.5-4.5 years
    • Format: Online
  42. #42

    Hodges University

    #6008 institution's historical influence
    #392 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    61%

    Graduation

    28%

    Student body

    <1K

    Fort Myers, FL

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  43. #43

    Montana State University Billings

    #4480 institution's historical influence

    Tuition + fees

    $6K

    Graduation

    28%

    Student body

    3K

    Billings, MT

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MS in Rehabilitation And Mental Health Counseling
    • Required Credits: 51
    • Completion time: 2-3 years
    • Format: Hybrid
    MEd in School Counseling
    • Required Credits: 48
    • Completion time: 2-3 years
    • Format: Online
  44. #44

    Golden Gate University

    #1114 institution's historical influence

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Student body

    1K

    San Francisco, CA

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Counseling Psychology
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: 3.5-4.5 years
    • Format: Online
  45. #45

    Asbury Theological Seminary

    #2691 institution's historical influence

    Student body

    1K

    Wilmore, KY

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Mental Health Counseling
    • Required Credits: 75
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    MA in Marriage And Family Counseling
    • Required Credits: 75
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    MA in Pastoral Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  46. #46

    Medaille College

    #4093 institution's historical influence
    #1350 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    37%

    Student body

    3K

    Buffalo, NY

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: 3.5-4.5 years
    • Format: Online
  47. #47

    University of New Haven

    #1434 institution's historical influence
    #770 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $42K

    Acceptance

    91%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1125/24

    West Haven, CT

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: 3 years
    • Format: Online
  48. #48

    Southern Wesleyan University

    #4759 institution's historical influence
    #1124 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $26K

    Acceptance

    56%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/20

    Central, SC

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MS in Counseling Psychology
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: 24-30 months
    • Format: Online
  49. #49

    Salve Regina University

    #2045 institution's historical influence
    #358 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $43K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    76%

    Student body

    3K

    Newport, RI

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Holistic Clinical Mental Health Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: 3 years
    • Format: Hybrid
    MA in Holistic Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: 2-3 years
    • Format: Hybrid
    MA in Rehabilitation Counseling
    • Required Credits: 48
    • Completion time: 2 years
    • Format: Online
    MA in Clinical Rehabilitation And Mental Health Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: 2.5 years
    • Format: Online
    REQUEST INFO
  50. #50

    West Texas A&M University

    #2390 institution's historical influence
    #1327 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    58%

    Graduation

    44%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1040/20

    Canyon, TX

    View profile

    Online Degrees

    MA in Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: 2-3 years
    • Format: Online
    MEd in Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: 2-3 years
    • Format: Online
    MEd in School Counseling
    • Required Credits: 48
    • Completion time: 2-3 years
    • Format: Online

Back to top.

Online Degree Frequently Asked Questions

If this is your first time taking an online course, the experience may require some adjustment. While you’ll generally learn the same content and take the same exams as your on-campus peers, the medium will likely require you to manage much of this experience independently. You’ll be accountable for your own time management, your ability to harness the technology at your fingertips, and your ability to focus on the lectures, lessons, and assignments at hand. This means you’ll need to create a suitable workspace for yourself, maintain a realistic schedule, and take it upon yourself to build relationships with your instructors and classmates. With online college, your goal is to find a balance between independence and engagement.

No. The only part of online education that’s easier is actually getting there. Taking the commute out of the equation means getting to class should be a lot more manageable. But that’s where it ends. In general, your online courses will incorporate the very same materials, concepts, and testing methods as would a traditional classroom.

And in many cases, you’ll even have the same instructors as your on-campus counterparts. In fact, if you are adjusting to the experience of independent learning or working with remote learning technology for the first time, online college may even be a little more challenging for you. For a few insights on how to manage this new experience, check out our 10 Tips for Adjusting to School Online.

Accreditation is especially important when it comes to online college. This is because the online education landscape is a mix of highly-reputable institutions and less-than-reputable for-profit schools. Accreditation gives you the power to differentiate between the two. Accreditation is a stamp of approval from an independent accrediting agency which indicates that a college or university is meeting standards of quality, credibility, and currency. School-wide accreditation falls into two major categories: regional and national accreditation. Regional accreditors generally hold jurisdiction only over schools in the states comprising their region, whereas national accreditors hold jurisdiction over schools in all states. Regional accreditation is widely regarded as a more rigorous standard of quality and credibility than national accreditation.

Attending a college or university which is not regionally accredited could limit your opportunities. When seeking an online education, we strongly recommend that students opt for regionally accredited schools. Regional accreditation ensures eligibility for federal loans and grants, ensures your college credits can be transferred between schools, and ensures that your degree credits can be accepted if you wish to earn an advanced degree.

As long as your online college degree is regionally accredited, you should have little difficulty transferring most of your credits or credentials to another regionally accredited undergraduate school. Every school carries its own standards and procedures for granting a transfer. In many cases, you will be required to navigate a bureaucracy in which some of your credits will be transferred and others will be jettisoned. However, provided that you have attended an online school with the proper regional accreditation, you should have plenty of options for transfer.

In most cases, as long you graduate from a well-regarded, regionally-accredited online college, prospective employers won’t look sideways at your degree. In fact, unless you attend an exclusively online college or university, there will likely be no specific indicator on your degree, transcript or resume differentiating your school from its brick-and-mortar counterpart. This means that your employer will likely only differentiate between an online and in-person degree if you mention this distinction.

While some employers may express concern about making the adjustment from online education to in-person workplace collaboration, many other employers will view your online degree as evidence of valuable 21st Century professional skills such as independence, self-motivation, time management, and tech savvy.

If you are a student who thrives on the dynamic energy of in-person discussion, who requires the physical surroundings of a classroom to feel engaged, or who considers the social aspects of education to be of equal importance to the actual content of your courses, online education will require some adjustment.

While there is much that can be supplanted or simulated through the online medium, some students may find that there is nothing which can replace the conversation, collaboration, and motivation that occur in an actual classroom setting. As you make the adjustment to online education, one of the biggest challenges you will likely face is overcoming this difference in order to the get the most out of your classes. Fortunately, we’ve got some great Tips for Online Education Beginners.

The advantages of online classes are many. First and foremost, online courses give you the freedom and flexibility to attend class from anywhere that works for you, whether you’re at home, in a coffee shop, or in a quiet conference room at work. In many cases, you’ll also enjoy the convenience of asynchronous learning opportunities—educational experiences that you can complete on your own schedule. This may include pre-taped lectures, ongoing chat-board discussions, and 24/7 access to digital materials. And of course, just as there are some learners who prefer the energy of a live classroom, there are those who learn best when working in their own personal space, free from distractions. If this sounds like you, you might find the solitude of online learning to be a major advantage.

Resources for Prospective Grad Students