Students are looking to online schools for their education needs, especially as work obligations and personal responsibilities begin to get in the way of finishing a degree. However, not all online schools are the same; there are reputable schools and those that are not as reputable. This article will help students determine online schools that fit their criteria while being reputable, including some things that everyone should look out for when searching for online programs.

You may also like: Top Online Colleges With No Application Fee

Accreditation

The best way to see if an online school is reputable is to check out its accreditation status. Many online schools do not have an accreditation status, meaning that they are most likely for-profit institutions or “diploma mills” that are essentially conferring meaningless degrees. Students should check for accreditation status of the school they wish to attend, but they must be vigilant: many schools have chosen to try to trick unsuspecting students by misspelling the name of an accreditation agency in order to seem like they are more legitimate than they are. The accreditation students will want to check for is provided by either the United States Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation; the former has a full list of the schools they accredit on their website.

Is There A Campus?

Online education has become mainstream, meaning that many brick-and-mortar institutions have both online and on-campus programs. However, for-profit institutions that only focus on online educations won’t have a real-world campus, making it less likely that the program is reputable. If a student is interested in completing a degree that normally would require on-campus intensives and none are required, this is a sign that the program may not all that it seems to be. It is advised that students start their online school search by looking to reputable colleges and universities that have a campus prior to finding a school that has no campuses.

Check With Professional Organizations

Graduate programs and even some undergraduate programs are focused on a single profession. Students who want to become teachers, educators, lawyers or any profession in which a license or certification is required to begin that career will want to check with professional organizations to see which online schools they recommend. Many online programs will provide a pathway to licensure and certification, but only if they can meet the education and practical experience requirements that are set forth by the professional organizations that deliver those endorsements; the same is true for any profession that requires the government to assess the individual prior to allowing them to practice in the state. This information will be front and center on an online school’s website; if it’s not, it may mean that the school isn’t reputable.

What To Avoid

There are a few things to avoid when looking for a reputable online school. Students will want to watch out for schools that do not have an application process; this is indicative of a diploma mill school, which the Better Business Bureau describes as a for-profit institution that delivers a diploma and not an education. Another thing to avoid is any program that gives students course credit for life experience; reputable schools will consider life experience during the application process, but that experience does not necessarily translate into the education that student needs. Other things to watch for are schools that have students pay a flat fee for the entire program rather than paying per course and schools that deliver their degrees through the mail and not with a graduation ceremony.

Finding an online education that is reputable is easier than it has been in the past, but some schools are still operating with profit as their primary motivation. Students need to do their research and ensure that the school they choose is recognized by the government, has accreditation, and will help them get jobs in the real world. This article is by no means comprehensive on this issue, but this is a good place to start for any student who is concerned about finding a reputable online school.