Online vs Traditional College Graduation

Online vs Traditional College Graduation ~ Are you looking to go to college? Don’t know if you should enroll in a traditional college or an online option? Below we’ll discuss some differences in obtaining an online and traditional college education, as well as give you some corners concerning your upcoming graduation.

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Understanding the information in this guide can go a long way to providing you with the best college experience.

So don’t wait! Let’s dive right in to see how you can improve your college experience today!

How They Work

In order to understand the differences between online and traditional college graduation, you must first understand the way these two educational platforms work.

As you might expect, there are significant differences in the way traditional and online schools ask you to maneuver your college experience.

Let’s take a look at the differences so you can make the decision that’s best for you.

Traditional Colleges

Traditional four-year colleges require that you take entrance exams such as the SAT so that they can determine whether your academic qualifications are up to university standards.

Once admitted, you will be required to move to the campus of your choice and to enroll in physical classes at the university.

Online vs Traditional College Graduation

From there, you will simply collect your credits as you move through your two or four-year degree.

As expected, these degrees are hardly flexible and require considerable sacrifice—often forcing you to relocate and commit yourself to live in a different environment.

Online Colleges

Online colleges generally have less strenuous enrollment requirements.

For many of these colleges, you will simply need to send a digital or physical copy of your transcript to be considered for admission.

Unlike traditional colleges, the time spent since graduating high school or obtaining your GED does not matter much with online colleges.

As such, online colleges work as a platform for eager students who might not have performed the best in their prior academic career.

With cheaper tuition costs and an online education that allows students to do coursework and exams on their own schedule.

Online colleges provide a convenient way to bring quality education to your home without sacrificing your current responsibilities.

It’s crucial that you weigh the above differences between traditional and online colleges so that you can decide which type of school you wish to graduate from.

Knowing this is a key first step to maximizing your college education.

Graduation Rates

How do the graduation rates for traditional and online colleges compare?

You may be surprised to learn that online colleges have an average graduation rate of around 20%.

That is, of course, if you look on average at the top ten online colleges.

That’s quite a low number.

But is it as bad as it seems? Not really. As it turns out, there are a couple of rotten apples weighing the average down.

By removing colleges with extraordinarily low graduation rates (like 5%), the average graduation rate of the top online colleges soars.

This is good news for anyone alarmed at the bleak picture the original statistics paints.

How does this compare, however, to traditional colleges?

The national graduation rate for traditional four-year colleges rests around 59% (over a six-year period).

This is surprisingly low, especially considering the fact that some top online colleges have graduation rates as high as 66%.

Still, this takes into account all major institutions in the United States (both public and private).

What does this mean? Simply put, it means that you shouldn’t read too much into the number.

Unless you are comparing specific colleges or universities, you will only be presented with a general number that may not tell you too much.

For this reason, it’s recommended that you research the graduation rates of the specific colleges you wish to apply for and base your search around this.

Do Online Colleges Have Ceremonies?

For some, this is perhaps the most important question. Everyone wants to experience walking across the stage with their diploma in hand.

But can you experience this with an online college? As it turns out, most online colleges have two forms of graduation: physical and virtual.

For physical graduations, you will be able to fly to the physical campus of your online university and walk across the stage.

It depends on the specific college whether or not you will have to pay for your graduation trip.

For virtual graduation, you will simply receive your diploma and other graduation-related information online.

This may not seem as exciting, but it’s a good choice for those who are too busy with work or parenting to participate in a physical graduation ceremony.

What does this mean for you? Simply put, it means that choosing an online college education provides you with greater flexibility when it comes to your graduation.

If flexibility and time management are key issues for you, you may consider online education to earn your degree.

Job Opportunities for Traditional College Graduates

So you tough it out and go to a four-year college. You master the grind and earn your diploma, and now it’s time to get a job.

With crippling student loan debt, it’s important that you find a job in your field quickly.

How feasible is this, however? Let’s take a look at the job outlook for traditional college graduates heading into 2019.

2018 research by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reveals that traditional four-year graduates are earning more than ever before.

Estimates predict that salaries for four-year grads will increase from the previous year’s average of $51,022.

This is a breath of fresh air for graduates wondering how to pay back average student loan debts of $34,144 per person.

According to NACE, however, graduates should hold off throwing that celebration party.

The dramatic salary increase is tainted, in part, by falling job prospects that pin many traditional graduates into a dark corner.

Specifically, research shows that employers look to cut hiring by a whopping 1.3%.

For students struggling with debt and inexperienced resumes, this does nothing to raise expectations for the future.

The 1.3% hiring decline comes on the back of months of falling unemployment rates.

With unemployment at decades’ long lows, it’s no wonder many companies have closed their doors on new hires.

While this is, of course, great, it does nothing to assuage the fears of a generation of millennials that are seeing national student loan debt exceeded $1 trillion in total.

With increased student loan debt and fewer job prospects, it’s likely that some of these a large subset of these millennials won’t be able to purchase their own homes or pay off their debts for at least a decade.

Online vs Traditional College Graduation

This problem is only compounded for students with degrees outside popular career pathways in STEM.

While STEM jobs are projected to grow nearly thirty percent over the next few years, traditional pathways in humanitarian fields will see only 6.5% growth.

This means that the value of your traditional college graduation depends largely on your major.

In this way, students who enroll in traditional colleges have a marked advantage over their online peers.

With most traditional universities offering STEM education and development, it may be easier for these graduates to find a profitable niche in the marketplace.

Job Opportunities for Online College Graduates

What about the job outlook for online college graduates?

Many students worry about the stigma associated with online education.

Compared to traditional colleges, online colleges historically have the reputation of providing lower-quality education.

This is related, in part, to the boom of unaccredited online “colleges” that sprung up over the last decade.

For students concerned about how their degrees will be looked at in HR offices across the country, there’s no reason to fear.

As more and more online universities have tightened their enrollment requirements and strengthened the quality of their programs, online degrees from accredited universities have gained weight in the marketplace.

In fact, employers are no longer merely looking for traditional college graduates.

Studies indicate that many employers prefer students who have obtained online degrees because of the balanced work-life approach.

An online degree forces on the student. Indeed, for some recruiting firms, it’s been noted that nearly 75% of HR departments accept online degrees as a valid form of education.

These are encouraging numbers for online graduates who are seeking employment in a competitive marketplace.

As more and more industries turn to online graduate candidates, it’s becoming increasingly possible for graduates of distance education to capitalize on the jobs boom in the following areas:

  • Home Healthcare Aide
  • Audiology
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Substance Abuse Counseling
  • Sonography
Online vs Traditional College Graduation

As such, there are several reasons why you should pursue an online degree. Distance education is more acceptable than ever, meaning the job outlook for online graduates is at an all-time high.

As time goes on, the distance between traditional and online diplomas is only expected to close further, putting online graduates in fairer competition with their peers and giving them access to a wider arrange of employment opportunities.

While graduates of distance education may not yet have equal access to the full range of employment opportunities as their traditional, four-year peers, it’s worth noting that they also do not graduate with insurmountable debt.

This means that the decision to choose between traditional and online education is tougher than one may initially realize.

Which Type of School is Right for You?

So how do you find the school that’s right for you?

In large part, the answer depends on your current situation and what you feel is best for you moving forward.

For direct out-of-high-school graduates with exemplary scores, traditional four-year education will always be the go-to route.

If you’re a few years removed from high school, however, or if you can’t afford the costs of traditional education, online education may provide you with the bridge you need to develop your skills and elevate your utility in the marketplace.

Graduation from these two types of educational platforms each comes with its own share of pros and cons.

For traditional education, it may be true that your degree holds more weight.

While it’s likely that you will be chosen for a job over your distance education peers, it’s also true that you’re more likely to be faced with high student loan debt that, in effect, minimizes your salary.

For graduates of online education, online degrees offer a valuable door into the marketplace.

With more and more employers accepting online degrees, graduates of distance education are in a better position than ever to compete with traditional, four-year graduates.

And while the playing field might not be completely level, online graduates typically face much less debt and are able to see the benefits of their education much more quickly.

This speaks to a larger point: attending a traditional four-year college or university no longer guarantees that you will be more successful than those who pursue online education.

This means that you should carefully consider your educational options.

For single parents or individuals attempting to balance an already established work-life, online education is increasingly viewed as the way to go.

With flexible scheduling and degree programs, it’s possible to graduate from your college of choice without sacrificing the life you’ve already built.

In other words, you now have more freedom than ever before to pursue an education opportunity right for you.  

The Bottom Line

There’s no reason to make it more complicated than it is.

In 2019, traditional and online college graduation both offer an array of benefits.

Deciding which type of education is right for you will largely depend on your current personal financial, educational, and home-life situations.

What’s clear, however, is that no matter what you choose, you are staring into a market of higher salaries.

For online graduates, in particular, there are more options than ever before. With a burgeoning job market, there’s never been a better time to get your online degree.

And while graduates of traditional four-year colleges face increasing debt totals, there’s no denying that your degree still rules the roost in terms of marketable worth.

In other words, there are no wrong options—no matter how you choose to graduate.

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