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THE USA: Subject Guides

Online degrees vs. traditional degrees

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There are many ways for students to earn a degree in America. Such as an associate’s degree via community college, undergraduate degree, master’s degree via a traditional university and vocational degrees via technical colleges. There is one more option for students and that is attending an online university to achieve any of those precious degree types. What’s the difference for international students? Our student editor Ashley lays out the pros and cons between an online degree versus a traditional degree.


Online degrees

Online degrees are increasingly becoming popular due to the cost cutting tuition and ability to study at home on one’s own time. America is a hothouse for online universities, with the University of PhoenixKaplan University and DeVry University with online degrees and physical campuses in many states. A student is also able to earn any level of degree, associates, bachelor’s or master’s degree online. Open to any age group, earning a degree online can be an excellent option for self motivated students. Another plus is that international students can still obtain a student visa to study in the USA, even if it’s with an online university!

Pros: Lower tuition, opportunities to fast track studies (finish earlier), smaller class sizes equalling more student-faculty engagement and no on campus living costs. It also presents an opportunity to live as a local whilst studying.

Cons: No traditional student body, no opportunity for the ‘traditional college experience’ i.e. living in a dorm, joining a sorority, participating in clubs or spots. Depending on the location of the online university, degree types vary and can be limited. Students may also need a car to travel to and from the campus. 


Traditional degrees

community college or traditional university setting is initially what international students consider as a ‘study abroad’ in the USA. There’s a student body, a beautiful college campus, living in the dorms and the opportunity to join any number of clubs and sports. Big city or small, the ‘university experience’ is unique to those who follow in the traditional higher education path. What’s different about a traditional university than an online university is that international students have the choice to attend one term instead of an entire degree course. Class sizes vary depending on the term, course subject and university. Although not age specific, the student demographic will most be around the ages of 18-22 for an undergraduate/associates degree. Postgraduate courses are more flexible, with any number of ages making up the student population.

Pros: More options on what to study, working on campus opportunities, a greater social environment and student body excursions (such as ski trips for example).

Cons: Costs more if studying for a full degree, stricter admission requirements depending on the university and educational credits may vary in recognition depending on the student’s home country. Be sure to check with selected university to avoid any educational credit confusion.

Whatever you wish to study, there’s an option to achieve the goal in America!


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