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Is Online College the Answer for Aspiring Women Business Owners?

While yes it is true that technically you don’t need a degree to become a small business owner or entrepreneur, earning a business-related degree will teach you how to monitor all of your finances. Especially those that involve accounting, marketing, business administration, or leadership can most certainly help you acquire the skills you need to make your dream a reality, teach you ways to promote your business, and how to please your target audience.  In fact, according to statistics women currently dominate the college world right now: for the first time in American history women passed men in the number of both bachelor and graduate degrees earned—10.6 million U.S. women have master’s degrees or higher (as opposed to 10.5 million men), and 20.1 million women have bachelor’s degrees (as opposed to 18.7 million men).

While there are plenty of more women who would love to contribute to the increasing statistics and would like to pursue higher education to launch (or expand) their businesses, some, unfortunately, do not have the time to enroll in college due to other obligations such as raising a family or are currently preoccupied with blindly running their start-up business. Some, on the other hand, simply don’t have the funds to go to school. However, thanks to the flexibility of cost-effective online programs, they may just be able to juggle everything all at once. In fact, it seems like earning an online degree is starting to be a very popular choice among women. According to the latest statistics from The Distance Education and Training Council, approximately 4 million U.S. students enrolled in an online school or course in 2010—a good chunk of them women. Most of these women were mothers between the ages of 18 and 35. With that said, if you think online college may help you expand your career opportunities, there are a few things you need to know first.

1. How Online Degrees Differ than Traditional Degrees

One of the biggest myths about online programs is that they are easier than traditional programs. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The curriculum is just as rigorous as earning a traditional degree, the format just allows you to complete assignments more or less or your own time—like during the late nights when the kids are asleep or in between lunch breaks. With that said, you’re still required to read textbooks, write notes, take exams, and tune-in to lectures. The only difference is that all of your assignments, reading materials, audio clips, and lectures will be posted on an online course management site.  It is your sole responsibility to make sure you check this course management site daily to make sure that you turn your assignments in on time—which is usually done via email. While your professor may not give you a heads up on assignment deadlines, he or she will still be able to give you assistance and feedback. Your classmates will be available too. Granted, the interaction is not the same. The majority of communication occurs via chat rooms, email, or webcam. In fact, if assigned a group project, the communication methods mentioned above will be used to complete the project. If you are the type that needs constant attention from professors and like to be surrounded by classmates, this may not be the best option for you.

2. Differences in Costs

The main difference however is the cost—online colleges come out to be relatively cheaper. While yes some online colleges may charge the same per credit as a traditional school, in the end, you save more money as an online student. This is because you don’t have to waste precious gas commuting from school, you don’t have to pay extremely high rates for boarding/ rent and or meal plans, and you don’t have to pay hidden fees such as the school’s water and electricity (traditional schools charge extra tuition fees for everything, including money that goes to the school’s sports teams and health services).

3. How to Select a Reputable, Accredited Online Institution

While there are tons of reputable and legitimate online schools to choose from, there are equally as many fraudulent schools floating around on the internet. These fraudulent schools, which are sometimes referred to as “diploma mills,” will steal your money and leave you high and dry with a worthless piece of paper.  Therefore it’s important that you pay close attention to validate the legitimacy of an online institution—just because the website looks professional, doesn’t mean that it’s a real school. And if a school promises you can earn a degree in an extremely short amount of time, proceed with caution. This is because despite what many may believe, earning an online degree takes about the same time to earn a traditional degree. So a bachelor’s degree should take about 4 years if enrolled as a full-time student.

With that said, a great way to avoid diploma mills however is to look at the online school’s accrediting agency. If a school is accredited, this means that the facility has met a standard of quality education.  To verify the legitimacy of an accrediting agency a great source to look into is the U.S. Department of Education’s database of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs. Another way to verify an online school’s legitimacy is to check whether it offers Federal Financial Aid to those who qualify—only legitimate schools are allowed to disburse this kind of aid.

The additional research involved with finding the perfect school is always worth the extra time. Web-based schools provide students with an authentic learning experience online and also provide students with excellent web-based learning tools, such as streaming video. The hands-on approach and the availability of staff make this option superior to a conventional brick-and-mortar institution in a variety of ways. Many even offer graduate degrees like a Masters of Business Administration or a Master of Science in Nursing. Additional information is free, so you have nothing to lose.

4. Popular Online Degrees that are Pursued by Women

Once you’ve found a reputable college, it’s also important that you investigate the school’s programs as well. Whatever you want to pursue, you need to ensure that the school is going to be able to meet all your needs, including financial and most importantly educational. If you are not sure which online program to pursue, however, the top online degrees that are typically pursued by women who aspire to be small business owners are the following:

  • Bachelor of Business Administration
  • Master of Business Administration—Entrepreneurship
  • Business Management
  • Operations Management