Katherine Getchel was ready for a change. After nearly 20 years of working as an ER nurse in Middletown, CT, she was thrilled when a management position at a local hospital finally opened up. There was a catch, though: To qualify for the job, she'd have to go back to school and complete her bachelor's degree. The idea of being a student again-on top of exhaustive full-time hours in the ER, raising her son, Michael, and volunteering with the Medical Reserve Corps, all while still healing from a back injury-seemed like too much. But after doing some homework, Katherine, 47, found Kaplan University's online education program, which allowed her to take 100 remaining credits to get her BS in two years.
Online degrees are quickly becoming the programs of choice for busy working moms who are looking to boost their careers-and lives. Once confined by too-hectic schedules, they're finding freedom in the fact that they can take courses whenever time permits-at night, on weekends-rather than commit to a brick-and-mortar school's class schedule.
A Smart Trend
"We've seen a major increase in the number of moms studying at online universities," confirms Elizabeth Richards, director of career resources for Kaplan University. Overall, online enrollment has been increasing annually by about 10 percent, far exceeding the 1.5 percent growth of general enrollment in higher education, according to a 2007 Sloan Consortium report. And accessibility is driving this increase: In many cases, professors record lectures and upload them to a website for students to view when they can. Instead of meeting with study groups, students can swap ideas in online discussions, posting comments and feedback in chat rooms.
While this kind of education requires more self-direction and discipline than traditional classes would, working moms tend to be very motivated-especially given the benefits of having a higher degree: getting raises and promotions, switching out of dead-end jobs or standing out in industries that overflow with competition.
If you think online degrees are less valuable than traditional degrees, think again. Most employers view them as equivalent to degrees obtained by sitting in a classroom. "Many top companies are hiring people with online degrees," says Richards. In fact, four out of five business leaders said they favorably view online degrees, according to a Zogby study, because they perceive employees with online degrees as more motivated. These days many employers even cover the cost of online degrees under tuition reimbursement programs.
Dollars and Cents
Online education is becoming so mainstream that you canand should-shop around to find the best value, says Vicky Phillips, chief education analyst for GetEducated.com, an online degree clearinghouse that provides free guidebooks on the best accredited online schools. …