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Friday, February 27, 2009

What To Consider Before You Go To School Online

By Michael Fleischner

Thinking about finishing your degree or preparing for a new career? More and more people are considering online degrees to complete work they've already begun or to train for a new job. Online education is quite popular these days. Even traditional schools are offering many of their programs online.

When considering an online degree for purposes of degree completion or enriching your education, there are a number of factors you should evaluate. You should begin with a clear understanding of what you wish to accomplish through online learning. The objective for many individuals is to acquire the necessary skills to be able to secure a job in a particular industry.

Give some thought to the type of education you will need to get a job upon graduation. One way to do this is to start calling and speaking with counselors at both traditional universities and online schools. They can give you a good idea about what their programs will do for you as well as provide you with a sense of how many graduates are immediately placed in jobs.

With an ailing economy, job placement may be a challenge. Think about the industries that are doing well even in trying times. Medicine, pharmaceuticals, and other areas will continue to thrive as baby boomers age and the government continues to fund new programs.

After you have narrowed down the type of online program that will work best for you, it is time to think about your chances of completing such program. Some questions to ask yourself are: Do you have the discipline to meet all of the requirements of the program without attending a physical class? Are you organized enough to meet deadlines? Can you work independently?

After you have reviewed the requirements associated with completing specific classes, take a look at the overall package. How many credits do you need to get your certificate or degree? What are the costs involved both short and long term in order to complete your degree? What is the average salary for someone in the field you are targeting? In short, will your investment pay dividends?

Once you have decided on an online school or program, you must consider how you are going to pay for it. Today there are a number of private and federal programs designed to help you afford an education. You can learn about your payment options through the financial aid officer at your prospective school or by researching funding options online.

Paying down your debt after graduation must be one of your priorities. Although you have many options for reducing debt, the best way is to find a job as quickly as you can. When you begin making payments right away, you illustrate to your lenders that you are willing and capable of paying down your debt.

Upon graduation, consider your options to consolidate outstanding loans. Even though you may have to take a number of loans from different sources to pay for your online education, loan consolidation can simplify the repayment process and lower your monthly payment.

Completing your degree online isn't for everyone. Before enrolling, ask your prospective school about repayment options associated with each funding source. Ask the financial aid counselor if student loan consolidation is an option upon graduation.

Earning a degree online is a great way to make the most of a down economy. Before jumping right in you should ask a lot of questions about what you want to accomplish and what it will take to get your degree. Most importantly, think about how you are going to pay for that treasured education.

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