Huge numbers of people find that the career path they chose when they were young has started to feel uninspiring and even stultifying as they mature. But what can mature students do when they’re committed to a full family life, with all of the financial obligations that come with it, and yet feel trapped in a full-time job that never comes close to exercising their full potential? A job that doesn’t even interest them anymore.
Today, no one has to live with mounting career regrets. Yes, it’s sometimes more straightforward to study for a fulfilling professional career the conventional way: by attending a college or university while young and relatively free of mature-life financial and work duties. But that’s not the only path to career fulfilment. There are a growing number of high-quality online degrees and courses out there that offer an accelerated route to qualification and a new, inspiring career.
Let’s debunk some of the myths that have grown around these courses over the years: a limitation here and there among poorer quality online programs simply doesn’t translate into a blanket indictment against all accelerated online degrees and courses.
The accelerated BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) degree, or ‘ABSN’, available at Wilkes University is an illustrative case in point. Candidates who already have a bachelor’s degree can enroll and are able to graduate after just one year of intensive coursework – a fraction of the time it takes to train a professional nurse the traditional, campus-based way.
Because it’s also a campus university, online students at Wilkes benefit from the same expert teaching and tuition that campus-based students enjoy. At the end of one year of rigorous study, the doors to a new and endlessly exciting career open to its graduates (ABSN students at Wilkes also receive help from the college’s placement team to secure all the requisite clinical placement experience they need to graduate, near to where they live).
As for quality, Wilkes has been listed by the Princeton Review as being among the best northeastern colleges, while the U.S. News & World has consistently rated it a top university for 16 years in succession. Applicants can be confident when they see commendations like this that they’ll be embarking on a highly-regarded and authentic qualification.
Some common myths – and their debunking
- Online education comes a very poor second to conventional, campus-based education
This might be true of some very low-quality online programs, but it’s certainly not true of good quality, fully-accredited online courses and degrees. For these programs, classes are the same online as they are in physical classrooms and may even be better. Online university teacher Enrique Dans notes that they’re better on many occasions: a face-to-face class is prepared, while an online class is produced – a more complex process that uses more resources to deliver highly engaging and informative interactive digital content.
- Online courses prevent students from interacting with others
Good quality accredited online courses do NOT prevent students from forming relationships. Very often, students are in touch with their professors and tutors more frequently in online courses than in face-to-face programs. Opportunities for interaction with others, including other students, are multiple: instant messaging, forums, social networks and even one-to-one video conferencing are all available. In fact, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many conventional, campus-based courses have used these methods to continue educating students who were forced into lockdowns for extended periods at home.
- Online degrees and courses are simplified compared to those pursued by on-campus students
Not true. Properly accredited centers of learning provide coursework for online students that is every bit as demanding as on-campus coursework. The knowledge needed for pass grades is absolutely identical between the two, so the notion that online students get an “easy break” is a complete myth. They’re held to the same stringent standards of learning as on-campus students.
- Employers are skeptical of the value of accelerated/online degrees and are reluctant to hire such graduates
Another myth. Even major institutions like law enforcement and the military recognize online and accelerated degrees – and have done for some years now. Provided graduates have fully completed their online degree programs and the courses are known to be properly accredited, they will not face implicit or explicit discrimination when applying for roles. Students do, however, have a responsibility to ensure they have the correct licensure or state/federal requirements for the career they are aiming to enter.
- You can’t receive financial aid if you’re studying for an online degree
Wholly untrue. Provided your school is properly accredited, you will be eligible for financial aid for a degree program or course that you’ve enrolled in if you meet the financial criteria. Online students who are struggling financially should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). They can also discuss their hardship troubles with the university’s financial aid office, where they can receive advice on other financial relief options.
- Online programs are inflexible
The inverse is true. One of the most attractive features of online degrees and courses is their flexibility. They’re often designed to assist students to fit their studies around demanding schedules that can’t be evaded. Yes, there are fixed start and end dates and there are definitely deadlines for work completion, and students will sometimes need to participate in quizzes and exams. But online students can decide when they wish to participate in each of these activities. Usually, professors will ensure that they have communicated clearly with their online students about the timing of deadlines and will allow plenty of time for work assignments to be completed.
Online education is no passing fad. If anything, the COVID crisis proved that online learning has an enduring part to play even with on-campus degree programs, and remote learners studying mainly online for their degrees are not considered by faculty or employers as second-class learners.
If you’re studying for an Accelerated BSN degree, for example, you will emerge from your online studies a fully professionally qualified nurse with the requisite number of hours of clinical practice under your hat. Whether you’re giving guidance on healthy eating for overweight patients or nursing patients through cardiothoracic surgery, your online degree is considered your passport to your new career.