How to Compare Online, On-Campus Graduate Programs

Graduate students should ensure online programs offer substantial student services.

Students deciding between a graduate school’s online and on-campus program should pay close attention to the faculty, experts say.
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Even if schools distinguish between an online and on-campus degree, it shouldn't matter to employers, Stokes says.

"The reality is employers are and have been more comfortable with online education and training than either institutions or students," he says.

[Explore these common mistakes online students make.]

6. Network strength: Students deciding between a school's online and face-to-face graduate program should carefully consider how both programs foster relationships among students and faculty, experts say.

Programs with active alumni groups can help students land a job. Furthermore, students who have strong ties to classmates and faculty tend to have higher graduation rates than their peers who don't, Pace's Shakespeare says.

"In our experience, students need to feel connected," she says.

Johnson, the graduate of Alabama's Troy University, said her school invited online students to a football game so they could meet each other face-to-face.

Still, the working mom says she sometimes felt like she was "off in Neverland" without a physical library or student union.

"But that doesn't really make sense," she says. "Because I wouldn't have had time for that anyway."

Trying to fund your online education? Get tips and more in the U.S. News Paying for Online Education center.