How Can I Attend an Accredited College Degree Program Online?

Attending an accredited online college can help you earn your degree in a more flexible format than traditional campus-based schooling. Explore some helpful resources and learn how to determine the credibility of schools by reading on.

Searching for College Accreditation

The purpose of accreditation is to ensure educational institutions meet certain quality standards. These standards are established by the particular accrediting agency. The U.S. Department of Education offers a database of accrediting bodies for different regions and program types, including online offerings. The database allows you to search by institution name to find out if a school is accredited by an approved agency.

Important Facts About Online Accredited College Degree Programs

Degree Levels Associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees available
Prerequisites Vary, depending upon program; bachelor's degree programs typically require a high school diploma or equivalent
Programs Business, criminal justice, political science, nursing, marketing, psychology, health policy and administration, to name a few
Possible Careers Financial advisor, writer, survey researcher, economist, engineer, editor, interpreter, computer programmer

What are Diploma Mills and How Do I Avoid Them?

The definition of a diploma mill, according to the Higher Education Opportunity Act, is a school that offers a certificate, degree or diploma for a fee, requires little or no coursework in exchange for such a credential and does so without valid accreditation. According to the U.S. Department of Education and Federal Trade Commission, a school might be a diploma mill if it:

  • Allows you to earn a degree in a few months
  • Accepts mail through a P.O. box
  • Accepts tuition per degree
  • Offers little or no interaction with faculty
  • Gives you credit for previous work experience without testing or certification
  • Has a similar name to an accredited institution

Many diploma mills operate outside the United States and offer online programs to U.S. residents. Although an online school may be accredited in a foreign country, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. You should also be aware that many diploma mills invent their own accreditation bodies or present an overly impressive list of organizations that recognize them. Accreditation can always be checked through the above U.S. Department of Education link. If it isn't listed there, it is likely not legitimate.

What Type of Education Cannot Be Completed Online?

Many diploma mills will offer education options in areas that are not offered by legitimate schools. The reason for this is because in these subject areas, online degrees are not acceptable.

Legal Training

In most states, you'll need to complete coursework and on-campus study if you're looking, for instance, to earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) to practice law. The American Bar Association's (ABA) standards govern accreditation of legal programs; conditions include full-time access to a law library and spending a certain amount of time practicing law under the supervision of licensed attorneys. According to the ABA's website as of 2016, there are no completely online J.D. programs that are accredited by the organization. Additionally, the ABA states that earning a degree completely online could prevent you from sitting for the bar in some states.

Medical Training

You'll likewise need to complete in-person requirements if you're looking to earn a medical degree. All medical doctors must complete a residency program, which is not something that can be completely online. Additionally, licensing may become difficult if you earn an online degree. The Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC) takes the stance that completely online programs are not efficient to train doctors in the area of naturopathic medicine and that this type of program will prevent you from being licensed (

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

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