What Are the Requirements for Earning a College Degree Online?

Colleges and universities that offer degrees online provide students with a convenient way to further their education because students can attend classes and study anytime. Students must fulfill several requirements to earn a college degree online including completing specific classes.

Online Degree Overview

Many schools now offer degree programs either fully or partially online. These programs are available at most levels of education, from associate's to master's degrees, while doctoral degrees are less likely to be offered online.

Online degree programs typically have a number of classes required for completion, and may have additional requirements, such as projects. Even programs offered fully online may also require students to take tests in person at an approved location.

Important Facts About Online College Degrees

Common Courses English, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, behavioral sciences
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent is typically required for postsecondary education
Concentrations Data analytics, environmental science, finance, graphic design, marketing, nursing, communication, business administration
Possible Careers Fashion designer, claims adjuster, loan officer, art director, engineer, teacher, graphic designer, archivist, cost estimator, financial analyst

Hybrid Programs and Residency Visits

Hybrid programs are degree programs that offer some classes online but also require the student to come to campus. This may be because some classes are not offered online, or there is a lab or other hands-on component to a class that cannot be completed over the internet.

Some schools require students completing their degree online to attend residency visits on campus. Residency visits enable students to meet instructors, professors and other students in the program, and provides opportunities to conduct research and attend classes. Lab components and clinical experience hours in an online degree program may be completed through residency visits, which may be a weekend every month for accelerated degree programs or once a year for online degree programs that take several years to complete.

Transfer Credits to Fulfill Online Degree Requirements

Students earning a college degree online can sometimes complete their degree more quickly than they expected. For instance, some colleges and universities enable students to earn credit for past work experience, which decreases the number of courses a student needs to take. Many schools also allow students to apply past college credits they have earned at a different institution to their degree.

Types of Online Degree Programs


Online associate's degree programs are generally offered at community colleges and tend to be fairly common, depending on the area of study. Programs typically take about two years to complete. Some associate's degree programs are designed to transfer into a 4-year program.


Many colleges and universities offer online bachelor's degree programs. These tend to be divided into two categories: 4-year programs, often designed off their on-campus counterparts, and degree-completion programs, which typically require students to have previously earned an associate's degree. Degree-completion programs typically take two years to complete.


Several universities offer online programs at the master's degree level. Master's degree programs usually require students to have previously earned a bachelor's degree. Master's degree programs typically take a variable amount of time to complete, depending on the amount of time a student can dedicate to school.


Many schools also offer both undergraduate and graduate certificate programs online. These programs are usually much shorter and cover a more-specific area of study.

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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