Difficulties of Earning an Online Degree

Earning an online degree seems easy enough. You can quietly take classes in your free time and eventually work up to a degree. You can save money. You can eliminate the commute to school.

However, remember that with every ease that comes with earning a degree online, there can be difficulties, too. You’ll have to think of your personal motivation, the independence and solitude that comes with online learning, the public’s perceptions of your degree and the difficulty of finding scholarships.

Read on to learn about these challenges more in depth.

School-Life Balance

One of the biggest challenges of earning an online degree is trying to balance your schoolwork with other facets of a busy life.

Most people who choose to earn an online degree program do so because it fits the best with their active lifestyles. These degree pursuers have to juggle work and family responsibilities, so the flexibility of an online experience is good for them.

The trouble comes in when a person isn’t disciplined or motivated enough.

It’s important that a person has the discipline to stay on top of their work so that it gets completed by the deadline. No matter what else is going on around them, they should set aside time to study.

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Motivation is crucial, too, because a person’s busy schedule might tire them out. Motivation helps ensure that a student will be able to study even when life is demanding.

Different Learning Settings

Another difficulty you might run in to when earning degrees online is the fact that it’s a completely different setting than you might be used to.

If you came from a traditional public school, you are familiar and maybe even comfortable with a classroom setting, where there is one teacher for many students. Online learning is different because it requires you to do your learning from a computer by yourself.

The difficulty comes when you have to adjust to the independence that is required of you from online learning.

Lack of Face-to-Face Communication

Going along with the idea that earning an online degree makes you erase the image of a traditional classroom, some people find the lack of interaction a challenge, too.

Your contact with instructors will often solely be through e-mail and whatever system the online school might have set up. It may be tough to get a hold of instructors due to their busy schedules. They might not even see your correspondence until a day or two after you sent it, thus delaying their response. Some students view this as a difficulty, especially if they need feedback.

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Students also might find it difficult to engage with certain topics if there are no other students physically present for debates and discussions. The technology used is constantly improving, but as a student of online classes, you will not be able to interact with other students in the traditional manner you may have grown accustomed to.

Different Perceptions

People with varying levels of familiarity with online education will have different perceptions of online degrees, and some students might find this challenging. Earning an online degree is a relatively new reality, and not everyone has figured out how to react to it.

As a student, you would like to think that having a degree of any kind would be a positive asset to your resume. Not all people, including some potential employers, have the same opinion of online degrees.

Though you won’t be able to tell how someone will perceive your online degree, you can have a prepared list of skills and lessons you learned from your experience. This will hopefully help you deal with the difficulty of not knowing how people will react to your chosen course of education.

Limited Number of Scholarships

A difficulty with online learning that people often forget to think about is the limited amount of scholarships available to online degree students.

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Even though earning an online degree is less expensive than a traditional degree, it still might be costly enough that you’d like to find a scholarship or two to help pay for school. If you think you might have trouble paying for school in addition to the other costs in life, you’ll have to evaluate your current budget plan.

Since scholarship money will likely be scarce, you’ll have to come up with other funding sources. Maybe you can save a few more dollars each week than you are now. Maybe you’ll have to take out a loan. Each person’s situation is unique.


As you can see, earning an online degree presents some potential challenges and is the not the best choice for everyone. Take the time to thoroughly review any of the programs you are interested in in order to make a fully informed decision.