Online College Vs. Traditional College Education – 2017

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Updated November 13, 2017

I have seven years of traditional college education, over two years of online education, and I am passionate about writing on the subject of education and job opportunities in the present and future.

I want to take a moment to help you define the benefits of each college path and what will be the best fit for you. You are going to be entering college/online education for the first time or you are looking for a career change. Which educational resource is right for you?

When I entered college it was the obvious choice. You graduated high school, enrolled at a community college or private university and after you graduated, BAM, you received a job.

But that was when I entered college. By the time I walked across the stage four years later I was overwhelmed by the shift in the job market, and the exponential rate of online connectivity. What I mean by online connectivity was the ability for people all over the world to compete for the jobs I wanted. When I entered college I never imagined fighting for a Job in Orlando, FL with someone who lived in Ontario Canada, but this was the reality I faced.

I lost… what happened?

That guy had more talent! Oh and the kicker, I found out he never went to college!

So what did I do? I went back to college, ironic right? Well, honestly I had no options. I couldn’t find a job, because of my lack of skills (due to my lack of motivation). I knew I needed to get better and work harder.

When I first entered college at 16 years old I viewed it as a season of exploration where I could find myself, experience a variety of subjects, and develop graphic design skills along the way.

When going to college my priority was not actually the degree listed on my transcript, but a myriad of other sub-reasons. Many Americans have this view on a four year college education. Honestly it is one of the main reasons my parents sent me. They wanted me to lean how to network, communicate with people, and build relationships. If I ended up earning a four year degree that was considered icing on the cake.

To clarify, my education did not cost $30-$50k per year. I received an affordable education at $45k for all four years. During my college experience I developed a deep enjoyment of graphic design, went on to get a Master of Fine Arts degree in graphic design and now work in the industry as a Director Graphic Design at a non-profit organization.

My four year degree + three year masters degree worked out very well for me, and I am grateful to have received the knowledge I now have through my education.

But, looking back…Would I have done it differently? Yes! Hines site is always 20/20.

College gave me an incredible work ethic. I went in with very little discipline. I was a classic case of ADHD. Always on the move, tons of friends, extended dinners (avoiding my class work), and I have a passion for cycling. I would often escape my required assignments to take multiple hour cycling trips into our downtown. I enjoyed cycling, but it was taking away from the main reason of attending college; develop my skills as a graphic design.

By the 3rd year of my education I started to settle down and dig deep in my learning. This is something I wish I would have done from the beginning. I gained a lot of skills in my final two years, but upon graduation it was still not enough to have prepared me for a professional career. This is why I stayed on for my masters degree (my own lack of preparation extended my college days).

I tell you this, because I would like to help define the best avenue for you.

Traditional Education Vs. Online Education

Traditional College Education taught me how to work hard and turn in my projects on time. I also didn’t realize the need for deliberate practice, a concept I picked up while reading So Good They Can’t Ignore You, by Cal Newport. I needed college to teach me self discipline. How to study and focus in the academic and artistic realm.

From age 9 – 15 I trained and became a professional athlete. I was a professional athlete for three years before deciding to move onto advance my knowledge in the field of graphic design.

I had no issue disciplining myself in physical situations, but I lacked key mental abilities.

Traditional College taught me:

  • Focus
  • Critical Thinking
  • Self Discipline
  • Turn work in on time
  • how to interact in a classroom environment
  • Graphic Design Software and It’s Proper Use
    • But this can be learned online today.

Traditional College would be an excellent fit for you if, like me, you lack self discipline, focus, and need to be guided and pushed to finish your work.

Traditional college would fit you well if you need deadlines, milestones, and penalties for not finishing your work on time. If you need to be motivated by an external force (teacher) to complete your work and develop your skills traditional college is your place!

Traditional college was a platform for me to strengthen my communication skills. I had numerous classes in my roster requiring me to give presentations for my design campaigns. This helped me develop the ability to explain my ideas. Knowing why I made critical design decisions was and still is very important important. I was able to take what I learned by simply talking through the design process and apply those insights into my proceeding projects.

Online College/Courses: I am very busy these days, as I am sure you are as well. I want to learn new skills and grow as a designer, but time is short. WordPress web design, app development, HTML5, CSS3, and design trends of the future are all topics I want to continue to develop my expertise. For a while I picked up some books, I asked some design friends if I could sit with them while they worked, I even watched a load of youtube videos.

BUT, I found that this strategy was far to disheveled. I needed a process in order to hone each of these skills in a professional manner so that when the challenges of design were placed before me I would have the professional knowledge and ability to scale the mountain, design the product, build the app, launch the website.

The Benefits of Online College/Courses

  • Learn at an my own pace. (fast and efficient)
  • Taught by experts in the field.
    • people who are using these skills to make some of the best designs in the world.
  • The cost of online education is incredibly affordable (even compared to a community college)
  • I am able to immediately apply what I learn at my workplace.
  • I have been able to take on a more diverse set of clients.
    • I have increased my value and therefore increased my monthly income!
  • Certifications to place on your resume for job opportunities.
To me there is nothing more fulfilling than putting my skills to the test. I have been able to get client work that I never thought possible before starting my online education.
I thoroughly enjoyed my brick and mortar college education. But I have learned more skills in the past 2 years that have directly helped me increase my monthly income and produce more valuable work than I learned at traditional college. 
The goal of learning new skills is to bring value to the market place. When you increase the value you bring, you become indispensable to your clients. Education is not about a piece of paper or a title. Education is about developing skills that will set you apart and give you the ability to rise above the competitive market.

The Conclusion of Online Vs Traditional

Before I reveal my conclusion on the matter I want you to ask yourself why you are wanting to go to college, whether online or in-person (and when I say “go to college” I mean develop skills). 
Do you believe that you need to be college certified to get a good job, obtain job security, a solid retirement, and happily ever after….?  Unfortunately this is not the case anymore. There is no perfect-solid job. The job market is in constant flux. Companies are constantly searching for new talent to embody the ever changing needs arising in the world. Only 15 years ago (2002) we were still going to the yellow pages to find the best local deli, or listening to the radio to hear our favorite music. 
You have to be constantly developing your skills and honing your craft in order to bring value to market. 
Online Education Squeezes into first place, but I believe the gap will continue to grow as resources and technology make it more ad more viable!
Online education is the best way to develop your skills. Ultimately I want to receive the best and most current information to develop my skills. I don’t want to learn last years SEO tactics, and I am sure doctors don’t want to be learning archaic chemo therapy treatments. I want to be on the cutting edge of my craft. Learning from experts in the field and getting their insights on the dos and donts of the market. Online education is the perfect blend of foundational skill development and real world application.

My goal here at Jobs in the Future is to help you on the path to successful skill development that will get you the job you are striving after!

You will find a great deal of resources to select online educational tools.

Find our Resources Page Here

Perhaps you know that you need to step out into a new career. You know that the future of work is uncertain. You want to develop skills that will make you valuable and desired as an individual in the workforce both now and in the future. Well we have you covered.

Download a copy of The Ultimate Guide to Future Proof Your Career. An Invaluable resource to ensure that you are able to secure Job now and in the Future!

You will receive resources and guidance on the industries that are waiting for people with skills to make an entry into the industry, educational resources to develop skills, and projections about the future potential of the industry.

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