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Online degrees -- What should I do?

  1. Dec 14, 2014 #1
    I am a 25 year old consultant in the oil and gas industry. I work mostly with welding, pipe manufacturing, and protective coatings. It is a lucrative career but not a very fulfilling one. I do not have any college under my belt. I have always enjoyed physics. I spend a lot of my free time reading and trying to go through workbooks on the subject. I have the same passion for astronomy. Self teaching really only goes so far I think. That's why I have been thinking about going back to school. Now I don't currently want to quit my job due to the money I make. So I was wondering if there are any decent online degree programs that may work for me. I know it won't help me career wise. I know I could try to get a degree in something that would help further my career but I would rather learn something I'm passionate about. So what are my options for an online degree? Is there any way I could use an online degree to begin a career change somewhere down the road? Thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 14, 2014 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    My suggestion is that it would be better to visit a local community college and see what they have to offer. From there you could signup for one class and see how it goes. By signing up and agreeing to go to class, you've established something you must do and it will keep you on track if you're really thinking of changing. The credits you earn could be used in a degree program. Its also great to interact with a real person and have discussions with fellow students.

    Learning Physics and Astronomy means you'll need a certain level of mathematical ability. Where are you as far as algebra, geometry, trig and pre calculus? You'll basically need to get some calculus under your belt.

    Online courses always appear really good and recruiters will quickly sign you up but the problem comes in when you realize the course might not be good enough for a degree program or the degree they offer isn't accredited. There are many horror stories about students running into debt and not getting the degree they expected.

    An alternative, is to go to Khan Academy or MathIsPower4U or others like Susskind's lectures... and watch these videos. These could prep you for courses in Physics and Calculus... before you actually dive in and take the course.

    Also does your job have any educational credit where they pay for courses you take usually one at a time with a B average or better?
  4. Dec 14, 2014 #3
    I'm confident in my math abilities. These things are my hobbies. I have been through Kahn Academy and others like it. I try to teach myself as much as possible. This is the last tool I can think of to help me Learn more. My other reason for looking at online courses is my job travels. I could be in a different state every month of the year. I could travel somewhere occasionally to do onsite labs/exams or anything needed. But I don't see where traditional classes would be an option for me right now.
  5. Dec 15, 2014 #4


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    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I've read both of your posts here, and I don't see a commitment to going into Astronomy.

    If you are doing this only for fun or as a hobby, then go ahead and sign up for all these online courses. However, trying to change career and pursue this professionally is a whole different ballgame. You WILL need an accredited and well-respected school to get your degree and then pursue graduate work. This is the most common way to secure a career in this field. Otherwise, you will end up doing something else.

    So this is not something you can do just as a hobby. It does require a full-time commitment. You will have to seriously decide what you wish to do.

  6. Dec 15, 2014 #5
    Sounds like the UK-based Open University might be a good fit for you. It is an accredited research university that offers undergraduate education online. Some courses of interest to you would be:
    - http://www.open.ac.uk/courses/modules/s282
    - http://www.open.ac.uk/courses/modules/s283
    - http://www.open.ac.uk/courses/modules/s382 (including large practical component with several nights spent using robotic telescope to acquire data)
    - http://www.open.ac.uk/courses/modules/s383

    You can do the above as standalone modules and later count them towards a BSc degree. Now, if you want to do a full degree, a big caveat will be that, for whatever reason, undergraduate maths courses are unavailable to students resident in the USA (even though science and postgraduate maths courses are available). One way to solve this would be to do something similar to what I am doing: get a UK mail forwarding address and come to the UK once a year for the exams. It should not be a problem since you would be paying all fees yourself, but such way of working around the system has risks and does not suit everyone.

    With regards to enabling a career change. I have no data about how well an OU degree is recognized in the USA. In the UK, it can get you into a good graduate program. Among people who got their undergraduate education in STEM fields at the OU, I am aware of one MIT assistant professor, one Oxford lecturer (who also tutors on one of my OU courses), several professors at other universities and plenty of PhD students at all kinds of institutions.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2014
  7. Dec 15, 2014 #6
    Good points. The best idea is to sign up for night classes at a local college. In the meantime, you can enhance your skills through basic math and physics courses online at www.coursera.org. They have some really good stuff on there (and some not so good). But the basic courses are great.
  8. Dec 15, 2014 #7
    Thanks for all the input it is greatly appreciated. I will look ininto all your suggestions. Like I said my biggest reason for wanting to do it is just because I don't feel like self teaching is leading me anywhere as fast as I would like to. Something more structured seems to be what I need.
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