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Earning an Online Degree While Living Abroad: Is It a Smart Choice for Expats?


In today's ever-changing, always competitive job market, people on the move or living in another country must grab every opportunity to make themselves as valued and employable as possible. Expats must continuously sharpen their skills and fast and effectively adjust to the new market requirements. Going back to school is the most obvious way for career advancement, but for many expats, that might be challenging.

Caring for children, working long hours, low salary, language barriers, or complex bureaucratic enrollment procedures are among the most common obstacles. For this reason, quite rightly, online education is taking the spotlight. But what exactly is an online learning and why is by many considered to be a fantastic opportunity? If you want to know the answer to this question, along with why considering pursuing one while living abroad is a great option, read on.

What is online education?

Online education is a flexible instructional delivery system that includes any learning that takes place via the Internet. Online learning in higher education supports students to learn and work on their schedule and at their own pace. It also allows educators to reach students who may not be able to enroll in a traditional classroom course.

Why pursuing online education? 

Pursuing online education has many benefits. Here are the five most important ones for expats.

Flexibility - Online education offers students the possibility to take classes when and where it's best for them. Attending lectures, meeting classmates, doing assignments, and taking exams, can be conveniently done from the comfort of your own home. Pursuing an online degree also means that expat students can efficiently juggle their careers (or different projects) and school because they aren't tied down to a fixed schedule. Moreover, online education is perfect for expats because even if you decide to move to a different country, your school will not be disrupted. You can pick up where you have left off as soon as you get settled again.

Many affordable program options - From traditional four-year universities to completely online career colleges, online higher education comes with a variety of options. That means that no matter what you choose to study, whether that is computer science, business, or neuroscience, you can find the courses or programs you need online. Also, you can earn every academic degree online, from a career certificate to a doctorate. However, remember that with such a great choice, it is also important to look at the rankings of a school's reputation and quality. So, when you are looking for the cheapest online college and the program you need, make sure to use credible ranking databases. These databases should always consolidate results of all of the most reputable college ranking publishers and real student reviews from around the web.

Reduced costs - Online degrees usually cost less due to a variety of reasons. Costs related to accommodation and transportation (fuel, parking, car maintenance, public transport) don't affect the online student. Also, associated study expenses such as course materials are usually minimal.

Networking opportunities - Online education also provides students with the possibility to network with peers across different countries and nations. That, for an expat, is perhaps what is most valuable. Why many people opt for living abroad is precisely this- the fact that you are in a position to become more culturally sensitive and achieve personal growth. The networking opportunities online learning brings often lead to creating long lasting friendships and exciting project collaborations.

Career advancement - Online degree programs can be efficiently completed while working, while in-between jobs, or while taking time to raise a family. They look perfect in resumes because they will explain any discontinuity in it. Not to mention, earning a degree always shows ambitiousness and the ability to face new challenges to prospective employers.

Is an online degree right for you?

When deciding whether to pursue an online degree while living abroad, you must know what the purpose of that endeavor will be. If you want to increase your career prospects or change profession, then it might be a good idea because those with advanced degrees have more career opportunities. Research what areas are expected to show the most growth over time in the country you are currently living. Also, keep in mind that not all industries are created equal, so do some research beforehand.

If you already have a job and you want to land a better one, do an extensive search for your job or career field and then read up on educational requirements. You must make sure the online degree program you pursue is accredited and that employers generally accept online degrees. Also, if you want to increase your salary potential, analyze how various educational levels make a difference in income.

Another important thing, be honest with yourself and see whether you have the time and energy to commit to an online degree program. Don't be fooled. Online degrees take more time and energy to complete than traditional degree programs. Importantly, it is entirely up to you to organize and complete your studies. This way of education requires excellent organizational and time management skills, as well as a lot of commitment and motivation. 

How to prepare for earning a degree while living abroad?

Technology tools - To complete your online degree while living abroad (or traveling), you will need the right tools. A laptop computer equipped with a webcam and microphone, an email address, and a stable wireless connection is essential for achieving your assignments. Depending on the program, smartphones and appropriate applications can also provide you with additional support. As your studies will ultimately depend on the stability of your internet connection, make sure you invest money and find the right internet provider. And since preparation is everything, ask your admissions personnel what content and tasks can be accessed online or offline, so you know well in advance how to organize your studying. If possible, look for programs that allow you to download asynchronous materials – readings, videos, assignments – to an offline platform. That will enable you to complete the work regardless of the connectivity situation.

Polish your time management skills - Life can get in the way of studying, especially when you are juggling family responsibilities or full-time job with online studies. For this reason, time management skills are critical to student success. Best way to do it? Take charge of your learning from the beginning and do not let procrastination set in. Many successful online students say that consistent and specific times set aside each week for their online studies were vital for completing their online degree.

Work on your digital communication skills - As an online student, you will be communicating and collaborating with your instructors and classmates in a variety of ways, but most frequently through writing. The engagement is usually through discussion forums and emails. For this reason, you'll need to use full sentences, avoid sarcasm and emoticons, and, most importantly, to be clear and concise. To make the most of learning, provide thoughtful responses that include deeper insights and resources that build on course concepts.


Online degree programs provide students with varied opportunities to fashion their education into something that fits them. That is especially advantageous for expats. Though earning an online degree while living abroad can be particularly challenging, with the right study program, it can be the perfect move for advancing your career and achieving personal growth.

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18 June 2024

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