Adult man sitting at a desk with a laptop and phone doing homework for a self-paced online college program

College Success

7 Best Self-Paced Online College Programs [2023]

11.30.2022 • 11 min read

Nick Griffin

Subject Matter Expert

Learn about the top self-paced online college programs, the advantages of attending, and how they compare to other programs.

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In This Article

  1. 7 Self-Paced Online College Programs

  2. Can I Do Online College On My Own Time?

  3. What Are Online Self-Paced Classes?

  4. Difference Between Self-Paced and Other Online Programs

  5. 4 Benefits of Self-Paced Online Classes

  6. How Much Do Self-Paced Online Colleges Usually Cost?

  7. 5 Helpful Tips

Once you’ve decided that going to college is what you want to do, there’s a lot more to figure out.

The demands of any college program can be difficult to fit into an already full schedule of life responsibilities—working full time, raising a family, and making time for the things you enjoy. It’s a lot to think about.

Online education has put degree programs within reach for working adults with a full schedule, whether they are going back to college in their 30s or working toward a college degree right out of high school.

The key is to figure out which type of online program is the right fit for you.

7 Self-Paced Online College Programs

Since a college degree has a lot to do with personal fit, it’s hard to determine which self-paced online programs would be best for any individual.

We chose each self-paced online program on our list after looking at:

  • The cost of attendance

  • Program popularity

  • Student satisfaction

The variety of programs listed shows the wide range of degree options available through self-paced online programs.

1. Bachelor of Science in Business Administration

Several top-notch schools offer a degree program in business administration that is completely self-paced. This popular degree gives students the skills and tools they need for a career in management.

The University of Wisconsin (UW) offers students the ability to earn their degree in business administration through their UW Flexible Option. Students on this path pay a tuition subscription of $2,250 for 12 weeks of access to their courses. Students can complete as many courses as they can during this period and continue in the program for as long as they need to.

Business Administration, Associate of Arts

Business Administration, Associate of Arts

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2. Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Registered nurses (RN) can earn their bachelor’s degree in nursing from several self-paced online programs. This allows nurses to continue their work as a nurse while earning their degree.

One school offering a self-paced bachelor’s in nursing is Winston-Salem State University (WSSU). The program centers on competency instead of classroom time. WSSU’s Bachelor’s in Nursing program costs $4,198 for a 6-month self-paced term. Students can earn the degree in an average of 3 terms.

3. Bachelor of Science in Information Technology or Computer Science

Getting a bachelor’s in IT or computer science is a smart move in today’s technology-dependent world. You can do it completely online at your own pace.

Western Governors University is a fully accredited and fully online college that offers a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. Students pay a tuition of $3,975 for 6 months and can take all the courses they want.

Applied Computing, Associate of Science

Applied Computing, Associate of Science

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4. Bachelor of Arts in Social Science

Having a social science degree shows that you have a well-rounded education and can enter a wide variety of professional fields. This liberal arts degree helps graduates find careers in everything from government agencies to non-profits.

Upper Iowa University offers a bachelor’s in social science that is completely self-paced. Students have the option of completing the program all online or through correspondence—where the school mails you course materials—at a rate of $333 per credit.

5. Master of Education

Earning a Master of Education degree can help experts in any field gain credentials and learn how to teach or help existing teachers move up within education.

With an emphasis on educational leadership, the Purdue University-Fort Wayne self-paced degree program prepares students for the challenges of a career in education. For $299.50 per credit, students engage in all their coursework online at their own pace while working at a practicum site in person.

6. Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership

For those who foresee a career as a leader in any field, a master’s in organizational leadership provides students with the skills they need to be effective leaders within an organization.

The University of Massachusetts Global offers a self-paced online master's in organizational leadership that can begin at any time. For $3,700, students can enroll for 6 months and take as many courses as they like.

7. Master of Health Services Administration

Leadership within the healthcare industry is a challenging and multifaceted career. For those that seek the skills to manage the bridges between insurance, healthcare, and technology systems, a master’s degree in health services administration is a tremendous asset.

Walden University offers a self-paced master’s program in health services administration at a fee of $2,900 for a 3-month subscription. Students in the program will take courses in human resource management, ethics, financial management, and other core concepts at any pace they choose.

Can I Do Online College on My Own Time?

Self-paced learning may be the perfect way to achieve the degree you are longing for.

With a self-paced program, the learner is in charge of their learning—how quickly they move through their online courses and when they choose to do them. This makes it possible to work full time and go to school full time, fitting coursework in when you can.

With a self-paced online program, students do not have set due dates for their assignments or firm start dates for when a new course begins. Self-paced college is flexible learning that truly gives students the power to make their own college schedule.

What Are Online Self-Paced Classes?

Many schools out there have expanded their online college programs toward a self-paced model.

Colleges, universities, and even some trade schools have made the choice to offer self-paced courses to give students more flexibility. The benefits go beyond flexibility since the coursework is entirely online. They are generally cheaper, stretching your financial aid further as well.

While there are different models schools use for their self-paced learning, there are several similarities.

Typically, after being accepted, schools will provide students with a plan of study so they know which classes they need to take and in what order.

You will register for classes with the help of an advisor.

When beginning each course, all the content—readings, lectures, assignments, projects, and quizzes—is available for you to complete when you have the time. This way you can make your schedule based on the work you need to complete.

Since all the work is asynchronous—not occurring at the same time—you can move on to the next activity when you are ready. Most colleges offering self-paced degree programs give students a 6-month limit to finish each course; however, they can progress to the next course once they finish.

Difference Between Self-Paced and Other Online Programs

Self-paced online programs are unique in a few ways when compared to other types of online programs.

SELF-PACEDASYNCHRONOUSSYNCHRONOUSHYBRID
Start anytimeSemester startSemester startSemester start
All online contentAll online contentAll online contentPart online content
No set scheduleNo set scheduleSet online meeting timesSet in-person meeting times
6 months to complete coursesFinish courses within the semesterFinish courses within the semesterFinish courses within the semester

By comparing the different programs side by side, you can see how self-paced programs allow for far more flexibility than any other type.

Asynchronous vs. Self-Paced Programs

It can easily seem like asynchronous and self-paced programs are the same thing before you compare them side by side. What is important to note is that many people will talk about these programs interchangeably.

Asynchronous

When a program is asynchronous, this means that you finish each course by following certain modules within a semester or term schedule.

Typically, instructors will release the modules at a weekly pace, with all the work for that module due by the end of the week. Other programs release all the modules and coursework at one time. The course wraps up at the end of the semester, and then new courses start the following semester.

An example of a good asynchronous program—for transferable credits or an associate degree—is Golden Gate University’s Degrees+ program, powered by Outlier. Students can earn an associate degree in as little as 19 months for only $149 per credit hour. All course materials are available to you from the time the course opens through the end of the final exam window. You can also schedule tutoring sessions within your schedule and availability.

Self-paced

In a self-paced program, a semester schedule does not tie students down. Once you complete a course, you can move on to the next course. This means that how long you are taking the course is completely up to you. It also means that you can finish the program much faster than in an asynchronous program.

Most self-paced programs do have a time limit on courses so that students continue to move forward and don’t procrastinate too much.

Both types of programs are advantageous for busy working adults. While going self-paced offers the most flexibility for completing work, asynchronous helps with pacing. Some students work better having tighter deadlines. This way, they continue making progress and finish the program in a reasonable timeframe.

When browsing programs, examine all the details to determine which one will work best for you.

4 Benefits of Self-Paced Online Classes

1. Wide variety of online degree programs

With so many schools recognizing the benefits of self-paced online degrees, students now have a wide range of degrees to choose from:

  • Certificate programs

  • Associate degrees

  • Bachelor's degrees

  • Master's degrees

2. Move faster through the content

Since time is a big factor, online students enrolled in a self-paced program can work when time is available. This may mean completing college credit hours at a faster, or slower, pace than a traditional semester schedule would allow.

In a self-paced online academic program, you can earn your degree as soon as you complete all the content.

3. Work with a busy schedule

Not all students can focus only on school without other responsibilities. Through enrollment in an online self-paced program, you can set up your school schedule to sync with your work, life, and family responsibilities.

4. Start anytime

The world outside of higher education does not operate on a semester schedule. With the ability to start courses when you’re ready, a self-paced program puts the power of online learning in your hands.

Prospective students can begin their self-paced coursework as soon as the program admits them.

How Much Do Self-Paced Online Colleges Usually Cost?

With the wide array of colleges and universities offering self-paced learning, it is hard to put a definitive number on the cost of completing college.

The best approach to learning the cost of online self-paced programs is to do your own research into the schools offering the same program you are interested in. Of course, you need to take the quality of the institution and student reviews into consideration.

While there are several self-paced community college programs that charge less than $200 per credit, the typical range of online self-paced programs is between $300 to $1,100 per credit at 4-year colleges.

5 Helpful Tips

1. Do your research

Once you’ve decided on a degree path, take your time to look into a variety of self-paced programs. Remember that there is a lot of information that lies beneath the surface.

Take the time to read reviews and talk to people who have done the program. Find the best fit for you before signing up.

2. Create and manage your schedule

By creating your own schedule of when you are going to work on schoolwork, it will not feel like you have the entirety of the program resting on your shoulders.

Come up with a working schedule that you can stick to. Don’t try to cram in a little here and a little there. Work when you say you will. Also, try to find a quiet learning environment that is free of distractions to focus on school.

3. Don’t procrastinate

Self-paced programs can be a huge asset to a motivated person, but procrastinators should stray away.

Many students in self-paced online programs move faster through the program than in-person students and even figure out how to save money in college.

Since all self-paced program courses have a time limit, around 6 months typically, waiting until the last minute would set up a student for failure. Know your strengths and weaknesses, and find the right program for you.

4. Reach out

Being in online college courses—especially one that is asynchronous or self-paced—can feel pretty isolating. Make sure that you have a solid support network that can help and listen to you.

Several online college programs offer ways for students to get support from professors, counselors, and even other students. Take advantage of these resources and get the support you need.

5. Make time for yourself

With a self-paced program, it is easy to spend every free minute doing your coursework. While this may seem to be the most productive use of your time, it will cost you in the long run.

Be sure to set aside time for the things that you enjoy. When you take time to get some exercise, be outside, or connect with friends, you will ensure you have the energy and motivation to focus on schoolwork when you need to.

Degrees+: Discover Online College Unlike Anything You’ve Experienced

Outlier (winner of TIME Best Inventions 2020) and Golden Gate University (#1 school for working professionals) have redesigned the experience of earning a college degree to minimize cost and maximize outcomes. Explore a revolutionary way to earn your college degree:

Business Administration, Associate of Arts

Business Administration, Associate of Arts

Explore degree

Applied Computing, Associate of Science

Applied Computing, Associate of Science

Explore degree

Liberal Studies, Associate of Arts

Liberal Studies, Associate of Arts

Explore degree