Online Education Offers Opportunities for Stay-at-Home Moms

Stay-at-home moms are now beginning to add another job title to their already full resumes: online degree students. More and more mothers across the country are realizing that going back to school and either completing their first degree, or earning one of a higher level or in a different field is not only a great opportunity for workplace advancement or changing careers, but is also easy and can be done in only a few nights a week through online degree programs.

"I have two school-aged daughters and a husband who works long hours. I am already a RN, but wanted to further my education and pursue my Bachelor's of Science Degree in Nursing (BSN) so that I can work in pediatric oncology, and taking online classes a few nights a week allows me to do everything I want to do while still being a mom," said Sadie Herman.

Working mother puts online degrees to work

Betty Blankenship Mills is a former nurse who earned her Master of Science in Education and a master's certificate in Instructional Design through online courses at Capella University while caring for her 8-year-old daughter. "I wasn't willing to give up my life and time with her," said Mills, of Lynchburg, Va. She also decided to enroll in an online degree program to help ensure job security and solidify the promotion she received while working in the educational/health training fields.

"In order to keep a good job that I loved and worked hard for, I felt that I was going to have to go back to school sooner rather than later; and my experience and education, being so specific to what I do, gave me better security and made me more marketable and more valuable to my company," Mills said.

With the flexibility of an online degree program, Mills was able to stay focused on her family life while also advancing her education. Mills says that on average she spent about two to five hours per night online attending classes or participating in class discussions and would complete the majority of her homework, projects and research over the weekends.

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Because her daughter was involved in competitive sports, Mills made herself a mini office in her car and would take notebooks and reading materials with her to her daughter's sporting events. "Organization and planning are key," Mills noted. "Waiting until the last minute is not good. When you plan your time and schedule your school projects, it seems to be easier to find more available time. I didn't want my little girl to see me stressed out; I wanted her to view going to school as a great thing to do. I think overall I succeeded," she said.

Where she is now

Mills is the LMS administrator for a health care organization that has grown from 3,000 to over 6,000 employees in the last few years. Before receiving her online degrees, she was an educator in the Department of Education, teaching mostly RN-related classes, such as safety and CPR; but her real love was always computers. Her organization's director purchased an antiquated online system so that some of the staff-education classes could be put online. Mills eventually took over the management of the entire computer system for the organization. "I fell in love, I knew this is what I wanted to do. I love the discovery, the constant learning and the challenges of something new every day."

The company eventually needed a larger, more dynamic computer system, and Mills' bosses were requesting that she obtain a master's degree. Mills knew the time was right in all areas to advance her education and her career -- and she did.

"I just don't think I would have done it if the option for online had not been available," Mills said. "I just could not take that valuable time away from my daughter. Now I manage a successful LMS. I am a valued consultant in my field. I am constantly creating creative new ways to use the system to meet the needs of our organization... I absolutely love what I do. Thanks to my online degrees I not only have the credentials to do what I love, I have the skills!"

Single mother gets her degree online

Tracey R. Cobb, an Atlanta resident and owner of a coaching and media company called Living Authentically You!, completed her bachelor's in Science/Management through online education in 2009. Initially believing that online education was a scam or too good to be true, Cobb calls it a "godsend."

As a 40-plus single mother of two, Cobb had tried for more than 20 years to complete her degree, but something always seemed to be in the way -- life, kids, work etc.

Problems with classroom education

In 2006 Cobb enrolled at a local university in Georgia, but ran into two problems. First, Cobb struggled to log enough classroom time to string together the amount of credits she needed to feel like she was making any progress from one semester to the next. It was just too hard with her already packed schedule that included work, kids, and family life. Second, Cobb felt guilty leaving her kids alone at night to attend classes when she was a single parent already struggling to provide support and stability at home for her two kids.

With these two stressors making Cobb fear she might not be able to complete her degree for yet another year or two, she decided to look into online classes -- and she is so happy that she did. "It allowed me to be home with my children, to actually accumulate credits quickly (in one year I had 27 credits). In a regular system it would have taken me three or more years to complete the credits I had, even though when I started I had an associate's degree! Taking only one or two classes a semester felt like torture," Cobb said.

Where she is now

While Cobb admits that online classes were more rigorous than she initially anticipated, she is thankful for the "godsend," that came her way in the form of online education: "It helped me to think outside the box! It helped me to use live business examples to learn with and I began to see that I got out exactly what I put into it."

Cobb's first experience with online education was so effective and positive that she graduated with a GPA of 3.90 and enrolled in a community-counseling program in another alternative program for her master's degree.

"My family was able to still have me present physically and I was able to incorporate them into my school experience., Cobb said, adding that studying online "was difficult and I had many late nights, but based on my circumstances it worked for my family and my life."

Cobb also cautioned that this route to education is challenging, but that the rewards are worth it: "One must be self-motivated or you will not succeed. Many times I had to work when I didn't want to after attending work or kids' activities. Dinnertime was very hard, and plenty of times I wanted to give up -- but I didn't because I am not a quitter and because my kids were watching me and I would have lost all credibility with them; what they think matters to me immensely."

Notions about education are changing

Old notions about education have gone out the window. Thanks to the Internet and the access and exposure that it provides, students everywhere have more educational opportunities than they did just a few years ago, with more being added every day. By working around your schedules and life, online degree programs are opening doors across America for people from all walks of life, especially stay-at-home moms.

For those thinking about going back to school, grant funding may be available; and with the convenience and affordability of online degree programs, it is a great idea to explore online options.

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Curious Student

Does anyone have any thoughts on Penn Foster? Not just the career diplomas but the actual college courses for bachelors and associate degrees.

October 04 2010 at 5:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I worked as an "advisor" (salesperson) for a VERY well known for profit online University. I can tell you in all honesty it is RARELY worth pursuing a degree in this fashion. The debt you will take on is insurmountable and the job placement and salary expectation statistics are manipulated beyond belief. Most employers don't think an online degree is worth the paper it's printed on. It will also take you twice as long as they say to graduate, so you might as well go to a brick and mortar school part time.

September 18 2010 at 12:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oh, good way for many stay-at-home people. I will try it.
Youtube Movie Maker

September 18 2010 at 12:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mary Ellen

I would like to applaud Bryan for a thoroughly encouraging and knowledgeable post on education. It is sad to realize that America is behind the power curve education-wise. I do not feel earning my undergrad degree is a waste of time, effort, or money. Nor am I hesitating to complete my grad degree. Anyone who would de-emphasize the value of attaining higher education is either delusional (living in a fantasy world) or bitter (feeling they can't achieve it for themselves). After rearing three children and putting them all through college, it is now my turn! It is the culmination of a lifelong dream and I am overjoyed at the prospect of walking down the aisle next year and God willing, two years after that! To Kaesha: most schools have such programs for adult learners returning to college because usually the work experience correlates to whatever degree your seeking (but not always). Speak with an enrollment specialist, school counselor or student adviser. Good luck and best wishes!!!

September 17 2010 at 11:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I currently have my Associates in Science for nursing and I must say, higher education is definitely recognized in my field and opens up more job opportunities. In the near future a B.S.N is going to be required nationwide. I've been surfing the web to see which schools would offer the best online classes while not breaking the bank. Many of the online colleges say that work experience would count towards credits. Does anyone know if there is really any truth to this and not a scam to suck your wallet dry? Really would appreciate the feedback of this fact or fiction. Thanks.

September 17 2010 at 10:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Kaesha's comment

I just graduated from SUNY Delhi's RN to BSN program and it was one of the best things I have ever done. Had it not been for this program I would not have been able to earn my BSN as I work and have a family. It is hard work, but the opportunities afforded to you once your degree is completed are worth it. The program must be accredited, as is Delhi's. All of my professors had their PhD’s and were scholarly and professional. Online programs offer an opportunity to those who can not attend on the ground classes. I would encourage anyone that is thinking of entering an online program to do so.

September 18 2010 at 12:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Be sure the online institution is accredited by one of the real accrediting bodies. See if the online school accepts credits from previous school. check if it accepts advanced placement course credits. If you don't know what this means check it out.
Or go to the site for Excelsior College, one of the largest and oldest external campus programs.Get all the transfer credits done first, then enroll, then finish.

September 17 2010 at 10:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I obtained a masters degree in a field that I had already been working in for 20 years. Therefor, it was not that difficult. But it was time consuming. I had to do a lot of reading of articles and writing papers. It helped, very much, that the campus was about an hour away and that I visited the campus about 3-5 times a year to use the library, attend presentations, and meet with my professors. It was very do-able and I completed the course while working full time. But again, I already was familiar with a lot of the content, from having had direct working-experience in the profession.

September 17 2010 at 10:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Tiffany, there are just so many things wrong with what people are posting about education, "brick and mortar" and online that we tend to get side tracked about the real issue going on here, people are just not valuing education by down playing its significance. Get an education, get certified, or whatever to make our country more competitive with other countries. I read somewhere that our country is ranked behind Europe and India in education. My point is let's get all the education we can as a country so we can compete. The Department of Education, which accredits these universities, both "brick and mortar" and online alike is not wrong. What university is not-for-profit? Every university profits from their students so this is not an arguement here...

September 17 2010 at 9:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bryan's comment

I'm just saying that a lot of these people who constantly return to school with big plans, don't even help the country by re-joining the job force. A lot of them just use tax dollars just to make themselves feel better. I have met a lot of people with degrees working in jobs that not only don't require anything past a H.S. diploma, and for no apparent reason. People can't compete if they don't have a competitive spirit. I wish that education really equated to intelligence, but in this day and age, in this country, it just means someone paid for it.

September 17 2010 at 10:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is borderline spam. First, why would a stay at home mom NEED a degree? Let's face it, there are some women who fully intend to enter the workforce, but a stay at home mom getting a degree? For what? Raise those kids, stick with the PTA, it's a 20 year commitment, minimum. You don't need a degree, you need coommon sense and good parenting skills.

September 17 2010 at 8:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to SpiceMonkey's comment

That is so ridiculous. There is nothing wrong with a stay at home Mom getting a degree if she chooses. Who are you to tell any Mom to stick with the PTA and not further her education!

September 17 2010 at 9:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The people who are posting negatively probably enrolled in an online program and could not pass their courses. Get a life and get a degree, please. We as citizens of the U.S.A. can not have these attitudes about education when we are falling behind other countries in this area. Help this country by receiving a college degree...

September 17 2010 at 8:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Bryan's comment

I agree with you...most colleges have regular on-campus courses and also on-line courses. For example, Kaplan has campuses in Iowa and FL. The Oprah magazine advertised Kaplan in one of their issues in the past year - how do you explain that it is not a good school when Oprah is backing it?

September 17 2010 at 9:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I went to both "brick and mortar" and online school (while working) and I'm just saying to really get the value of your dollar it's way more enriching to attend an ACTUAL college. And Bryan why post "Ignorance is the problem with our country today; post intelligently, please... if you can't just put your point into one post? I just think that online universities are really just milking people (and the government through financial aid) by giving people inadequate educations and inadequate training (it's just an opinion, those are allowed).

I DO think that it is an ok thing for people who already have a degree who would like to add on to their current accolades. But I really believe that a lot of people who feel lost nowadays just somehow aimless find themselves back in school with no real direction or sense of what they want to do (I know a few of those 'boomerang students'). You need to have a general sense of what field of expertise you want to study, and grow and cultivate passion and drive to succeed. Whether that involves school, work, or internships is entirely up to the individual.

September 17 2010 at 9:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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