Finding the right online university to help you reach the next level in your career may seem overwhelming.

Instead of spending hours blindly comparing online universities, make your search faster and easier by looking for these six key factors. This checklist will help you know what to look for, so you can find your best fit in no time.

1. Accreditation

Employers want to see degrees from respected and recognized schools, especially if the degree is earned online. Accreditation ensures that the university has been reviewed and approved by a regional accrediting agency. This means that the curriculum, faculty, student services, and other important factors meet or exceed recognized standards of quality.

In addition to regional accreditation, professional accreditations provide a stamp of approval from your chosen industry. This bonus endorsement could help swing your decision between schools.

To see if an online university is recognized by one of the nation’s accrediting agencies, search the Council for Higher Education Accreditation database or use the Department of Education’s College Navigator tool.

2. Credit Transferability

Will the credits you earn transfer to another college? If not, it could mean that the online university is not appropriately accredited. At the very least, it indicates that the classes are below standard for other colleges.

You should also find out if credits earned from a previous college will count toward your degree at your selected school. Depending on how the program is structured, not all of your prior credits may transfer. But finding an online university that will at least consider your transcript from another school is a good start.

3. Quality & Accessibility of Faculty

If you’re seeking a master’s or doctoral degree, learning from faculty with equal or greater credentials ensures you’re receiving the best instruction. But it’s not just academic experience that matters—finding faculty with firsthand experience in your chosen industry is crucial. Instructors with real-life professional knowledge help students develop and practice the skills they need on-the-job.

You’ll also want to make sure that the faculty is accessible. Look for published email addresses or other ways to contact them on the university website. Being able to contact your instructor with questions while you study, and knowing they will respond in a timely manner, is key to online learning. They may even be able to answer your questions about the program before you enroll.

4. Flexibility & Quality of Programs

If you’re searching for online universities, it’s a safe bet that you’re not the “typical” college student. You’re busy. You may work full-time, manage a family, or both. Finding an online university with flexible learning paths is of utmost importance. Look for programs available in learning formats in which you can thrive, whether that’s through weekly discussion and assignment deadlines or setting your own pace to study and complete assignments. On-demand video lectures, online reading materials, and other interactive learning tools make studying even more convenient.

In addition to flexibility, high-quality curriculum that’s in-line with your chosen profession is key. Look for online universities with courses designed by faculty that have hands-on professional experience or that were developed in partnership with professional associations. You’ll get a real-life education that you can quickly and easily apply to your career.

5. Program Completion & Satisfaction

Numbers tell a story. Check the completion and employment rates for the online university you’re considering. Completion and employment rates can be general quality indicators of the school’s programs.

Student satisfaction is another key factor to consider. Check for student testimonials on the university website or on third-party review sites.

In addition, look for online universities that participate in non-partisan programs that measure their success and satisfaction rates, such as the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), The Noel-Levitz Priorities Survey for Online Learners, and/or the National Survey of Student Engagement. Results on their website? Even better.

6. Student Services & Support

The virtual learning environment, with all of its benefits, is not without its challenges. Student services at an online university can make or break your experience.

Set yourself up for success. Look for online universities that offer student support such as enrollment counseling, academic advising, and career planning. (A career center is especially important if you’re looking to get that big promotion.) Other helpful services include disability services, financial aid counseling, and tech support.

Start Your Search!

Have this checklist on-hand as you begin your search for an online university. See how Capella University measures up in: