Online Education vs. Traditional Degree: What Works Best?

Many agree that pursuing higher education is a crucial first step toward building a career. However, with so many options available today, which one should you choose? We are here to help you answer this million-dollar question.

In this article, we’ll be discussing two of the most popular career tracks: traditional degrees and online education. 

In essence, the former is a conventional higher education program that requires you to pick a major and fulfill the credit requirements within an average of four years in order to graduate. 

While they used to be the “golden ticket” that could help you land your dream job, the same cannot be said today, especially if you are looking to venture into an ever-changing field such as technology. 

Meanwhile, the latter is a newer program that typically utilizes an intensive approach and is carried out either partially or fully through online platforms. Online education is gaining more popularity these days as it offers some flexibility that doesn’t always come with a college education. To narrow down the scope, this article will focus only on coding bootcamps.

To help you understand more about how they stack up against one another, read on further as we compare several factors to help you decide which is the best route to embark on. 


As you take the first step toward building a fulfilling career, the last thing you’d want is to rack up a huge amount of debt and spend the bulk of your first earnings on loan repayment alone. Therefore, it is wise to do some research beforehand and understand what you’re getting yourself into. 

According to a 2020 Times Higher Education report, the tuition fees for an American university range between $5,000 to $50,000 per year, with the average cost of a four-year undergraduate program stands at approximately $132,860. Universities also charge differently for in-state and out-of-state students. 

While those figures may sound excessive, it should be noted that there is also a variety of financial support available to students, such as scholarships, grants, and work-study arrangements. It all boils down to the major and university of your choosing.

As for online education, you could be facing similar fees if you opt for online programs that are offered by universities. We recommend enrolling in a coding bootcamp, which on average costs around $12,000. The best thing about bootcamps is that they offer a slew of financial aid, especially for underrepresented groups in tech.


This is another determining factor in your decision. If you are fresh out of school, you might not mind spending more time to undergo the classic college experience, but those without the luxury of time can definitely benefit from learning about how the duration compares.

A college education typically takes either two or four years, depending on the type of program that you choose—associate or bachelor’s degree. Other factors that may influence this include your academic performance and the complexity of your major. 

If you enroll in a coding bootcamp, your education will take less than a year. Bootcamps are so short because they are immersive and have an intensive focus. If you opt for a data science bootcamp, for instance, the schools will only teach you the fundamentals of the field and other relevant knowledge for you to succeed as a data scientist. Universities, on the contrary, would require students to complete elective courses to meet the credit requirements.

Learning Environment

There isn’t a learning method that suits everyone, so you should know the right kind of environment that you can thrive in. It is also crucial to compare the learning methods you can expect in a university versus a coding bootcamp.

Traditional universities typically offer the most conventional setting, with students attending lectures and sitting for examination at the end of a semester. Depending on the program, students may be required to attend scheduled classes with a group of other students and conduct several projects in physical facilities. While not necessarily unique, it is an environment that most of us are accustomed to.

On the other hand, if you choose to attend an online coding bootcamp, you can learn at your own pace since most schools allow students to create their own schedules. One might argue that online learning lacks the one-on-one appeal that conventional education has. However, that is not necessarily true. More and more bootcamps are introducing mentorship programs where each student is paired with their own mentor, with whom they can consult anytime they want, from the comfort of their own homes. Online education is more flexible and is perfect for those who are juggling work and other responsibilities.


When it comes to deciding a new career track, there are so many different factors to consider—costs, duration, and learning environment are all important. You should choose one that meets your needs and is able to equip you with the right skill sets to go after your dream career. If this article is not enough, you can also do more research and read some firsthand reviews by graduates of both programs.