Online degree programs are quickly gaining popularity. They allow people to continue their education without the constraints of geography or, in some cases, time. But not all online college degree programs are created equal. Some provide great academic experiences, while others only exist as profit-making machines. Nonetheless, you can investigate which online colleges are legitimate educational institutions to find the right program.

Look for online colleges that offer your desired major or specialization. Online programs like Boston University's Metropolitan College teach a wide variety of courses; other schools like the Academy of Art University provide instruction in only a few academic areas.

Check which colleges have the proper state or regional accreditation. The U.S. Department of Education website has listings of accrediting agencies and approved schools.

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Find out the logistics of each program. Some schools conduct their curriculum completely online, while others require some classroom sessions in addition to online ones.

Familiarize yourself with each college's registration and tuition policies. In the event you have to withdraw from a course or degree program, you should be able to recoup some of your funds.

Determine what the college's technical requirements are. Online programs often require Internet access and special software for chat rooms, video streaming and audio streaming.

Ask each school about the professors. You need to know what their credentials are and if they are easy to reach either via email or telephone.

Research the online college's reputation. Get opinions from your current employer or prospective employers. Friends or colleagues who also recently completed a program from an online university or degree program are also good resources.

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