How Can I Get Hands-On Experience in My Field If I Earn a Degree Online?

Having relevant work experience is valuable in virtually every industry, but for certain careers, gaining experience before graduation is mandatory. If you’re considering a career that requires hands-on work experience but want the convenience of an online education, rest assured that you can have both. There are several ways online college students can satisfy experience requirements.

The Purpose of Experience during Your Education

Of course, the obvious purpose of hands-on training is to develop skills that you can’t develop behind the computer screen – or, for that matter, in the classroom. Often, having a minimum amount of experience is also a requirement to attain a license or certification needed to get started in your career.

How Online Colleges Handle Experience Requirements

Even if your course itself is fully online, you have to work in the real world to gain hands-on experience. Different programs and institutions handle this requirement in different ways.

Some require students to travel to a specified facility where they will do hands-on work in their field. This can happen once a year, once during the program or on a different schedule.

For some online students – those whose distance from campus or hectic schedule is what made a distance learning education appealing in the first place – this travel can prove problematic. That’s why many schools partner with facilities across the United States so they can connect students with hands-on training opportunities near them. Other schools have no such partnerships, but they leave it up to the student – with the help of an advisor – to find an appropriate facility where they can gain experience.

At some schools, online preparation precedes in-person experience opportunities. These programs include virtual simulations of the tasks students will need to complete during their experiences, minimizing the amount of time students will have to spend in hands-on training as much as possible.

Career Paths That Require Experience with Education

The healthcare industry is home to many such careers that require clinical experience. While course materials, lectures and even laboratory and interactive projects can help aspiring healthcare workers learn the information they need to know, they need hands-on experience to develop their skills.

A clinical experience or residency requirement is common in career paths in nursing, radiologic technology, diagnostic medical sonography, speech-language pathology and many other healthcare roles. Even if you’re not drawing blood, running lab tests or administering medication, you still need supervised experience to work with patients. For example, both traditional and online bachelor’s degree programs in counseling and psychology typically require students to complete internships and clinical experiences – often, thousands of hours of experience, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

Of course, occupations outside the healthcare field also call for hands-on training before graduation. Students in education degree programs, for example, must complete student teaching requirements that provide them with experience managing a classroom, developing lesson plans and instructing children.

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