Can I Go to the USA with a Distance Degree?

In today’s interconnected world, education has transcended the traditional classroom setting, offering students the opportunity to earn degrees from the comfort of their homes through distance learning programs. However, many aspiring students wonder if a distance degree will hold the same value when it comes to pursuing further studies or career opportunities abroad, especially in the United States. This article will explore the viability of using a distance degree to move to the USA, whether for education, employment, or immigration purposes.

Understanding Distance Education

Distance education, also known as online learning or remote education, allows students to study without being physically present at an institution. This mode of learning has gained significant popularity due to its flexibility, accessibility, and the ability to balance education with personal and professional commitments. Distance education can range from online courses and certifications to fully accredited degrees from prestigious institutions.

Types of Distance Degrees

  1. Undergraduate Degrees: Many universities offer online bachelor’s programs in various fields such as business, engineering, computer science, and liberal arts.
  2. Graduate Degrees: Online master’s and doctoral programs are also widely available, catering to those looking to advance their education without disrupting their careers.
  3. Professional Certifications: Numerous professional courses and certifications are available online, providing specialized knowledge and skills.

Recognition of Distance Degrees in the USA

The acceptance of a distance degree in the USA largely depends on several factors including the accreditation of the institution, the specific degree program, and the purpose for which the degree is being used.


Accreditation is a critical factor in determining the acceptability of a distance degree. The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognize certain accrediting agencies. Degrees from institutions accredited by these recognized bodies are generally considered legitimate and equivalent to those earned through traditional means.

  1. Regional Accreditation: This is the most prestigious form of accreditation in the United States. Universities with regional accreditation are highly regarded, and their degrees are widely accepted.
  2. National Accreditation: Often applies to specific types of institutions like vocational schools and technical colleges. While these are also recognized, they may not be as universally accepted as regionally accredited institutions.
  3. Programmatic Accreditation: Specific programs within an institution may receive additional accreditation from professional bodies, adding to their credibility.

Evaluating Foreign Degrees

For those holding a distance degree from an international institution, the credential evaluation process becomes important. Several organizations in the USA, such as World Education Services (WES) and Educational Credential Evaluators (ECE), provide evaluations to determine the equivalency of foreign degrees to U.S. standards. A positive evaluation can significantly enhance the acceptability of a distance degree.

Using a Distance Degree for Further Education in the USA

Admission to U.S. Universities

Many U.S. universities accept distance degrees for admission into advanced degree programs. However, the acceptance criteria can vary:

  1. Accreditation of Previous Degree: As mentioned earlier, the originating institution’s accreditation plays a crucial role.
  2. Program Specifics: Some programs may have additional requirements or prerequisites that must be met.
  3. Standardized Tests: Applicants may need to provide scores from standardized tests such as the GRE, GMAT, or TOEFL/IELTS for non-native English speakers.

Case Study: Successful Admission

Consider the example of John, who earned a bachelor’s degree through a distance learning program from a regionally accredited university in the UK. When applying for a master’s program in computer science in the USA, his degree was readily accepted because it met the accreditation standards and he successfully met other admission criteria, including GRE scores and relevant work experience.

Using a Distance Degree for Employment in the USA

Employer Perspectives

Employers in the USA are becoming increasingly open to hiring candidates with distance degrees, particularly as remote work and digital skills become more prevalent. However, a few factors can influence an employer’s decision:

  1. Accreditation and Reputation: Employers are more likely to accept degrees from well-known and accredited institutions.
  2. Field of Study: Certain industries, such as IT and business, are more accepting of distance degrees compared to others.
  3. Work Experience: Practical experience and demonstrated skills can significantly bolster the value of a distance degree.

Visa Sponsorship

For international job seekers, securing a work visa (such as the H-1B) in the USA can be more complex. A distance degree from a recognized institution can be beneficial, but the applicant must also meet the specific job requirements and have a sponsoring employer. Additionally, for some specialized occupations, a professional license may be required, which could entail further examinations or credentials.

Using a Distance Degree for Immigration to the USA

Immigration Pathways

  1. Employment-Based Immigration: As mentioned, securing a job and a work visa is one pathway.
  2. Family-Based Immigration: Having a distance degree might not directly impact this, but it can enhance one’s profile.
  3. Diversity Visa Lottery: This lottery does not specifically evaluate education, but having a degree can be advantageous in proving eligibility.

Credential Evaluation

Immigration authorities may require credential evaluations to verify the legitimacy and equivalency of foreign degrees. A positive evaluation can assist in meeting the educational qualifications for certain visa categories.


In summary, a distance degree can indeed open doors to opportunities in the USA, whether for further education, employment, or immigration. The key lies in ensuring that the degree is from a properly accredited institution and understanding the specific requirements of the desired pathway. As the landscape of education continues to evolve, the acceptance and recognition of distance degrees are likely to grow, making it a viable and flexible option for many.

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