While many undergraduates and grad students never need much more than a few online school essentials and a well-organized place to work to complete their online degree programs, some may need additional supplies related specifically to their course of study. The following list offers some examples.
If you're planning to major in a creative field, such as fashion design, illustration, architecture, or landscape design, you'll often need to create concept drawings and renderings for your assignments. Some instructors may want you to use traditional art materials to create these drawings, in which case you may need high-quality drawing paper, pencils, markers, drawing tools, watercolor paints, and more. Available at art and craft stores as well as online retailers, these materials can easily run $100-$200 per class. However, some instructors may allow you to use a digital drawing and painting tool, such as ProCreate, Art Studio Pro, or Photoshop Sketch. Most of these apps cost about $10, but some only run on specific devices.
Students enrolled in graphic design online programs are generally required to use industry-standard software to complete their coursework so they can start building marketable skills right from the start. The Adobe Creative Suite, which includes InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator, is available by subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud. Students can subscribe for $19.99 per month the first year and $29.99 per month after that.
Online students majoring in sciences such as chemical engineering and biology — or even students taking just one online lab science course to fulfill a general education requirement — may need to purchase materials for conducting experiments at home. Some schools allow you to purchase lab kits that contain everything you need to complete an assignment, and they cost $50-$200 each. If you anticipate taking several online lab courses, you may also want to invest in a few standard items. Useful lab equipment might include cylinders, beakers, test tubes, rubber stoppers, safety goggles, and gloves. These are easily ordered online, often available in sets starting around $60. Other items may include a hot plate or burner ($25-$65) and a microscope ($200-$350).
Students preparing for careers in the sports industry through online education may need to dress in sports attire at times, especially when fulfilling internships or taking other courses that include time in the gym or on the playing field. Personal training, exercise science, or sports education majors may need activewear and appropriate shoes for these occasions. Sold online and at sporting goods stores and other retailers, you can expect to pay $15 and up for sweatpants, $20 and up for yoga pants, $25 and up for bike shorts, and more than $100 for most athletic shoes.
As all gamers know, you need a high-end computer for gaming if you want the graphics on your screen to be visually impressive and the gameplay to be powerful and responsive. Advanced equipment is equally important if you've decided to earn an online degree in video game design or animation. If you're looking for a desktop model, experts point to computers from Apple, Microsoft, Lenovo, Dell, HP, and Cyberpower, among others, most of which fall in the $1,000-$3,000 range. For those who prefer more portable models, look into laptops from Razer, Asus, Dell, and Lenovo. These laptops are somewhat more affordable, but still run $1,000-$2,000.
If you're pursuing an online degree in the medical field, such as nursing, pharmacy, or dental hygiene, you may be expected to dress the part, especially when you're building up your clinical hours. Specifically, you may need to purchase scrubs, a lab coat, or something similar. Medical uniforms are widely available online, possibly including your school's bookstore, and they're also sold at uniform supply stores and some general retailers like Walmart and Target. Inexpensive lab coats run $20-$45, and a set of scrubs starts at about $50. Check with your school before buying anything, however, to make sure you get the right type and color. Also, some schools may require you to buy items with the school's name embroidered on them. Allow plenty of ordering time so you're ready on the first day.