Why Get an Online Master's Degree?

In today's economy, the same jobs that required a college degree or even a high school degree just a generation ago now require a master's degree. For instance, many private schools, especially on the East Coast, require that a teacher have a master's degree in his or her field (preferably a master's degree in education) before being considered for a position. Many upper-level executive positions in business now require an MBA, and it now takes an MSW (master of social work) degree to become a social worker.

It is becoming increasingly easier, more common and more respected to get a master's degree online. Getting an online master's degree has many advantages. It can allow you to tailor your education around your own schedule, so you can put your job and family commitments first, and do your coursework when you have time. It is also generally more affordable than a two-year master's degree in a physical classroom setting, although it is still a financial undertaking that should not be taken lightly. Finally, it can allow you to network with other like-minded students from around the world, increasing your list of contacts when it comes time to turn your degree into a profession.

Online Master's Degrees: The Essentials

  • An online master's degree program can help you further your education, move ahead in your current position, gain a promotion, earn a raise, or follow up new career opportunities. A master's degree is the educational stepping stone that can lead to a position as a manager, supervisor, administrator, CEO, CFO, or director.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, someone with a master's degree will earn around $26,000 more annually than someone with a bachelor's degree.
  • More than 4.6 million students took at least one online course in 2008, a 17-percent increase from the previous year, reports The Sloan Consortium.
  • Most online master's degrees are two years in length; each course usually takes six weeks to complete. Most online schools offer a number of options for completing the coursework including a course-by-course basis or open enrollment.
  • Tuition fees for online master's degree programs usually range from $15,000 to $25,000, depending on the intended program of study.

The Benefits of Studying for a Master's Online

There are a number of reasons why more and more students and professionals are choosing to complete their master's degree of choice online today.

  • Convenience: An online master's degree program allows you to fit your studies around your work and your established schedule, rather than the other way around. You can focus on your graduate degree when it is convenient for you.
  • Flexibility: Online master's degree programs do not have a set lecture schedule. This means that full-time workers can get assignments done at night or at the weekends. Full-time mothers can plan their studying around naptimes.
  • Freedom to work at your own pace and in your own space: You can work from anywhere - outdoors, at the park, on vacation, at a cafĂ© - and at any time that works for you. If you like to work independently and are self-motivated then this can be a huge advantage.
  • Minimized classroom interruptions or lecture tangents: Some people enjoy the intellectual freedom of heated debates and lecture tangents that go completely off course; others find them a frustrating waste of time. If you prefer to work in a more focused manner, then online programs could be a good fit for you.
  • The comfort of learning from your own home: if small desks in large lecture halls aren't to your taste then you could choose to work from your favorite armchair instead through online learning.
  • The teacher is available outside of office hours: Although interactions are always over the Internet, many online students find their instructors are available to answer questions more often than in traditional schools.
  • Additional skills learned: In addition to the course curriculum, online learning promotes transferable skills such as Internet usage, networking, written communication skills, meeting deadlines, and time management.
  • Efficiency: You save the time that would at a bricks-and-mortar school be spent driving to campus, finding parking, and arriving to class.
  • The cost comparison: Online graduate programs are often (although not always) much cheaper than traditional graduate schools. Kaplan University, for example, offers an online MBA program for $20,540, while most private and state school MBA programs range from $10,000 to $30,000 annually, even before you include the cost of room, board, and books.

Of course, online graduate programs are not for everyone. Some of the common problems for online students include: lack of motivation, loss of social environment and student interaction, technical problems, and the reservations that many employers still have about the value of online degrees. Make sure you weigh your options carefully and look at your goals, your motivation, and your lifestyle before making the decision to study online.

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