Do you want to expand your career advancement opportunities, learn a new vocation or extend your educational levels but you already graduated from college? Did you leave the learning environment for a great job after getting your degree, but find you need to get more education to get promoted? Have you found a great program you want to learn but it's not offered at your local college at the master's level? Are you self-motivated and like to work at your own pace? Then an online master's degree may be for you!
A master's degree is a post-baccalaureate or graduate degree is awarded to students who have completed one to three years of concentrated learning in a field of knowledge. A master's level education can mean entry into a new field or occupation, a promotion or simply personal enrichment and achievement. The 2000 U.S. Census showcased the fact that almost 9% of the population now holds a master's or professional degree-up from a scant 3% just twenty years ago. The increase in online graduate degrees, affording flexibility and portability in study, has fueled this increase and expanded the educational and career advancement opportunities accordingly.
Today's students pursuing a Master's degree often are more and more often coming from the ranks of the mid-career professionals with families. Back in the 1970's, graduate students were almost exclusively from the population of just graduated students, who went on to study for a Master's degree right after their bachelor's degree. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES 1996 and 2006), the majority of students are still age 30 and younger while a rapidly growing number are from the 40 plus age group. From 1995-2005, post-baccalaureate students age 40 and older at U.S. colleges and universities grew by 27%. Over the next 2 decades this trend is predicted to continue as the growth in the population over age 40 continues to surpass the growth in citizen's age 24 or less. Most of these 'working adult' students have real-world work experience and one third are also raising children.
With this shift in the age of the graduate student population, many postsecondary institutions have adapted their programs to meet the needs of the new older students while still being attractive to the under 30 crowd. Online Master's degrees curriculums offer a variety of programs to fulfill the needs of the diverse populations and ages of its students.
A master's degree involves a program of study from 30 to 60 credit hours, resulting usually in a Master of Arts, Master of Science or Master of Business Arts degree. These basic degrees may be course-based, or research-based, or more typically involve a combination of the two approaches. A Master's thesis may or may not be required, depending on the program. Some degrees involve written or oral comprehensive exams instead, or course completion projects in each subject.
According to the Council of Graduate Schools, completion of the one or two year programs carries a hefty price tag - averaging $22,000 at public universities and $34,100 at private schools, but the payoff is huge.:
The U.S. Census Bureau finds that workers holding a graduate or professional degree in 2006 earned on average $80,000, compared to $55,000 for workers with a bachelor's degree only.
Advantages of Online Master's Degrees
- Portability - you can attend class, read lectures, do your homework, confer with your professors anywhere! Log online while on a business trip, on your lunch hour, on the subway to work or while on vacation. There are no boundaries to where you can work on your master's degree.
- Flexibility - studying online means you schedule it during your time. Even if you work shift work or have to chauffeur your kids until 9 at night, getting an online master's degree has never been easier. Classes start all year round and may include classes as short as six weeks.
- World Class Master's Programs without relocating - Study in your own home town, attending programs and universities while working fulltime and without the cost of moving or renting an apartment while you study out of town.
- Global Networking - Meet people from around the globe as you collaborate for online study groups, attend online trade shows or events, meet with recruiters, advisors and upper level management for networking sessions. Broadening your contacts and knowledge, even at a distance, can help you secure potential jobs in the future.
- Hands on Business Experience - Work in virtual environments that simulate and use many of the tools and programs of today's business world. Learn while using the latest technologies that includes webinars, VOIP, conference calls, collaborative blog networks and other tools you may have never heard of, and your current company may not even utilize yet.
- Cost Savings - Online master's degrees can offer you a lower cost alternative to traditional studies, when you factor in the cost of relocating or even just saving on the cost of commuting, with the expense of driving, eating, parking, and student campus fees.
- Eliminate Residency Requirements - Study for the degree you want without paying higher out of state tuition fees
- Digital Environment - Learning online at many universities allows you to assemble your own dashboard where you track progress, manager projects, organize collaboration and enter your scheduling. This will format will train you in the latest efficiency methods which will help you be at the head of the class in organization in school and at work.
- Work Full-time and Study Full-time - No need to quit your job, and borrow money to live while studying for an advanced degree. Study while working, scheduling and fitting in classes to accommodate your busy work and family life.
- Respectability - Studying online earns you extra respectability as having the latest technology skills needed in all types of careers, from teaching to finance. Degrees in fields oriented to technology command extra respect while gained online, such as corporate training degrees, MBA coursework in e-commerce or international business or technology teaching programs.
Selecting an online master's degree program
There are many factors to consider when selecting your online master's degree school:
- Program of study and goals for your degree - Start by determining why you want a master's degree. Do you need it to be eligible for a promotion at work or to attain skills in a particular area such as finance or training? Are you looking to start down a new career path? Look for a school with advisors to work with you on designing your program to meet you goals. Check the coursework for the specific classes to meet your needs. Not sure where to start? Begin with a well-known school such as the University of Phoenix or Kaplan University and get the answers you need to get your started online or in-person. Both schools feature online chat features built into their websites for quick answers to your program questions.
Reputation - Research the different schools online by the type of program you have decided is your goal. Check in the industry you want to work for acceptability and typical educational backgrounds. Beware of diploma mills, programs that let anyone attend, that guarantee a degree for life experience or that have you finish your degree in only one semester-acquiring these types of degrees are not only a waste of money, they also damage your reputation for getting one.
- Accreditation - Be certain to verify the accreditation of the college or university. Many diploma mills have names similar to top universities or list a bogus accreditation program that won't stand up to background checks by future employers. Do your homework. Start with the university with the most well known degree programs, such Park University, Walden University or the Rochester Institute of Technology, with reputations and accreditation to match.
- Flexibility of program - Some schools offer combined in-class and on-line studying in their programs and others may require some weekend residencies for graduation requirements. Check the programming before you begin.
- Cost - The cost of a master's degree can vary greatly from $10,000 at a public university to $100,000 at a name brand Ivy League college. Many factors are involved in the cost, such as national reputation of the program, quality of teachers, job placement, level of technology involved, etc. Carefully consider the loans you may need to complete the degree and the time it will take you to get the benefit before you start. SUNY-Empire State College offers many affordable online options and credit for previous college learning and even an on-site residency Forum program for students who want to combine online and in-person networking with their master's in business programs
- Technologies in learning - check the type of the content you will receive for your coursework. Schools may use audio, video, taped speeches, and other interactive programming, or may simply have downloadable lessons in text and email
- Time to complete a degree - check the shortest and longest length to get a degree. Coursework for a master's typically involves 15 or 20 hours per week during the semester over a period of 2 to 3 years. Check the time commitment needed and the fit for your personal schedule.
Resources for Online Master's Degrees:
- Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
- Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME)
- Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)
- International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE)
- Online Masters Degree Programs