A master’s degree is the next degree students pursue after completing their undergraduate studies, and is the first of the graduate degree levels. A master’s typically takes students a year to two years to complete, depending on what subject they study.
Students choose a master’s degree to reach a specific career within a field, or to earn a higher salary. Although many students seek a master’s in the same field they studied as undergraduates, some students choose to pursue a master’s in a different subject area.
Keep in mind, however, that some master’s degrees require that you hold a bachelor’s degree in one of a few select disciplines, so do your research to ensure you meet all the requirements of a master’s program before investing time and money in the application process.
Can I Earn a Master’s Degree Online?
Master’s degrees online are becoming a popular choice among many students. You can earn your degree online through many public and private colleges and universities around the country in a variety of subject areas.
You’ll have to check if your choice major is offered through an online master’s program; even if you don’t find an exclusively online program with your preferred specialization, search for a hybrid program that allows you to combine on-campus study with online courses.
Also, keep in mind the essential factors to determine if an online degree is ideal for you. You should be an independent learner with strong organizational skills in order to succeed in an online degree program.
What Subjects Can I Study Online?
Although the selection online master’s programs is expanding at a fast pace, there are a few disciplines that are not ideal for online study.
For example, science programs or other fields that require heavy hands-on components and laboratory experience are not as conducive to online study as more theoretical subjects, such as business, humanities, or criminal justice.
If a master’s degree in your field is offered online, you should go through the curriculum and do some self-evaluation to determine if you will learn best in the classroom or online.
Compare various courses in the curriculum with courses you took in your undergraduate program, and try to recall how much assistance you needed in grasping the material for various kinds of courses.
For example, if you needed one-on-one guidance for math courses at the undergraduate level, consider a traditional or at least a hybrid program if your master’s program involves math-intensive courses.
The Student/Advisor Relationship
Just like traditional college students, online master’s students discuss their educational goals with an academic advisor at their school.
The role of the academic advisor is to assist students in making informed decisions about their education. They serve as a point of communication to answer students’ questions about their academic programs.
Typically, students meet with an advisor prior to enrolling in an online master’s degree program to determine if it is the best program for them. During this time, they explore how to apply, what the program will teach them, and what the specific graduation requirements are for their online program.
While most students have contact with their academic advisor throughout their time in school, online master’s students often develop a deeper relationship with their advisor since they help guide them through their online degree step by step.
Most academic advisors check in with their online students to ensure they are progressing according to plan.
Also, your academic advisor can help you enroll in the right classes you will need to graduate and to prepare for PhD programs that suit your research goals and interests should you choose to continue studying after obtaining your master’s degree.
Myths about Online Master’s Degree Programs
There are many misconceptions students have regarding online master’s programs. Below are some common myths you may have heard about online graduate programs:
Myth: Online master’s degrees are not accredited.
Many online degrees are accredited by the same accrediting organizations that evaluate traditional degree programs. Attending an accredited school is important for ensuring the quality of your education and the likelihood that your credits will be accepted should you pursue a doctorate in the future.
Just like some campus-based schools, some online colleges do not hold accreditation, so do your homework before enrolling in a program to ensure it has been through a rigorous accreditation process.
You should prioritize programmatic accreditation over a general institutional accreditation to find the best programs in your field.
Myth: Online master’s degrees are not legitimate.
Some students are worried that employers will see their online degree as illegitimate. If you are attending an accredited program, you will receive the same education that is taught at an on-campus program.
Although some professionals may have been hesitant to recognize the validity of online education, the number of reputable research universities that offer online graduate programs is growing every year, which will only increase the credibility of online master’s programs.
Myth: Online master’s degrees are less expensive then brick-and-mortar college degrees.
Some students mistakenly believe that because they are not attending class in a traditional classroom that their courses will be less expensive.
The tuition expenses for online programs are nearly identical to campus-based master’s degree programs, as the number of credits required for graduation is the same for both traditional and online students.
Myth: Online master’s degree classes are easier than campus-based classes.
Many students think that online classes take less time and effort than campus-based classes, which is not the case. Online classes are just as challenging, if not more. While the curriculum is the same in both online and campus programs, the learning style is significantly different.
Online students need to be more disciplined and have exceptional reading comprehension skills in order to teach themselves advanced material.
Myth: All online master’s degree programs are the same.
As is the case with traditional campus-based programs, online master’s programs are not all the same. Specific requirements for admissions, like your GPA and research experience, differ from one online school to the next.
Graduation requirements also vary, with some schools offering several paths to degree completion.
Also, remember that attending a recognized school online versus a low-budget school that does not hold accreditation will make your master’s experience and your job prospects vastly different.
Lastly, some schools recognize a certain number of credits you previously earned, which puts you ahead of schedule and reduces your student loans.