Master's Degrees

Finding the Right Online Master's Program

In the last decade, there are more and more advanced degree online programs being offered online. Some of these are from online-only universities and others are being offered by established brick-and-mortar schools. According to U.S. News and World Report, a little more than 62% of schools offered online degree programs in 2012. Admissions are generally easier, since there are no class size limits, and costs are lower.

Since graduate school still takes considerable time and money even with the lower costs for online study, choosing the best plan for one's needs is crucial. The following points should be carefully studied and compared.

Types of Postgraduate Study

There are two broad categories of postgraduate study: academic and professional. Broader, more academic degrees include Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.).

A professional (terminal) degree enables you to enter specific professional disciplines. They are named terminal because no further degrees are needed for the profession. Terminal degrees are professional degrees and are identified by initials that signify the specialties, such as:

  • Master of Social Work (MSW)
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Master of Education (MEd)

How to Determine the Value of the Online Master's Degree

It will pay to think about some important career goals before completing an online master's degree program.

  • Will the degree actually advance your career?
  • Are there other, less expensive or time-consuming options that will help your career?
  • If you want to change your career, is the graduate degree within the field you want to eventually pursue?

The advantage of an online degree program is that you can pursue study virtually anywhere, a big advantage if you live in a remote region or one where no good graduate program exists. You no longer need to relocate to pursue a great education.

How to Value an Online Master's Program

While a master's degree usually means higher income, some careers have a greater advantage than others do. Just getting a master's degree does not automatically mean that you will earn enough more to justify the time and expense. Perhaps the difference between an on-campus program and the online program will enable you to more easily justify the cost in comparison to your current salary. You should consider:

  • Cost of tuition can be considerably less for the same degree taken online than at the same university's campus program. If both are available, you can easily compare the costs.
  • Consider the types and amount of student loan debt compared to your anticipated salary increase. A huge debt load would mean you must quickly be employed at a salary high enough to be able to repay the student loans or to replenish your savings.
  • Make sure that there are job opportunities open for that degree, particularly if you study a highly concentrated study field.