Are you considering going back to school to get an online master’s degree? Does it matter where you get the degree? Spoiler alert: absolutely! We’ll show you why and how to be sure you get the right degree from the right school.
It absolutely matters where you go to earn your online master’s degree. Prospective students who are considering pursuing an online degree at the master’s level must take into consideration several important factors. Indeed, not all online programs are built equally, especially at the master’s degree level. The right online program will depend on your financial outlook, career goals, geography, and more.
Thinking of earning your master’s degree from a traditional on-campus degree program? Check out the top graduate schools in the U.S.
If you’re ready to dive into your online education at the graduate school level but you’re still not sure what to look for, read on...
Naturally, it matters a whole lot where you go to earn your online degree if cost is a factor. The cost of a master’s degree can vary widely, with tuition for most graduate school degrees falling between $20,000 and $80,000 per year.
That said, some online master’s degree programs prioritize affordability. Online students may have a choice between prestigious but expensive master’s degree programs or online programs that offer respected degrees at a lower tuition rate. In fact, it is entirely possible to earn your online master’s degree from an accredited college or university for less than $10,000 a year in tuition.
If cost is a top priority in your online learning experience, you may wish to start with a look at the most affordable online master’s degree programs.
A graduate degree can be expensive. It is absolutely essential that you get an online master’s degree worth the money. This means searching for master’s degrees that offer the best value. Value denotes a balance between reputation, excellence, and affordability
With the rising cost of a higher education, this balance is critical to receiving a meaningful ROI. Find out how your grad school performs historically in areas like graduate rate, post-graduate employment rate, post-graduate earnings, alumni donations, and more. These figures are often indicators that previous graduate students have gotten a good return on their investment.
Accreditation is an essential consideration regardless of your budget. While it may not matter to future employers or colleagues exactly where you went for your online master’s program, it does matter that this graduate degree has been awarded by an accredited school.
Accreditation indicates that your online degree has been awarded by a credible and qualified institution. Moreover, students must have earned their master’s degree from a graduate program with accreditation from a Department of Education recognized accrediting agency in order to qualify for financial aid. This is true whether your graduate school enrollment is in a traditional program, an online program, or a hybrid that includes both online courses and instruction in a traditional classroom setting.
Accreditation is the basic threshold for academic credibility. But institutional reputation goes beyond this basic stamp of approval. The prestige of your master’s degree will impact your future professional opportunities.
Your prospective employer will absolutely judge your degree based on where you earned it. Most employers will regard master’s degrees that are earned online with the same esteem as those earned in person, as long as these degrees are tied to reputable institutions.
Be sure that your master’s degree comes from an institution that is well regarded by members of the academic community, prospective employers, and perhaps most importantly, past students.
A robust alumni network can suggest a whole lot of satisfied customers. Just as importantly, this network can be a valuable resource for students getting their online master’s degrees. Consider the alumni network an outlet for both support and the nurturing of valuable personal relationships.
Studying in an online environment may mean that you don’t always have access to the same interpersonal experiences as students in on campus programs. Choosing a master’s degree program with a strong alumni network can help offset the potential feeling of isolation. Moreover, building meaningful connections through these networks can lead to all kinds of job opportunities.
Fun fact: Students who attend public online universities in their state are still eligible for in-state tuition rates. This is a good enough reason all on its own to search for the best master’s degree program in your state.
Even if you intend to pursue your education online, you may want to start close to home. You don’t need to be inside the physical classroom to benefit from your proximity to the actual on campus program. This can open up local networking opportunities, local internships with an actual prospective employer, and the flexibility to transfer into a campus based program if you desire.
While getting a degree online gives you the power to overcome geographical obstacles, there are still lots of good reasons to pursue an online experience close to home (beyond just the tuition savings). Just as with traditional programs, many online degree programs will establish roots and build relationships within their respective communities.
If you plan to network locally, or ultimately pursue a career in your local job market, you may want to earn your master’s degree through an online university with a campus based program in your region. Receive online instruction while building real-world connections close to home. Then, leverage these connections to take the next step in your career!
The online curriculum may be uniquely flexible to your needs. Many online degree programs are designed to accommodate the scheduling demands of working adults. This is especially true for those enrolled in online master’s programs. Online colleges and online universities often provide a wide range of options for prospective students with work and personal responsibilities.
For instance, asynchronous online learning may allow you to complete your online program on your own time through pre-taped lectures, self-directed learning modules, and online discussion boards. You may be able to earn an online master entirely on your schedule. If you have time constraints and personal responsibilities (and who doesn’t?), it truly does matter where you pursue your online degree program.
Prioritize flexibility in your online master’s degree program.
Speaking of flexibility, it’s also critical that your master’s degree program provides the academic flexibility to pursue the graduate degree that makes sense for your needs. Advanced degrees come in all shapes and sizes. Be sure that your program offers the shape and size that’s right for you.
For instance, if you have special interests in your field of study or your plan to earn a degree with a sub-specialty, you’ll want to choose a graduate degree program that either offers this fully specialized track, or allows you to develop an independent study around that track.
Moreover, if you do plan to earn your master’s degree online, be sure that you can take each online course required for completion. Be sure that your program offers online students the same options as on campus counterparts, including access to the same curricula, professors, and in person support resources.
Of course, there is nothing more important than finding an online degree program in your actual discipline. Before you start shopping for online master’s degrees, make sure that you prioritize only those schools that offer online degree programs in your area of study.
The easiest way to do that is to search for online master’s degrees according to discipline.