Technology continues to disrupt many parts of our lives, including how we attend school and learn. Today, you can get a degree from nearly any university or learning institution in the world from the comfort of your home. Learning has become very flexible, and the barriers to access to education are being broken down by online learning. However, many people consider online learning suitable only for certain short courses and not academic qualifications such as a master’s degree.
This is just one of the many myths about online degrees. Rather than simply following the crowd, the questions we should be asking are: What exactly is a master’s degree, and how does it help me? Will I get these benefits if I take an online degree? What exactly does an online degree look like? What are the key benefits of getting an online degree? These are the questions that this blog post seeks to answer.
What is a master’s degree?
As more people go to colleges to get degrees, the number of people who choose to pursue advanced degrees has skyrocketed in the last decade. A master’s degree is an academic qualification granted at the post-graduate level to people who have fulfilled all conditions required for the award of the degree and have demonstrated a high level of expertise in the specific field of study.
A master’s degree typically takes between one to three years of study and research. It involves advanced knowledge of the theory and application in a field, a high level of skills and techniques in the chosen field, and a range of professional skills gained through self-learning and structured learning and research. There are different methods of obtaining a master’s degree, including:
- Distance learning, which includes online learning
- Part-time learning
- Evening and weekend classes
- Full-time learning
Individuals can choose any learning method that best suits their personal and professional needs.
Why do you need a master’s degree?
College degrees are already very expensive in many parts of the world. Why then should you spend more money getting an advanced degree which is also relatively costly? There are several reasons why you should get a master’s degree. Some of which are:
- Interest in the field of study
A deep interest in your field of study is a valid reason to pursue a further degree in your field. A master’s degree involves a deeper exploration of a subject’s theoretical and applied aspects. It can be a way to quell the curiosity you feel regarding a given subject.
A master’s degree will give you a head start in your career. As a bachelor’s degree holder, you will most likely receive only entry-level job offers. However, an additional degree such as a master’s degree can give you an advantage over others, and allow you to apply for more advanced positions.
A master’s degree can significantly boost your prospects of securing employment. Employers are always looking for people who are more skilled in applying specialized knowledge and research. These are two key things that a master’s degree teaches you.
- Strong considerations for a career in academia
If you are strongly considering a career as an academic, then a master’s degree can be a great addition to your qualifications. This is even more important if you do not yet have a specific research area for a doctorate or have yet to secure the required funding to pursue one.
- Transitioning into a new field or industry
If you are looking to transition into a new industry or a different field within the same industry, getting a master’s degree can be a step in that direction. Since you can always get a master’s degree in a course that is different from your first degree, you can easily use it as a way to transition. For example, if you have a degree in the social sciences or the liberal arts, you can get an online Master’s in Communication to transition into a role in communications.
A master’s degree program is also a great way to get started in your industry properly. A master’s degree allows you to meet the people who currently drive your industry and those who will drive it in the future.
While the percentage of increase in earnings will vary from industry to industry, a master’s degree will definitely improve your earning potential. For example, an advanced degree or online Master’s in Communication will boost your earning potential significantly. You should, however, consider if, in your particular circumstances, the increase in earnings is proportional in value to the cost of the degree.
What is online learning?
Online learning is a form of distance learning, which is learning that occurs across a distance and not in a traditional classroom. Specifically, online learning is learning that takes place on the internet. It can also be referred to as e-learning.
Online learning takes place over various multimedia and internet platforms and applications through a desktop, laptop, mobile device or even dedicated hardware such as an Xbox. It involves real-time (synchronous) and anytime anywhere (asynchronous) interaction.
Teachers and students connect using video conferencing, online whiteboards, screen-sharing, virtual reality and PDF tools that enable teachers to conduct live lectures, discussions with students and even office hours.
Why you should choose an online master’s program
More colleges and institutions are offering online degree programs in different disciplines. The need for a more flexible approach to advanced education has never been more evident. But why should you choose to enroll in an online degree? Below are some of the key benefits of an online degree:
One of the key benefits of an online master’s degree is that it allows you to learn from the convenience of your home or any other location that you choose to learn. Students can use the given schedules to plan where to be in time for their online classes.
Online programs are typically cheaper than traditional brick-and-mortar schooling. This is largely due to the institution expending fewer resources on setting up these programs and providing for the welfare of students and tutors. Also, on a personal note, online programs save you the cost of transportation and accommodation, which can amount to a lot at many colleges.
Unlike the traditional college, where you are required to attend a class based on a set timetable, some online programs are quite flexible and allow you to plan around your day. Except for real-time virtual classes, online programs typically have a completion window for each item on the curriculum, meaning you can decide how to divide your learning time.
- Individualized learning
Online programs are very suitable for people living with disabilities as they can have their programs individualized to accommodate their disabilities. For example, a blind student can have their program presented in braille. Students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities can have tailored programs online.
Online programs provide room for more learning options for students. Degrees that may otherwise not be available to a student can become available to them online. For example, some students do not have access to certain fields in their locations and cannot afford to relocate. Online programs offer a solution to these students.
- Gives room to pursue other interests
A full-time degree can be time-consuming and intense. Many people often find it difficult to pursue their other life interests with the demands of a traditional degree. An online degree, on the other hand, allows you to fit learning in with your other passions and interests and fully develop as an individual.
- Fewer requirements for entry
An online degree might have fewer requirements for entry than a traditional degree. An online degree at an open university has very low requirements, offering students with low grades an opportunity to earn an advanced qualification.
- Improved quality of learning
Online learning can significantly improve the quality of learning. Students are in charge of planning their learning experiences, and this enables them to improve the quality of their learning.
- Develop good time management skills
An online degree will instill excellent time management skills in students. This is a skill that they can apply in their lives to maintain a better work-life balance. Students are in charge of effectively managing their coursework, allowing them to develop more completely.
- Environmentally friendly
Online learning can be an environmentally friendly option for people who are conscious of their carbon footprint. Online learning reduces the environmental impacts of manufacturing and transportation.
Learning resources are digitally available, reducing the need for textbooks, which is one of the leading causes of deforestation. According to a study by Stockholm Environment Institute, the average full-time traditional student created roughly 180 pounds of CO2 emissions, compared to only four pounds for an online student, resulting in a 90 percent reduction in emissions.
- Helps with social anxiety
Social anxiety is a fairly common anxiety disorder that affects millions of people globally. Online learning may be a viable option for people who suffer from social anxiety as they can properly pace themselves and better manage their learning outcomes without the pressure of forced human interaction in traditional programs.
- Learning for students in conflict areas
Students in conflict areas often need to put their education on hold for extended periods. This kind of uncertainty can negatively impact their careers and place them under enormous physical stress. Online learning allows them to continue with their education uninterrupted.
Online learning increases access to education for many people. Online learning is a viable option for adult learners who have full careers or those who are parents but still want to further their education. Regardless of age, as long as you have access to technology and can utilize it fairly well, you can work towards a master’s degree online. Another way that online learning has democratized learning is that it has made degrees from top, elite institutions available to more people.
- Suitable for professionals
Working professionals who cannot risk leaving their jobs or do not have the financial means to pursue further qualifications can enroll in an online master’s degree. This allows them to keep their jobs while furthering their education.
Factors to consider when choosing an online master’s degree
You’re considering an online master’s degree, but you’re not sure where to start. There are many factors to consider when choosing an online program, and it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which one is right for you. But don’t worry – we’re here to help. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing an online master’s degree program:
When choosing an online master’s degree, you should consider earning your degree from a reputable institution or an institution with a track record of delivering quality programs. You should also consider the reputation of the particular program you want to enroll in. For example, St Bonaventure University offers a highly recognized master’s program in communications.
You should choose an accredited program or institution that has undergone the full process of becoming accredited by the necessary bodies. An accredited program offers better assurances of a quality program than an unaccredited one.
Online learning can leave you feeling disconnected from other students in the same program. The institution should be able to offer support services that are specific to students in the online programs. This can include mental health services that are delivered virtually, social programs that are delivered virtually and a student affairs division for online students.
An expensive program does not necessarily mean a quality degree. You should select a program with affordable tuition that also offers quality online education.
The program’s delivery method is also an important factor to consider. If the technology being used to deliver the program is difficult to navigate, error-prone or inaccessible, you might want to reconsider enrolling in such a program. You can always find out what kind of technology is being used by doing your research or making inquiries from people who are already enrolled in the program.
Very importantly, you need to consider the quality of the curriculum. Make sure you consider the course content and the provisions for active participation.
- Retention, graduation, opportunities
Another factor to consider is how often people complete the program. If a significant percentage of students abandon the program midway, it may indicate that the program doesn’t deliver as promised. You also need to consider when you will be graduating and the opportunities available to you after graduation.
Tips for getting the most out of your online master’s degree
Earning your online master’s degree can be a great way to further your education and career. However, it’s important to make sure that you get the most out of your program. Here are some tips for doing just that:
- Your effort determines your success
Online master’s involve a lot of self-discipline and will require you to dedicate a lot of effort and time to your degree. Online learning is largely self-structured, and the amount of effort you put into your education will determine whether you can fulfill the requirements of the degree.
- You must learn time-management
While online programs are generally self-paced, you cannot allow procrastination to rule you as you study for your degree. An online course isn’t less demanding than a traditional course. In fact, it demands excellent time management skills.
- Set realistic expectations
When you’re first starting out, it’s important to set realistic expectations for what you’ll be able to achieve with your online master’s degree. Don’t expect to be able to complete all your coursework in a shorter timeframe than is realistically possible. Instead, focus on completing each assignment and taking each class one at a time.
To maintain the integrity of online programs, the exams are usually proctored. Proctored exams are time-bound exams you take while a software program monitors your computer’s desktop, webcam video and audio. This ensures you take the exams within the time limit without external help.
There are many different online master’s programs to choose from. It’s important that you select a program that is accredited and that fits with your goals and interests. Do some research to make sure that the program you select will give you the skills and knowledge you need to succeed in your chosen field.
When choosing an online degree, it is necessary that you choose one that is delivered by a recognized institution and is properly coordinated to ease your learning. You must check to ensure that the specific program you are enrolling in has a well-structured and detailed curriculum and that the faculty members are experts in the field with well-recognized bodies of work. For example, suppose your field of interest is communications. In that case, the things you should look out for in an online Master’s in Communications include the course structure and entry requirements, the available areas of specialization, the available career options, tuition and the time required to complete the program.