Getting Your Master’s Degree Online

online master's degree

Earn Your Online Master’s Degree

Tired of being the low (wo)man on the totem pole at work merely because of a piece of paper? Want to earn better promotions and great pay? How about transitioning into a new career field with more opportunity and better pay? Getting an online master’s degree can help you earn a pay raise in your current job and even open doors to a new career!

Earning a master’s degree, whether from an online program or a traditional campus-based program, is an excellent way to increase your knowledge and skills in a particular field. As such, many employers give considerable weight to an advanced degree when considering promotions and pay negotiations.

Master’s Degree Can Equal More Pay

Most civil servant jobs, from teachers and police to park rangers and municipal administrative positions, have a set pay scale that accounts for one’s degree status.

In general, a civil servant can see a pay raise of 10%-20% merely for the acquisition of an advanced degree.

Negotiations in the private sector can see pay increases of 20% or higher!

Why an Online Master’s Degree is an Excellent Choice

While many educational traditionalists still scoff at online degrees, the same negative perceptions are not pervasive when it comes to graduate degrees.

In fact, online master’s degrees are encouraged by many in education as they allow one to advance their knowledge while still working and staying relevant in their current career.

Distance learning is not new; correspondence schools have been prevalent since the late 1800s in a variety of forms, from short-hand courses to adult education. The University of Chicago started their distance learning program in 1892!

An online master’s degree is an exceptionally intelligent choice as they allow a student to tailor school to their schedule. For many this is the ability to continue working and/or attend to family obligations while earning their degree.

For others it is an opportunity to accomplish an accelerated learning path and earn their master’s degree in as little time as possible.

In addition to the flexibility that online master’s degrees afford, it is also important to note that most online programs cost a great deal less than their traditional campus-based counterparts.

>> Find GI Bill-approved online master’s degree programs.

Student Commitments For Online Master Degrees

An online degree requires four specific commitments from students:

  • Reliable computer and internet
  • Basic computer competency
  • Good written communication skills
  • Responsible time management

If a student is able to fulfill these requirements than an online master’s degree is an excellent fit!

What Master’s Program is Best for Me?

Should you earn your advanced degree based on your undergraduate studies? Should you seek a master’s based on your current career field and work expertise? How about branching out and studying a subject that you’ve always been passionate about?

People go to school for different reasons; determining your end goal for earning a master’s degree will help decide which program is the best fit. Quite often it is possible to earn your master’s degree for career advancement while taking additional classes for personal enrichment.

Some employers have specific educational requirements as it relates to pay. Conversely, sometimes all that is needed for a pay raise is the completion of an advanced degree and the field of study is inconsequential.

This is especially true in civil servant positions such as teaching and law enforcement where a master’s degree earns a significant pay increase, but the advanced degree typically does not have to be from a related field.

Many choose to stick with a field of study that enhances their occupational skills and knowledge. Still others choose to study for a degree outside of their current profession in hopes of earning an education and a job in an entirely new field.

Asynchronous or Synchronous Learning?

Online education has grown in leaps and bounds over the past 20 years. Yet still, there are just 2 main types of online classes: synchronous and asynchronous.

Synchronous Learning

Synchronous classes happen in real time. Virtual classes are scheduled for a specific time so students can participate in a particular virtual location with their instructor and peers. Live streaming, video conferencing, teleconferencing, chat rooms, and a variety of other mediums are utilized for synchronous classes.

Asynchronous Learning

Asynchronous learning allows students to access materials within a specific timeframe but does not require a designated day/time for class requirements.

Lectures, assignments, and exams are able to be accessed within a flexible time-frame. This gives students more autonomy in completing requirements, yet also requires a great deal more self-discipline to make certain that students don’t fall behind in their studies.

Ideally an online master’s program would offer both types of classes to accommodate a variety of learning styles and student schedules, or a program can incorporate hybrid courses that combine synchronous and asynchronous learning.

Some master’s programs offer open enrollment and self-paced courses which a student can start a program at any time and have a very wide window (sometimes up to one calendar year) for completing their asynchronous learning.

What Type of Accreditation Should I Look For?

When earning an online master’s degree, and any degree for that matter, it is of the utmost importance that the degree is from an accredited institution.

Degree factories, aka diploma mills, are an unfortunate scam that prey upon those seeking to better themselves and their careers. In particular, some institutions have less then transparent practices as they attempt to recruit valuable military veteran students and their GI Bills.

RELATED: School Accreditation: What You Need to Know

Do your due diligence and research any schools you are considering, making certain they have the desired credentials and accreditations. Otherwise, the degree may not even be worth the paper it is printed on.

Reach out to affiliated veteran-student organizations for valuable feedback on schools and programs you are considering.

The DOE Does Not Accredit Educational Institutions or Programs

Keep in mind that the US Department of Education does NOT accredit educational institutions or programs. If an institution claims to be accredited by the DOE be very suspect. The DOE does provide oversight and review of all federally recognized accrediting agencies to make certain accreditation standards are enforced effectively and equitably. Recognized accrediting agencies are determined, by the US Secretary of Education and the DOE, to be reliable authorities of the quality of education provided by the institutions they are endorsing. Keep in mind, the US Secretary of Education and the DOE are limited to accreditation within the United States although some US based schools may have programs that are offered internationally.

Accrediting agencies are private educational associations that offer accreditation both regionally and nationally. Don’t be fooled by semantics-often times regional accreditations are more desirable. Typically, regionally accredited institutions are state-owned (public) colleges and universities or non-profit (private) institutions. National accreditation is usually reserved for career track and training schools and for-profit institutions. Also be certain to research a program’s instructors. Quite often the same great instructors that teach campus-based classes will also teach the online courses. However, be wary if a college is only offering online instruction with less experienced members of its faculty.

Accreditation of a school and their online programs should be a determining factor when deciding on an online master’s program. The GI Bill can be used at both accredited and non-accredited institutions so be very careful before signing over rights to your very valuable funds. For many online master’s programs, especially those from public universities, there is no distinction as to how a degree was earned whether online or campus based. A master’s degree from an accredited postsecondary institution is the end goal and can be achieved judiciously from a wide variety of online schools and programs.

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About the author

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Born in SoCal yet raised Tampa, Florida - Leah earned her undergraduate BA in Liberal Studies from the University of Central Florida. Leah earned her MA in the MALAS at San Diego State University, while also completing a graduate teaching certificate in English for Secondary Education. An avid traveler, she has visited more than 60 countries. With the birth of her son Spencer in 2012, Leah embarked on her biggest adventure (yet) as parent and Coast Guard wife.