Are you a school administrator? Yes No x to close
Find Your School
Find VA-Approved Colleges For Military and Veterans

Getting Your Master’s Degree Online

Earn Your Online Master’s Degree

Want to earn better promotions and great pay? How about transitioning into a new career with more opportunities 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.

Is an Online Master’s Degree Hard?

While many educational traditionalists still scoff at online degrees, the same negative perceptions are not pervasive regarding graduate degrees. 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 various forms, from shorthand courses to adult education. The University of Chicago started its distance learning program in 1892!

An online master’s degree is an exceptionally intelligent choice as it allows students to tailor school to their schedule. For many, this means continuing to work and/or attending 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 much less than their traditional campus-based counterparts.

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 can fulfill these requirements, then an online master’s degree may be an option to consider.

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 you’ve always been passionate about?

People go to school for different reasons; determining your goal of earning a master’s degree will help decide which program best fits. 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. Still, 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 their current profession to earn an education and a job in an entirely new field.

Asynchronous or Synchronous Learning?

Online education has grown exponentially over the past twenty years. Yet there are only two 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 various 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 can be accessed within a flexible time frame. This gives students more autonomy in completing requirements but requires much more self-discipline to ensure they 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 in 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, it's important to know whether that 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 than transparent practices as they attempt to recruit valuable military veteran students and their GI Bills.

RELATED: School Accreditation: What You Need to Know

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

The DOE Does Not Accredit Educational Institutions or Programs

Remember 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 suspicious. The DOE does provide oversight and review of all federally recognized accrediting agencies to ensure that 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.

Remember, the US Secretary of Education and the DOE are limited to accreditation within the United States. However, 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.

Regionally accredited institutions are typically 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.

Research a program’s instructors. Quite often, the same great instructors who teach campus-based classes will also teach online courses. However, be wary if a college is only offering online instruction with less experienced faculty members.

The accreditation of a school and its 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 post-secondary institution is the end goal and can be achieved judiciously from a wide variety of online schools and programs.