Traditional master’s programs are great, but they’re just not for everyone. Sometimes, you have other commitments, like a career or a family, that you can’t just set to the side for a couple of years. When you’ve got little mouths to feed and maybe a spouse who relies on you, too, you need another option to advance your career. Same if you can’t just pull up stakes and move to go be closer to campus, because you own your home or don’t want to take the kids away from their schools and friends.
An online master’s program can help you reach your goals, without dropping your other responsibilities. Whether you need to access a better program than you have locally, earn a credential to advance your career, or change your career entirely, here’s when an online master’s degree could be right for you.
You Don’t Have the Time or Money to Attend Classes on Campus
Tuition for online master’s programs is usually comparable to tuition for brick-and-mortar programs, but that’s not the only cost you have to consider when comparing the two types of programs. For one, there’s the opportunity cost of leaving the workforce for two years. If you earn $50,000 a year — well below the average salary for bachelor’s degree holders — that’s still a six-figure loss if you took two years out of the workforce to earn a master’s degree the old-fashioned way. In an online program, you can at least keep working and still earn that money.
It’s not just a matter of not losing the salary — you’d also likely have to take out student loans to cover the living expenses that your salary would have covered. You’ll end up with more debt at the end of your program if you have to quit working to attend classes. Plus, there are the myriad incidental costs that start adding up when you attend classes on campus — parking fees (and tickets), gas money, lunches at the school cafeteria or a local coffee shop, the costs of moving closer to campus and renting an apartment for the family, and the costs of moving your kids into a new school, just to name a few. In the end, earning your master’s degree online will be a lot cheaper, especially if you can get tuition reimbursement from your employer, land a graduate assistantship, or earn some scholarship money to defray the cost.
You Need to Advance Your Career, or Change Your Career
When you’re stalled out in your career and need an additional credential to move up, an online master’s program can open the doors you’ve been knocking on. In many fields, you need a master’s degree to move beyond a certain level, so if you’re looking to assume a leadership role or move into a more specialized area, going back to school online makes sense. If your employer offers tuition reimbursement, you may be able to cover some or all of the costs of a master’s degree that will advance your current career.
Maybe you’re completely dissatisfied with your current career, but don’t have the skills base to change to something more suited to your temperament and abilities. Some master’s degree programs only accept students with certain bachelor’s degrees, to be sure, but there are many programs that accept students from different backgrounds. It all depends on what degree you’re interested in.
You Want to Access a Non-Local Program
You might not have any really good universities near your home, or the ones nearby don’t offer the program you want. Maybe you’re a homeowner and don’t want to go through the hassle of selling and buying again just to go to grad school, or putting your house up for rent so you can move to be near another school.
You can get an online degree from schools all over the country — even the world — without moving from your sofa (and without moving your sofa, either). You’ll have more programs to choose from, and you’ll be able to work with professors at the top of your field, even if they don’t teach at a local university.
You shouldn’t have to rearrange your whole life just to earn an advanced degree. Take your classes online, and fit them in whenever works for you, wherever you are. Taking this time to work on yourself will pay dividends for the rest of your life.