In this increasingly competitive job market, many potential employers won’t even consider granting you that coveted interview or even give your resume a second look, without that all important Master’s degree. More and more Americans are heading back to school to obtain a Master’s degree in order to compete in their present field or just to pursue a new career path altogether. Whatever the case may be, these already overwhelmed wives, mothers, fathers and spouses don’t necessarily have the time and resources to attend classes in a traditional setting.
The advent of online university classes has made pursuing everything from a Master’s in Criminal Justice to Sociology much more realistic and easier than ever, but this road isn’t for everyone. Learn more about the ins and outs of obtaining an online Master’s degree and what this process entails, before enrolling in your first semester.
Ask Yourself the Right Questions
Before you even begin to consider the lengthy and potentially expensive, process of earning a master’s degree, ask yourself a few hard questions about your motivation and lifestyle. Make no doubt about the fact that earning a master’s degree is an intense experience and may not be for everyone. The convenience of attending classes on your own schedule is for many the main reasoning for seeking an online degree. If your life is hectic and you’re barely able to fit in time for eating and sleeping, it’s not prudent to take on the rigorous coursework involved in almost every master’s program.
Attaining a master’s degree online also involves self-discipline and self-motivation; both attributes any student must have in spades to succeed in this environment. If you’d rather work at your own pace and don’t require the guidance of a teacher, online schooling is probably a good fit for you. Conversely, if you crave one-on-one attention and thrive under constant supervision, online education is a poor choice.
The Online Education Experience
Because you’re attending classes “online,” the majority of your time is obviously spent at the computer either interacting with your fellow students and teachers through message boards, instant messaging or email. As with taking classes in a traditional campus environment, you’ll also be expected to write papers, take tests, read texts and perform the myriad of other tasks any master’s degree candidate undertakes. Depending on your field of study, you might be required to take a final exam or perform on-site work to complete your degree, so keep this fact in mind when choosing your university. It’s not prudent to attend classes through a university several hundred or thousands of miles away if you’re expected to complete assignments or tests in a classroom.
Look for Accreditation
The popularity of online education has led to the unfortunate formation of “diploma mills.” These unaccredited colleges and universities generally have low entrance requirements and don’t provide their students with an academically challenging curriculum. When searching for an online or distance education university, pay attention that they’re regionally accredited, or at the very least possess accreditation through the Distance Education Training Council (DETC). Many employers won’t consider hiring students with master’s degrees from unaccredited universities, and if you decide to transfer from your recent “diploma mill” to an accredited master’s program, be aware that your hard earned college credits won’t be accepted or recognized.
Before starting classes to pursue your online master’s degree program, prepare your home, schedule and lifestyle correctly to help ensure success. First off, make sure you have a functional computer with high-speed internet access set up in an area of your home that’s free of distractions in the form of screaming kids or a needy spouse. Clear out your schedule and in some cases this means dropping down to part-time or placing your infant or preschool-aged children in daycare. Above all, you must make your education a priority, which might mean putting your hobbies, pastimes and the other unimportant facets of your life on the back burner to concentrate on your studies.
Last, but certainly not least, there’s one final, crucial question to ask yourself before enrolling in an online master’s program: will this degree benefit my present or future career path? For many, obtaining a master’s degree translates into job security, advancement or a bigger paycheck, but there’s always exceptions to the rules. Look at your present or potential industry’s track record and if the degree is even necessary or beneficial before making any final decisions or commitments.
This article was written by Alex Phelps who holds his degree in Special Education and is currently studying to become a board certified behavior analyst. Inspired by his brother and hero Jeff, it is Alex’s dream to work with children dealing with autism.