Is it possible to earn a graduate degree online? The answer to that question is “of course.” That query brings up other issues though. Are online programs as good as traditional degrees earned on a university campus? What kinds of advanced degrees can be earned online? What are the pros and cons of online degree programs? Online programs are attractive because students can keep their current employment and study on their schedules. There are no room and board expenditures, and students do not have to arrange for childcare. In short, they do not have to put their lives on hold while they further their educations. There is a lot of difference between programs, and that addresses the question of how good online schools are.
Accreditation is the Key
You can certainly earn a graduate degree online, but the degree may not be worth the investment. Most people don’t buy a product online without checking product reviews. Those customer comments give potential buyers an idea of how well the product performed and if it was worth the money. Accreditation serves the same purpose in a degree program. The accrediting boards consist of professionals in the discipline who grade the program on its relevance, its quality and its content, among other things. Accreditation is voluntary, so it lets students know how confident a school is in its offerings. A degree from a school that does not apply for accreditation or who is unaccredited for other reasons may not be worth the time and money required to earn it.
When looking for online degrees. Students should make certain that the online programs carry the same accreditation as traditional degrees. There should be no difference in the content or program level.
Graduate Degrees Available Online
Students can earn a Master of Science and Master of Arts degrees, but they can also earn specialized degrees. For instance, there are online Master’s of Accountancy, Master’s of Engineering and Master’s of Education degrees along with concentrations in those disciplines. Once, programs like nursing and psychology that require clinical experiences could only be earned in traditional settings, but today even those degrees can be earned online. In short, most degrees can be earned online.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Programs
You can earn a graduate degree online and in less time than the traditional counterpart. Many schools offer life experience credits to their distance-learning students that allow them to waive certain courses. Other programs may not include extraneous courses that are not crucial to the degree, and so shorten the length of time it takes to satisfy requisites. The online programs usually cost less as well. Even if there is no difference in cost between traditional and online degrees, however, online programs do not require room-and-board expenditures, and often have virtual textbooks. Additionally, online programs are flexible.
It takes discipline to complete a degree online and students must regulate their own learning experiences. While online programs allow students to network on a global basis through forums, students must exercise these options, according to an article in Forbes Magazine. Otherwise, the opportunity for lasting networking and connectivity is greater in traditional programs.
Online University Scams
Although students can earn perfectly good graduate degrees online, they can also lose their virtual shirts. Some for-profit schools require many more credits than traditional programs. Although they still may offer the degree in less time because each class may last only a few weeks, the cost per-credit-hour for the extra courses can add thousands of dollars to the program cost. Additionally, schools only interested in perpetuating their “brands” may not concentrate on the student learning experience, and the content areas of their programs may not include the depth needed.
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There is a lot of truth in the adage ‘buyer beware’. That is why anyone considering enrolling in an online degree program should thoroughly research both the school and the degree program. Students can certainly earn graduate degrees online, but just as in purchasing other items online, the responsibility to get value for the investment lies with the buyer.