Choosing an Online Graduate School
Enrolling in an online master’s degree program is a big decision that requires ample thought and research. Before deciding on an online graduate school, take the following steps to ensure that you are choosing the perfect graduate program for your needs.
1. Find out if the program is accredited. Spending the time and money required to earn a master’s degree will not be worth much if your degree turns out to be worth less than the paper it is printed on. Accreditation ensures that the degree is accepted by professional organizations and that your education will prepare you for a successful career.
2. Ask about the online class format. If you thrive on lively discussions with classmates and tend to get behind when left on your own, look for a school that offers a high degree of interaction with other students. On the other hand, if you are more of an independent study enthusiast, there are plenty of online graduate schools that will allow you time and space to learn at your own pace.
3. Audit a course or two. Ask the schools in which you are interested if you can sit in on an online class to get a feel for the format. This may include a live chat session or simply looking around at the message boards associated with the course.
4. Consider the reputation of the online school. Do professionals in your chosen field scoff when they hear your potential school mentioned? Do some research to gain an understanding of the school’s reputation and standing within your profession.
5. Talk to hiring managers in your field. Whether you are entering the work force for the first time or hoping to improve your chances for a promotion, hiring managers can give you an idea of what companies look for in a master’s degree holder. Ask what types of college credits they consider the most valuable in an applicant’s resume, and which online graduate schools they believe offer the most comprehensive education.
6. Research the teachers. The quality of education you receive will depend largely on the people teaching you. Are the professors really professional students who have never worked in the field, or are they experienced professionals who know the subject inside and out? Find a school whose teachers are captains of their respective industries and you will be sure to receive the type of education that will get you noticed in the job market and in the workplace.
7. Talk numbers. As much as all master’s degree students would like to have unlimited funds with which to further their educations, the truth is that the cost of a graduate school is almost always a factor in choosing a master’s degree program. Gather financial data, including any grants, scholarships and work-study programs available from all of the schools you are considering, and make the necessary comparisons.
Enrolling in graduate school does not have to be a stressful process. Simply approach the big decision as a series of smaller decisions, making comparisons between a number of programs based on what you want and need from a graduate school.