It’s no secret that a master’s degree can boost your career and increase your earning power. Analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals a significant “wage premium” for master’s degree holders in virtually every profession.
The thing is, every working professional who considers earning a master’s must overcome the time crunch. You’re unbelievably busy right now, so how could you possibly fit the demands of a master’s program into your schedule?
It might not be realistic to uproot your life and return to campus, even on a part-time basis or at night school.
Need a solution? Online classes. Online learning is one of the largest and fastest-growing segments of higher education with 3.5 million students, 74% of whom are 25 or older, according to the 2016 annual survey of online college students conducted by the Learning House and Aslanian Market Research.
If they can do it, so can you.
A question that often arises once a busy professional has begun to think about pursuing an online master’s degree is: Will employers give it equal weight to a graduate degree earned by attending classes on campus?
The short answer is yes, but it depends on a few things.
Human resources professionals – the gatekeepers of employee recruitment – are more likely to lend credence to a master’s degree from an institution with a respected reputation built around the traditional, on-campus model. This holds true for online degrees as well as traditional degrees.
Accreditation is, perhaps, the most significant factor for employers. A major distinction for U.S. schools is regional accreditation, which is awarded by accrediting agencies and recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
Generally, an online master’s degree from a regionally accredited university is considered by most employers to be as relevant as a degree earned on campus. Most universities make no distinction between degrees earned through distance learning and those earned on campus.
Another factor is the educational experience of the hiring agent. According to a 2013 study, “The Market Value of Online Degrees as a Credible Credential,” an employer is more likely to have a favorable view of an online degree if he or she experienced online education first-hand.
The bottom line is that the “wage premium” of earning a master’s degree is a compelling reason to consider online graduate school. And distance learning is gaining greater acceptance among employers in many professional fields, particularly in healthcare.
That said, how can you justify the time commitment? How can your already-jammed schedule absorb a college workload? There are many ways to make it happen, all of which are within your control.
Working professionals whose daily calendars already are packed might balk at taking on a college workload. Yet, in the 2016 annual survey of online college students conducted by Learning House and Aslanian Market Research, 71% of online students said the online program they participated in was worth their time. Only 3% answered “no” to that question, and 26% said it was “somewhat” worth it.
The key, as with any worthwhile career growth activity, is time management. You need a plan, and it has to take into account your work hours, your personal time and the amount of time you’ll need to commit to online lectures, reading, watching video, writing papers and communicating with professors and fellow students.