Consider These Factors When Choosing An Online Graduate Program
by Arnab Dey Job & Career 17 June 2023
Thinking about furthering your career with a graduate degree?
You don’t have to put your career on hold and uproot your whole life to earn one. You can go to school online and get just as good of an education as you would have gotten in person.
But you should choose an online graduate program carefully. Just like brick-and-mortar programs vary in quality and reputation, online grad programs can either be good or bad. You should choose an accredited school, but accreditation alone doesn’t tell the whole story.
You need to research the faculty, the school’s reputation, job placement statistics for graduates, and more. Here are the factors you should consider when choosing an online graduate program.
Accreditation means that a degree program has been deemed legitimate by the Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Check that a program is accredited before you apply. You can only get federal financial aid if you enroll in an accredited program.
Employers are more likely to accept a degree from an accredited program, especially if it’s an online degree (although you don’t necessarily have to tell employers that you earned your degree online). If you need to obtain licensure or certification for your field, you will need an accredited degree to be eligible.
The Quality of the Faculty
Just because a degree program is accredited doesn’t mean that they hire the best faculty. There are all kinds of schools out there, large and small, and the quality of their faculty can vary widely.
If you want to earn a Master of Accountancy (MACC) degree, for example, research the best professors in the field and find out where they teach. Research the faculty credentials of any program you’re thinking of applying to. Before you apply for an online program, ensure that the same professors that teach in-person classes also teach online classes.
The School’s Reputation
Is the program you’re considering established? Find out what people in the field think of it. If the school has brand name recognition, it likely won’t matter if your individual program has a good reputation or not. But if you’re not going to Harvard or Yale, you’ll want to research the program’s reputation in your field.
If the program is a newer one, you can at least make sure that the school has a good track record of running successful online graduate programs. Check out a program’s retention rate – if most people who start the program finish, that’s a good sign.
Post-Graduation Success Statistics
A master’s degree won’t guarantee you a job or even a salary increase. That’s why it’s important to research post-graduation job placement statistics. What percentage of students find employment in the field within six months of graduation? If job placement rates are high, that means employers value the degree.
The Cost of the Degree
Now more than ever, cost is an important factor when it comes to choosing a degree program. Graduate students tend to have less access to scholarships and grants, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get those forms of financial aid to complete a graduate degree. Many graduate degree programs offer scholarships and grants to prospective students.
Many more offer alternative means of funding, like graduate teaching assistantships. There are also some very high-quality but low-cost degree programs out there, like Georgia Tech’s Master of Science in Computer Science, for example. If you have to take on debt, make sure you can expect a commensurate salary increase after you finish school.
The amount of FaceTime You’ll Get with Professors
One drawback of going to school online is that you don’t get to interact with professors and classmates in person. You want to get the same amount of personal attention from professors as you would in an in-person program.
Ask about professors’ office hours and general availability to online students. You should have a high level of contact with faculty and even classmates. This contact is an essential part of the learning experience and helps you expand your professional network while you’re in school.
It can be hard to choose an online graduate program, but when you consider factors like reputation, accreditation, and quality of faculty, it gets easier. Choose a strong program that offers you the academic and professional opportunities you need from your grad school experience. The right graduate program will allow you to continue reaping the benefits of your education throughout your career, so you can reach your full potential.