Are Online Master’s Degrees Really a Good Option?
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans who have earned their Master’s degrees earn over $11,000 more each year than their peers with Bachelor’s degrees. Additionally, the Federal government reports that people with Master’s degrees are significantly less likely than people with Bachelor’s degrees to find themselves unemployed. There’s little doubt that getting your Master’s degree is a good career move. Unfortunately, going back to school mid-career can be a logistical nightmare. Few adults have the luxury of quitting their jobs, pulling up stakes and moving to a university to attend school full-time. Online degree programs offer an enticing alternative to traditional Master’s degree program. Commercials and advertisements for part-time or full-time online programs abound on television, online and even in your mailbox. Many people wonder, though, whether these programs are too good to be true. They are afraid they won’t get the education they pay for, or that employers won’t recognize their hard-earned degrees.
The answer is that online programs vary in quality, and the respect they receive from employers and other educational institutions also varies from program to program. If this sounds confusing, don’t despair. Traditional degrees are no different. Whether you want to attend school online or on-site, they key to finding the right program is to examine the school that offers it. One way to do this is to do an Internet search for the school and then for the program that interests you. Look for information on accreditation, graduation rates, job-placement rates, formal complaints that have been filed against the school and even action taken against the school by state or federal government agencies. The data you gather can help you narrow your search and avoid scams.
Another way to choose a school is to go about it exactly like you would go about choosing a bricks-and-mortar school. In fact, a bricks-and-mortar school with a long and respectable history may be the best choice, since many of them offer select programs online. For example, the University of Cincinnati, which operates a well-respected medical school and has one of the top classics departments in the entire world, offers a Masters in criminal justice. Students can study from anywhere, and the program is offered on a full- or part-time basis. UC’s program is hardly a poor substitute for a face-to-face degree; it came in third on U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of criminology schools in the United States. Many well-respected schools offer some programs that can be completed online, and a search of their course catalogs can provide options you may not have known you had.