Completing Your Master’s Degree Online

When you earn a master’s degree online, you’re on your way toward meaningful career advancement. A master’s degree can enable you to develop advanced professional skills, gain a competitive edge in the job market, help you switch careers, and increase your earning potential. However, going back to school can prove difficult, especially for working adults. That’s where online degree programs come in. As an affordable, convenient method of earning higher-level credentials, online degree programs cater to those who want to reach the next level of their careers without disrupting their lives.

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How do online master’s programs work?

In an online master’s program, students communicate, turn in assignments, read course materials, and attend class all through digital learning platforms. Like a traditional master’s program, each degree has certain requirements regarding credit hours, participation, and the caliber of your academic work. Taught by qualified instructors, all courses provide you with the opportunity to regularly interact with your peers.

Certain components differ, however. Courses can be offered in synchronous or asynchronous formats, meaning students must access courses in real-time or access courses whenever it’s convenient. Online master’s programs also use a range of communication methods, such as live chats, audio and video conferencing, message boards, email, attachments, virtual libraries, or virtual whiteboards. Because of this digital learning environment, students have different requirements as well. As an online learner, you will need access to high-speed internet, an up-to-date computer operating system, word processing software, speakers, and computer microphones.

There are other differences that go beyond the online format. Master’s programs may focus on academic advancement, professional advancement, or a combination of the two. Classes are smaller, and field experience is often required. At the master’s level, coursework is notably more advanced than it is for a bachelor’s degree.The topics you study will be more focused, with fewer opportunities to take elective classes and academically explore. Professors will require a higher quality of work, and more of that work will be rigorously evaluated by your peers.

What does it take to get a master’s degree online?

Although requirements vary by program when you earn a master’s degree online, certain generalities exist:

The first is the time frame. When you earn a master’s degree online, it usually takes one to three years. Completion times vary based on the requirements of your program and your individual pace of study. Full-time students will complete their studies sooner than part-time students. To qualify as a full-time student, you usually have to take at least 12 credit hours, or four classes per semester. A part-time student is one who takes anything less than 12 credits at a time.

Your length of study may depend on your transfer credits. While it’s difficult to apply large amount of academic credit to a master’s program, it can often be done with one or two courses, or up to six credits.

The second generality is on-ground experience. Because master’s degree programs are often designed to help you advance in a certain profession, real-world learning experiences are sometimes required. This type of training depends on your field of study. You might, for example, be required to work at a business internship, teach as a student teacher, or support mental health clients through treatment. When these experiences are part of your program, schools will require you to complete a certain number of hours before you are eligible for graduation.

What does it take to be a successful online student?

It takes a certain type of person to thrive in a digital academic environment. Online students tend to have the following characteristics:

Why complete your master’s degree online?

When you earn a master’s degree online, the experience comes with a host of benefits before, during, and after you graduate.

Career advancement

Professionals who want to take their careers to the next level often need a master’s degree to do so. Master’s degrees can provide you with advanced training, new licensures, or the skills you need to enter management positions. They can also help you specialize in a certain area of interest, enhancing your credibility and expertise. Those with a master’s degree are more likely to enter into positions of management and leadership and are therefore more influential on outcomes within their organizations.

Increased earning potential

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, levels of education directly correspond with both income levels and rates of unemployment. Those who earn a master’s degree have significantly lower levels of unemployment as those with a bachelor’s degree and make more money per week.

Higher levels of income made possible with a master’s degree are also directly associated with certain professions. These include:

  • Business, finance, and sales
  • Education and educational administration
  • Health workers and related professions
  • Social workers
  • Nurses
  • STEM fields such as research, computer technology, engineering, and statistics
  • Librarians
  • Editors
  • Administrative support workers
  • Museum curators and archivists
  • Aircraft pilots


Many choose online education because of its affordability. Online programs are often competitively priced. Additionally, the flexible scheduling provided by online programs allows working adults to continue to earn income while attending school. Academic programs offered in digital formats also lack many of the costs associated with on-campus degree programs such as facility costs and parking.

Financial aid is also sometimes available. If you’re considering applying for aid, it helps to start early and fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Doing so allows you to establish your eligibility for aid and connect you with grants, scholarships, and loans that can help you fund your education.


Studying online is a flexible option for career advancement. It allows you to attend school on a schedule that works for you, from literally anywhere in the world. You can customize your pace of study. Online programs also often allow you to complete any hands-on requirements at your place of employment or locations close to home. All these factors ultimately allow you to juggle work and life while earning your degree.

An equal experience

Just because you take courses online doesn’t mean you’ll sacrifice the quality of your education. The curricula for online and on-campus courses are often the same. Online professors are just as knowledgeable about their subjects, and passionate about teaching on digital platforms. The institutions that offer online degrees hold students to the same academic standards. And you’ll still have ample opportunities to professionally network and build a meaningful community of peers.

Academic variety

Online graduate programs vary tremendously in their study areas. When you attend one, you’ll have numerous options from which to choose. Here are just a few:

Taking the next step

Anyone who wants to get ahead in their career should consider earning an online degree. Not only does it provide a quality education, it does so conveniently and affordably. When you graduate, you’ll be that much closer toward your goals and be ready to truly fulfill your potential as a working professional.

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