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Online Master’s Degree
Reasons for Online Master’s
Online Master's Programs
Pros of Online
Distance Education
Distance Education
online programs
Do Employers Accept
master’s degree online

The Benefits of Earning an Online Master’s Degree

Online Master’s Degree

It’s no secret that the bachelor’s degree is no longer the minimal degree requirement for many employers across the range of employment sectors. Inside Higher Ed reports that the rate of enrollment at online master’s degree programs exceeds the growth at online bachelor’s degree programs and more than 30 percent of students pursuing an online master’s degree choose wholly online programs.

Student lender Sally Mae claims that two-thirds of students consider a graduate degree the key educational attainment for building professional careers. Nine out of 10 students viewing the grad degree as a pathway to higher income and career prospects.  According to the Sally Mae, over 60percent of bachelor’s holders begin graduate school within a year of earning their undergrad program and nearly 80 percent already have work experience in their chosen field. The National Center for Education Statistics found that the largest percentage of all master’s degrees are conferred in education, business, and health.

Featured Online Programs

Reasons for Getting an Online Master’s Degree

Convincing Evidence

STEM jobs – those in science, technology, engineering, and math, healthcare, business and education –all but require a master’s degree.  In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor found that the number of jobs requiring a master’s degree will increase by 14 percent during the 2014 and 2024 decade.  According to Northeast University, 74 percent of employers have raised their educational standards over the last several years, with many companies solely seeking to hire those with advanced degrees.

The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal reports that:

  • As of 2018, 37 percent of bachelor’s degree holders went on to earn master’s degrees.
  • Since 2000, the number of people age 25 and over whose highest degree was a master’s has doubled to 21 million.
  • In 2000, one-third of people with at least a bachelor’s degree had completed an advanced degree. By 2018, 37 percent had done so. In the past 20 years, the number of students earning a master’s degree has more than doubled.

The U.S. Department of Labor found that:

  • Employees with a master’s degree holders earn on average $26,000/year over workers with a bachelor’s degree.  Employees with a master’s degree earn a weekly wage that’s at least $300 above pay for four-year-degree holders.
  • Master’s holders only experience two percent unemployment compared to a higher rate for employees with only bachelor’s degrees (Bureau of Labor Statistics). 

Sally Mae says that:

  • Nearly 60 percent of online graduate students attend full time.
  • The average online master’s completion length is 24 months, meaning some accelerated programs shorten the time to graduation.
  • Programs require 36 to 54 credit hours, which can be completed entirely online or through hybrid formats that require attendance for internships or clinical work.
  • 48 percent of online master’s students are pursuing science degrees, 22 percent seek online MBA degrees, and 24 percent are working toward a Master of Arts degree.
  • Only 12 percent of online master’s students choose their university based solely on cost. Over 85 percent select their online institution for its academic quality or the expediency of earning an accredited degree.
  • Students spend on average $24,812 for their online master’s, with 53 percent borrowing for their tuition.

Purdue University found the top master’s degree programs are in:

  • Business (24 percent)
  • Education (19 percent)
  • Healthcare (14 percent)
  • Engineering (7 percent)
  • Social services and public administration (six percent)
  • Information technology and computer science (five percent)

The Pros of Completing a Master’s Degree Online

Professionals with advanced degrees earn up to more than $1.3 million than baccalaureate employees over their working lives.  While the financial benefits are substantial, students returning for advanced studies find plenty of other reasons to choose online programs.  These include:

Increased Skills for Career Advancement

Full-time employees may be lagging behind in upgrading their proficiencies to the ever-advancing methodologies and technologies used in their professionals. It not only impacts their earning potential, but pathways to advancement.  In pursuing an online master’s, students learn the state-of-the-profession hard skills as well as soft skills in leadership, time management, employee communications, and collaborative teamwork.  And while attending a flexible online program, they can integrate advanced knowledge directly in their current jobs along the way. Employers can see the results and consider your new expertise a good reason to move you up the ladder.

Professional Networking Opportunities

Online faculty and peers come from a wide range of specializations and professional experiences.  They form an immediate network of mentors, resources, and collaborators that can broaden a grad student’s career options.  Universities also maintain strong connections with employers and professional associations.  During internships or on-location clinicals, students will create lifelong networks with employers and experts.  Students can also attend job fairs, visiting lectures, and visit conferences where new connections thrive.   

Making a Career Change

To enter a grad program, the applicant may be required to hold a four-year degree in their master’s field.  Some online master’s programs only require completion of a bachelor’s degree in any field.  By discussing your new career plans with an academic adviser, you’ll have a better understanding of the master’s prerequisites and educational requirements necessary to make the change.  Depending on your experience, you may even shorten the time to complete your master’s and seek employment in your new field.  But keep your job throughout the online degree program. There may be different career options within your current company.

Advancing Your Research/Writing Skills

Most online master’s degree programs require students to conduct independent research in their chosen field and to report findings in a professional manner.  Working online, students have access to university libraries and public/private research organizations.  Master’s students may be required to complete a final project related to their major.  They’ll be prepared if their employer wants them to research detailed metrics on their company’s performance and productivity, or about innovations and best practices, or collect marketplace statistics.

Preparing for Lifelong Education

Many professions require their workers to earn and maintain certifications and licenses.  Licensing provisions may require employees to complete continuing education units annually.  At the same time, your master’s degree can pave the way toward entering a Ph.D. program.

Learning Online: Key Benefits of Distance Education

According to the University of Illinois, an early pioneer of online learning, the advantages of pursuing a degree online include personal flexibility in attending courses, working from the time and location of you choose.  Completing a master’s degree online on time demonstrates to employers that the employee already has strong skills in time management and self-discipline.  Many online programs can cost less than their on-campus counterparts considering the cost of commuting, parking, and missing paid hours at the prospective student’s job.  The online university or department provides access to research libraries.

How Do Online Classes Work? OMS Particulars
Assignments and Exams
Online master’s degree programs deliver all communications though their online management system (OMS).  Students can submit documents, register for classes, make on-campus appointments, and track their academic progress via the OMS.  There are two types of online classes: asynchronous and synchronous.  Asynchronous classes allow students to complete the class materials on their own schedules. They’re a great way to get ahead on your assignments if you keep your study hours.  Synchronous classes require students to go online to watch a lecture or live event that’s scheduled. Online master’s degree students communicate with professors and other students directly through email. The OMS provide 24/7 access to the course syllabus, assignments, supporting materials, bulletin boards, forums and libraries.  Asynchronous courses can include multimedia presentations, recorded lectures, discussion threads, and online collaborative tools.  Students can tune in to video-conferences, live chat, and telephone-assisted communications.  You can also communicate directly with admissions personnel or financial aid representatives. The professors use the OMS to make course assignments and fixed deadlines.  Students return completed assignments via email.  Snap tests or full exams can be completed online.  Time requirements may also be monitored and close the test interface when the maximum time has expired.  Some courses require the students to sit for proctored exams.  These are typically conducted on campus.

Do Employers Accept Online Master’s Degrees?

Acceptance of online master’s degrees in the workplace is steadily growing.  One of the main considerations is whether the program is hosted by a public or private university that offers the same degree as an on-campus format.  Of course, the prestige of the graduate school can impact an employer’s considerations.  There are some online degrees of high regard such as MBAs.  To be accepted, degrees must come from fully accredited schools and programs.  Employers won’t take a second look at a grad if the degree comes from a diploma mill.


Accreditation denials can immediately winnow out schools offering so-called junk degrees. Regional and national accrediting agencies conduct independent evaluations of the academic standards at graduate schools.  Generally, regional accreditation organizations evaluate state or non-profit institutions. The university and the individual degree program may also have accreditations.  For example, a department may seek accreditations from an organization that supports the educational standards for the particular employment sector.  Employers recognize that graduates of accredited online master’s programs received the quality of education expected for the job opening.  The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) accredits 3,000 degree-granting colleges and universities, and recognizes accreditations made by 60 other accrediting organizations.  In addition to CHEA evaluations, online programs should be accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council or the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.  Remember, federal grants and loan programs require the applicant attends an accredited university.

Q&A – Online Master’s Degree

How do students access their classes?

Most online classes are delivered through the university’s online management system (OMS). Students gain access once they enroll in the program or in individual classes.

How do master’s students communicate or collaborate with faculty or fellow students?

Grad students can keep regular contact via email, video-conferences, phone calls, discussion boards, social media, chat, and texting. Collaboration tools are often part of a graduate program software suite.

How are tests and assignments handled in the online format?

Assignments are turned in via email. Timed exams are often taken online, unless the department requires proctored tests.

Is it necessary to leave present employment to earn a master’s degree online?

Many employees – especially those with families – choose to complete an online master’s degree. Some employers recognize the value of a master’s degree to their organization and offer to subsidize your online tuition or pay for it entirely.

Is there financial aid for online master’s students?

Yes. There are federal, state, and college programs offering grants, teaching assistantships, loans, and scholarships. Visit our Financial Aid Page.

What are the technical requirements for learning online?

Master’s students need ongoing access to a reliable computer served by high-speed internet. For online chat, streaming presentations, and live courses, it’s vital to have microphones, speakers or headphones.

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