An online master’s degree has the potential to significantly increase your knowledge, provide new, marketable capabilities, expand your professional network, and may translate into higher income potential. A master's degree also requires a significant, though short-term, investment of both time and resources, leading many to wonder if all the effort is really worth it.
If you’re considering getting your master’s, either online or in-person, it’s a good idea to first get clear on what you hope the degree will help you to accomplish in your career. Then, weigh the benefits of entering into a master’s degree program against your particular field of study, personal, and professional goals.
Benefits of an Online Master’s Degree
The primary motivation for a master’s degree is often career advancement. Simply put, an advanced degree may make you more competitive and more attractive to potential employers, while also making you feel more confident and accomplished in your life. Here are a few other benefits to take into consideration, if you are on the fence about pursuing a master’s degree online.
Stand Out from the Competition
In a job market where credentials increasingly matter, being able to stand out is essential for any job seeker. If you're feeling stalled in your career or want to make a calculated shift, an online master's degree can help build specific skills, and signal to employers that you have the discipline, experience, and commitment to bring added value to their organization. Once you graduate, the ability to add MA, MS, or MBA at the end of your name may enhance your career opportunities.
Increased Flexibility, Online
Traditionally, one of the biggest reasons people chose not to pursue a master’s degree has been the inconvenience of being in a program while working full time. With online master’s degree programs, however, your studies work around your schedule, rather than the other way around. Imagine the freedom that comes with a flexible schedule that allows you to complete your lessons from anywhere—from the plane, the beach, or your kid’s bedroom—and at any time (as long as you meet the deadline of course!). By pursuing an online master’s degree, classrooms travel wherever you do, available on your desktop, tablet, even your mobile phone, with 24-7 hour support no matter your time zone.
A Master's Degree May Lead to Career Growth
One of the primary reasons people choose to pursue an advanced degree is for the financial payoff. The higher level of education you have, the higher your earnings potential could be. Even for recent graduates in the 25 to 34 year old range, master's degree holders are shown to earn more on average than those with a bachelor's degree or below. In fact, both personal income and median monthly household income for master's degree recipients have risen over the last two decades.
Specialize and Expand Your Knowledge
Of course, one essential reason a master's degree can lead to higher earnings is because the specialized learning can qualify you for better jobs and promotions over your career. The advanced skills and knowledge you acquire in a master's degree program can make you a more valuable employee, able to take on larger roles that include more responsibilities and more complex job functions.
The simple fact that you've earned your master's degree tells employers something valuable about you. Earning an advanced degree shows your enthusiasm for intellectual growth and your commitment to going above and beyond what many consider the standard level of college achievement. A master's degree can demonstrate your self-discipline, motivation, dedication, and can help signal to employers that you're worth more than a simple subject-matter expert.
Obtain Personal Satisfaction
While making more money is a favorable thing, a lesser-discussed but no less impactful potential benefit of getting a graduate degree is the personal satisfaction that comes from completing a challenging academic program.
Take George Appiah, for example, who explained that his “main motivation for...graduate school was more personal – it was to prove to myself that I could do it." With his MA in Organizational Management from the University of Arizona Global Campus now in hand, George was hired as an Integrated Business Solutions Manager with NAPA Auto Parts and opened his own business, Sting & Skye Designs.
What Do Employers Think About an Online Master’s Degree?
There has been the misconception that human resource departments apply more weight to traditional degrees compared to online degrees. Now that more and more students are completing their education online, online degrees in general are becoming widely accepted, especially from established online universities. For hiring managers, a university's reputation, combined with other factors, such as a job applicant's work experience, can hold more weight than whether the candidate earned the degree online or from a traditional brick and mortar campus. Additionally, whether or not an online university is accredited can also play a significant factor for employers. Pursuing an online master’s degree from an accredited university can have an important influence, so take this into consideration when choosing your master’s degree program.
Is an Online Master's Degree Worth It? What to Consider Beforehand
Now that you know about the many benefits that an online master’s degree can provide, it’s now time to look at your desired career path and ask yourself a few important questions. Occupations that typically require a master’s degree for entry are projected to grow 18.4 percent from 2012 to 2022. As you begin to explore different master’s degree programs and research all your options, consider the following eight questions:
- Am I clear on my personal “why” for getting a master’s degree?
- Do I feel confident my investment will have a profitable return?
- Have I identified an area of research that will help move my industry forward?
- Does my industry offer clear benefits to those with an advanced degree?
- Am I comfortable with the financial investment of a master’s degree?
- Will I take a hiatus from work, or complete my program outside of work?
- How will I manage the demands on my time?
- What shifts in my lifestyle do I need to make in order to support myself during the program?
You’ll also want to research exactly what type of potential career advantage, if any, could be expected in your particular area of study or in your current workplace, and how in-demand or impacted your professional field is projected to be over the next several years. This projection will help you figure out how much you can rely on your master’s specifically to help you reach your career goals.
For those who are looking to teach at the college level, the opportunity to further investigate an area of interest and contributing original research to the body of literature in a field of study can be incredibly appealing. Moreover, if being a faculty member standing at the front of a college classroom (instead of just in a seat) in the future sounds like music to your ears, you’ll be happy to know that a master’s degree, combined with industry expertise, can often work in lieu of a doctorate at the community college and university level to teach a course or two.
In a constantly changing economy and job market, savvy people know what it takes to stand out and succeed. Whether you want to kick-start a new career or give your existing prospects a boost, pursuing your online master's degree can pay dividends today and far into the future as well.
*Certain degree programs may not be available in all states.
*Ashford University is now the University of Arizona Global Campus