Getting an Online Masters Degree on a Budget


Today’s guest post comes to us from Bob Hartzell.Enjoy! 

If you’re past the age of thirty and looking around at a career landscape full of potholes, you may have come to the conclusion that you need a graduate degree of some sort today to get where a bachelor’s degree took you fifteen or twenty years ago.  The job market is full of energetic, bright college graduates who continue to hone their resume skills because they’re getting nowhere in the job search.
The personal finance blogosphere has more than its share of business school graduates who for one reason or another, have found their niche at the kitchen table with a laptop instead of in a highrise with a corporate logo away up there outside the thirtieth floor.  There’s been a tectonic shift in the job market at every level, in every profession.  So if you’ve hit the proverbial glass ceiling or brick wall in your career path, it might be time to give some thought to a master’s degree and if that sounds like it might make sense, here’s a couple of facts and a few suggestions to take into consideration.
Fact #1: Graduate school does not have to be an enormous commitment of borrowed resources applied over a couple of years of professional and personal disruption.  With just a simple budget, you can go through a master’s degree program part time, online, while you continue to work.
Fact #2: There are online graduate programs at hundreds of traditional universities, with more adding distance learning capability every year.  University administrators are doing the math and coming to understand that budget cuts from the state or losses in a private endowment can be partially made up with tuition fees from students who don’t take up classroom seats.  Online education has gone mainstream. The good news for students is that these online courses are taught by the same faculty that teaches on-campus classes, so they will not miss the high-level instruction that universities provide. In addition, their coursework is available around the clock, so they can fit it into their schedules, no matter how hectic they might be.
Fact #3: There is as much variety in quality among the for-profit schools as among traditional colleges.  Some are diploma mills; some are fully accredited universities with decent graduate programs.  You can get an accredited online master’s degree in nursing from Walden University that is fully acceptable for state licensure as a professional advanced practice nurse.  Some of these schools are the real deal.
Suggestion #1: Online graduate schools are all around you, so shop ‘em.  If you’re considering, for example, a Masters in Social Work you should start by seeing if one of your state universities has a program because in-state tuition for residents is a lot cheaper than for out of state students.  Florida State has an online MSW degree that is good for licensing in seven states.  In Georgia it’s Valdosta State University.  At Colorado State University there’s a blended program; in California you’ll have to settle for USC – not so cheap but a helluva pedigree.
Suggestion #2: Don’t discount part time graduate degree programs because they’ve become mainstream too. You’ll be amazed at how many online graduate adult degree programs are designed for working professionals. They make credit transfer something less than a nightmare and give you the flexibility to match your education to your personal life rather than the other way around.  The online MBA from the University of Maryland is for working professionals; if you have five years of managerial experience you may qualify for an accelerated Executive MBA program.
Suggestion #3: Look for a program that will help you get up to speed.  Many master’s degree programs online provide seminars in the undergraduate course you may lack.  You can get an online Masters in Software Engineering from the University of Maryland that will fold in the undergraduate courses you’ll need in math.   The online Master of Arts in Teaching at University of North Carolina will see to it that you have the undergraduate courses to specialize in the teaching field of your choice.
Finally, a statement of the obvious: a part time master’s degree program is an affordable option that may not require student loans.   You can find an online graduate degree option that meets your career needs, your expectations for quality, your professional requirements and your budget.  You just need to do your homework.

How about you all? Have you had any experience with online degree programs? What was your take? Please share your experiences by commenting below!