How Popular are Online Master’s Degrees?

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Distance education was first introduced in the U.S. in the 1890s. They were referred to as correspondence schools because the interaction between students and the school was limited to correspondence exchanged via snail mail. This model of distance education was updated with advances in technology.

The Internet is the core element that redefined distance education, ensuring the viability of online learning. Today, students have several options to choose from if they aspire to complete online master’s degrees in their chosen fields.

Selecting an Online College

Some traditional colleges have structured their online curriculum to accommodate non-traditional students who cannot commit to a full-time schedule or who may be unable to attend classes on campus. These schools have brick-and-mortar campuses with an established reputation in the academic community. The online master’s degrees that they offer would be based on the same curriculum used for on-campus students with some tweaking to ensure that the material is suitable for an all-digital medium. Access to the teaching staff and peers is provided through virtual classrooms, social media platforms and other collaboration apps. Admission requirements for these master’s programs may be similar to the requirements for on-campus students, including passing pre-qualification requirements such as the Graduate Management Admission Test or the Graduate Record Examinations.

Other colleges offering graduate and post-graduate degrees may specialize in online curricula only. The physical location is used for administrative matters as traditional classrooms are not needed. Their master’s degree offerings may be focused on a specialized field or on various career tracks. Some of the more popular fields include health care, information technology, criminal justice and education careers.

Popularity of Online Courses

It is estimated that about 3 million students were enrolled in online programs in 2010. About 70 percent of these students were attempting to complete the requirements for an online degree from a for-profit college. For-profit colleges with less rigid admission requirements saw tremendous growth in enrollment between 2000 and 2010.

Some of the top-tier universities recognized the potential of online learning as a way to extend their programs to include students who would otherwise be unable to complete their degrees. Accessibility and availability are key issues for those working on a master’s degree while employed full-time. Online programs present a feasible solution since course schedules are flexible and course work can be scheduled around your work hours.

Industry experts expect continued growth in online enrollment for master’s programs even as the growth rate may slow down. It appears that there is a resurgence of interest in online courses as more of the top-tier universities collaborate with each other to provide degree programs. Following the success of Massive Online Open Courses or MOOCs, colleges and universities have ramped up their online course offerings. Today’s trend consists of collaborations between top-ranked colleges and online program management companies to develop, deliver and manage courses that will lead to a master’s degree.

Why Choose an Online Program

An online master’s degree course is just as rigorous as a traditional program, but the online version requires much more in terms of discipline, passion and commitment. Online master’s programs will continue to be a popular option because they provide opportunities to work and pursue a master’s degree at the same time.

Flexible schedules, interactive content, supportive instructors and enthusiastic peers are the hallmarks of a successful degree program. Clearly, online learning has become part of mainstream educational options.