Pursuing an advanced degree can represent a big decision, especially if you’ve spent years out of school after earning a bachelor’s degree. While returning to academia may be intimidating, there are many reasons to seek a master’s level education after you’ve begun your professional career.
Advancing your career can be contingent on your continuing education, whether you’re interested in seeking a higher-level role in your current industry or hoping to change specialties entirely. A master’s degree can show hiring managers that you have an impressive depth of knowledge and up-to-date experience with the subject in question, as well as the determination to keep learning.
Returning to school for a master’s degree is easier with the added convenience of fully online programs. In recent years, empowered by the latest distance education technology, accredited institutions have created master’s degree programs that allow students to receive a high-quality education from anywhere and on flexible schedules. Taking advantage of one of these opportunities may be a smart move for your career.
Important Questions Before You Get a Degree Online
Before you begin an online degree program, it’s natural to ask a few questions. The following are a few common concerns about online learning:
1. How long does it take to earn an online degree?
One of the most compelling aspects of online degree programs is their scheduling flexibility relative to on-campus education. The ability to take classes asynchronously and fit learning alongside a full-time career is a major advantage of studying online, and this part-time schedule does not mean you’ll have to spend extra years in courses.
Many colleges and universities offer fully online programs that don’t take significantly longer to complete than in-person options, or may be even quicker depending on your availability. Furthermore, online programs may have multiple start dates throughout the year, allowing you to choose when to begin your studies.
2. How do online degrees compare to in-person degrees?
Due to the relatively recent advent of online learning compared to traditional degree programs, you may wonder how employers will see these degrees. According to U.S. News & World Report, companies have embraced the concept of online learning, including shorter programs such as those centered around attaining certificates. Many institutions now offer online learning, and these credentials are now a standard part of the educational landscape.
The most important thing to remember when applying for an online degree is that the school is still a major determining factor in the quality of your education, online or offline. Hiring managers want graduates from accredited and respected institutions with a high-quality curriculum and committed faculty. With a greater segment of the academic world offering online programs, you can ensure you get your degree from a top school.
3. What are the potential career benefits of pursuing an online degree?
The career benefits of an online degree are the same as the benefits of a traditional format. Your degree can demonstrate to hiring managers that you have continued your education in a relevant subject, learning up-to-date information and best practices about your field. Some job listings may insist that applicants have an advanced degree, while others could simply favor individuals with these credentials due to fierce competition.
In addition to the potential career advantages that come with adding new credentials to your resume, you can also gain knowledge and skills directly applicable on the job. The faculty members who teach online courses at accredited universities and colleges are experts in their fields, and they aim to prepare you for the real-world problems facing your industry. Furthermore, the opportunity to network with these instructors and your fellow students may equip you with beneficial connections through group projects, online forums and live online lectures.
4. How do you choose the right online degree program for you?
Choosing an online program involves the same kind of selection process that you go through when vetting in-person college programs. The right institution for you will combine a committed faculty and an up-to-date curriculum with a strong reputation in your industry and beyond. Your choice of school will determine the course of your next few years, and should not be made lightly. The following are some of the most important variables to consider:
Accreditation: This is the first thing you should look for when selecting a college or university. Accreditation by the relevant academic bodies is the clearest demonstration that a program is equipped to give you the high-quality education you desire. To make sure employers will value your degree and your classes will be up to standards, accreditation is a must.
Curriculum depth and relevance: How do the classes in your program stack up to the professional roles you’re considering and your own interests? This is an important variable to compare graduate programs. Since education at a master’s level will likely tie closely into your present work or intended next career, it can be helpful to find a close match between the curriculum and your field.
Faculty background and experience: The resumes of the professors teaching graduate-level courses can tell you a lot about the quality of the program. Many faculty members mix part-time roles teaching with full-time positions in their industries or performing related research. When these professors represent leading and respected voices in those fields, they are well equipped to give their students a comprehensive, up-to-date education. You can check the research and professional credentials of faculty members when comparing schools.
Support for online learners: Technology enables distance education to thrive. When your school uses online classroom solutions that allow easy communication between faculty members and learners, you’re ideally positioned to take in information. You should also make sure the school has technical support available. Having someone on call 24/7 to answer your questions is one way to ensure your distance or schedule preferences won’t come between you and a high-quality education.
Reasons to Continue Your Education Online
The following five factors are some of the top reasons to apply for an online learning program, with a special focus on the major advantages compared to a more traditional classroom experience. When you’re certain that you want to deepen your knowledge and experience in your field of choice, these can act as motivation to apply.
1. Learning is available on your own time
The asynchronous learning model is a huge benefit to anyone with a full-time career. A master’s degree program with lectures, projects and independent study can now be structured in a way that makes sense for the individual learner. While this model does force students to be highly attentive in their use of time, the advantages are considerable, allowing students from all corners of an industry to come together and take relevant courses.
Today’s advanced learning technology systems ensure that this asynchronous connection allows you to benefit from all parts of the master’s program experience. From detailed chats with professors to group projects and networking with your peers, everything is available online. The comprehensive nature of today’s online programs adds value to the degrees, as these are not limited alternatives to in-person programs, but simply different delivery methods.
2. Continue your profession while studying
Many of the advanced roles that may require a master’s-level education from applicants also call for a large amount of relevant professional experience. Students who study on their own time while staying employed full-time can take strides toward qualifying for these positions, building up years of experience while also taking relevant courses.
Earning a master’s degree takes more than a year, meaning that interrupting your career in favor of studying in person could slow down your professional progress. The more established you are in your industry, the more appealing it may be to keep building experience while taking online courses in your free time, whether that is evenings, weekends or other free hours.
3. Study from anywhere
If you take the geographic element out of school selection, your choice of college or university becomes wide open. If you select a master’s degree program that is administered entirely online, with no campus visits, you never have to consider relocating or commuting. This enables you to pick a school entirely based on factors such as its match with your professional ambitions and reputation in the industry.
Furthermore, when you don’t have to attend any classes in person, you can eliminate some of the costs. Charges for items such as campus parking are negated when you’re an online student, making it easier to go back to school.
4. Choose your own academic environment
There are some advantages of online learning that apply no matter where your school is located. For instance, the ability to perform coursework from your home, a coffee shop or any location you prefer may enable you to complete your coursework quickly and efficiently. From lectures to your contributions to group projects, everything is location-agnostic in a 100% online program.
Commuting to on-campus night classes can be a barrier to success, with everything from traffic to weather taking time out of students’ schedules. When you already commit a large portion of your day to your professional obligations, it’s preferable to embrace an online learning model, where all your efforts apply directly to coursework.
5. Improve your digital communication skills
Technology literacy is one of the most important abilities for professionals in any field. When you can express yourself clearly through digital communication methods and quickly master new IT tools, you’ll be better prepared to contribute to your team and department, no matter your chosen industry. You can build this proficiency by studying entirely online for a master’s degree.
The systems used to conduct modern online classes allow for the thoughtful exchange of ideas between classmates and professors through message boards and direct communication options. You can take your time and put focus into absorbing material from these conversations and from the recorded lectures that make up the backbone of online classes.
Elements of a Health Law and Policy Online Degree Program
To demonstrate the way online learning can prepare you for greater progress and success in your field of choice, it’s worth spotlighting one such top program offering ― the Hofstra University online Master of Laws in Health Law and Policy. The coursework is designed to help lawyers and others in the legal field become health law experts and understand the complexities of health care regulations.
The medical industry is one of the most legally complex fields around the world, and patient safety may depend on the correct application of rules. Therefore, there is plenty of unique and in-depth subject matter for Hofstra’s expert faculty members to cover in the 100% online LL.M. in Health Law and Policy program.
Students take 30 credit hours of courses on their own schedule. Depending on your ability to take multiple courses at once, the curriculum can be completed in as few as 18 months. In these courses, participants will gain insight into health programs such as Medicare and Medicaid and the organizations that create and administer industry regulations. Admission requirements are simple and straightforward, with no LSAT, GMAT or GRE needed. The policy knowledge imparted in these classes will allow graduates to become adept and compelling advocates for change and improvement in the health sector.
In addition to hard knowledge, you can develop soft skills such as communication aptitude, critical thinking, public speaking and writing. The courses which approach the intersection of the legal and health care fields will enable degree holders to approach positions that bridge these two sectors with new confidence and an informed perspective.
Post-graduation roles for those who have earned a Master of Laws in Health Law and Policy depend on professional experience. Lawyers at independent practices may find they can take on new clients in the public health field, while a degree in health law may also make graduates stronger candidates for consulting or in-house roles at care provider organizations.
Online Learning Could Transform Your Professional Prospects
No matter your present industry or undergraduate degree focus, it’s likely there is a graduate degree program for you that can be completed online. Seeking such an education can represent an exciting new chapter in your career path.