Online Master’s Degrees & Your Career

November 2, 2010

Has your college degree declined in value over the years? These days a bachelor’s degree is almost a must to even get a job and many professionals are turning to a Master’s degree to help them get ahead. Unfortunately working full-time and trying to get to a physical classroom on a regular basis can be an enormous hassle. Trust me — I speak from experience! I took night classes for two years to get my Masters in Business Administration from 2007 to 2009.

This is one of the reasons why online master’s degree programs have become so popular in recent years.  They are a great way to help advance your career but there are some things you need to keep in mind to make sure you get your money’s worth.

First we’ll look at how earning a degree can help your career; then we’ll go over some things to look for when choosing an online masters program.

MBA Career Benefits
It never hurts to have a Master’s Degree on your resume. It shows you’ve taken additional effort to stretch and grow in your specific field.  In addition to potential pay raises and promotions, here are a few ways going back to school can benefit your career.

Specialization. Who makes more money: general family doctors or doctors that specialize in a specific skill (brain surgeon, orthopedic surgeon, etc.)? If you get a concentration or certificate in a certain area, that specialization in your topic will help you stand out from the crowd.

One benefit of online degree programs is that you may be able to study a specialty that a local school may not offer advanced training for. Location flexibility is a definite perk of online master’s programs.

Keeping current. If it’s been a few years since you got your bachelor’s degree it is likely your industry has changed. Hopefully you’ve kept up at work, but hitting the books can force you back into the deep end of your field. You’ll come out informed and better prepared for your industry moving forward.

As a student, you’ll also have access to and discounts on the the latest and greatest software and equipment – something you may not be able to get with on the job training if your employer doesn’t want to foot the bill for upgrades.

Networking. This is by far the most important aspect of graduate level education; developing a professional network of individuals in your field. These are people you can lean on in the future for job assistance, project ideas, or general conversation. Just make sure you give more than you take. That’s the only way to make your network work for you.

Online MBA Program ROI
I work for a large staffing company as a recruiter so I see a lot of resumes and conduct a lot of interviews with people who have an MBA.

The good news is a good master’s degree can show expertise in your field. A bad master’s degree is completely ignored and occasionally shunned by hiring managers. There are many differ online degree programs out there. You have to be very careful when selecting a program to work with so that the time and money you invest gives you a return.

Best Online MBA Programs
In my opinion there are two tiers of online programs:

  1. online extensions of traditional, well known universities
  2. online-only or online extensions of new, for-profit businessesIf you’re dealing with an online program from a major university (think of any NCAA university) then you’re fine. That’s a real program with real weight behind it.

The online-only or extensions of really new programs is where the risk is. Many of these institutions are for-profit businesses. The entire goal is to get you to sign for your student loan documents (so they get paid) and then they deliver a mediocre product that holds no weight in the marketplace.

I’ve seen it happen too many times to count, and it’s sad. They may not be accredited and they may not have real professors, so be sure to watch out for online degree scams.

Of course major universities are looking to get paid, too. The difference is they have real professors with a real university behind them. That’s a major difference.

So be careful as you research and compare online mba programs. Make an informed decision, and you can get your career moving forward.

Last updated by .

Kevin

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Kevin
Kevin Mulligan is a debt reduction champion with a passion for teaching people how to budget and stay out of debt. He's building a personal finance freelance writing career and has written for RothIRA.com, Discover Bank, ING Direct, and many others.

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8 Responses to Online Master’s Degrees & Your Career

  • Katie

    I think the online option for many people is very appealing. Especially when it comes to executive MBA programs because it gives working people the ability to keep working while earning an MBA without having to commute to a campus. I also agree that finding the right school is important. I’m considering several different schools for their online programs, considering their reputations I know the program will be just as accelerated as a typical classroom program would be.

  • Shad Aumann

    I would be wary of online degree programs for certain fields of study. For the MBA in particular, a significant portion of the value of my program was the opportunity to meet in person, befriend, and work alongside my classmates. The community of my classmates, our business school, our alumni, and local business partners adds a significant amount of value to the degree itself.

    Another aspect of my program is that it was conducted in a “lockstep cohort” style in which the entire class begins the program together, takes each class in the same order, and works as members of a team the entire time. There was a significant value to this arrangement due to a developing familiarity that allowed us to cover a lot of ground quickly.

    On the other hand, if you intend to work remotely for much of your career, an online degree program would help you practice arranging work via phone, email, web, video conference, etc.

  • Online Degrees master

    I agree that a degree does not carry much weight now as it did 5-10 years ago.

  • Briana @ GBR

    I’m going to be finishing my bachelor’s online and now considering a masters because of the same reason you pointed out: a BA is just about the bare minimum to get a job nowadays. Question: do people look for specific educational criteria when they’re hiring consultants/freelancers? Is that a make-it-or-break-it type of decision?

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