The following is sponsored by Southern Utah University.
8 Questions to Ask Before Choosing an Online Master’s Program
Feeling stuck in your profession? No salary increase or job promotion in sight? Are you ready to take the next step in advancing your career? If you answered yes to any of these questions, now is the time to consider going back to school.
While today’s master’s degree is the new bachelor’s degree, the idea of juggling classroom attendance with a full time job and family responsibilities can be overwhelming. This is where online programs can make a difference – with flexibility and affordability on their side, online graduate programs offer all the benefits of gaining an advanced education with minimal financial and time investment.
Angela Pool-Funai, director of the Master of Public Administration program at Southern Utah University, made the decision to return to school a few years ago after feeling like her career was in a rut.
“I couldn’t advance without taking that next step in my education,” said Pool-Funai. “I found an accredited program that allowed me to take courses part-time and online with minimal requirements to go onto campus. I buckled down and made it happen.”
If you are thinking about returning to school to advance your career, take time to analyze your options. SUU Online Director Karl Stevens and the SUU Graduate & Online School recommend considering these eight questions when comparing online programs.
1. How much will it cost?
While cost varies depending on the university and program, according to FinAid.org, the average cost of a master’s degree for students is between $30,000 and $120,000. At Southern Utah University, for example, online students living outside of Utah receive the in-state tuition rate. SUU students pay the same tuition rates for on-campus and online courses.
2. How long will it take me to graduate?
Depending on program requirements, most master’s degrees require around 30 credits, which can usually be completed in 3 to 4 semesters. In the Master of Accountancy program offered through SUU’s School of Business, students can complete the program in as little as two semesters utilizing online courses, whereas the Master of Science in Cyber Security and Information Assurance can be completed in four semesters.
3. What type of work will I do in online courses?
Most universities require equivalent rigor and learning outcomes of online students. Assignments, projects and tests are typically the same for a professor’s online and on-campus courses. One example, the SUU Master of Arts in Arts Administration online program, requires case study analysis, digital marketing, fundraising events, and other instruction relating to best practices in arts administration.
4. How often and how much will I interact with my instructors?
There are some online programs where students are given material and must take 100% initiative to complete their courses. Other programs offer online discussions hosted by professors, assignment feedback and online engagement tools like video conferences. At SUU, online courses are in no way “set it and forget it” courses, leaving students to figure out for themselves what needs to be done. SUU professors engage throughout the semester and make themselves available to assist online students with assignments and projects.
5. Are courses live or self-paced?
Although programs vary, many courses are self-directed and typically follow the same timeline as an on-campus semester.
6. Are courses taught entirely online, or are there in-person components?
Some courses follow a hybrid format, meaning there are some scheduled meeting times that take place virtually, using conferencing technology. In the SUU Master of Professional Communication program, professors hold frequent video chats or conference calls with students, offering a personal and relevant approach to online instruction.
7. Do online programs offer clear course objectives?
The hallmark of a great online master’s program lies in the quality and clarity of the course. Learning objectives for online courses are outlined in class syllabi, the same as on-campus classes. Additionally, professors commonly post introductory videos or other communications for explaining lessons and requirements.
8. Will employers value my online master’s degree?
More and more employers recognize the value of tech-savvy employees with online training. In fact, many universities do not distinguish online from on-campus degrees. At SUU, for example, your diploma will look exactly the same as an on-campus graduate diploma.
“I can say now, without hesitation, that going back to school was worth every sacrifice of late-night studying, reading textbooks during my lunch break, and writing on weekends because it gave me the breakthrough I needed to get over the professional plateau I was on,” said Pool-Funai.
If furthering your education is something you are considering, contact SUU for more information about online and graduate degree programs at (435) 865-8555, or firstname.lastname@example.org.