Earning a master’s degree online can seem daunting. Prospective students often wonder, “Is the experience online the same as on-campus?” Or, “Will the format fit my lifestyle?” Roughly 5.8 million students are now enrolled in at least one online course, though, and that number is growing—as are the benefits of learning virtually.
Today’s workforce is moving online. Forty-six percent of organizations recently surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management said they use virtual teams. With that, the number of professionals who regularly work from home has increased 115 percent over the last decade, with more than 3.7 million employees working remotely at least half the time.
Learning online helps prepare professionals for this shift in the workforce. Yet that advantage is just one of many. Here’s a look at the benefits of earning a master’s degree online.
1) Added Flexibility
By earning your master’s degree online, you can learn on your own schedule. Rather than leave the office early or skip family dinner to commute to campus, you’re logging on when it’s convenient for you—at a time that doesn’t interfere with other commitments. That flexibility allows you to more easily balance work, life, and graduate school.
2) Self-Paced Learning
Students don’t always feel comfortable asking professors to repeat a point they made in their last lecture or dive into deeper detail on a specific topic. When learning online, you can revisit past material or stop the lecture to perform additional research or organize your notes. You can work through the lesson plan at your own pace to ensure you’re really mastering the material before moving on to the next section.
3) Gain a Global Perspective
A benefit of an online program is that students can tune in from anywhere around the world. Because of that, class discussions feature a broader range of perspectives, helping you enhance your own cross-cultural understanding. If you’re interested in entrepreneurship, for example, hearing how other countries adopt certain technologies or approach specific industries can inspire new ideas or improve an existing concept you’ve been developing.
4) Practice Virtual Teamwork and Develop New Technical Skills
With more companies using virtual teams, it’s important to learn how to collaborate remotely. Your classmates will likely live in different time zones, which you need to learn how to adapt to and schedule around.
Embracing technology is also crucial. When you’re working on a group project, sharing files or status updates can become difficult via email, so you might need to utilize tools, such as:
- Skype: The video conferencing software lets you speak face-to-face with your peers.
- Dropbox: Share documents with your group and keep work in one place using the file hosting service.
- Slack: The messaging platform is helpful if you need to instant message in real-time or break off into smaller groups to work on a specific part of the project.
- Trello: The project management tool enables you and your team to create, assign, track, and prioritize to-dos.
- Basecamp: Another, slightly more robust, project management tool you can use to share messages and upload files.
Most companies today are using some combination of the software above or other programs similar. Being able to state you have project management experience and are familiar with software like Basecamp can bolster your resumé. By using these tools, not only are you learning how to collaborate remotely, you’re gaining new technical skills.
5) Improved Virtual Communication
In an online program, you’re participating in discussion boards with your classmates, communicating with professors via email, and collaborating through various software programs. You want to be cognizant of your tone and grammar, so that you come across professional. As the program progresses, you also get better at pitching your ideas and making strong, succinct arguments through text.
6) Better Time Management
Because an online degree program requires self-paced learning, you do need to effectively manage your time. Melanie Kasparian, associate director of assessment at Northeastern College of Professional Studies, shares tips on how to be a successful online learner and recommends working throughout the week and keeping a schedule similar to this:
- Monday: Begin required readings and multimedia
- Tuesday: Continue reviewing materials
- Wednesday: Post to discussion forum and begin assignments
- Thursday: Continue posting and working on assignments
- Friday: Read and respond to posts and work on assignments
- Saturday: Read and respond to posts and finish assignments
- Sunday: Check your work and submit assignments
As Kasparian says, “Working on the train, during a lunch break, or in the morning—there’s really no right time to study, as long as it fits your life.”
7) Demonstrated Self-Motivation
By successfully earning your master’s degree online, you’re demonstrating that you can practice time management and are self-motivated—traits employers want to see in new hires. Of the top 10 employability skills is “personal management.” Rather, that you can tackle multiple tasks, set priorities, and adapt to changing work conditions. Online learning equips you with that skill.
By earning a master’s degree alone, you set yourself up to earn a salary an average 35 percent higher than bachelor’s degree holders and gain access to more job options, given that by 2022, 18 percent of jobs will require a master’s degree. Learning online builds on those benefits and helps prepare you for today’s globalized workforce.