Earn an Accredited Online Master’s Degree

If you’re aiming to earn a master’s degree online, you’ve chosen the right time and place. The popularity of online learning has skyrocketed in recent years: according to the Sloan Foundation, nearly 4 million Americans were learning online in 2007. Enrollment numbers have continued to grow for several reasons – just one of which is the easy “commute” for online learners. As online programs have become more numerous and prestigious, more and more professionals are drawn to online master’s degree programs. Read on for answers to some frequently asked questions about earning an accredited master’s degree online.

What does “accredited” mean?

An accredited master’s degree program has been judged by an appropriate association to operate at a basic level of quality. By only enrolling in an accredited program, you can ensure that your degree will be recognized by employers and other reputable schools. You’ll avoid institutions known as diploma mills, which essentially award worthless degrees.

The U.S. Department of Education does not directly accredit colleges and universities, but it recognizes certain non-profit agencies that do. These include the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, the Distance Education and Training Council, and a host of other organizations that are listed on the Department of Education’s accreditation website. Online colleges and universities typically advertise their accrediting agency in small print on their homepage or mention it in their “About Us” section. You can verify accreditation through the Council on Higher Education Accreditations’s database.

For more information about avoiding bogus degree programs, see the Federal Trade Commission’s article about academic credentials.

Which subjects can be studied online?

Master’s degrees can be earned online in just about any topic. Business, education, and technology are some of the most popular program areas, but technology has made it possible for just about any sort of master’s degree to be earned from a distance. Some additional topic areas include:

  • Accounting
  • Agriculture
  • Banking
  • Dentistry
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • English
  • History
  • Hospitality
  • Law
  • Management
  • Nursing
  • Pharmacy
  • Psychology
  • Transportation

How quickly can I earn a master’s degree online?

In their traditional on-campus format, master’s programs typically require one or two years of study. Online master’s programs often mirror this format, but schools sometimes offer more flexible options to online students. Thus an MBA, for example, could be earned on an accelerated or part-time schedule if desired.

Online master’s programs also have different enrolment times. Some schools only allow students to start studying in the fall; others let students start in the fall, spring, or summer; and a few – such as American Military University – offer new course sessions every month.

Can I get a scholarship to study online?

Yes. When you apply to an online master’s program, you’ll be invited to complete the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The answers you provide will help your school offer a financial aid package. This could include scholarships, grants, loans, and/or other forms of assistance. As long as your school is accredited, you will be eligible for federal funding just as if you were a campus-based student.

What’s the application process?

Applying to an online master’s program is similar to applying to traditional master’s programs. Depending on the competitiveness of the program, you’ll be required to provide some or all of the following: transcripts from previous academic institutions; standardized test scores (e.g., the GRE or GMAT); personal essays; and letters of recommendation. Depending on your program of study, admissions committees might also require a portfolio of your work or a live audition. Interviews are also common and can be completed over the telephone.

Which schools have online master’s programs?

According to a U.S. government website, 89% of public four-year institutions were offering online courses in 2007. The odds are good that a school you already know and trust has developed some online master’s programs, so check out your state university or local community college. You can also look through our articles for links to accredited online programs.

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