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Can I do an online master’s degree program part time?

Online education has become a popular option for part-time and full-time online master’s degree seekers alike in recent years, as it allows them to complete their degree when it fits into their schedule. When considering online masters programs, you will be faced with deciding whether a full-time or part-time program is right for you. Ultimately, it will come down to your financial and career position. The majority of full-time students do not have time to both attend school and work a full-time job. Part-time students, on the other hand, do; some students seeking online masters degrees simply don’t have the financial luxury to attend school full time.

How Does a Part-Time Master’s Degree Work?

A part-time online master’s degree program typically takes between three and four years to complete. Students normally take three to six credits per semester. The length of time part-time students spend earning their degree is fully dependent on how many credits they take each semester and the credits required by the program in which they enroll. For example, a student’s program may require 36 hours. If the student takes six hours per semester, i.e. two classes, he or she will complete the degree in three years. Meanwhile, if the student decides to only take three hours each semester, it will take six years to complete the degree.

Courses at the master’s level are substantially more demanding than those at the bachelor’s level. They are usually seminar classes, which require students to listen to or view lectures online, as well engage in extensive class discussion through forums, video conferencing, and the like. As such, some students can only handle one or two classes each semester on top of their professional work load.

As with full-time students, part-time master’s students have the choice of two different types of degrees: academic and professional. Academic degrees require students to take fewer courses than those in professional programs. Their time instead is concentrated on research relating to their thesis proposal. A thesis is usually a requirement for academic master’s programs. Research students have the goal of answering a question related to their field, so once their research is concluded, students write a report that exhibits their findings.

Conversely, professional degrees are pursued by students who plan to jump into a career right after they’ve completed their master’s program; professional degrees are designed for those who do not plan on later earning an advanced degree, like a doctorate. In a professional degree program, students take more courses and generally do not have to complete a thesis.

What Are the Benefits of a Part-Time Master’s Degree?

Earning an online master’s degree part time is a more popular option for adults. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2007, 51.5% of master’s students were enrolled part time. Statistics also found that women (53.8%) are more likely than men (48%) to earn their master’s degree part time. There are three primary benefits to earning online master degree programs part time. The first is that you have a lighter work load. This leaves you time to really concentrate on your studies and perhaps gain a deeper understanding of the material than a full-time student.

Second, a part-time degree allows you to work and earn your degree simultaneously. Though some don’t have a choice but to work full time and attend school part time due to financial reasons, others simply don’t want to give up the job they love and to which they have already invested much of their time and effort.

Third, you may incur less debt. Part-time students usually have less access to financial aid and scholarship funds simply because they spend less annually than full-time students. Also, part-time students often pay their school costs as they go; when they finish their degree, they may have less overall debt than a full-time student who was unable to work simultaneously, and thus racked up thousands of dollars in debt.

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