The Value of an Online Master’s Degree

What is the value of a master’s degree? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, every degree you earn provides a noticeable step up. Average earnings over a lifetime are $1.2 million for high school graduates, $1.6 million for associate’s degree holders; and $2.1 million for bachelor’s degree holders. In a 2003 government report entitled The Great Payoff, researchers write that a master’s degree adds $400,000 to average lifetime earnings between ages 25 and 64.

Of course, a master’s degree brings more than an income boost. It also brings a competitive edge and eligibility for more prestigious positions. For instance, depending on their subject area, a teacher who earns a master’s degree may become eligible to teach at community colleges. A businessperson who earns an MBA may find it’s the fast track to a leadership position.

An online master’s degree can provide the same advantages as a traditional master’s degree. Highly reputable schools such as Columbia University, Duke University, and the University of Massachusetts now offer a variety of master’s programs online. In many cases, schools treat their online and on-campus students as equally as possible, assigning the same professors, texts, and rigorous testing. Consequently, the universities don’t find the need to indicate “distance learning” on student transcripts.

If the advertised cost of a master’s degree is overwhelming, rest assured that few students actually pay full tuition. First of all, online students are available for federal funding as long as they attend accredited schools. Private scholarships, grants, and loans are other options. Second, many students find that employers are willing to pay for or subsidize their online educations. If well-applied, a master’s degree can pay for itself within a short while.


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