Getting a Masters Degree Online – Time Required

Guide to How Much Time it Takes to Earn a Graduate Degree Online

For students trying to calculate how long it takes to pursue a masters degree online, there are several factors to consider. This article presents several key variables.

Many working, stay-at-home, and nontraditional students interested in pursuing an academic degree are unable to attend brick-and-mortar programs because of their specialized schedules and inaccessible locations. Fortunately, there are a growing number of quality online institutions offering flexible online degrees which allow students to maintain careers (or fulfill outside demands) while learning.

As a general rule, most online graduate programs take between two and three years to complete, though this can be significantly reduced in certain cases (some of which are detailed below).

This article presents certain considerations students should keep in mind when trying to estimate how long a graduate degree online might take to complete.

Masters Degree Online – Course Schedules

Online degree programs are specifically designed for students who have outside responsibilities, and the expectation is that such students will only be able to enroll in courses part-time. It is for this reason that many online universities provide shorter online terms and accelerated schedules so that students can complete degrees in the same amount of time it would take on-campus students.

Distance learners who must enroll part-time, but would like to complete their degree in approximately the same time period it would take them at an on-campus school, should look for programs with short terms (between five and eight week long).

Masters Degree Online – Work Experience

Most advanced programs cater toward working professionals who already have acquired a significant amount of work experience in a given field, and many require such experience for enrollment.

There are some schools which will give students course credit for already-acquired work experience, and such programs can significantly cut the time it takes to earn a graduate degree online. Students are encouraged to ask admissions counselors at desired institutions to find out if work experience can be exchanged for course credits.

Masters Degree Online – Competency Learning

While most university programs are credit-based (meaning students must pass courses and accumulate the required number of credit hours in order to graduate), a few unique schools offer competency-based degrees.

The best option among such schools, Western Governors University, requires that students accumulate skills learned online and demonstrate such acquisition by earning competency units. (This is done by passing exams, completing projects, and writing papers.)

Competency-based programs offer a clear advantage for working professionals in that they allow students to immediately demonstrate skills acquired on-the-job, thus preventing them from taking redundant classes, which significantly reduces the amount of time it takes to earn a degree.

Graduate Degree Online – Summer Sessions

While many online universities offer courses throughout the year, certain state university systems and private colleges offering online degrees may only offer courses during the principal academic year. This obviously affects the length a particular program might take to complete online, and students are encouraged to find out if a given program offers the option of summer learning.

Benefits of a Graduate Degree Online

Distance learning degrees offer professional students the opportunity to simultaneously advance their careers with an academic degree while maintaining their careers. With the scheduling options and credit benefits many programs offer online students, distance learners can often complete graduate degrees online in the same time it would normally take on-campus students.

Further Reading

Doctorate in Education: Jobs for Education Degree Holders
Education In My Family
General Learning Requirements for Preschool Through High School
Job Outlook and Wage Expectations After Online Paralegal School
Apprenticeship in the US After Attending HVAC Tech School

For additional information on distance degrees and courses, see also:

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