The perplexing question that everyone’s talking about: Should I get my online master’s degree?
There are 10 questions that you should be asking yourself when you‘re thinking about getting your master‘s and whether or not you should do it online.
Question number one: Are you truly passionate about the subject?
You have to start here because getting a secondary degree has to be more about passion for the material than just getting the piece of paper, this isn’t like your undergraduate degree where people can just skate by, you’re going to be learning more advanced material and being amongst higher caliber colleagues, so you’re going to need to have the drive and passion required to expand your knowledge, and make it worth your while especially if you’re doing an online program after a long day at work, it‘s going to be really really hard for you to do your homework and assignments and stay motivated if you’re just not passionate about the material, and this may be a hot take but to me and in my industry GPA doesn’t really matter too much so you just need to get that degree and it‘s going to be so hard for you to do that if you’re just not interested in what you’re learning.
Companies are going to be more concerned about what knowledge you got from the program and how that’s going to help them in their day-to-day operations, so that’s why being very interested and invested in the material will help you get the most out of your master‘s program.
Question number two: Are you a self-starter or do you need more guidance and direction?
I’m not saying either one is right or wrong, but for an online program you’re going to need to have more self-discipline, a lot of lectures will be pre-recorded, so it‘s up to you to keep up with your assignments and projects, with an in-person master‘s program you’ll physically be with the teacher and other students so you can ask questions and reach out to them very easily, with an online master‘s program you’re gonna have to have the same amount of collaboration but without the person-to-person interface, a lot of the communication will be via email maybe phone number, if you’re willing to give it but you have to realize too that you’re dealing with students and teachers that you’ve probably never even seen in person before, so everyone has gone through a group project nightmare, imagine going through that when you haven’t even physically met any of the people in your group, and I’ve had professors that were only available by email so with the time difference it made it sometimes hard to get an answer quickly, and imagine a wild world where you wait till the last minute to get an assignment don, and you have no idea what to do your press is only available by email and you’ve never met any of your classmates, it can kind of put you in a tough situation to succeed so you can see how you are truly in the driver’s seat of your education when it comes to an online master‘s so you have to be ready to take control.
Question number three: What value Am I really going to get out of my master‘s degree?
It’s really a loaded question so I’ll break it down into financial value, and knowledge value, for financial value make sure you’re doing a cost comparison between online and in-person master’s programs, in my case my degree at the university of Washington cost me a little over thirty thousand dollars to complete which would have been less than if I were to go in for in-person classes but that’s not always the case, some schools charge more for their online programs due to demand, and you really have to ask yourself is it really worth the cost? Well paying twenty thousand dollars more a year to go to this program guarantee me a salary that’ll cover the cost later in the future? Is the convenience of online really worth the money? Then part of that cost analysis will be the value of knowledge gained, Are the courses the same for the online and in-person programs? What is the difference in the offered courses amongst the different programs? And Is it worth the cost? so when I was trying to find the value of my master‘s I said okay this master‘s program is relatively cheap, the courses I’m going to be taking are directly related to the field that I’m going to be working in, and I’m going to be working for a large corporate company that cares about accolades and stuff like that, like master’s degrees and all these little letters and stuff that go after your name to make people look good, and I think this thought process is very important especially when you’re considering different programs, I would say more often than not you’re going to be going with the cheaper option for your master‘s but you really have to look at what courses are provided and understand what knowledge you’re going to get out of the master‘s course to truly evaluate the cost.
Question number four: How reputable is the program and have you really done your research on it?
Going back to what I said earlier about being a self-starter when it comes to an online master‘s program the quality of your professors matter a little bit more when you’re doing an online master‘s, for me I personally knew the professor that created and ran the master‘s program I took, he had a passion for creating a program geared to construction, and bringing in professionals from the industry with real work experience to teach his engineering coursework, he even understood that construction and engineering is a business so he sprinkled in a little bit of like accounting and finance courses along the way, and this understanding and passion that he had for this coursework really just trickled into the curriculum, and that’s why I felt like I got a lot out of the program so that’s why it worked out for me and I kind of just slid right into this program but I would like everybody to have that same level of comfort when they go and do their masters, if you’re an undergrad talk to your professors about the master‘s programs you’re thinking about applying to, and if you’ve been out of school for a while reach out to the professor of the program that you’re thinking about joining and ask to do some sort of either zoom or just jump on a call, and if they don’t get back to you if they give you kind of a hard time over the phone then just think about how that’s going to affect your journey when you’re trying to do your master‘s program with them.
Question number five: What does your schedule look like?
This was a big one for me and likely a lot of other people out there when they’re thinking about doing an online master‘s, the big perk about the online nature of the coursework is that you don’t need to be available at the same time with the professor, you can do the curriculum at your own pace, if you’re going to continue working while you’re getting your master’s degree which I highly suggest you to do it this way, an online program makes so much sense since you can manage your time appropriately, for me there were times where I just needed to stay at work till like 20h or 21h pm that day, so if a lecture came out I could just review the next day and I’d be okay, in that situation if I was doing an in-person masters, I would have had to leave my team at work and have them deal with the problems on their own while I just went and did my education, so you don’t want your master‘s program to get in the way of your efficiency at work,then make sure that you do a thorough analysis of what your work needs are and how the program fits into that.
Question number six: How much debt do I currently have?
This is such an important question to ask yourself, because if you’re inundated in debt, any amount of years that you’re spending doing a master‘s program will just financially set you back even further, if you’re in debt my suggestion would be to get a job in an industry that you’re interested in and just start chipping away at that debt so that it‘s a little bit more manageable or maybe even gone and then you can revisit a master’s degree, and what will likely happen is that if you go down this path you’ll just be in a completely different stage in your life when you’re revisiting this master‘s program, by spending those years working you accomplish a couple of things, one you’re actually getting rid of your debt, two you’re making money, three you’re actually progressing in your career and four maybe you’re getting a lot more clarity out of your career maybe this is a career that you don’t even want to do anymore so you’re switching, getting those first few years of work experience can tell you a lot about whether this industry is meant for you or not, and maybe at the end of the day maybe you’re married and have kids and just making the financial commitment to a master‘s doesn’t make any sense anymore, and maybe you’ve succeeded and progressed so far along in your career for that time that you don’t feel the need for a master‘s anymore and you can use that money to like put a down payment on a home, so a bunch of the things I talked about also on like positive outcomes but the one thing that you’re guaranteed when you just jump into the industry is you’re going to gain clarity, you’re going to gain clarity about what you want to do, you’re going to gain clarity about your debt, about your personal life, so you can make the best decision you can when you’re trying to get your master‘s, and there will be cases where it‘s almost good that you didn’t get your master‘s, and that’s going to lead us into our next question we must ask ourselves.
Question number seven: Are you doing a master because you want to or you’re being forced to by circumstance?
If you’re unsure about your career path, you’re unlikely to find that clarity through a master‘s degree, I truly believe that you only find out what career you really want by going out there and doing that job, for example I thought I was just going to be an engineering nerd living in an office and doing calculations but after I did my internship in construction I realized I’m not going to be an engineering nerd in the office, I’m going to be an engineering nerd in the field, I would suggest that if you’re feeling forced to pursue a further degree just because you don’t really know what else to do, you should just find a job in any field that interest you, if you don’t like it stop and choose another, keep doing this until you find one that you enjoy being at, then at that point you can go back and revisit the master‘s conversation but at least you have more clarity and you’re getting paid the entire time you’re going through that journey instead of wasting away years in academics.
Question number eight: Do I really know the field that I‘m going to be getting into?
This may sound like a repeat question from what we went over before, but this is more geared towards people who believe that getting a master’s degree will increase their pay, that spending tens of thousands of dollars now will pay itself off later when they‘re making more money and getting promoted because they‘ve got a little MS next to their name, before you do this make certain that this is actually a fact, if you haven’t already done this job through like an internship or something like that go ask somebody that has a job that you really want, and ask them about what their day is like, do research on their lifestyle and what kind of work they actually do and what kind of B.S they have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, and really think about whether or not you’ll thrive in that situation and especially if you’re zoning in on a master‘s for a specific company you really want to do a lot of research on that company because culture and management and all those kinds of things can just change in an instant and you don’t want to be getting a message for a company that you truly don’t understand.
Question number nine: Will your company pay for your degree?
This is the best scenario that you can be in so if you’re unclear you should ask your employer if that’s an option,I was lucky enough that both big companies that I work for offered a program like this to help pay for a part of my education, one of them giving up to 5 500 per year after taxes, it‘s also important to know whether or not they‘re just giving you the money for your education as sort of like a reimbursement, or if it‘s part of some sort of vesting program where you have to pay them back over time or if there‘s any sort of penalties if you leave the company after a certain amount of years where you have to pay it back, but again if you’re unsure always ask a lot of the big companies out there will have some sort of education reimbursement program for their employees and the worst thing that they can tell you if you ask is no!
Question number ten: Should we all get our online master’s degrees in 2020?
If you‘re truly passionate about learning the material, if you‘re pretty certain on your career, you did the research on all your schools and your debt is managed, I would say yes absolutely go for it. I would say ideally you would want to do your online master‘s program while you‘re working and have your employer pay part or all of your education and shoot for a program around the same price range that I had less than fifty thousand dollars for the entire degree.
For me, I think getting an online master’s degree in engineering was absolutely worth it, I was able to progress in my career while learning through the master‘s program and my salary and my company‘s reimbursement ended up covering all the cost of my education, so I was able to get my degree debt free, I also didn’t need to take any sort of standardized course like the “GRE Prep” to get in, which is totally great if you can find another program like that too, I highly suggest that because I would have hated to study for that kind of test, but I will say that I haven’t received any sort of financial benefit for getting my master’s degree from my company, but maybe that’s something that I’ll see later on,if they’re looking between two candidates to promote, the guy with the master’s degree at a big company may get pushed a little bit more but I don’t know as of now.
Hopefully, this helped anybody thinking about getting an online master’s degree or maybe even just going through the thought process of getting a master’s degree in the first place.