The Perks of Pursuing an Online Degree

Looking for a bit more job security? Consider getting an advanced degree, without leaving your cubicle.
Sure “distance learning” degrees have been awarded for more than 150 years, but now more top-tier universities are building competitive educational programs for the Web.

While earning a degree online may be just as challenging as attending the brick-and-mortar schools with similar level degrees, getting your course work at-a-distance now provides more opportunities to mid and high level executives, and other workers, who are unable to leave the office to sit in a classroom.

Flexibility Is Key
A major selling point for an online degree? Flexibility.

Going to night school was once a backwater afterthought not structured to serve the needs of working adults. Then the University of Phoenix took off because its business knew what adults needed,” says Trace Urdan, a senior analyst for Signal Hill, a financial services company based in Baltimore and San Francisco. “It populated the classroom with instructors that were aware of and respected what adults needed,” says Urdan. “Students that enroll in online studies really can’t go to night school, and online courses made it much more convenient by allowing students to maintain work schedules.” And, that innovation is now being emulated by top brass admissions officers.

In recent years, the University of Michigan-Dearborn, University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Boston University, Auburn University, George Washington University, and Florida State University, among others, have seen online or distance learning gain momentum by using Web platforms.

Ranked by BusinessWeek as one of the Top 50 M.B.A. programs, Northeastern University began to offer a fully accredited online master’s degree in 2006. Unlike some for-profit online education courses, enrollment is not as simple as the submitting some paperwork and writing a tuition check. This MBA program, home to 400 students online, requires the same application process as the traditional campus version.

“The material we are delivering online and in our traditional course are the same,” says Michael Zack, a professor and faculty program director for the online program at Northeastern University College of Business Administration. And the student bodies differ only a little bit: “The market we’re going for is the typically person that has a hard time physically showing up to classroom because they typically have a high degree of responsibility,” says Zack.

At Least You Save Gas
So do you save from giving up campus life? Not a lot, maybe on gas. Classes generally run at more than $1,000 a credit, which a Northeastern will cost you about $3,000 per course. And, since the program is a 50 credit course, expect to spend over $50,000 to complete the program. But for the matching prices, “Students have the same courses, the same senior faculty, and we make no distinction in the degree.” Come graduation time, all students can even walk across the stage for graduation together.

How do you find the best online degree program? Research what works best for you. Consider time, accreditation, cost, reputation, prestige, and comfort, and weigh which options are most important to you. From there you will find the value of your online degree. It could be substantial.

According to a survey by the QS, an “MBA is the highest paid qualification worldwide”. For example, a bank worker was expected to earn more than $90,000 with an MBA, while an experienced worker without a degree would bring in around $66,000, according to the report.
By Lyneka Little of MainStreet

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