Looking for a Graduate Distance Learning Program?
Most people understand that in order to get a decent job, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that a college degree is essential. The more time that is invested in that degree, the more rapidly the degree holder can hope to scamper up the professional ladder. In fact, there are many professional doors that, regardless of how many years of workplace experience a person has, will never open unless the individual holds a graduate degree. Once upon a time, a lot of folks were disappointed when they realized it was too late in their lives to go back for a graduate degree. Some were entrenched in a job they couldn’t afford to leave, while others were supporting a family whose needs they weren’t willing to sacrifice in order to return to school. And of course, for many, both situations held true. That was then and this is now, and now is all about distance learning graduate programs. The opportunity to earn part or all of a higher degree virtually has changed a great many lives, and every year, it changes even more.
Relatively few people decide that upon finishing high school they will enroll in college, earn a bachelor’s degree, and then continue directly all the way through a master’s or doctoral degree. A bachelor’s alone takes about four years of full-time study, and a master’s will add another two to three years in most cases. Doctoral degrees pile on even more time—as much as several more years.
Most people simply can’t afford all of it at one time. A person would have to be independently wealthy or able to score scholarships right and left in order to afford that much schooling all at once. The expense of school isn’t the only thing to consider, either. What about paying rent or a mortgage, buying groceries, insurance, clothing, and all the other things that make life cost so much?
Instead, many people choose to enter the work force immediately after completing a four year degree. Some figure they’ll work for a few years then return for a graduate degree. Others have no such thoughts, at least, not at first. After working for a length of time, though, and watching people with less experience and less ability zoom past, heading for better jobs and more pay, a lot of people begin to realize it’s time to return to school for an advanced degree.
A greater percentage of distance learning graduate program enrollees are mature adults who have decided get the degree they need in order to go as far as they possibly can, professionally speaking. Most of them are working, and a great many also have families. They understand that distance learning offers some pluses, but also a couple of negatives.
One negative is that it can take longer—even a lot longer—to earn a graduate degree through distance learning. This is only true of people with jobs or other obligations, since full time distance learners progress at the same rate of speed or even faster than full time students attending brick-and-mortar classes. But since more graduate program distance learners are, in fact, working full time, it’s logical to assume it might take one or more extra years to score that degree. But so what? Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare—there’s nothing wrong with making slow and steady progress, because eventually each step forward is a step toward a better future.
Of course, there’s an opposite argument to balance this. Learners who have worked in the field for a number of years have experience and real world knowledge on their side. They might discover that they can be as successful at course work as students who take classes on campus, and can do so with considerably greater efficiency because they have a firm grasp of the material going in. In some cases, an extra year or two might not be necessary.
Distance learning saves time in other ways, as well. If you’re not commuting from work or home to school several times a week, getting stuck in traffic and driving in circles trying to find an open slot in the limited campus parking, you’ll save at least a few hours each week. Devoting that time to studies helps you work with supreme efficiency. Consider, too, that you aren’t wasting class lecture time with the professor answering basic questions other students are asking while you just sit there twiddling your thumbs. More time for your studies!
Distance learning graduate programs also save money. Gas is expensive, and even if you only live 15 minutes from campus, over the course of the month that can be one or more tanks of gas. Factor in the increased oil changes and other maintenance, or bus costs if you don’t have a car, and the bouncing dollar signs could convince you that you can’t afford to return to school.
However, if you find a good distance learning program, saving gas, parking fees, and car maintenance is just the beginning. As long as the school offering your program is accredited, you are eligible for the same types of federal financial aid as students attending physical campuses. If the school you choose is entirely virtual and doesn’t maintain a physical campus at all, you might find your tuition and other fees are less, as well. However, it’s never a good idea to shop for programs by tuition alone. The best fit for you needs to be based upon what you’ll learn from the course work and how highly respected that school or program is in the real world.
These days, almost any kind of program you’re interested in is taught as a distance learning option some place. This doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t ever have to show your face on campus, however. Some degrees can’t be obtained without spending time in a lab, or earning hands-on experience. Others are accredited by agencies, boards, or organizations that haven’t yet determined that fully virtual classes are equivalent to those taught on a physical campus. In these cases, distance learning options such as online courses, correspondence classes, or video or audio learning must be supplemented by campus course work. Hybrid classes will require you to attend a physical class part of the time and work independently part of the time. Alternatively, some programs might permit you to complete a certain set of classes virtually, but require other classes you’ll need for the degree to be taken on campus or in the field.
There are thousands of graduate distance learning programs that can help you earn the degree toward a successful future. Everything from architecture, art, and music to law, sociology, and astronomy is offered as a distance learning option, so there’s no excuse for not earning that higher degree, if that is your goal.
Last Updated: 03/01/2017