Pros & Cons of Online Master's Degrees

Oct 12, 2018

Many learners are choosing to get their master's degrees online. Enrolling in a master's degree program that is 100 percent online means no traveling to campus, which can save time and money.

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Individuals who have earned degrees online have found lucrative and successful careers, but online learning may not be for everyone. Consider the following pros and cons of online master's degrees.

What are the Pros of Online Master's Degrees?

Convenience is a major factor and is probably what attracts many people to online master's degree programs. Consider the following reasons an online master's may be a good choice.


Online master's degree programs at public colleges and universities are less expensive than campus-based programs because you don't need to live on or near campus. You pay tuition, but you don't have to worry about room and board or vehicle costs associated with driving to campus.


Studying online offers greater flexibility, especially for master's degree students who already have full-time jobs. Some students prefer asynchronous courses where they log on to the learning management system anytime to view recorded lectures and post comments to discussion boards. Synchronous courses are taught online, and students meet online with an instructor at a specific time. For students who enjoy face time with instructors and peers, synchronous classes may be preferable.

Access to Top Schools

Getting a master's degree online gives a student access to programs at nationally recognized, accredited universities. Whether a student lives in a rural area or serves in the military, he or she can earn a master's degree from a prestigious school.

What are the Cons of Online Master's Degrees?

Studying for a master's degree online is not for everyone. There are some situations where it may be best to enroll in a campus-based program. For example, some graduate degrees may require lab classes or have residency requirements which make it necessary to spend time on campus.

Limited Access to Classes

A student who prefers getting a degree in a scientific or technical area that may require hands-on practice such as conducting research in a lab will benefit from taking such classes on campus. For example, if the master's degree is in a clinical or medical area, several courses may involve seeing clients or patients. In other classes, students may need to perform lab experiments that cannot be simulated online.

Online Study Requires Discipline

An online master's program requires perseverance and discipline. When it is up to the learner to decide when he or she will log in and study, there may be the tendency to procrastinate. Other commitments can impact how much time a student spends with online learning activities. The temptation to multi-task and give attention to family, work and home obligations can interfere with learning and completing assignments or courses.

Limited Contact with Instructors and Peers

While the technology used in online learning is very effective, there are students who prefer a classroom setting where they have face-to-face engagement with instructors and peers. Online classes don't capture body language, nuances and the camaraderie that takes place within a live group setting.

Some Employers are Still Wary of Online Degrees

Although many employers are accepting of online master's degrees, there are some that may be skeptical because of providers that are considered 'diploma mills' and sell worthless degrees. Employers may question the quality of instruction. When an employer has these concerns, the tendency may be to select a candidate who earned a degree from a campus-based program.

Getting an online master's degree is an acceptable and convenient way to gain advanced knowledge and skills. There are many reputable schools that offer online programs. However, it is important to find a program or school that is accredited, has a good reputation, and offers the program that will fit your learning needs.

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