Many college graduates discover after a few years in the job market that a Master’s degree is essential to their success. However, by the time you realize this, you may be settled in some place where your options for traditional education are severely restricted. Fortunately, in the last ten years there has been an explosion of universities launching distance education programs. However, each is very different and you should not be hasty in your selection. Consider it your first research assignment: find the right school. Ideally you should begin your search at least a year before you intend to enrol.
Certain fields have an abundance of Master’s degree distance learning options. Among these are engineering, business administration, and education. If you want a degree in these areas, your main concern will be to find the best among so many. You should consider the means by which the courses are delivered. You may prefer one mode over another. Try demos of Web-delivered courses (such as Web CT). Others offer streaming videos of lecturers. Some simply post lecture notes on the Web. Think about what type of learner you are and narrow your search to those methods that suit you best.
If you desire a degree in an obscure field you will probably not have your choice between many schools. Likely there will be only one or two. For some fields there still aren’t any available, although new site launch all the time. Subscribe to a newsletter which will keep you apprised of any new offerings.
There are several sites that claim to list all the distance degrees available. In my experience, this is not true. Some of these sites seem to exist solely for the benefit of a few heavily advertised schools. Even the best ones however will not list every single opportunity. Before you settle on a single choice do extensive Google searches. Think of any possible alternative names for your major. For example, “geology” can also be referred to as “geoscience” or “earth science.”
As with any major purchase, buyer beware. Of course your school should be accredited. If it is an established university with a long history, you have little to worry about. However, some universities are solely Internet-based. You need to decide what you really want from a degree. If you simply desire some letters to put after your name, then by all means go for the cheapest or easiest option. But if you want to be competitive in the job market, you should expect your coursework to be demanding. Some of the newer Internet based schools make it easy to get your degree, but keep in mind that employers will likely be aware of such schools.
If you desire a Ph.D. your options will be few or non-existent except for fields such as education and management. The demand for doctorate degrees in other fields is simply too small to justify the expense of such programs. However as new programs come into existence regularly, there is always hope that you will find what you need to complete your education. Distance learning has truly revolutionized education, and made it possible for many to achieve more than they could have dreamed.