It might come as a surprise to many people to learn that you can obtain a masters degree through distance learning. Part of the explanation for this view can be found in the confusion over the structure of many graduate programs, and the motivation that people have for entering them.
Very often, due to changes in the work environment, or just through the desire to learn more about a particular aspect of their field, people who have completed an undergraduate education, perhaps many years before, seek the opportunity to continue their formal education, thereby obtaining a higher level credential. This holds true, particularly for people in education and business, where new knowledge, new methods, and new opportunities for advancement are constantly emerging.
For example, teachers, who want to become department heads or qualify for positions as vice-principals and principals, need to obtain a graduate-level diploma in order to be considered for promotion. Similarly, managers and junior executives in the business world, with their eyes set on controlling large corporate interests, want to ensure that they acquire a broad and yet solid knowledge base to complement the skills and experience they have accumulated in the so-called real world.
In these instances, obtaining a masters degree tends to be based on the completion of set number of courses, and thus these programs can be readily offered through a distance learning format. At the same time however, graduate education can also serve to enhance and build upon an individual’s knowledge of a particular academic subject area.
In these cases, it is common for there to be a thesis or major research paper component that forms the bulk of the program, thus providing extensive opportunity for students to acquire advanced research and writing skills that might prepare them for doctoral programs or serve as a means of signaling special expertise within their field.
While this type of masters degree might appear less suitable for the distance learning format, advances in communication technology, especially interactive video-conferencing and high speed internet access to library databases and electronic journal collections, have gone a long way to facilitating these programs. Regardless of the type of program desired, or the individual motivation for obtaining the credential, several universities are responding to the demand.
In fact, as the popularity of obtaining a graduate education in this way increases, many distinguished universities and specialized institutions are beginning to offer masters degree programs through distance learning. They know that students from around the world, who would easily qualify for admission into their regular full-time graduate programs, might not be able to study on site. However, they recognize that these students would greatly benefit from the opportunity to learn from internationally renowned faculty, and obtain an internationally recognized credential.
Similarly, there are certain programs that are only offered at a limited number of institutions around the world, and distance learning provides a means for students from various countries to obtain a masters degree in these specialty areas, thus serving to enhance the reputations of both parties.