Are online degrees real degrees?
Considering Another Class
I’m considering taking two classes this quarter instead of one. I have two days to decide. I’d complete my degree 4 months earlier, and the class I’m in is pretty easy. (It is pretty much an undergrad class that I’ve taken, but if they want to count it for my graduate degree, I’m all for it.) The teacher’s style seems quite straightforward. The homeworks should be pretty easy (though time consuming), though the exams will require some effort.
I’m hesitant because of the time commitment. Either way, I will finish my MS sometime in 2010. I doubt I’ll have the bandwidth to take two classes at once again, so maybe now is the time to seize that chance.
The side job thing isn’t really going anywhere. Given the market, I doubt start-ups are able to get much (any) venture capital right now, so I don’t anticipate my talents being needed. On the other hand, I’ve had a bad month or so and have been feeling pretty stressed/tired. Do I want to take on more work? And wasn’t I going to fill out the transfer credit paperwork? Or check on my student ID? Gah.
Why I do distance education in the first place
1. I can go to good schools, no matter where I live
I wanted to talk about online/distance education in a more general sense. I recently told some “real grad students” (full-time) I was getting my Masters degree online. Someone joked about the University of Phoenix Online and said online degrees are a big business these days. Yes, online education is big business these days, but no, it isn’t University of Phoenix! In fact, I’m going to your school! They scoffed at me for coming to the new graduate student picnic, but hey, I was invited! A lot of top universities are offering online programs, in part because they are quite cheap to run.
2. It is a good financial deal in my industry
They asked the price per a class, did some calculations and said I was really getting ripped off. “Nah, not really. My company pays for it all.” Up front, as well as my textbooks. And they pay me a real salary while I’m doing it, and some stock options when I finish. I’m not getting ripped off one bit! I didn’t brag to that extent, but I did want to be clear I was getting a great deal. Plus, you don’t have to survive on a stipend, can save for retirement, and get some perspective on the real world. While details may vary, almost all big companies in my industry will pay for your education.
3. For my career path, it is as good as a “regular” degree
I’ve also heard claims that the value of an online degree isn’t the same as their “real” degree. In my industry, it is nearly equivalent, as long as it from a real university (the kind that also has a respected regular program). In academia, they probably have more of a point. You probably wouldn’t go for an online degree if a PhD or research career is your calling. I know my opinion is skewed, but I really don’t see why anyone in my field would go full-time just for the MS (unless they got a fellowship, but those are often reserved for the PhDs).
4. I’m disciplined and basically awesome (or, I don’t mind having no life little free time)
There are downsides, of course–coursework eats into your spare time and you have to be self-disciplined. If you don’t do the work, you won’t pass, and your company won’t pay. You don’t get to live the student lifestyle (however, you also avoid campus outbreaks), and you will spend a lot of weekends catching up. Also, it takes longer than usual. In my case I’ve completed roughly 7 months, and I still have 1.5-2 years left. This doesn’t count my 9 month break I took when I moved to California. While I know “full-time” graduate students that stretch their M.S. over almost 2 years, T whipped through his in a academic year (9 months). While all my degree will cost me is time, I can see how that isn’t worth it to some people.
So, are they real degrees? Well, it depends, but usually, yes. What do you think? Are online degrees respected in your field? Would your employer pay for part or all of yours?