How to Get a Master’s Degree?
What Are the Requirements for an Online Graduate Degree? What GPA is needed for a master’s degree?
The admissions requirements for getting a master’s degree online are typically more involved than they are for an online undergraduate program.
In order to apply for a graduate-level program, you must provide proof that you have successfully completed an undergraduate program at a regionally accredited university. You will need to provide transcripts showing your grades. Some schools will have a minimum GPA, such as a 3.0, in order to enter into a master’s degree program.
Next, find out whether the school you’re applying to requires you to submit admission test scores. Many graduate school programs – but not all – require you to take the GRE or GMAT, or a similar test specific to your field.
Finally, in addition to the application, transcripts, test scores, and fees, you may be asked to submit other supportive documents for admission. These documents may include professional references, a personal statement or essay, a resume, and/or an approved degree plan. It’s very important that you review the application requirements thoroughly and include everything that is asked for.
How long does it take to earn a master’s degree online?
Generally, it takes around 2 years of full-time study to earn a master’s degree, but some accelerated online programs can be completed in half that time!
How quickly you can complete an online master’s program depends on several variables, including:
- The course duration – Does the school operate on traditional 16-week semesters or in fast-paced 8-week sessions? Are you choosing an accelerated format?
- How many credits are required for completion
- How many courses you can handle at a time
- How often required courses are offered
- Whether you are part-time or full-time
As an example, by choosing an accelerated online program – 2 courses per 8-week session – that does not require a thesis, you can breeze through the program and earn a master’s degree in as little as one year. It truly just depends on what a school offers, and how it will fit into your schedule.
How hard is an online master’s degree?
Whether an online master’s degree program is hard is subjective — it depends on your aptitude, your interest, and your engagement. But you can be sure that it will be much different than your undergraduate experience.
Here are some of the differences you can expect:
- More focused studies
Undergraduates typically take courses in a wide variety of subjects – including general education courses like Economics, Chemistry, and English – especially in the first year or two. As a master’s student, most – if not all – of your coursework will be closely related to your chosen career path. You will take advanced classes that dive deep into your area of expertise.
In the final year or so of undergraduate studies, students spend a lot of time researching and learning about important discoveries made by others in their field. But as a graduate student, you will conduct original research and use your findings to make discoveries that will help advance the field.
- More reading and writing
Graduate-level programs tend to involve quite a bit more reading and writing than undergraduate programs. You will perform extensive research and analysis, making new contributions to the field and perhaps even writing a master’s thesis.
- More independent work / Fewer breaks
As an undergraduate, you may have spent long hours in crowded lecture halls and then gone home to complete assignments that were planned out by your professor. As a graduate student, on the other hand, you will spend less time “in class” and more time conducting independent research, developing and testing theories, and directing your own learning experience.
While both levels have the same seasonal breaks (i.e. winter break, spring break, summer break), as a graduate student it is unlikely that you will get much time to relax. Rather you will continue to stay busy studying for exams and preparing your thesis or other projects.
The coursework you will encounter while getting a master’s degree online will be intense and demanding. That’s no secret. But most people who choose to pursue this degree are passionate about their field, and want to advance in their careers – so while it is tough, it’s also rewarding. And it will pay off!
What to Expect in a Master’s Degree Curriculum?
Your master’s degree curriculum, requirements, and overall experience will depend on the school and subject you choose. You should expect the curriculum to be demanding, but also rewarding.
Students beginning a master’s program have a wide range of experience in the subject matter. Some students enter a master’s program right after completing their undergraduate studies in a closely related field. Some completed their undergraduate degrees years ago and have been working in the field since. And still, some others come into a master’s program with an undergraduate degree in a completely unrelated field and are looking to start fresh with a new career path.
If you are in that last group, and your undergraduate degree is unrelated to the master’s program you have chosen, you may need to take prerequisite courses either early on or even before you get started.
For the most part, though, students are able to begin field-related courses right away. You may take start with some core or foundational courses, and you may need to take courses in writing or math if those subjects relate to your field.
A bit further into the master’s program, you will likely have the opportunity to narrow your education even further by selecting a track or specialty. If you already have a specialty in mind, it is a good idea to first search for master’s programs that offer that specialty and then compare the courses to see which is the best fit. The courses within a track or specialty are highly specialized and designed to prepare you for your specific career.
If you are not sure which specialty to choose, you may consider a “general” track. This will allow for a broader, more versatile education that can be applied in many different positions.
Traditionally, at the end of the program, you are required to complete a master’s thesis – a 100+ page research-heavy paper that provides a significant contribution to the field. However, some programs are moving away from thesis requirements, and instead opting for hands-on capstone projects or internship experiences.
As an online graduate student, you may be wondering how your curriculum differs from the curriculum used for in-person programs, but the truth is it doesn’t. The courses, expectations, assignments, and exams for online and in-person learning are identical.
You will be expected to find time to listen to lectures, complete assignments, contribute to online discussion boards and take exams. You will also need to find time for additional research and writing as you work toward your thesis or another big project.
In short, an online master’s curriculum will offer a mix of core and elective courses, providing the foundational education and specialty training that you will need to advance in your field.