Chicago Online Accredited Graduate Programs
Online graduate programs offer students and working professionals the opportunity to earn masters and doctoral degrees completely online. Earning a graduate degree online means students have the flexibility and opportunity to balance academic goals with family or on-going career demands.
Top Online Graduate Programs
According to the 2016 Online College Student Aslanian Market Research Report, the top online graduate fields of study have fluctuated from 2014 to 2016. Business remains at the top with 26% of the market share in 2016, while Education has dropped to 14% and Computers and IT has leapfrogged over Education to 20%.
Beyond the fields of study listed above, the study also reports the following as the top 11 online graduate program majors[iii]:
- Business Administration
- Computer Science & Engineering
- Information Technology
- Educational Administration (K-12)
- Computer Security
- Special Education (actually tied with Computer Security at #6)
- And all tied at #9: Information Management, Web Development & Adult and Higher Education
Top 3 Reasons to Pursue Online Graduate Programs
There are many reasons a student may choose to pursue a graduate degree program online. Often times convenience and flexibility are factors that may influence the decision to select an online degree over a campus based program. But beyond the format decision, there are many other reasons students decide to continue their education. According to the 2016 Online College Student Aslanian Market Research Report, the top 3 reasons are[iii]:
- I want a new career in a new field (20% of respondents).
- The satisfaction of completing my undergraduate/graduate education (15% of respondents).
- I wanted to keep up to date with the skills and requirements of my current job (14% of respondents).
How Credible Are Online Degrees?
The first step in determining credibility for any school is to determine if the graduate school is accredited or not. Check to see if the online school is regionally accredited. Not all online schools are regionally accredited—though the vast majority are. Beyond the school being accredited, students should also research if their program of interest has specific programmatic accreditation. If the answer is yes, it is a good idea to lean toward those schools that have that specific graduate program accreditation.
Degrees earned from regionally accredited online schools are just as respected and accepted as degrees earned from traditional graduate schools.
Why Is Accreditation Important?
Some online graduate schools are completely devoted to web-based learning and offer online graduate programs exclusively. Other universities may make their traditional programming available as an online graduate degree. Regardless of which type of school is offering the program you are interested in, it is important that you confirm that the school is regionally accredited. Why is accreditation important? Among many reasons, two stand out as very important:
- Funding - As a grad student, you will not be eligible for federal funding if the school you are attending is not an accredited online graduate school. Main types of financial aid include the Pell Grant, the Federal Perkins Loan, and Stafford Loans. For example, as a grad student, you may be eligible for up to $8,000 per year through the Federal Perkins Loan.[ii]
What Types of Online Graduate Degrees Are There?
Online graduate degrees include online masters programs, online graduate certificates and online doctoral degree programs, there are also different features that can determine what type of degree you may pursue.
- Types may be defined by the subject you are pursing, Master of Arts (MA), MBA, DNP (doctor of nurse practitioner)
- Accelerated programs - some schools offer accelerated programs where students are required to dedicate more time in a shorter window to graduate sooner. For example, our sponsored school, Northcentral University offers an accelerated MBA that allows students to graduate in as little as 12 months
- Bridge programs - some schools offer programs that combine earning multiple levels of degrees at once. When taken together, these degrees are earned faster than when taken separately. Many nursing programs are offered this way. For example an BSN to DNP. or an RN to MSN
- Direct entry programs - Direct entry programs are also found in the nursing arena. For students who are looking to enter into a new career such as nursing and have an undergraduate degree in a different subject, there may be specialized programs that prepare the student for this transition.
DID YOU KNOW?
The 2016 Online College Student Aslanian Market Research Study reported that more than two-thirds of graduate students feel their online graduate program was worth the investment of their time (73%) and money (69%).[iii]
How Do I Choose an Online Graduate School?
With the variety of online graduate programs, there are a few features you might evaluate when choosing with online graduate school to attend. These are;
- Decide how specialized you want to be. For example, you may want to keep your options open and simply pursue an MBA. Or, you may want to get more specific and pursue an MBA that focus' on Marketing or some other are of Business.
- What are you going to use the degree for? If your desire is to focus on research it may be more appropriate to pursue accredited Online Doctoral Programs vs an Online Masters programs
- Are you looking for an accelerated program or program that may accept life experience for credits? Ask colleges you are interested in if they offer these options
- Do you want to avoid taking entrance exams such as the GRE or GMAT? Look for schools that advertise their programs as such
- Look for fully accredited online colleges and universities
“In some occupations, a doctoral or professional degree may be more beneficial than a master’s degree. For example, about half of psychologists had a master’s degree in 2013 but another one-third of these workers had a doctoral degree—and those with a doctoral degree had a median annual wage that was 46 percent higher than that of psychologists with a master’s degree.”[i]
Are All Online Graduate Programs Formatted the Same?
Online graduate programs are not all formatted the same way. A traditional graduate school may offer ‘live’ classes at one of their campuses that online students can ‘attend’ by logging in synchronously (at the same time) to be able to participate. Or, a completely online grad school may have asynchronous course material where students pace themselves. There could also be a mixture of these two formats. Ultimately, each university, whether it is a brick and mortar graduate school or an online graduate school, has different ways of formatting their online grad programs.
Online Graduate Programs FAQs
- How online is it? Some programs may be entirely online (100%), while others may be partially online, which might entail campus visits, residency or intensives. (e.g. online MFT programs)
- How long to complete an online degree?: Some online graduate degree programs may be full-time, others part-time. You might also find online graduate degrees that are offered in an accelerated format to appeal to executives (e.g. Accelerated online MBA programs).
- What if there are lab requirements? In online grad programs where a laboratory or supervised practicum is required, students may be able to complete the requirements in their community (e.g. Online MSW programs)
- What are the tech requirements for online programs?: Your computer is your access to online discussion, online resources (E-Books, video, your course management system and email). You may be required to update your software, meet specific hardware requirements or have a working email address. In terms of tech support, this should be stipulated by a graduate school and you should be able to access this information ahead of enrollment.
- How do I contact my professor? There are usually provisions for contacting faculty. An online student may be paired with a faculty member, to reach out via email, telephone, online chat or whatever is predetermined by your university and program.
- Where is the library? An online graduate school may have agreements with your local library or have online resources. Some programs may supplement with textbooks.
- Is an online graduate degree easier? Online does not mean easier. It is a learning format that works best for self-motivated students.
- Are online graduate programs accredited? Many online graduate programs are accredited but some are not. All GradSchools.com partner schools are accredited but it is always a good idea to research on your own and double check. For those earning a degree from a lesser-known online school, researching accreditation is especially a good idea given the number of scams on the internet.
Find Online Programs
The opportunity to pursue a graduate degree online may make your goals within reach. Browse sponsored online graduate programs and use our on-page navigation to submit a request for more information from the online graduate schools on your list.
[i]bls.gov/careeroutlook/2015/article/should-i-get-a-masters-degree.htm#to-earn-or-not-to-earn-a-master-s-degree [ii] studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/loans/perkins [iii] Aslanian Market Research 2016 Online College Students
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Loyola University Chicago
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