You know that for your chosen career path, having advanced education beyond a bachelor’s degree may be a requirement, or at least strongly encouraged when it comes to your future earning potential. Once you are focused on career advancement through higher education, the next step is to choose the right program and the right university to help you achieve your goal in a way that fits your current lifestyle and budget — you want to enhance your life, not detract from it.
Choosing a Master’s Program that Is Right for You
The financial cost of a graduate-level program and the time it will take to complete your coursework are important initial considerations, especially if you want to continue in your current job and earn an income while pursuing more education. It’s critical to find an acceptable balance of cost and time that feels comfortable to you. There are many other considerations, too, before diving into the year-or-more commitment of advanced learning. Here’s a checklist of a few things you should consider.
- Schedule. Does the university offer year-round enrollment so that you can start at any time? Is the order in which you take some classes flexible? Can you take breaks between classes and start back up whenever you want?
- Is the university accredited so that your education is formally acknowledged and recognized by employers as meeting certain quality standards?
- Class size. An important reason to consider graduate school is the opportunity it offers to work on personal development and build professional skills —and to make valuable connections and build relationships with fellow students and experts in your chosen career field. Are classes small enough (20 or fewer students) so that you can interact with everyone easily? Does the class size allow for group discussions/participation for all? Does the professor offer one-on-one time to each student?
- Financial assistance. Is there financial aid available if you need it? Is there support available to help you identify your options? Are there any benefits for servicemembers, active or veteran, or their dependents?
- Program advisor. Is the advisor in your area of focus available to discuss your plans before you start any courses, during your program, and after you complete your degree requirements to help you with any challenges you face?
- Elective courses in your area of interest. Are there several opportunities within the master’s program to pursue topics you want to do deep-dive research or study in? Will there be opportunities for networking and meeting like-minded individuals?
- If you aren’t near to a campus or able to attend in-person classes, are the courses you want available online? Is there flexibility to enroll in a mix of on-campus and online courses?
Are You a Good Fit for an Online Program?
Online programs are becoming more and more available each day, and certainly are more common now than they were a dozen years ago. Is taking online classes the right way for you to go?
The technology for online courses improves as technology improves, and universities who have large offerings of online programs, such as National University, strive to make the online course platform accessible to anyone. The goal is to help you achieve higher education, not spend your time learning a new platform to access the classes. So if fear of technology has been holding you back, know that other students who have had the same concerns go on to successfully complete their degrees. Rather than being a barrier, technology makes online learning platforms easier to access all the time, extending educational opportunities to anyone, whatever their personal situation in life.
To be able to make the most of an online program, you do need to have a clear focus on your end goals. You need discipline and determination to complete your coursework, and sometimes balance that against work and family responsibilities. You also need to have great time management skills in order to fit the classwork, homework, projects, reading, research, collaboration with your fellow students, and other tasks, into your already busy life.
There is independence inherent in online education that isn’t found with traditional campus-based classes, but it isn’t for everyone. If you’re able to work on your own to meet particular deadlines and seek out assistance when you need it, and you either don’t have the time, opportunity, or inclination to attend on-campus classes, online education can be a great fit. The biggest benefit to online programs is their ability to offer the most flexibility with how you fit the classwork into your daily schedule.
With National University’s online master’s programs, you can finish your degree on your own timeline. With rolling enrollment and intensive four-week-long courses offered each month, depending on transfer credits and your specific undergraduate degree, it’s possible to finish a master’s degree in a year. If you need to take a break in between monthly classes for personal or professional reasons, that won’t derail you.
Online master degree programs available from National University
NU has numerous programs available within eight areas of study for you to consider. Keep in mind that it’s possible to major in one area and have flexibility to pursue multiple interests and career paths without losing momentum in your selected program.
As an example, a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication at NU fall within the business and marketing, social sciences and psychology, and the arts and humanities areas of study. Focusing on communications can lead you into any career where it’s important to clearly get a message across, such as educational instruction, writing, public speaking, and more.
Another example is the Master of Public Administration, found within the areas of business and marketing, and criminal justice and law. This degree is great if you are socially aware and a good listener and have an interest in systems analytics to help solve problems within a nonprofit or government agency.
You may find so many options available that you’ll need help narrowing in on the best choice. That’s not a bad problem to have. But if you do need help finding your focus, our team of advisors is ready to help.
If you are interested in teaching and education, there are many fields where having a master-level degree can lead to higher income. Program options to consider at National include: the Master of Arts in English, Master of Science in Educational and Instructional Technology, or a Master of Science in Higher Education Administration. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections estimates the median national wage to be $94,390 for an educational administrator position that has a master’s-level degree as an entry-level requirement. While college and university (postsecondary) positions generally require a Ph.D. in the chosen subject area, some teaching positions in art, drama, and music, which have a median annual salary of $66,930, generally only have an entry-level requirement of a master’s degree. Teaching in a community-college system is also possible with a master’s degree.
If business and marketing excite you, or if you enjoy problem-solving and management or can see yourself in a leadership role, consider these master’s degrees which can lead to higher earning potential and career advancement: Master of Accountancy, Master of Arts in Human Resource Management, Master of Arts in Strategic Communication, Master of Business Administration, Master of Healthcare Administration, Master of Public Administration, Master of Public Health, Master of Science in Business Analytics, Master of Science in Data Science, Master of Science in Management Information Systems, and Master of Science in Organizational Leadership.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects occupations in business and financial operations to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is faster than average for all occupations. The need for market research analysts will grow as companies use data and market research to better understand customers and product demand. Most occupations related to business and marketing require a bachelor’s degree for an entry-level position, so if you already have that and are working on a master’s degree, you’ll quickly have the potential to move ahead of your peers into the position you want.
In the growing field of health care and nursing, NU offers a Master of Healthcare Administration, Master of Public Health, Master of Science in Health & Life Science Analytics, and a Master of Science in Health Informatics. These degrees help prepare you for roles such as a health care manager or administrator. In these programs, you’d be pursuing professional growth to enable you to develop innovations related to health care – from access, cost, and quality of health care, to improving the health of your community.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections estimates that health care occupations will grow 18 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is much faster than the averages of all occupations. Positions requiring a master’s degree for an entry-level position include nurse practitioners with a median yearly income of $103,880; physician assistants with a median annual wage of $104,860; and nurse anesthetists seeing a median annual salary of $165,120.
If your interests lie in social sciences and psychology, there are a number of degree options that tie into those interests and offer a variety of career options including: Master of Arts in Digital Journalism, Master of Arts in Film Studies, Master of Arts in Gerontology, Master of Arts in Human Behavior Psychology, Master of Arts in Performance Psychology, Master of Arts in Strategic Communication, Master of Criminal Justice, Master of Public Administration, or a Master of Public Health.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook expects occupations in life, physical, and social science to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than average. The median annual wage for these occupations was $64,510 in 2017. There is increasing demand for those with expertise in biomedical research, psychology, energy management, and environmental protection. Jobs with an entry-level requirement of a master’s degree include historians, political scientists, sociologists, survey researchers, and zoologists and wildlife biologists. Other occupations include anthropologists and archeologists (median pay of $62,280 in 2017) and economists (median pay in 2017 of $102,490). Epidemiologists with a master’s in public health saw a median annual wage of $69,660 in 2017, while the median annual wage for urban and regional planners was $71,490.
As with many other career fields, in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, or math (commonly called the STEM fields), income potential and advancement are often aligned with your level of education. At National, graduate degrees offered in the areas of engineering and technology include: Master of Science in Computer Science, Master of Science in Cybersecurity, Master of Science in Data Science, Master of Science in Engineering Management, and Master of Science in Management Information Systems. NU’s offerings in science and math include the Master of Forensic Sciences, Master of Science in Business Analytics, Master of Science in Health & Life Science Analytics, or the Master of Science in Health Informatics. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a couple of occupations that typically require a master’s degree for an entry-level position include statisticians whose median annual wage in 2017 was $84,060; and urban and regional planners who saw an annual median salary of $71,490.
The five programs in criminal justice and law include Master of Criminal Justice, Master of Forensic Sciences, Master of Public Administration, Master of Science in Cybersecurity, and the Master of Science in Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a nine percent growth in law-related occupations from 2016 to 2026, as fast as average for all occupations.
The advanced degree programs in arts and humanities at National include the Master of Arts in Digital Journalism, Master of Arts in English, Master of Arts in Film Studies, Master of Arts in Strategic Communication, Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, Master of Fine Arts in Digital Cinema, and the Master of Fine Arts in Professional Screenwriting. These degrees can help you achieve a career in occupations expected to see four percent growth from 2016 to 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most occupations have a bachelor’s degree as a requirement for an entry-level position, so attaining your master’s will place you ahead of the crowd. There is also a growing need for professionals with experience in animation and visual effects for video games, movies, smartphones, and television.
Other Benefits from Pursuing a Master’s Degree
While pursuing your graduate education, you’ll meet and be introduced to the works of leading thinkers in your field. Some of these people may be your professors or your fellow students. They are the ones who can inspire you and motivate you to work toward your dream and achieve your goals.
Also depending on the program and area of interest you pursue, you may find yourself gaining academic recognition for research on theories you explore, write, and publish papers on. The right program can give you many opportunities to really push beyond your comfort zone to achieve not only a higher salary, but peer recognition that can lead to opportunities you haven’t considered yet.
Tips to Succeed in an Online Program
This is just a quick outline of some of the benefits of pursuing an online master’s degree from National University. Here are some quick tips to help you succeed with whatever online program you choose:
- If you have a concern, get a test drive of the online platform. Make sure that you are comfortable with how the online class technology works and confirm that your laptop or personal computer meets the technical requirements.
- Determine your schedule. Block off time in your calendar for your online classes, but also for time to do the assignments, which can include giving feedback to fellow students. You’ll want to track due dates so nothing is neglected.
- Reach out to the instructors. The best learning occurs when you interact with and ask questions of your instructor during class sessions and get feedback on work that you submit. Don’t hesitate to also reach out to ask questions independently outside of class sessions. You should feel comfortable asking for help, guidance, or any type of assistance you might need. And your professors should be reasonably available to provide that.
- Be consistent. It can be beneficial to have a particular space to do your coursework. You’ll want a physical space where you can work without distractions. A good filing system is also important even in a digital environment. Keep all your online class documents and work organized in a consistent manner from class to class so that you can find what you need when you need it.
How Is National University Different from Other Universities?
With more than 20 years of experience in the online education field, NU has established itself as a leader in providing accessible, flexible, and high-quality online degree options. The format and variety of the degree options allows students to accomplish the program they want while meeting their existing military, business, and personal commitments.
National is firmly committed to helping military personnel and their dependents by offering tuition discounts and support services for those in or transitioning out of the military. And veteran and active-duty servicemembers have little to no out-of-pocket costs for their education thanks to NU being a Yellow Ribbon school.
National University has a global reach. Online programs are available 24/7 and are delivered with the latest technology to be accessible to anyone with internet access – from active-duty servicemembers anywhere in the world, to the single parent using the town library. Students can take classes from a ship or a submarine, from a tent or an office building, from an RV or an island getaway.
Online programs offer the convenience of fitting to your schedule and your lifestyle through open year-round enrollment and flexible four-week classes. Homework can be done any time of day or night – before the kids get up or before early morning yoga, during your lunch break, or after the kids are in bed. Not having to commute anywhere allows you to have time with your family and do assignments when it’s best for you.
For more information about the National University masters’ programs, please visit our online education program page.