The Benefits of Online Grad Schools

Going back to school demands immediate sacrifices, in the hopes of a long-term reward. It's a tough choice, but online education can make the decision a little easier.

Online grad schools, online trade schools, and online vocational schools can ease the decision to go back to school by reducing the sacrifices you have to make. Understanding more about online education should help you determine whether this approach is right for you.

Back to school: the benefits

Did you ever get the impression that an additional degree or some vocational training would help you get ahead? Statistics show you are probably right.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2009, people in the US with a master's degree were earning an average of $65,364 per year, or 22.6 percent more than people sans a graduate degree. Those with professional or doctorate degrees had even higher earnings. At the same time, the unemployment rate was 25 percent lower for people with master's degrees than for those with just a bachelor's degree, and lower still for people with professional or doctorate degrees.

Even if you never made it past a high school diploma, there are similar benefits to taking the next step in your education. People with some college - even without a degree - were found to be earning 11.7 percent more than those who never went beyond high school, and they were 11.3 percent less likely to be unemployed.

Back to school: the challenges

Going back to school is likely to help you compete for jobs and advance your career. But, there are challenges involved in going back to school once you've already started working:

  • It can put a strain on your personal obligations.
  • It can require giving up your current job.
  • It will almost certainly put a strain on your finances.

However, as you weigh the potential benefits against the potential challenges, consider the likely long-term return on your investment (ROI).

Online grad schools and online vocational schools: a natural solution

By eliminating travel time and allowing more flexibility in scheduling, online schools can reduce conflicts with your personal and professional obligations. They can also ease the financial burden by allowing you to continue to work; they are also often less expensive than campus-based programs.

In short, online grad schools and online vocational or trade schools are a natural solution for people who have started working but want to go back to school. That's why there has been such a boom in the popularity of online education over the past several years.

From 2002 to 2009, the number of online college students in the US rose from 1.6 million to nearly 5.6 million. Online students now represent 29.3 percent of total US college enrollment. In other words, the 21st century has already seen online education progress from something of a novelty to a tried-and-true part of the educational system.

Choosing wisely

The US Department of Education (ed.gov) found that online education can be at least as effective as in-person instruction at the college and graduate school levels. You can improve your chances of a positive experience by making wise choices about your online education:

  • Look for proper accreditation. Whether it's a trade school or a grad school, it should be accredited by an organization recognized by the DOE (ed.gov).
  • Try to find an interactive program. The DOE found that programs where the online instructor actively interacted with students, or which combined online and in-person learning, were especially effective.
  • Choose your program wisely. Different fields can offer different ROIs, do the research beforehand.