How Long Does it Take to Earn a Master’s Degree Online?

Before you begin an online graduate program, you may be wondering the average time it takes to earn a master’s degree online, especially if you are working full-time. Experts say many prospective online master’s students who typically plan to balance their education with full-time employment often wonder about how much time it will take to earn their degrees as they aim to switch careers or move up in their current roles. In other words, they want to know how long they their degree will take to earn since they will be working it into their current lifestyle. The simple answer: It depends on the program.

Course Load

Among individual students, the amount of time it will take to earn a master’s degree online will range widely. To determine your personal situation, there are several factors to consider. First, when calculating program length, look for flexibility in the number of courses you can enroll in at once as well as how the program’s schedule is arranged. For instance, some online programs are cohort-based, meaning that all students progress through the courses at the same pace in order to graduate at the same time. Other programs allow online learners to decide which and how many courses they will be taking at once. However, this decision will boil down to students’ family obligations and other work, including full- or part-time jobs.

Many students pursue one or two classes each term after they enroll part time, although this may also vary. Since each student’s case is different, many institutions, including those offering online master’s degrees, assign academic advisers to each student. This individual can help the student to determine what courses to take and when the required classes will be available based on the institution’s program schedules. Also, students should research whether their online master’s degree program operates around a semester system or a different type of schedule in order to accurately calculate how long the degree will take to complete.

Accelerated and Competency-Based Programs

Another factor affecting how long it will take to earn a master’s degree is whether the school or program offers accelerated options. However, most of these programs may require a larger workload each week and may not be the best choice for those with many obligations outside of school. Students may also opt for a competency-based program, which is designed to ensure that students gain concrete skill sets as they pertain to the industries of study. These programs enable students to progress through what they have already learned and developed at a quicker pace.

Personal Commitments and Previous Knowledge

In many cases, earning a degree online can be just as challenging as one offered on-campus, requiring hours of coursework per week. In order to gain a rough estimate of a class’ weekly commitment, simply multiply the course’s number of credit hours by three. Even so, the number of hours a student can devote to classwork each week varies, and it depends on the student’s background and outside commitments. For instance, a student who already holds a position in a field related to their online master’s degree program will likely progress more quickly through coursework based on his or her previous knowledge.

Whether it is previous knowledge, outside commitments or class schedules, there are a number of factors that go into determining how long it will take to earn a master’s degree online. Be sure to research the specific programs you are interested in pursuing and take into account your personal, work and family obligations. After considering these factors, you should be able to determine how long it will take you personally to earn your Master’s degree.

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