Online Masters Degrees Expand Opportunities for Political Activists

The online educational world is thriving. Adult students of all ages can find casual, non-accredited home studies courses and entire degreed programs in lucrative subjects online - full bachelors, masters, and phD accredited curricula. Some schools are even experimenting with new courses, stemming from the protests of environmental and political activists, and are using the online medium to test their popularity and value. Some of the courses cost money and some are free.

New online masters degree announced by University of California, Berkeley.
New online masters degree announced by University of California, Berkeley. | Source

The new courses of study are being triggered by a need for new expertise in the field, like the knowledge of how to reverse damages humans have imposed upon the earth. Extreme weather events and climate change crises worldwide, for example, have illuminated the need for awareness about what human construction and mining of the earth's resources has been doing to the environment.

In the environmental field, the dearth of knowledgeable government policy makers, writers, corporate advisors, lawyers, engineers, and more has become apparent over the last several years, even as the need has grown. There are new jobs to be filled, and existing jobs becoming available from "baby boomer" retirees looking for replacements who know what they're doing.

This need has triggered the creation of a number of courses and degrees related to or including environmental science. If you are a student or a political activist looking to switch fields, you might want to think seriously about the benefits of online studies such as these.

We desperately need to find a new way of living that does not destroy the life forces we depend upon. Many universities have heeded the call for new expertise and are offering relevant degrees online.

Popularity of Online Training

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Environmental Science Jobs

Here are some of the growing categories of occupations that call for environmental science degrees, followed by the median annual salary offered in the USA in 2009 and projected job growth for 2008-2018 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics):

Atmospheric and space scientists: $84,710; 15% projected growth.

Biochemists and biophysicists: $82,390; 37% growth.

Conservation scientists: $60,160; 12% growth.

Environmental scientists and specialists: $61,010; 28% growth.

Foresters: $53,840; 12% growth.

Geoscientist: $81,220; 18% growth.

Hydrologist: $73,670; 18% growth.

History of Online Education

Online education started out in the 1960s, before the advent of home computers, with networked computer terminals at colleges. As the Internet developed and home computers became available, educators started offering non-accredited, experimental training courses online. The opportunities expanded from there. Online learning now includes entire bachelors, masters, and PhD degree programs offered by leading universities worldwide.

Although they may have started out utilizing the Internet only for supplementational purposes, most universities are now fully supportive of online learning. Many are also using it as an experimental venue for new courses not yet offered at the university itself, which helps them lower the cost of introduction. And there are accredited universities that exist only online.

Masters Degree Programs

In addition to environmental studies, the workforce is calling for new expertise in engineering, foreign policy, and construction design. Here are samples of comparatively recent masters degree programs, offered online, that may or may not be offered on the ground as well.

Environmental Studies: Our biggest need right now is to understand what we did to the environment and how we can save ourselves from self-annihilation:

Environmental Public Health - Studies of cancer-causing agents present in the environment, how our treatment of the environment has affected public health, and what needs to change.

Sustainable Community Management - The design, construction, and management of sustainable communities. How do communities in developed countries compare with those in less developed countries who are not overusing their resources? What can we learn from each other?

Natural Resources & Environmental Science/Sustainable Futures - Identification, planning, and use of natural resources that promotes healthy renewal, including management and restoration of preserved spaces.

Biomedical engineering laboratory - it requires a higher level degree to work in such a lab.
Biomedical engineering laboratory - it requires a higher level degree to work in such a lab. | Source

Engineering - This is a hugely expanding field online:

Data Management - How to collect, organize, and decipher the reams of data made available by online communications. Needed by governments, intelligence agencies, multinational corporations, and news agencies worldwide.

Systems Engineering - How to design, set up, network, and maintain interconnected computer and computerized mechanical systems for all sizes and natures of use.

Computing in Education - Utilizing computers in educational settings - including the unique problems associated with online testing, grading, and records privacy.

Plastics Technology - The discovery, design, testing, and introduction of new plastics. Includes testing toxicity of fossil fuels-based plastics, as well as bioplastics and other, more desirable replacements.

BioMedical Engineering - Experimentation and discovery of new diseases and cures. Includes nano-technology and genetic modification.

Foreign Policy & War - Prompted mainly by the Western scare of terrorism, there are new courses offered to supply governments and their affiliates with expertise in the following areas:

Conflict, Development, & Security (UK) - Definition and history of world conflict. What constitutes "security" and how can it be established without infringing on country autonomy?

Homeland Security (USA) - Development of systems for citizen protection, information gathering and processing, moral and legal issues, and control.

There are also programs available through the United Nations on disarmament and international affairs (sidebar). Note that any war torn society has serious ecological issues as well, since bombing completely destroys the environment.

The main role of a construction manager is to make sure that architectural designs are followed to code.
The main role of a construction manager is to make sure that architectural designs are followed to code. | Source

Construction Design - The more stringent building codes, increased expectations, and more efficient equipment, fixtures, and construction materials available have triggered an accompanying need for better trained construction managers and related professionals. Here are three masters degrees that answer that call.

International Construction Management - This major deals with the human and business side of construction of factories, government buildings and homes overseas. It includes the movements of construction materials between countries, and related international laws.

Technology/Construction Management - A subdivision of the technology department, this masters program focuses on managing construction projects that utilize the latest in software and product technology.

Construction Law & Dispute Resolution - Legalities of construction, including qualification for LEED status, acquiring and defending rights of way, adherence to local building and safety codes, materials acquisition, disposition of toxins, contracts, payments, and more.

Cost of Online Masters Degrees

Because online education is such a new and growing technology, there is no standard pricing structure. Costs range from $10,000 to $115,000, according to

Unfortunately, many top universities (about 50%) are taking advantage of the popularity and convenience of online training, and are charging more than they do for offline courses. Prospective students therefore need to weigh costs vs. convenience very carefully before committing to a course of study.

Not only do online schools charge tuition, but they also charge other fees less obvious, like enrollment or processing fees, fees for technology required, books and materials fees, and testing fees. These can all add up to be as costly or more than attending a university in person.

However, costs for online degrees can be lowered by taking some of the required courses from universities that offer them online free of charge (like Berkeley or Stanford), being reimbursed by employers for training related to work, and/or acquiring credit for existing experience. Also, some services you will need for accreditation, but not if you just want to study a course.

School loan assistance has so far been more difficult to obtain for online training than for real-time education. Scholarships are scarcer and banks are hesitant to loan money for non-standard schooling. For awhile even federal educational loans were not available, but that changed in 2006. This makes it really critical to plan finances carefully before committing to obtaining a degree online.

Related life experience can help reduce costs when obtaining a higher level degree.
Related life experience can help reduce costs when obtaining a higher level degree. | Source

Credit for Experience

Online programs have ways of granting credit for experience and past training, using online testing and portfolio evaluation. In reducing the number of courses required, experiential credit also cuts the cost of your degree.

Tests generally cost $95-400 each. This is a good option for people who have a lot of experience or who are self-starters - who have had the interest and discipline to learn new things on their own already. Those who fail the test will not get their money back, although they can suppress the score/s.

Portfolio evaluation can cost up to $1300 or more, and all online schools do not offer it. This includes instruction on how to properly prepare a portfolio of this type, and evaluation of its contents. At Excelsior College online, successful students can receive up to 12 experiential credits toward their degree.

Obtaining a masters degree online can really work for some people, especially those with young children at home or demanding, full time jobs. For others, it may be cheaper and/or more rewarding to study in a real classroom. It's up to the individual to figure out which. Check out the links below for more information.

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Comments 3 comments

jabelufiroz profile image

jabelufiroz 3 years ago from India

Informative article on Online Masters Degrees.

sherrituck profile image

sherrituck 3 years ago from Virginia

I earned two master's degrees through the electronic classroom. I will say that these classes challenged me more that the traditional college environment. It bothers me when I hear this learning venue criticized. I always believe that you are responsible for your education. You get what you put into it.

Sustainable Sue profile image

Sustainable Sue 3 years ago from Altadena CA, USA Author

I agree Sherri. I know professors who have put their courses online, and the way they describe their interaction with students, you can tell the challenge is there. I think that as this venue's benefits become more apparent, and highly respected universities get more involved, then the detractors will go down.

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