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What Makes a Good Online Master's Program

Updated on November 13, 2016

Online degrees are still a relatively new phenomenon; because of this many employers don’t place as much weight on an online degree as they do a traditional one. However, because of the undeniable convenience of learning from home on your own time, online degrees have seen much greater uptake among working professionals than among traditional college students. As a result, online master’s programs are both more respected, and better developed than most online bachelor’s programs.

So, what characteristics does a good online program need to have if it’s going to both deliver the same level of education, and carry the same weight on your resume as a traditional master’s program? Here’s a (not remotely complete) list that I narrowed down out of about 80 online master’s programs (the original list was arbitrary and limited due to time-management concerns).


University of Maryland

Boston University

Washington State University

Information Sciences

University of Southern California

Boston University

Public Service

George Washington University

University of Southern California

Social Work

Case Western Reserve University

Wake Forest University


Ohio University

University of Cincinnati

Maryville University

University of Arizona

Illinois at Chicago

A Recognizable School

The first thing you’ll notice here is that you’ve heard of all of these universities. A degree from a no name university is a handicap when you attended in person, but for an online degree it’s a deal breaker. Instead of assuming that your university might just be a smaller college, a hiring manager might well think that you got suckered in by an online diploma mill. If you have to take time out of a job interview to explain that your school was, in fact, fully accredited, you’ve already lost. Even worse, it sets the rest of the interview up as a confrontational interaction, which hurts your chances of landing a job.

Equal Admissions Requirements

If you start digging through the admission requirements of these programs, you’ll find that their online programs have the same requirements as the traditional ones. What this means is that the university approaches online learning as a different mode of accessing their services, rather than as a different program. This is important because it means that your online MBA from Boston University is literally the same MBA that any non-online student would be walking away with. You have the same responsibilities and obligations to fulfill in order graduate as any other student, and the end result is equally valuable.

Individually Smell-tested

What’s meant by this is that not all programs at the same university are created equal. Online programs are often developed individually by each college within a university, and generally researching a university isn’t usually good enough to determine whether you’ll have a good experience. Taking classes online usually means you need to be even more actively involved in your own education than a traditional student, and that includes deciding on a program. You’ll want to talk to your prospective professors, possible thesis advisors, and some current students to ensure that it’s a good fit before committing.


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