How Long do Online Master’s Degrees Take?

how-long-do-online-masters-degrees-takeEnrolling in an online Master’s degree program is a smart way to complete your studies on your own schedule.

Unlike traditional campus programs that require you attend classes at set times every week, you log into the university’s website and work on your classes while at work, before leaving in the morning or at night when you come home.

Going to graduate school is a major time commitment, but the amount of time that you spend to earn your degree usually depends on a number of factors.

Full Time vs. Part Time

One thing that determines how long you’ll spend in school is whether you go full time or part time. Graduate school classes are worth three to five credit hours, and full time students usually take between 12 and 15 credit hours of classes each semester, which is between three and five classes. Part time students may take as little as three to six credit hours of classes each semester. Full time students can usually finish a graduate school program in 18 months to two years. Part time students may spend three to five years working on the same degree.

Fieldwork Component

The length of time you spend in grad school many depend on whether the program has any type of fieldwork component. Forbes found that physicians assistants have one of the highest salaries of all graduate degrees at around $97,000 a year. Physicians assistants must go through some training in the field as part of their studies, which can add to the time it takes for them to finish their advanced degrees. Mental health counseling, clinical psychology and teaching programs often have some fieldwork component as well that can add a year or more to the time that you spend in grad school.

Residency Requirement

Earning an online Master’s degree doesn’t always mean that you can finish all your courses and work online. Some programs now have a residency requirement that requires you spend some time working on campus before earning your degree. This may range from one weekend to an entire semester, and some schools even ask that you take at least one class on campus to complete your degree. If it takes some work to find time in your schedule to complete this requirement, you may find yourself spending an extra semester or more in the program.

Thesis Work

Another factor that can impact how long you stay in graduate school is your thesis. Though not all degree programs have a thesis component, some require an advanced research project or fieldwork in lieu of a thesis. Many grad school programs require that you take one or more classes that teach you how to create a thesis topic and give you tips on doing research on your topic before you start writing. The amount of time you spend conducting your research and then writing your thesis can add a year or more to your time in grad school.

Going to grad school lets you expand your knowledge base beyond the general knowledge you learned in college and may increase your future earnings potential too. Completing an online Master’s degree can help you save time driving to campus, but you can expect to spend at least 18 months to two years working on your Master’s degree.