Program Variations (Chapter
- For-Profit vs. Nonprofit Schools
For-profit schools and nonprofit schools differ in goals, finances and served populations. Both types of schools, however, can have legitimate accreditation and offer state, federal and institutional financial aid.
Very simply, for-profit schools exist to make a profit. Backed by investors, 1 of their main goals is to see steady financial growth. Few for-profit schools have traditional campuses or even own the space that they use. Therefore not all profits made from tuition and fees are put back into the school and its facilities, or into extracurricular groups. Although instructors may be qualified, they are not required to conduct research, publish their findings or create their own lesson plans. For-profit schools tend to be more flexible, cater to low-income communities and first generation college students.
Nonprofit schools tend to hold regional accreditation, are more familiar to the public and provide a more traditional college experience. They are designed to reinvest their profits into the school, the campus and facilities and into extracurricular groups like athletic teams and bands. The faculty at nonprofit schools will be expected to teach, conduct research and publish their findings.
Attending a for-profit college for an online masters degree is not always a bad idea. Because they are more flexible, pursuing a post-graduate degree can be easier to achieve. That said, not all for-profit colleges and universities have accreditation and depending on the field in which you want to work, you may need to attend a program that does.
- Fully Online Programs vs. Hybrid Programs
Online masters degree programs are offered as either fully online programs or hybrid programs that blend online coursework with on-campus requirements. A program that is fully online means that you will spend no time in a traditional classroom setting. A hybrid program is usually offered by a brick-and-mortar school and holds certain courses online, but requires others to be taken on site. Hybrid programs are designed for students who work or have other responsibilities and therefore need the flexibility of completing some of their coursework remotely. On-campus classes generally take place in the evenings or on the weekends to facilitate the schedules of working students.
Hybrid programs are a good option if your field of study allows you to do independent coursework online, but you know that you will also benefit from being in a cohort and participating in peer review. Because hybrid programs are associated with brick-and-mortar schools, you will not only have access to their libraries, computer labs and other resources, you will also likely not have to explain your online degree to potential employers. Programs in areas like education, particularly teacher preparation programs, often use the hybrid style to accommodate working teachers.
If you reside near a college or university that offers a masters degree through a hybrid program and you can manage to attend the on-campus classes, it is really the best of the online and on-campus worlds.
- Accelerated vs. Part Time Programs
One of the nice things about pursuing a masters degree online is that if you enroll in a program that allows for more self pacing and asynchronous coursework, you can choose the rate at which you earn credits. You can accelerate the time in which you get your degree, or you can pursue it at a more leisurely pace. Within the boundaries of the program’s requirements, how long it takes you to earn your degree is up to you.
- Thesis vs. Non-Thesis Programs
A thesis is a lengthy research paper in which you put forth a theory and support it with your own research. Many masters degree programs require a thesis at the end of the program in order to test your subject knowledge and your ability to research and write.
Whether or not a thesis is necessary is dependent on your field of study and on your ultimate educational goals. If you are pursuing a masters in a humanities or social sciences, it is likely that you will be required to write a thesis. This is especially true if you plan to continue your education through the doctorate level. On the other hand, if you are pursuing an MBA or another professional degree and you do not plan on getting a doctorate, you may not be asked to write a thesis. Instead, you will likely take comprehensive exams to demonstrate your knowledge of several subjects.
In general, a program that requires a thesis is recommended if you plan to pursue further education in the same field. If that is not the case, a non-thesis program may be satisfactory.