be honest

Be Honest with Yourself

Earning an advanced degree isn't easy, and earning one online requires dedication and drive to propel you to success. Before committing to a university, be honest with yourself and ask yourself some of the following questions.

Do I currently have too much debt to take on additional student loans?

Make no mistake, college is an expensive endeavor whether a student chooses to attend online or off. Online degree programs tend to be more affordable than traditional university programs however, because online universities forgo typical university amenities such as student housing, cafeterias, and department buildings.

Still, you might need to borrow student loans in order to afford your education. Before you commit to the cost of an online university, ask yourself whether or not this is truly the best time to take out additional loans or incur more debt.

With a master's degree in education, you can expect to make between $50,000 and $70,000, depending on the state you teach in, the position you take, and your employer. Typically, online courses cost between $400 and $600 per credit hour, and most courses consist of three credit hours.

Do the math to estimate how long it will take to pay off your loans with your higher salary before enrolling in an online university, or speak with a loan officer to get a better idea of how to make your degree program affordable.

Am I okay working in an online environment?

Working completely online requires motivation and self-discipline to push yourself to complete lessons and coursework on time.

There won't be an instructor looking over your shoulder and making sure you're working. There won't be students sitting right next to you, helping to motivate you through the work. It's literally up to you and only you to stay on task and committed to your classes and assignments.

You'll need to avoid wasting time on websites and programs that don't pertain to your classes, and you must make sure you have a quiet, relaxed work area to complete work and view course material. Think of this work space as your classroom, and make it your designated “study area.” Framing your work area in the right mindset is the first step toward succeeding in an online environment.

If you haven't already, you'll need to develop etiquette and conversational skills used over the Internet in order to appear professional to your teachers and classmates. You should approach the online environment like a regular classroom, and treat everyone with respect.

Do I have enough spare time in life to pursue a degree?

Even if online universities allow you to set your own schedule to work around your other life responsibilities, it is nevertheless a major time commitment to earn a degree online.

Typically, a student can expect to spend between five and 10 hours per week studying for a 3 credit hour course. A full-time student will take about 12 credit hours per semester, so this splits up to a few hours of coursework and studying per day. This is in addition to watching lectures, reading, or viewing slideshows.

Of course, you're free to set how many credit hours you take per semester, making your educational experience and time dedication very customizable.

When enrolling in classes, be sure to speak with your academic adviser to get a more complete view of how much time you should expect to spend earning your degree per week. Your adviser will give you an honest appraisal of whether or not you'll need to take time off of work, or postpone other commitments while earning your degree.

How will this Program affect my job? How will my employer react?

Given the significant time commitment involved with earning a degree online, some students might need to take time off from work, or even quit their jobs completely to accommodate their classes.

This mainly depends on how many classes you take per semester, in addition to how supportive your employer is about you returning to school. Some employers will see this as an opportunity to gain a more experienced and knowledgeable worker, and might even help you pay for classes.

You'll need to decide whether you want to commit more time to classes by taking off from work, or if you'd rather continue working full time. If you stay at work full time, you'll probably need to limit how many courses you take per semester in order to realistically succeed in school.

In some cases, your employer might be pushing for you to earn your degree because they wish to move you into an administrative or leadership position. Not everyone's employer will be this supportive though, so make sure you speak with your boss to get his or her viewpoint on how attending school will affect your job.

Will family concerns prevent me from succeeding in my degree program?

If you have children or family commitments, you'll need to further evaluate how earning a master's degree online will affect your life.

You should ensure that your family life won't negatively impact your education, and that your education won't negatively impact your family life. Going back to school while raising a family is mainly a balancing act, meaning you'll need to effectively split up your time to meet educational and family needs.

You must plan out time when you can complete work without distractions. If you don't have a job, but are raising children, you'll have large blocks of time during the weekdays to finish your school work while your children are attending school themselves.

If you work during the day and also have children, you might find it extremely difficult to concentrate on schoolwork at home with so much activity occurring around your house after school. Try working at a library or private location when your children are home, allowing you to focus on classes.

If leaving home is not an option, make sure to tell your family members that you shouldn't be disturbed or bothered while doing coursework, giving you some quiet time to study.

Is advancing my career something I really want to do?

If you're interested in earning a master's degree in education, there's a good chance you're currently a teacher.

With a master's degree in education, you should be prepared to take on more responsibilities in your career, and advance your position at a school. With a master's degree in administrative leadership, for instance, you might move from a career as a math teacher at a highschool, to an assistant principal at another school.

Before taking the plunge and entering a master's degree program, ask yourself if you're really ready to commit to career advancement at this point in your life. Even if you don't seek an administrative position, other teachers will see you as a source of advanced knowledge, and seek your advice and guidance.

Make sure you know that you wish to advance your career, and that now is the best time to do so. You should try to complete a few years of teaching before seeking your master's degree, giving you the experience needed to move up to a higher position at your school.

Do I really want this? Am I dedicated enough?

Make sure to thoroughly think through the standards and commitments required by online degree programs before enrolling. Earning a degree isn't easy, and you have to be very self-motivated to stay on top of class work and lessons.

Brainstorm the changes you might need to make to your career or family life in order to fit in the time needed to succeed in your degree program. Anyone can succeed in a degree program, but they must be dedicated and ready to work hard for the end rewards.

If you believe you have the drive and time to attend an online university, request information from schools offering master's degrees in education.