Getting a master’s degree is one of the best ways to take the next step in your professional career. A master’s degree not only enhances your skillset and knowledge, but it also makes getting a salary increase far more likely.
However, getting a master’s degree takes time, money, and effort. It’s understandable if prospective students gravitate toward an “easy” online master’s degree program. But what qualifies as easy? Every accredited online master’s program will push a student’s communication, reasoning, and critical thinking skills. Therefore, what’s easy for one student may not be easy for another.
However, some programs result in fewer life or professional disruptions. In this guide, we’ll identify some of these program traits, how they translate into an “easier” master’s degree, and which master’s programs are best suited for students with various professional interests and lifestyles.
When Easiest Means Most Convenient
“Easy” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. One of the most objective ways to find an easy program is to find a program that’s convenient. If the application process is simple and short and the classes accommodate your schedule, an academically challenging degree becomes much easier to obtain. Let’s look at some of the program features that make learning convenient.
Application & Admission
While almost every school requires an application, not every application is the same. Look for schools that don’t require a personal essay or letter and that allow you to complete and submit the application online.
Some admissions departments don’t require an entrance exam, such as the GRE or GMAT. Avoiding the hassle and expense of scheduling an admissions test, plus spending the time to prepare for it, is another way to eliminate a hurdle. Many schools, such as Franklin University, recognize this and don’t require admissions test scores when applying to an online master’s degree program.
A convenient transfer policy begins with making the transfer request process easy, such as simply asking the student to submit official transcripts from an accredited institution. Most schools only give transfer credit if the student makes a certain grade in their prior course. But not all schools have the same grade requirements; the lower the required minimum GPA to obtain credit, the more students who will receive transfer credit. A convenient transfer process also allows students to apply more transfer credits to their degree. For example, Liberty University’s graduate transfer policy allows students to receive credit for up to 50 percent of their master’s degree academic requirements with transfer credits.
Time/Requirements for Graduation
Some schools develop a curriculum that contains the fewest number of classes while still providing a quality learning experience. Taking fewer classes allows students to graduate sooner, make the most of their new degree quicker, and save money. If the curriculum can’t be pared back any more, a school like Western Governors University allows students to learn at their own pace. Highly motivated students push through quickly, while students with little time to spare take classes one at a time.
Nuances in remote learning can make online classes even more convenient. Asynchronous online learning means students can attend class on their own schedule, instead of needing to be online on certain days and times. The University of Southern Maine is a great example of a school that provides asynchronous course delivery whenever possible. Another advantage is finding a program with no on-campus requirements. Some schools boast that their courses can be completed 100 percent online, yet they require students to travel to campus for an all-day or all-weekend intensive or conference. For students with a family and/or a full-time job, these in-person academic requirements are a major hassle and can make a master’s degree unattainable.
When Easiest Means Most Familiar
Another way a master’s degree can be easy is if it’s in an area that you’re already familiar with. Perhaps you majored in the field as an undergrad or you currently work in that field. Starting your degree with a strong understanding of the subject makes learning the new information in an online master’s degree program much easier. How will you know if a program relates back to your existing knowledge and experience? Scan these master’s-level program subjects to see which lines up most closely with your interests and experience.
Business Students & Professionals
A business degree is very popular, and for good reason. It covers subject matter that applies to myriad professions and real-world situations. For instance, a business curriculum includes classes such as finance, accounting, marketing, information systems, risk analysis, data management, and business law. When incoming students have solid work experience, as they start attending class they may be pleasantly surprised that they’re already familiar with many of the concepts. If you’re thinking about an online master’s degree, there’s a good chance that you already know a thing or two about at least one of the following topics.
A master’s degree can be a great fit because it teaches advanced accounting concepts that many business professionals apply to their current positions. And if you have an accounting background, a master’s degree in accounting might be what you need to qualify for the CPA exam.
A master of business administration, or MBA, might be one of the most popular master’s degrees, with a graduation rate (among online programs with at least 25 students) of about 63%. It’s applicable to most business professions, whether it be marketing, accounting, or information technology. Due to the MBA’s emphasis on management skills, many noncorporate professionals also gravitate toward this master’s degree.
Human resources focuses on dealing with people. And in most professions, how well you work with others can be a deciding factor on whether you take the next step in your career. With this degree you’ll learn about common problems business organizations face and how to deal with them.
Technology plays a powerful role in business. Even industries that might consider themselves “low tech” can still take advantage of technology to improve how the organization runs. Enrolling in an information systems master’s degree program teaches students how businesses use computers, the internet, database management, and other forms of technology to run a company effectively.
For many, their job revolves around the ability to bring in new clients or convince others to accept a particular idea or concept. A marketing degree focuses on business-specific concepts, such as brand development, digital marketing, and pricing strategy. While anyone who runs their own business or has spent time in the corporate world understands these general concepts, the master’s degree in marketing takes their knowledge to the next level.
Liberal Arts Students & Professionals
Undergraduate liberal arts degrees are popular because they give students a broad foundation of critical thinking and reasoning skills that apply to areas well beyond a student’s major. A liberal arts master’s degree continues that tradition, although it provides ample opportunity to specialize in a specific liberal arts subfield, such as social sciences, humanities, or art. If you earned a liberal arts bachelor’s degree, one of the following master’s programs could be a great fit.
A master’s degree in communications works for many students because the skills have so many applications. Whether it’s conveying information in the written, spoken, or online context, courses designed to improve a student’s communication skills are relatable to almost every job and industry. Some communications master’s programs help teach you how to use communication skills to take on a new leadership role in an organization.
Oftentimes creative writing is closely associated with someone who’s writing a book or novel. While this master’s degree can help with a project like that, it can also do so much more. That’s because so many creative writing techniques apply to general communications needs, including writing a professional email, marketing copy, or an employee handbook—or even coaching someone else on how to improve their writing.
Many students have a genuine interest in how the criminal justice system works. Criminal justice students learn concepts and theories that help their organizations navigate various legal requirements.
A master’s degree in liberal studies takes the next step in providing a wide range of courses to teach critical thinking, reading, writing, and analyzing skills that anyone can take advantage of in their career. Courses cover ethics, religion, film analysis, social issues, science, and more.
Not only is this master’s degree essential for anyone interested in becoming a librarian, but it’s also a great option for anyone looking to better organize, manage, and make use of information. You’ll dig into learning about information storage, research methods, and library systems, plus how to apply that knowledge to predict social and informational trends.
Education Students & Professionals
Education degrees are mostly related to teaching professionals who want to improve their teaching ability or transition to a new teaching position. But a master’s degree in education can be a good fit for employees who aren’t teachers. Besides learning theories and concepts to help teach others, courses cover foundational academic concepts in mathematics, science, and English.
Early Childhood Education
Current teachers find this master’s degree program familiar because many of the teaching theories they’ve been using also apply in the early childhood setting. Only about 14% of job applicants for preschool teaching positions have master’s degrees, so not only will your application stand out, but you’ll also have the credentials to move into a position as a program director or curriculum specialist.
Education & Teaching
This more general master’s degree will be very familiar to anyone who already has a teaching background, whether through work experience or formal training. It’s also a great degree for anyone looking to transition into a position where teaching or instruction are part of the required job duties, such as in training and development.
Students already in education who seek a leadership position would benefit from this master’s degree. With the skills taught as part of this curriculum, students can move into leadership roles at their current school, become a program director, or use their education degree in the nonprofit world.
Technology has always been part of classroom instruction. So this master’s degree in education is ideal because it updates the knowledge a teacher already has so they can be even more effective. This degree prepares graduates to become anything from administrators who oversee the use of technology in the classroom to special education teachers who use assistive technology with special needs students.
Some students need a different approach to help them learn. A master’s degree in special education is a perfect next step for current education professionals looking to specialize. A special education master’s degree offers additional teaching techniques and theories that build on existing experience and expertise.
Health Care Students & Professionals
Given the complicated and difficult nature of many health care professions, it’s not surprising that higher level clinical, health, and therapy jobs require graduate training. That’s why it’s only natural for many practicing clinicians, executives, therapists, counselors, and other health experts to earn a master’s degree in their chosen field. They’ll build onto what they’ve already learned at the bachelor’s level and in their real-world training and professional experience. If you already have a health-related degree or are already working as a medical professional, these health care degrees are ones for you to consider.
Health Care Administration
The master’s in health care administration revolves around training future medical leaders. The curriculum provides the knowledge to run the business part of a hospital or other medical organization. Because of this, a health care administration degree is a logical progression for anyone already working as a clinician who wants to shift into an executive role or for a business executive interested in shifting to the health care industry.
Most incoming health informatics master’s degree students have an undergraduate degree in a similar field, like computer science or management information systems. This degree focuses on integrating information technology into health care and learning how to gather, analyze, and apply data to improve patient outcomes.
Most people who choose to earn a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree do so because they want to teach, specialize in a particular area of medicine, or take on more responsibility as a manager. The MSN curriculum springboards from a nurse’s existing clinical experience and training.
The topics covered by the required coursework in an online master’s in psychology would be familiar to anyone who studied psychology at the undergraduate level. However, students focus on a particular concentration (such as industrial organizational psychology) and gain greater research and analysis skills. The master’s degree is also the perfect steppingstone to earning a doctoral degree in psychology.
The public health master’s degree teaches students about the practical aspects of improving public health, challenging students with advanced science and research-related courses. Many public health and clinical professionals already have training and experience with these topics and will be poised to learn more.
Public Service Students & Professionals
A variety of degrees and careers are grouped under the “public service” umbrella, though they can include an array of jobs. These jobs run the gamut from providing free counseling services at a local clinic to working as a private consultant for a K Street lobby firm in Washington, DC. One thing they have in common is that they share the goal of helping others or working to improve society.
Many master’s degrees in the public service sector teach topics that existing public service workers have prior exposure to. Whether the familiarity comes from college coursework or real-world experience, public service employees will feel right at home with the following sampling of master’s degrees.
Government and Politics
Professionals who work in public service are likely to have extensive experience working in or around government agencies or working with private organizations that deal with government agencies. These professionals will work more effectively by having a better understanding of how the government and political process works and can be changed.
The primary focus of human services work is to help others—especially those who are disadvantaged. If you work in human services, your undergraduate degree and firsthand experience will combine for a solid foundation. A master’s degree is a great fit for those ready to do more, such as take on leadership roles at public service organizations or begin making policy-level decisions that affect more people.
The public administration master’s degree is a good fit for current nonprofit and government workers interested in creating and implementing public policies. These students will already know how to develop strategies and programs to tackle various societal challenges. This master’s degree allows them to take on bigger and more complex projects and policy goals.
One of the key features of the public policy master’s degree is that it trains students to analyze data to assist in making policy decisions. Most incoming master’s in public policy degree students will already be working in government or with a nongovernmental organization that works closely with government officials to influence policy and laws. The master’s in public policy builds on that experience.
For many social worker positions, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum degree required and limits the graduate to entry-level work. However, with a master’s degree in social work, graduates take on greater responsibility, such as clinical assessment and diagnosing clients. Usually you’ll need a master’s degree to become a licensed social worker.