Distance learning is a relatively new mode of delivering courses to students outside of the physical classroom. In order to teach online students or manage areas of distance education, you need to complete the necessary level of education and training. Online distance learning master’s degrees prepare professionals to work in this challenging field by offering advanced courses and practical skills training. Completing a master’s degree entirely online provides a firsthand look at the benefits and challenges of online education.
Why a Master’s Degree?
One of the best ways to break into the online instruction profession is to earn a master’s degree in the field. Depending on the state and institution type, a master’s degree is often the minimum requirement for online instructors. Therefore, earning a master’s degree is one of the shortest and less-intensive routes to becoming an online teacher. This program is good preparation for a higher degree, like the PhD in distance learning.
Getting Into a Master’s Degree Program
The decision to go to graduate school is a big one. Before applying to the master’s program, all candidates need to have the following educational requirements:
- Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
- Desired score on the GRE or GMAT
- Minimum required GPA
- Completion of prerequisite course work
Inside a Distance Learning Master’s Degree Program
Depending on your individual program, course load, and pace, the completion time for most online distance learning master’s programs is two years. Students can expect to take a variety of courses, including understanding higher education, using research and data to drive decision-making, practices for student success, optimizing quality and productivity, and administration and assessment in online learning. Most online graduate programs include a capstone course in which students apply their instructional knowledge and skills for a comprehensive project or research essay.
Online students can access their courses, lectures, assignments, and grades through a learning management system, such as Blackboard or Moodle. Using these provided sites, students can communicate with their instructors and classmates through instant messaging, e-mail, and discussion forums. Don’t forget to take advantage of your school’s academic, financial, and career resources.
What’s Next for Distance Learning Master’s Degree Holders?
Graduates of the distance learning program are qualified to do a variety of teaching and administrative jobs in online or campus-based higher education institutions. Many master’s degree holders go on to become postsecondary teachers or postsecondary education administrators. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of postsecondary teachers is expected to grow 17% by 2020 because of rising enrollment rates. The job outlook for postsecondary education administrators is also positive, with a projected 19% increase in employment by 2020. Both professions have favorable annual salaries, according to the May 2012 Occupational Employment Statistics report. Postsecondary teachers made an average annual salary of $77,500, and postsecondary education administrators earned an average annual salary of $99,370.
Although the master’s degree in distance learning qualifies you to teach online classes or manage areas of distance education, some employers or positions require additional education. Those who want to further their distance learning education and increase their job opportunities should consider earning the doctorate degree in distance learning. For a less intensive but equally impressive graduate education, students may prefer to do the post-master’s certificate in distance learning.