How to Choose the Best Master’s Degree Program for You

Misty Hance
Misty Hance
Assistant School Principal; Ed.D. in School Leadership, Carson-Newman University, TN

An educator with the desire to begin graduate school in order to earn a master’s degree has a lot of considerations to determine. Where you go may be driven by what type of courses are offered through the master’s program, what you intend to do once you gain your degree, and which school is the most affordable for your budget.

Online vs. Traditional Classroom

One consideration to make is whether to enroll in an online course of study or attend a traditional classroom setting for the master’s program. Because many graduate students are currently working, online classes are a rising trend. Online courses allow students to work at their own pace and correspond with their professor and classmates through a virtual platform. Since online classes rarely have a set scheduled meeting time, the flexibility this provides the student is a considerable factor. Students can work, take care of their families, and complete their course work from virtually anywhere with internet access. However, online courses require a lot of self-motivation and require responsibility to stay connected to the course and work load.

Because graduate work is more stringent than undergraduate, there is value in taking a course in the traditional classroom. In it, you don’t encounter for internet connection errors, for instance, which might delay turning in course work or interfere with virtual class meetings.

Another benefit of a traditional classroom is the instant collaboration between classmates and the professor. This can provide a dialogue that is missed through online course work. In addition, the professor is there to provide immediate answers to questions and support with problems that might arise. Furthermore, many traditional class settings are held on Saturdays or evenings to accommodate working schedules.

Some schools may even offer a combination of online and traditional courses (typically called a hybrid setting). Students may meet with the professor once a month and complete independent work and correspondences at their own pace throughout the month. This allows students to ease into online work while having the safety net of class meetings to ease anxiety.

Career Goals

Another determining factor for deciding which program is best is the intended career goal. Some universities offer general master’s degrees in educational leadership or curriculum and instruction, while others offer more specific endorsements such as reading specialist, instructional coaches, athletic coaching, or special education. Knowing what you plan to do once you receive your degree will aid in determining which university has the most reputable program for your goals.


Cost is almost always a major consideration. While online courses tend to be more affordable since a physical setting is not required, some universities encourage traditional class settings offered in satellite locations at a discounted price. Those looking to return to college should also consider state and federal financial aid, as well as scholarships and grants which may be available for specific fields of study. Some school districts may even offer scholarships toward degrees in high demand for the area.

It is always best to research all possible options for location, cost, and what degree program is best when you are deciding where to get your master’s degree.. That way you can make a well-informed decision for this important career goal.

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