Should You Get a Master’s in Education Online or in Person?

Should you get a master's in education online or on campus? Learn about the key differences and the pros and cons of both options.

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by Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.

Published September 21, 2022

Reviewed by Dr. Samantha Fecich

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Should You Get a Master’s in Education Online or in Person?
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A master's degree in education can help you hone your classroom skills and move into more administrative roles. Graduate school can also be a great option for you if you're seeking specialized training. But should you earn your master of education online or in person?

Many universities offer on-campus and online education degrees. And the good news? There are benefits to both delivery formats. For example, the flexibility of an online master's in education appeals to working educators pursuing a graduate degree.

www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to start your journey?

Before applying to M.Ed. programs, make sure you consider the pros and cons of both options.

Master's in Education Online vs. in Person: 5 Key Differences

What's the difference between earning your master's in education online or in person? There might be more to it than you think. The delivery method can shape your experience while in school and even in your career path afterward.

1. Cost

Earning a master's in education online can save you money. Many online programs offer tuition discounts for distance learners. Take out-of-state students at public universities, for instance. They often pay the same tuition rate as state residents when they enroll online.

An online format also lets you compare programs by cost rather than limiting your options to local universities.

2. Flexibility

If you need to work while taking classes, many students choose to teach while earning their graduate degree. And an online master's degree in education can give you more flexibility to do just that.

Don't have a ton of availability during the day? Many online programs use asynchronous courses, allowing you to complete coursework on your own schedule. In comparison, on-campus programs tend to set courses at a specific time.

3. Fieldwork

During a master's in education, you will typically have a fieldwork requirement to complete. Even though the process might be different, online programs still offer hands-on experiences.

Programs can work with you and other online students to find approved sites in your local area. To provide as much flexibility as possible, some programs may use virtual practicums to meet fieldwork requirements. Before applying to a master's program, make sure the program meets the licensure requirements in your state.

4. Faculty

Faculty members teaching graduate classes typically hold a doctorate whether they teach on campus or online. At many universities, the same faculty teach online and in-person classes.

In an online program, professors even encourage connections between members of the graduate cohort and education faculty. Similarly, on-campus programs promote strong advising and mentoring relationships between graduate students and faculty.

5. Networking Opportunities

Meeting new people can be intimidating. But networking can help you land new opportunities and advance your career. In general, it's easier to connect with other students and faculty in person rather than online.

But online students attending local universities can also attend in-person events. As a distance learner, you can invest in professional networking sites, virtual events, and local networking opportunities.

Pros and Cons of Getting Your Master's in Education on Campus

Most students know what to expect in an on-campus program. Master's in education programs typically require you to complete 30-36 credits of in-person coursework, including classes in your specialty area. These programs generally take 1-2 years.

Just like most choices in life, there are benefits and drawbacks to choosing an in-person format for your master's in education. While you'll interact with faculty face-to-face, an in-person format can also require more time and money. For some, the pros outweigh the cons.

Pros

  • Connect with fellow grad students and faculty in person
  • Benefit from the local alumni network and university connections to employers
  • Attend university-led events on campus
  • Access in-person resources like the campus library and career services
  • Meet with advisors and mentors in person

Cons

  • In-person programs may cost more than online programs
  • Less flexible schedule because of in-person classes at set times
  • Limited options if you do not want to relocate for your master's program
  • Larger time commitment if you need to commute
  • Difficulty scheduling in-person classes if you also work

Pros and Cons of Getting Your Master's in Education Online

Whether you're a pro at Zoom or still confused by what breakout rooms are, you're probably still wondering what it's like getting a master's in education online.

You will typically complete a similar course load and sequence whether you choose to enroll online or in person. One benefit of online programs? They also offer part-time and accelerated options. And programs work closely with distance learners to identify fieldwork and networking opportunities.

Weigh the pros and cons to decide whether an online format matches your schedule, strengths, and career goals.

Pros

  • A more flexible schedule that appeals to working students
  • More affordable options that don't require relocating
  • Self-paced, asynchronous, part-time, and accelerated options
  • Less time and money spent on commuting and parking costs
  • Unique specializations not offered at local schools

Cons

  • Requires discipline, time management, and self-motivation
  • More challenging to network with fewer in-person options
  • Extra steps to identify fieldwork sites and approve a supervisor
  • Out-of-state programs may not meet licensure requirements
  • Fewer opportunities to collaborate with classmates and faculty face-to-face

Is an In-Person or Online Master's in Education Right for You?

So should you apply to on-campus or online master's in education programs? The answer depends on your unique circumstances. If you also have a job, you may prefer the flexibility of an online program. An asynchronous program may be better than one that requires commuting and a set schedule if you have children.

On the other hand, some learners benefit from in-person classes that encourage interaction. And cost remains a major concern for many students. Your local public university might offer affordable master of education options — or an online program at an out-of-state university might charge a lower tuition rate.

Consider your schedule and availability. Then, research programs to learn more about their specialization options, financial aid opportunities, and graduate placement rates. By considering your strengths and your career goals, you can find the best program that fits your needs.

Pro Tip: At the end of the day, it's all about you! Think about how you like to learn and what you hope to get out of a master's in education to find the best fit.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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