Student debt is perhaps one of the biggest problems facing people in the USA, and the economy as a whole. There is outstanding debt of over three trillion dollars from students right now, and the number only keeps growing as more and more young people feel forced into getting expensive degrees to access the careers they want.
Be the change you wish to see in the world.
– Mahatma Gandhi
For people who are looking to do a post graduate degree to further their careers, or because the career they want requires masters level qualifications, the problem can be even worse. If you already have a large debt burden from your original degree, then committing to studying for a masters may well feel like descending deeper into the trap.
However, a lot of people these days are finding that they can substantially reduce the cost of getting the masters they need for their career by choosing an online degree program instead of going back to college the traditional way. There are online degrees at the master’s level in a huge range of topics now, and among the most popular are those that can lead to community focused or public sector careers, such as in nursing or social work.
If your goal is to enter the social work sector, and you are considering a master social work online at an institution like Florida State University, then here is a guide to both why this might be a good idea for you, and how to stay focused and effective while you do it!
How Does Doing Your Social Work Degree Online Reduce Expenditure?
Online degrees are not free, of course, but they do tend to be cheaper in terms of the tuition costs. This is because there are fewer overheads involved in delivering the education to the students, and this means you can get the same resources and the same quality teachers at a lower cost.
But that isn’t the only reason why online degrees are seen as the alternative with lower student debt potential.
Here are some other ways you’ll need less money over the period of your studies by doing your masters online:
- You won’t have the expense of relocating to a private college to study
- You won’t have to commute to anywhere
- You can stay at home while you’re studying, saving on things like coffee and lunch by making them at home
- You can save on rent by having more flexibility about where you live while you do your masters
- You may have the option to live at home with your parents to save money
- You can save on childcare by studying at home
- You can keep your current job, or work part time to cover the cost of your course
- If you do work, you’ll have more flexibility around shifts and general availability than if you had fixed classes to attend
All of these things will mean your course will either be less expensive than doing a traditional master’s program at a private college, or will mean that you can earn more while you’re studying, so you have to borrow less (or even nothing at all).
Are Online Degrees as Well Respected as Conventional Ones?
Online degrees may have been considered less ‘official’ when they were a new thing, and when many employers were not yet familiar with the idea of them. Now, however, the online degree industry has progressed a lot, and it is extremely common for candidates for jobs to have qualified in this way.
With a social work masters, you will generally be qualified for jobs in the public sector, where there will be a high demand for people with the skills you have learned and the social work masters you have achieved. This means that having attained your masters with an online program from a reputable college, rather than on campus, will not make any difference in how you are viewed by potential employers.
Does it Take Longer to do Your Masters in Social Work Online?
Some people worry that because an online degree is studied at your own pace, it may automatically take longer than a conventional on-campus degree course. In fact, this is not the case.
You do certainly have the option to study part time if you have heavy family commitments or need to keep working in another job while you do your masters, but this is a matter of flexibility rather than online degrees being inherently slower. If you plan to study full time, you can complete an online masters over the same time span as you would do the equivalent degree at a conventional college.
How Do You Stay in Touch with Your Tutors?
One thing some people worry about with online degrees versus attending a bricks and mortar college is that they won’t get the same amount of support from faculty members as they go through their degree course. Actually, colleges that offer online degrees make sure that their students are just as well taken care of by the teachers as on any other course, and you’ll find you are offered lots of different ways to communicate with the tutors assigned to you and get feedback.
How this is done will depend on the course specifics and the technologies that the college you choose are using, but you’ll be able to communicate with methods including:
- Live chat
- Discord, Slack, or other group collaboration services
- Video chat
Methods like these will allow you to get quick answers and more detailed feedback when it’s needed, and also allow you to have meetings with your tutors as you would expect to during your master’s course at a conventional college. There is really no significant difference in the amount of help and support you’ll receive when you study from home online!
Tips for Getting Through Your Social Work Masters Online:
If these points have persuaded you that an online course may well be the right option for you to get your social work masters and embark on your career, then next, you’ll probably be wondering what you can do to help ensure that you remain motivated and effective throughout your course.
Studying online can require you to be accountable for your own progress, and to discipline yourself to study, rather than having a fixed schedule made for you that you have to stick to. In some ways this is a benefit, as you can fit your studies around whatever else is going on in your life, but you’ll also need to make sure you’re organized and aren’t letting things slide as you continue on your course.
Here are some tips:
Improve Your Time Management
Good time management is about the best attribute you can have when you’re studying from home. Luckily, time you spend on getting good at this, and learning to manage your efforts effectively, will also pay off in your future career, as good time management is something that is valued in just about every job!
Read up on different life hacks and time management methods that can help you structure your days and get your studying and course work completed while still balancing the other important things in your life.
Use Technology to Help You
When you study online, you’ll definitely be using technology to access your course materials and talk to your tutors, however there are lots of other ways you can use things like apps on your phone to help you study better, manage your schedule, and give yourself ways to study while you’re out and about doing other things. Look for productivity apps that can go on your phone or tablet and consider investing in a good pair of headphones so that you can listen to course materials over again while you’re out shopping or waiting to pick your kids up.
Stick to a Study Plan
Making a study plan that blocks out portions of your day, evening, weekend, or whenever else you want to get your core studying time in is crucial. What is even more important, though, is that you stick to it. Treat all study sessions as unmissable appointments, and make sure that your family and friends understand that you can’t drop these sessions to do other things.
If you do have to rearrange your schedule sometimes because of emergencies, sickness, or something else important, then get in the habit of moving rather than canceling the session so you don’t fall behind. Use the flexibility of the online course to your advantage but do try to have a sustainable regular schedule.
Set Goals and Reward Yourself
Breaking down the important milestones on your course, such as completing modules or important work towards your thesis, can be a great way to make everything seem more manageable, and also to make sure you are getting through things at a good pace. You can keep up your motivation over the long term as you progress through your degree by giving yourself rewards to work towards on completing these milestones.
Rewards can be big or small things, depending on how big the task and what you feel like you need at the time. Consider some of the following:
- Plan a night out with friends or a special meal with a loved one to celebrate hitting a milestone
- Treat yourself to some ‘me time’, whether at a spa, or at home with some luxury items
- Get yourself that new outfit you’ve been coveting
- Buy a new book or video game you want, and relax for a while with it
Try to avoid using rewards that actually count against your progress though, such as rewarding yourself with an unplanned week off – this is like being on a diet and rewarding yourself for hitting a goal by eating a big feast; it may not make a big difference, but it’s training you to see doing the opposite of what you should be doing as a good thing!
Enjoy the Social Side Online
Social work is all about people, and you may feel a bit isolated if you’re studying alone. Make an effort to join groups online both for people on your course and for people involved in social work in general, so you can interact with others who share your goals.
Take Care of Your Diet
When you’re working hard on your studies, especially if you are doing it on top of a busy lifestyle, it can be easy to fall into the trap of skipping meals in favor of convenient snacks that don’t give you good nutrition. Make sure you eat properly, and if you do prefer to have snacks on hand during long study sessions, consider things like seeds and nuts, which are good for keeping you satisfied as well as nutrient dense, or healthy fruit and vegetables.
Get Some Exercise!
Working at home at a desk for long periods of time each day can mean you don’t get enough exercise, and can also cause things like back pain, from sitting down for too long. Try to plan in time to go for a walk during your study session, or to do some other kind of exercise at home.
You can even listen to lectures over again while you do this to help you keep your mind on topic, or you can use it as a refreshing break for both your body and your brain by listening to some invigorating music or an entertaining podcast or audiobook.
If you can make some or all of the techniques, tips and advice for online students we’ve included here work for you, you should find that studying for your masters in social work online will be a rewarding and interesting experience, and that you’ll be able to get through your course just as successfully as if you were attending a college the traditional way.
By choosing to do your degree online, you’ll be mitigating the amount that it will cost you, and you may be able to qualify for your ideal career in social work with little or even no additional student debt!
Interesting related article: “What is E-Learning?“