Studying a Masters Online – A Guide |
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Studying a Masters Online

Online Masters degrees are a flexible way of gaining a postgraduate qualification, allowing you to fit your studies around the rest of your life. This can be ideal if you work full-time or you have busy family commitments.

The Open University pioneered online learning, but more and more traditional universities are beginning to offer online Masters programmes. If you’re unsure whether one of these courses would be suitable for you, we’ve put together a guide to the essential information you need to know about online Masters degrees.

You can also use to search for your perfect online Masters course right now.

What is an online Masters degree?

An online Masters degree does what it says on the tin – it’s the academic equivalent of a traditional Masters course, except you can complete it from the comfort of your own home. The precise nature of these courses differ from program to program, but the majority involve a combination of video lectures, online resources and feedback from a personal tutor.

There are online versions of almost every kind of traditional Masters. Some of the postgraduate qualifications you can study online include:

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Our database lists many different examples of online Masters program. Start your search with us and find your perfect course.

Who offers online Masters degrees?

The Open University is the largest provider of online Masters courses in the UK, but many traditional universities also offer a selection of online degrees. These Masters follow the same syllabus as their conventional, physical equivalent, but are designed with the distance learner in mind.

What are the entry requirements for online Masters degrees?

At traditional universities, entry requirements for online Masters degrees are generally the same as they are for the physical counterparts. For more information, check out our page on Masters degree entry requirements.

Meanwhile, the Open University often only asks that you already have an undergraduate degree (in any subject). However, more specialised Masters – for example, MEngs or the MA in Social Work – require a particular academic background (or relevant experience).

How do online Masters degrees work?

The length, format and assessment methods of an online Masters course depend on the specific type of degree you’re studying, as well as the institution it’s being offered by. However, you can expect them to follow the same broad principles.

Most online Masters emphasise the importance of flexibility, which means you’ll be able to study when it’s convenient for you. Courses at traditional universities are generally completed in around two years, but the Open University takes a different approach. With Open University Masters, some programs give you up to ten years to finish your qualification.

You’ll be able to communicate with fellow students through an online discussion forum, and may have the opportunity to meet your coursemates and tutors in person at tutorials, depending on the institution. However, more often than not these tutorials are optional, so there’s no barrier to completing your course if circumstances stop you attending them.

Electronic access to the university library resources is an important part of these courses, giving you every opportunity to immerse yourself in world-class academic materials.

How are online Masters degrees assessed?

Despite its flexibility, you should expect an online Masters course to be every bit as challenging as a bricks-and-mortar counterpart. The teaching methods might be different, but there will be similar written assignments on which you’ll be assessed and receive feedback on from an academic tutor.

Most online Masters degrees also culminate in a dissertation or an extended research project. If you need advice on writing one of these, we’ve written a handy guide to researching and writing a Masters dissertation.

Distance Learning Courses

In principal, an online Masters degree is much the same as a distance learning course. However, online Masters are less likely to feature elements that require occasional physical attendance, unlike some distance learning qualifications. This can make them a more attractive option for international students.

What are the benefits of an online Masters degree?

If you’re thinking about applying for an online Masters degree, you might be worried that it won’t be viewed as a credible qualification by potential employers or academic figures.

But fear not: as long as the course is accredited, your Masters will be worth exactly the same as an on-campus version.

In fact, there are plenty of reasons to study an online Masters degree. Here are just a few:

  • Earning your Masters degree online is a sign of determination and independence – If you’ve been successful with an online Masters program while balancing your studies with other commitments, prospective employers will be impressed.
  • Online Masters degrees are a cheaper way of studying than traditional routes to a Masters – Tuition fees may be comparable to those of physical Masters, but the format of an online Masters means that it’s easier to work and earn as you study.
  • Flexibility – Without lectures and seminars to attend, you’re free to arrange your studies around your life, and not the other way round.
  • You don’t have to relocate – Online Masters are a way of accessing education from world-class universities without footing the cost of the often-expensive cities in which they’re based.

Are online Masters degrees worth the same as traditional ones?

As long as your online Masters degree is awarded by a reputable, accredited university, it is worth the same as a conventional Masters, and must be treated as such by employers. This means that your qualification will be globally recognised.

However, you do need to be careful when looking for an online Masters that you’re not duped by a phony university. Make sure that you check their credentials thoroughly (don’t worry, all the courses listed on are fully accredited!).

If in doubt, check with a relevant accreditation body, such as the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), an independent organisation that monitors the country’s higher education industry.

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Once you’ve decided whether an online Masters works for you, let us help you find your perfect course.

Last updated - 18/01/2018

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