According to the National Center for Education Statistics, almost 25 percent of all graduate students in the U.S. were enrolled in exclusively distance-learning (or online) classes in 2014. As student numbers in such programs have risen, so has employer acceptance of such programs. Recruiter Mary Massad, of recruiting firm Insperity, told U.S. News and World Report in 2014 that 75 of her corporate clients have fully embraced the concept of online degrees.
For those training to enter the education field, online graduate programs can prove a flexible way to earn teacher qualifications. But what are the other important differences between programs that are important to note?
First, it’s important to point out what doesn’t differ in online programs: accredited online programs are held to the same federal and state standards as on-the-ground programs, with the same fieldwork and other requirements.
Of course there are differences to point out, too, in these different forms of education programs, and before students enroll to work towards either an on-the-ground or online degree, they must weigh the various pros and cons to decide on the best fit for themselves.
Pros of Earning Teacher Qualification Online:
1. Those who are mid-career and looking to transition to teaching can make a smoother transition.
Often, teachers are people who have long been working in another career, yearning for a more stimulating and meaningful position. When they decide to make the transition into the teaching world, they are rarely in a position uproot their lives, move to a new place, and dedicate their full-time attention to a degree program. Online programs can make this transition possible, and allow students to stay rooted into the communities where they live—and hope to work one way.
2. Many employers will value the fact that you proved you could do this responsibly while earning your degree
A great training for your future career as an educator or participant in the education field is, in fact, an online degree program: It’s up to you to stay on top of your assignments and fit them in where you can as you continue full- or part-time work. More and more employers are realizing this fact, and seeing it as a perk. What’s more, in an online teaching program, you often have the option to assume more independence in determining where to do your fieldwork, and may opt to choose an assignment that’s well aligned with the specific area of teaching—and the physical region or network—where you hope to work one day.
3. Flexible timelines for completion
Many online programs understand that the benefit of better flexibility is a perk they offer, and they work hard to extend those benefits. You can often choose from part-time and full-time options as a student, and other personalized options in between.
Cons of Earning Teacher Qualification Online:
1. You need to ensure you aren’t committing to an unaccredited institution
Unfortunately, as quality online programs have proliferated over the past decade, so have less-than-quality ones. Make sure to stay far away from any program that is not officially accredited.
2. Know that you probably can’t expect complete flexibility.
In many online education programs, some portion of classes are “live” so that you can interact via video conference with your instructor and fellow students. In other words, students need to sign in at a certain time each week—which might require some planning if there’s also a full-time job in the mix.
3. You need some serious self-discipline.
It’s easy to imagine that online programs are less taxing because, theoretically, many classes could be attended in pajamas. But many students report that online programs are more difficult—not only do they often come with more reading and other assignments to ensure that students fully grasp the material, but they also require a healthy dose of self-discipline, since so much of the schedule-setting within the course is up to the students to manage.
As students begin to research the graduate program options available to them as they pursue their education qualifications, it’s crucial that they understand the pros and cons of each way forward and think carefully about what will work best in light of their personality, current job, and goals.