According to an article in US News and World Report, one of the most common misconceptions among aspiring graduate students is that they simply won't be able to go to graduate school part-time. Most people simply assume that the best programs require a full-time commitment of at least nine credit hours per semester, two semesters per year, until they have finished the program. Though it was much more common in the past to see most graduate schools requiring full-time attendance, changes to both course delivery and student expectations have made it more possible than ever to attend these programs part-time and still earn a degree in a reasonable amount of time.
Thank Online Courses for a Change in Grad School Policies
While many grad schools either preferred full-time students in the past or only operated full-time education programs, that has all changed due mostly to the availability of online degrees at the graduate level. In recent years, even some of the biggest and most prestigious names in American graduate education have begun moving some of their offerings online so that working professionals can more easily obtain the higher degrees that are necessary to advance in the workplace.
Online coursework does not require a full-time commitment of credit hours in most cases. The vast majority of online programs require students to take at least three credits per semester to enjoy continuous enrollment, and at least six credits per semester in order to qualify for federal financial aid funds when paying for their tuition expenses. This is exceedingly reasonable, and it's a great way to break into graduate education at any pace.
Unconventional Scheduling Allows Year-Round Work
One of the biggest concerns that graduate students have when they opt for a half-time graduate program either online or off is that they simply worry about being in school for too long. Most graduate programs can be completed by full-time students in as little as two years, and most online students or part-time learners worry that they'll have to spend half a decade getting their work done due to a reduced course load. This is where more good news can be found.
Today, universities offer new schedules for both online and offline graduate students that can make completing a degree much easier, even in a condensed time frame. Many schools have adopted a trimester format for graduate coursework, allowing students to take three semesters' worth of courses in just one year. Students who take six credits in each of three trimesters will, in effect, complete the same number of courses that a full-time student completes during their own first year of study on a more traditional semester schedule.
Related Resource: Financial Aid for Graduate Students
A Better Way to Achieve a Work-School-Life Balance
Graduate programs increasingly want to make sure that their students can pair their education with ongoing professional experience, and this is another key motivator for offering both part-time and online graduate programs in the 21st century. Part-time programs allow working professionals to keep their day job while completing courses during the evening or on weekends, and they allow for flexible scheduling that doesn't sacrifice the quick completion of a much-needed master's degree.
For those students who have long stressed about having to reduce their working hours or resign their position entirely as they seek a graduate-level education, this is good news. There has never been a better time to commit to graduate school part-time, whether it's through an online program or a more traditional option based in on-campus facilities.