What You Need to Know About Earning Your Master’s Degree

By Ashford University Staff

woman studying in library

Whether you’ve reached your proverbial professional ceiling with your bachelor’s degree or you’re simply a learning addict who wants to absorb as much knowledge as possible, a master’s degree is a worthy pursuit. However, like all important decisions, choosing to earn a master’s degree is not something you jump into without doing your research. There is much to understand and consider before you move forward, but when you’re ready to apply, you’ll need to be prepared.

Here are six key things you need to know about earning your master’s degree.

1. A master’s degree program is a two-year commitment

You might be thinking, “Woo-hoo, only two years of school instead of four!” Don’t assume the shorter timeframe means less work for you. When you earn a master’s degree online, you must be 100-percent committed to meeting your deadlines if you want to graduate on time. This timeframe could be challenging, especially for those who are returning to school after having been in the workforce for several years, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the characteristics of online graduate culture

Ashford University understands your need to balance school, work, and family and provides a number of innovative tools to support you on your educational endeavors. Earning a master’s degree at Ashford offers you the flexibility and freedom needed to further your education while maintaining your other responsibilities and schedule. At Ashford, you will take one six-week course at a time and have 24/7 access to resources needed to research, cite sources, proofread, and ask for additional help. 

2. Master’s degree coursework is different from a bachelor’s degree

In addition to the shortened timeframe for master’s degree program students, there are other differences between your graduate degree and your four-year bachelor’s degree. Your bachelor’s degree may have helped to place you in your desired field, but a master’s degree will take your goals to the next level.

One major difference between the two is the degree course requirements. While Ashford University bachelor’s degree students must complete 120 credits that include a mix of major- and non-major-related courses, the master’s degree programs range from 24 to 39 core course credits. Since each program is different, you’ll need to research your specific degree to know what’s expected of you.

As of the publish date of this blog post, Ashford University offers 17 different master’s degrees. The most popular in 2017 included:

A master’s degree also may allow or require you to add a specialization that further emphasizes your specific career interest. For example, students pursuing a master’s degree in organizational management from the Forbes School of Business and Technology™ can obtain a specialization in project management or public administration, among others. If you’re seeking a Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning with Technology from the College of Education, you’ll need to choose from an online educator or standard MA/teaching & learning with technology specialization.

Because each master’s degree program is different, it’s imperative that you research your degree choice and the accompanying specializations so that you can make the best decision for your post-college career.

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3. Your previous education and experience matters

When you submit your application to earn your master’s degree online, Ashford University will request and process your previous college, and/or military transcripts. You’ll want to have all of this information prepared in advance so you can answer any questions about your educational background. 

Additionally, Ashford University allows you to transfer qualifying earned credits – both traditional and non-traditional – toward your degree. If you have work, life, or military experience that might apply, you should have those details handy when you speak to an enrollment services advisor

4. APA writing style will become your best friend

Before your first day of class, you should familiarize yourself with the style of the American Psychological Association (APA). That’s because every paper and piece of research that you submit throughout your degree program will need to be formatted in APA style. 

Although the name may be misleading, APA applies to all Ashford University degree programs, not just psychology degrees, but it’s not as intimidating as you might think. The APA format is a specific set of citation rules and formatting guidelines for scholarly writing, and resources such as the Ashford Writing Center are available to help guide you through the learning curves. There’s a good chance you cited APA style in your undergraduate work, however brushing up in advance will save you time when you sit down to prepare your first assignment as a master’s degree student.

Once you get the hang of it, APA style becomes second nature. Plus, it’s an added bonus for your resume, something that tells employers you know and can communicate in the style of one of America’s largest scientific and professional associations. 

5. You can put what you’ve learned to work 

A key benefit of a master’s degree for students in the workforce is the ability to apply new knowledge at work on a daily basis. Understanding the immediate impact of your courses on your career is something you should know before you apply. 

If you are confident that your coursework will prove essential at work, do some additional research and read the stories of Ashford University students who have gone through that experience. For example, psychology graduate Brittany Brannon put her lessons to work in her role at a ministry program. Could you achieve the same success at your workplace?

6. Accreditation is key

Think of accreditation as the “seal of approval” that your university meets a standard of excellence. A degree from an accredited university demonstrates to your current or future employer that you received a quality education from a reputable institution. Ashford University is accredited by WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) www.wscuc.org. Regional accreditation is a key indicator of educational quality. In order to receive and maintain accredited status, institutions undergo a rigorous review from independent accrediting agencies and must demonstrate that they meet accepted standards of educational quality. Regional accreditation is generally regarded as the established standard for institutional accreditation in the United States.

There is much more to consider before making your decision, from knowing the financial impact of a master’s degree and the admission requirements to figuring out how to fit school into your schedule. Having all the information makes a difference, and it’s also a good way to practice your research skills before you start your first master’s degree course. 


By Ashford University Staff


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