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What Is The ROI Of An Online Master’s Degree?

Online master's degrees are becoming increasingly popular for numerous reasons including convenience and affordability. But what is the ROI of an Online Master's degree?

Fri Mar 31 2023

Are you deciding between studying your master’s degree online or in-person?

Choosing where and how to study your master’s is a big decision and making sure the commitment—and investment—is worth it is no doubt at the top of your agenda.  

In a 2022 survey conducted by Carrington Crisp, 38% of prospective master’s students said they were seeking to study a fully online or blended master’s degree—more than double the previous year’s figure of just 18%.

It’s clear then that for a generation who are entering an uncertain economy, the prospect of less student debt while still broadening career and salary prospects makes studying online an attractive choice.

So, what is the return on investment (ROI) of an online master’s degree?

Studying an online master’s degree means less student debt 

There can be a significant difference between the cost of full-time and online master’s degrees.

For example, at WP Carey School of Business, the full-time Master in Business Analytics (MSBA) program costs around $78,500 for international students whereas the online MSBA program costs a considerably lower $48,000. Both programs last 16 months.

This isn’t the case for all online master’s degrees. At Imperial College Business School, the Master in Strategic Marketing costs $42,000 for both full-time and online students, in a bid to emphasize that students will get the same experience whether in the virtual or physical classroom.

However, if you are concerned about the cost, it’s worth bearing in mind that studying your master’s degree online also means not having to pay additional costs for accommodation and travel.

What’s more, many online programs are delivered asynchronously, meaning you can watch lectures and complete any projects according to your own schedule. So, if you choose to, you’ll be able to work while you study and even further offset the cost of the program.

You gain the same opportunities and quality of education 

Despite studying remotely, the experience of an online or hybrid master’s degree is often as engaging and fulfilling as a traditional program.

This is, in part, due to business schools ramping up their use of innovative educational technologies to make online learning even more interactive and inspiring.

At IE Business School, online programs—including the blended, part-time Master in Business Analytics and Big Data—are taught through the concept of Liquid Learning, blurring the lines between online and in-person learning.

In 2023, the school is opening campuses in the metaverse, via Roblox and Decentraland, where students can attend classes and events in the digital world. The virtual campus will use virtual and augmented reality to bring to life business cases and allow students to interact from anywhere in the world.

As well as experiencing cutting-edge tech during your online master’s, some programs also include experiential learning and travel opportunities.

On the Master’s of Leadership & Management (MALM) program at Thunderbird School of Management in the US, there are ample chances to collaborate with your cohort and connect with potential employers.

In the Thunderbird Global Challenge Lab (GCL) you’ll spend three weeks working onsite with a client in an advanced or emerging market. In previous years, students have travelled to Mexico City to work with UberEats or Vietnam to help scale sustainable startup, Evergreen Labs.

The Global Organizational Consulting project is another initiative in which MALM students work remotely to solve a consulting industry challenge in a country of their choice.

Such opportunities give online master’s students the chance to network and build essential team-working and interpersonal skills.

The curriculum you study during an online degree is typically identical to an in-person program and you’ll earn the same degree certificate. The skills you learn during your master’s will make you an attractive hire for employers, leading to a solid return on investment after earning your degree.

Online study offers exciting job opportunities and salary prospects 

According to the 2022 GMAC Corporate Recruiters survey, 60% of recruiters say they view graduates of online and in-person programs equally—almost double the percentage of the previous year.

This growth in the positive perception of online master’s degrees means you’ll have access to a wide range of career opportunities when you graduate.

Previous grads from the Thunderbird MALM program have landed jobs at top companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, Adidas, and IBM. Roles included managerial positions such as global marketing manager, innovation manager, and global product manager.

Such managerial roles often welcome high salaries: in the US, an average manager salary is around $123,000.

The Big Three management consulting firms, Bain & Company, McKinsey & Company, and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) also increased salaries in 2023 for master’s hires.

At Bain and McKinsey, master’s grads can earn around $112,000 in base salary whereas at BCG, master’s hires can expect a base salary of $110,000.

There’s no doubt that online master’s degrees have progressed since the pandemic, and with rapidly advancing technology, the experience of online learning is likely to grow even more sophisticated.

So, with the prospect of earning a high-quality education as well as cutting the additional costs of studying in-person, you’re sure to see an impressive ROI on your degree.

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