Big dreams require big steps. The first and most important step is education. Depending on which stage of your life you are at, your circumstances may vary, making it difficult to decide how to get where you want to go. On one side you have a graduate school degree and on the other, an online certificate course. But which one is right for you?
Take a look at our pros and cons list for both and take the next big step towards your education.
When you study on campus, you naturally meet more people: from peers to older students, alumni and professors. Those are important connections that will later increase your opportunities for a meaningful network. Being able to establish those connections early on can lead to great internship opportunities, scholarships and eventually employment. Use this advantage to build up a list of contacts that can help you push your education and career forward.
The experience you gain from graduate school is unparalleled. Besides living in an entirely new and exciting place, you get to experience a challenging environment that can adequately prepare you for life after you graduate. Professional qualification, personal development, soft skills and know-how are just a few things you will gain that you cannot learn anywhere else.
Exciting opportunities await at every corner. If you are looking for a fresh start, this is it. In a new city, country or maybe even continent and with new people to share this journey, you get many opportunities to start anew. Not to mention the job opportunities to which a traditional degree can open doors. You can also take advantage of on-site facilities like the library, gym or student union.
One of the very few disadvantages of graduate school is the commitment you have to make because of set schedules and courses taking place during the day. It will be difficult for full-time working adults to balance work and study. It is, however, possible to make it work with a part-time job or if you come to an agreement with your employer to take time off to finish your degree.
Costs vary depending on the country, the type of university (state or private) and the nationality of the student. But usually admission into a traditional university can be costly, especially if you are aiming at leading world universities. If your school of choice is in another city or country, you will have the additional cost of living on campus or renting an apartment. However, financial aid options are available, such as scholarships, grants, tuition reimbursement and more.
On-campus learning is a lot more time-consuming than an online course. Travelling to and from the university, attending classes and time spent between classes takes up most of your day. Having a full-time job or taking care of a family while attending classes can be overwhelming. However, many people find that the hectic environment of a traditional on-campus experience is stimulating for the learning process.
One of the biggest advantages of an online course is flexibility in terms of time. You can adjust your course work to your family life and/or job. Not everyone’s life is suited to the schedule of a university and for some an online course is the best and easiest way to get some form of education or certificate. The convenience of being able to learn at your own pace cannot be overlooked.
An underrated perk of doing an online course is that you become more comfortable with technology. Being tech-savvy is a quality that can help you with your career. Even some practical experience with different programmes can set you apart from the competition. But that of course is not limited to online courses. In contrast to the past, most aspects of education now involve technology.
As with universities, prices of a certificate courses can vary. Most online courses are more affordable than a university degree because of the difference in the number of courses you need to take to graduate or, respectively, to get your certificate. Moreover, studying online also eliminates some extra costs like housing and commuting.
Limited course options
A university programme offers you a variety of courses and subjects to choose from in your selected field of study, while an online course usually focuses on one aspect. In most cases, doing an online course suggests you are aiming for a particular field and qualification that you want to obtain. That can be limiting later on in life if you wish to switch careers.
You’re on your own
Online courses require considerable self-discipline and motivation. You are responsible for doing your assignments and handing them in on time. It is up to you to do all the work with very little outside help. This is just not the same as turning to a fellow student if you do not understand something. On-campus students can turn to advisers and professors and rely on schedules to help with their time management and make sure they are getting the most out of the programme.
It goes without saying that an online course keeps you away from the beneficial experience of networking. It is more difficult to connect with a lot of like-minded people if you are not around them physically.
Online courses are a great option if your circumstances require it. They are affordable and flexible and can help you achieve your current goal. But nothing can replace the experience, insights and life skills that graduate school gives you. The network you create during your time on campus can last a lifetime and the experience you gain will guide you at every step of your career.