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When it comes to completing your master’s degree fully online, there are a lot of factors that come into play when determining how long it will take you finish. You will have to choose a school that offers the best value fully online program for your area of study, and each school, each program, is different. Still, a ballpark answer would look something like this: It will take you anywhere between eighteen months and three years, on average, to get your fully online master’s degree. Of course, like most things in life, there is no simple answer. However, there are two clear factors the effect the number of months or years you will be enrolled in coursework: the program requirements and the number of courses completed each term.

The Formula¹

The point is to get the best value out of your online experience. Once you’ve considered the cost and narrowed down your program, it is time to take into consideration how long you plan to spend in school. You’ll need to look at the amount of time you can dedicate to your online coursework. Not only do you need time to attend the class online or gather the lectures, you’ll need to account for time to complete your coursework, study, and do any necessary research to complete projects and tests. As a general rule, for every hour of lecture time you can expect about two hours of coursework. You can use this formula to figure out how much time you need per class, per term. For example, if you plan to take three courses that require three hours of lecture time per week, that equals six hours of additional work per class, a total of eighteen hours. Add back in those nine hours of time in lecture and you have now twenty-seven total hours that you’ll need to dedicate to coursework each week.²

As you’re choosing your program, you can use the chart below that shows data compiled by U.S. News that ranks the time it took to complete specific online master’s degree programs across disciplines from July 2015 to July 2016. The chart includes the most popular online master’s degree programs nationwide and it should be noted that in the examples below students don’t drop or skip any courses while enrolled.

Category

Most frequent duration of time for new students to graduate (mode) Most common program target time to graduate (mode)

Average three-year graduation rate

MBA 2 years 2 years 62.7%
Business (excluding MBA) 2 years 2 years 58.7%
Criminal justice 2 years 2 years 62.6%
Education 2 years 2 years 61.9%
Engineering 3 years 2 years 55.4%
Information technology 2 years 2 years 54.3%
Nursing 3 years 2-3 years 67.8%

Accelerated Programs

In addition, some schools do offer fully online accelerated master degree programs in areas such as business, nursing, and management. When you are mapping out your plan for completion and setting your deadlines, take into consideration all the factors that may delay you: Do you have a demanding or fluctuating job that may require flexibility? Do you have any major family commitments coming up over the next few years, for example, planning on having a baby or relocating? Are you in the military? How many actual hours can you commit each week to coursework realistically? Must your program be completed in a certain number of years? Do you have any licensures that you’ll need to take within a specific timeframe of completing your online degree program or before you enroll? Take all of these factors into consideration when you are determining your timeline. Once enrolled, practice smart time-management to stay on track and reach your goals. You must be realistic about your target completion date.

All online schools offer a wealth of fully online resources that will be able to aid you through your online degree experience and help to keep you on track. Utilize these student services such as 24/7 library access, faculty advisement, tutoring programs, online networking and study groups. These services can help to keep you focused and on track so you’ll complete your online graduate degree program on time.

When all is said and done, finishing your online master’s degree on time is up to you. With a little planning ahead of time and a commitment to work hard till completion, you’ll find that once you’re in the swing of things managing work, family, or other commitments along with your commitment to higher education will fly by and pay off greatly in the end.


Footnotes:

[1]

((C x H) x 2) + (C x H) = T
Number of courses = C
Hours in lectures = H
Total Number of Hours per week = T
Hours outside of lecture time = 2

[2]

((3 x 3) x 2) + (3 x 3) = T
(9 x 2) + 9 = T
18 + 9 = 27