College education takes all sorts of shapes these days, as students more often choose nontraditional routes to a degree. Many people of different ages, backgrounds, and career goals are now looking to online education programs. Here's why one person chose an online degree.
The name on Meredith Hart's LinkedIn profile proudly reads, "Meredith Hart, MBA." The degree that she includes next to her name was earned online, as she worked days that sometimes lasted until 10 p.m. at a local ad agency in Myrtle Beach, S.C. She first earned a bachelor's degree in public relations from University of South Carolina, and then tried a few internships and jobs. In these positions, Hart began to realize that she could benefit from more education in marketing.
Hart sought out an online business degree. That degree she earned is partly responsible for getting her the job and title that sits directly below "Meredith Hart, MBA" on her LinkedIn profile: "Tourism Marketing Director at Georgetown [S.C.] County Chamber of Commerce," where she has worked since December 2011.
Online program: Walden University
Degree pursued and graduation year: M.B.A., February 2010
Why an online degree: Hart says she had always wanted to get her master's degree, but she also knew that she couldn't stop working long hours at the local ad agency to take classes. She felt an online program, through which she could take courses on her own time, seemed to fit best with her work days. Also, Hart says, it was the right time in her life to go back to school. "I felt like, because I wasn't married yet or had any children, I could go ahead and do it, and it would work with my schedule."
Degree impact: "I think it's opened up more opportunities, career-wise," Hart says. "Where I'm at now, I don't know that I would be there if I hadn't earned that degree," she says of her current job and how she thinks the M.B.A. helped secure it. Without her M.B.A., Hart says, "I think I would have been qualified, but I don't think I would have stood out as much. I wouldn't be as prepared."
Biggest challenge of earning an online degree: "You don't get a lot of sleep," Hart says, who logged into her classes on lunch breaks, and then often worked late at night after she returned home from her advertising job.
Advice for future online students: Hart says that online students must be self-starters and experts of time management who can take it upon themselves to schedule times to complete assignments. "It's also a good idea to set up an area in your house that you can go to get away from everything," she says. " [It's] kind of like your own classroom."
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