Graduate Education

Your Grad School Options: On-campus, Online or Hybrid

Student at home office

Today’s grad school students have more options than ever before. There are full- and part-time programs, on-campus and online options, and hybrid or blended programs that offer a combination on-campus and online experience.

The bottom line: If you’re interested in getting a graduate degree, chances are there’s a program that meets your needs.

Full time or part time?

Once you decide which degree to pursue, your first decision will be whether to choose a full- or part-time program. Here are some pros and cons for each.

A woman wearing a black suit sits in a large window sill in an empty hallway.

Full time, pros:

  • Full-time programs can typically be completed in one to two years, depending on the field of study. If a master’s degree is required or will make a big difference in your field, it might make sense to get the degree as early—and as quickly—as possible.
  • Because you’re not juggling work and school, you have more time to build relationships with professors and classmates. You also are free to take advantage of internships, study abroad and other opportunities.
  • At many institutions, full-time students are eligible for more financial aid than part-time students. Note: This is not the case at Clarkson, where full- and part-time students are eligible for merit-based scholarships.

Full time, cons:

  • Full-time study is demanding and usually leaves little or no time for employment. That could make full-time study unaffordable, especially if it adds to existing student loan debt.
  • If you leave a job in your field to pursue a master’s full time, you may lose touch with professional contacts who could help advance your career later on.

Part time, pros:

Two students converse as they walk down an indoor pathway between buildings on Clarkson's campus.
  • Part-time programs allow you to work while pursuing your advanced degree. That can help you incur less debt.
  • If you’re earning a master’s to advance in your field, you may be able to apply coursework at your current job.
  • Depending on your employer, you might be eligible for tuition assistance. That could reduce your costs considerably.

Part time, cons:

  • It can take twice as long to earn a degree part time. If you’re pursuing a master’s degree because you want to change fields, as a part-time student, you might have to wait longer to make the switch.
  • Part-time students typically have fewer opportunities to connect with fellow students and faculty.

Which delivery method?

The best delivery method is the one that suits your schedule and your personality. Start by asking yourself some questions: Is the campus close enough for you to attend classes regularly? Do you have the discipline that an online program requires? How much does in-person interaction matter to you?

Then, consider your options.

Four students lounge in hammocks between three trees on the Clarkson campus.

On-campus programs: From a scheduling perspective, these are the least flexible. Classes are held at a certain time and place, and you’re expected to attend. But the rewards can be significant: lasting relationships with peers and professors; in-person discussions with guest lecturers, who may include leaders in the field; and easy access to campus resources, such as financial aid and career counseling.

Online programs: One of the biggest advantages of these programs is their flexibility. They are available to you anytime, anywhere. Although you and your fellow students won’t attend class together in person, depending on the program, you could interact at specified times via video conference. Group assignments can help you engage with classmates. Discussion board conversations can provide invaluable insights, and quality online programs offer opportunities to connect with professors. In addition to having drop-in office hours, professors make themselves available via phone and video chat.     They also respond promptly and thoughtfully to emails.

Hybrid programs: These programs can offer the best of both worlds: the in-person connection with classmates and faculty and the convenience of online classes. Clarkson’s MBA in Healthcare Management, for example, requires that students spend three weekends attending on-campus classes. All other classes are offered both online and on-campus—your choice. 

A photo from above of students using notebooks and laptops to study outdoors on the grass.

Delivery methods vary from program to program, even within the same school. At Clarkson, for example, MBA and data analytics programs are offered online as well as on-campus in Potsdam. The MS in Business of Energy program is offered online only.

As always, do your research, review your options and decide which program and delivery method work best for you.

Looking for more information? Read additional blog posts in this series, and explore Clarkson’s programs. If you are a Clarkson undergraduate student, check out the Career Center.

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