Monday, January 23, 2012

Your Time: Masters Degree

You knew it was coming. With distance programs becoming more and more common, getting a distance masters is now easier than ever. Well, maybe.

Distance masters aren't the same as regular masters degrees. The classes are typically one or two lectures a week, with an assignment every week. That's the difference. There seems to be a myth that somehow a distance degree is a big joke. Being enrolled in a masters program right now, I can tell you from personal experience that the classwork is just as hard, and oh by the way, you have a regular job to do during the day.

So why do a masters at all? Well....
- Officer promotions are only getting more competitive, especially as more people stay in. Not everyone gets a chance to go to postgraduate school before they are screening for LCDR or CDR. A distance degree can tip the promotion board votes in your favor.
- Not everyone wants to go to grad school and get Not Observed FITREPs. Especially if your first few FITREPs in your career weren't that great, a distance masters gives you another operational tour to remedy that.
- A lot of people have a dream job they want to fill in the Navy. That job may pop up when you are supposed to be going to grad school. If you see that coming, getting your distance masters allows you to fill that career wicket without sacrificing what you want.

There are hundreds of schools offering distance degrees. I personally recommend NPS. Their programs are located here. NPS has been very easy to work with, and the distance advisors understand the unique situations that Navy personnel get placed into at times. They've been very easy to work with, and are used to conducting business exclusively over the telephone and internet.

A word of warning: you need to seriously think out your degree. It is NOT going to be a cake walk. Some tips to get you through:
- Make a degree plan (like this)
- Make sure your degree meets the schools degree requirements. Most publish a checklist. (NPS's for electrical engineering degrees are located here)
- Be reasonable. Take one class a semester until you feel comfortable with the class load.
- If you're using tuition assistance, make sure you know the rules, timelines, and what form your receipts have to take for reimbursement

Once you've finished your degree, you need to report it to the Navy. Contact your detailer or visit the Graduate Education page on NPC's website. It should appear on your BUPERS record within a few weeks.