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"Should I Go to Grad School Online?”
If, When, and How to Get a Graduate
Degree from Home


The way we work and learn has changed. Professionals across all sectors are reconsidering their careers, aspirations, and desired lifestyles. This cultural shift, though challenging, has created new and exciting opportunities to work and study online — from anywhere!

If you have considered going to graduate school in today’s climate, chances are you’ve also wondered — should I pursue a graduate degree online?

With so much of the world turning remote, online education is becoming increasingly available and accepted. However, choosing to pursue graduate school online does come with a unique set of decisions to make regarding your professional, personal, and academic goals.

That’s why it’s important to have all of the practical information you need to navigate this process.

This resource will help inform your decision and guide you through the necessary steps as you determine if, how, and when you should pursue a graduate degree online.

You can keep scrolling to learn more about whether or not an online program is the right fit for you or you can click here to learn more about the online programs we offer!

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The University of San Diego offers master’s, doctoral, and certificate online programs to serve the needs of both national and international leaders, educators, and counselors.

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Online Graduate Programs: The Shifting Value Proposition

In the past, prospective graduate students looking to enroll in an online program typically could only apply to a program from an online educational institution. However, over the past few years – and with the pandemic – the world of higher education has shifted, resulting in an increase of online graduate programs at traditionally in-person schools, like USD-SOLES (click here to learn more about the reputable, online programs we offer!).

In 2017, 6.6 million of the 19.7 million students enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary school were enrolled in a distance or online program. That’s a significantly large number of individuals seeking out an alternative format to education even before the pandemic. As our world continues to adapt to the digital age, online education will become more prevalent, especially as the current climate has challenged institutions to improve online learning processes

When comparing online educational institutions to traditional schools, the latter is more likely to be recognized by future employers, since they tend to have higher academic standards, quality accreditations, and more experience in the field of education. Fortunately, as many traditional schools expand their online offerings, students looking for reputable, accredited online programs have more options than ever before. 

Pros and Cons of Going Back to School Online

As you decide whether or not to pursue a graduate degree or certificate online, consider some of the pros and cons in various areas. Think about how these factors would impact your life on a practical level as well as how you feel about them on an emotional level.


  • Increase knowledge and skill set
  • Improve resumé
  • Open up new career opportunities
  • Expand beyond your current role
  • Enter a new field
  • Balancing school with work
  • Possibly face challenges of switching careers/industries


  • Opportunity for higher-paying positions with a graduate degree
  • Have higher earning potential with a graduate degree
  • Potentially save money on schooling compared to on-campus learning
  • Save money on the costs of traveling to or living on campus
  • Financial investment
  • Balance cost of tuition with other costs of living

Family/Home Life

  • Gain better work opportunities to support your family and pay for living expenses
  • Increased flexibility of online school compared to on-campus learning
  • Skip commute time and other increased time commitments of on-campus learning
  • Easier to balance with responsibilities of home life such as caring for children
  • Possibility of faster completion time than on-campus degrees
  • Challenges of setting aside time to focus on schooling at home
  • The difficulty of finding a quiet space to learn and study at home
  • Facing distractions at home

Professional Network

  • Offers access to a broader online network
  • Provides connections with students and professionals in the same field across the world
  • May not provide in-person and local connections
  • May not provide employment assistance with local employers

Schooling During COVID

  • Work on a degree without leaving home
  • Continue studies without interruption regardless of local restrictions
  • May have the opportunity of expanded free time and fewer distractions to put toward improving knowledge and career
  • Increased challenges to balance school with family members working and/or schooling from home
  • COVID-19 may have created family financial and/or health burdens that impact the ability to go back to school

If and When You Should Get a Graduate Degree Online from Home

Are you unsure about pursuing graduate school online and whether now is the right time? The following flowchart is specially designed to help you determine if you are ready to take the leap. As you answer each question, you will be guided by your responses toward one of three possibilities: graduate school doesn’t seem like a good fit for you right now, it seems right but not quite yet, or it is likely to benefit you right away.

Remember: It’s important to listen to both your heart and your head – the final decision is ultimately yours!

Go Back Refresh Question

Are you happy in your work or with the opportunities in your field?

Go Back Refresh Question

Do you have growth potential given your current skill set and credentials?

Go Back Refresh Question

Do you want to make more money?

Go Back Refresh Question

Do you want to grow your network?

Go Back Refresh Question

Are you looking for new career challenges?

Go Back Refresh Question

Has the pandemic given you more time to do something like returning to school?

Go Back Refresh Question

Do the members of your household currently support the decision for you to go to grad school?

Go Back Refresh Question

Are you ready to commit yourself to earning a degree or certificate?

How to Get a Graduate Degree Online while Working from Home

There's a lot to think about when considering an online graduate degree and it can be hard to know where to begin. The following section should answer your questions on how to find a degree program and how to balance online schooling with your work and home life.

Find a Degree Program

Begin by finding the right online graduate program to fit your needs. Here are steps to take to research, find, compare, and choose between online California graduate programs:

graduation cap on keyboard

1. Spend time narrowing your field of interest.

What do you want to get a degree in? You can use various methods to determine your field of interest. Use self-reflection to think about possible career fields. Think about whether you want to expand your current knowledge or go in another direction. Use research to learn more about each field and talk to people in your field(s) of interest to gain a deeper understanding.

2. Search for programs that fit your specific field of interest.

Once you have determined an area of interest, look for online graduate programs and create a list of programs that fit the bill. For some fields, a certificate may be all you need to accelerate your career opportunities. 

You can learn more about the online programs we offer below!

3. Narrow your program choices.

Once you have your list of degree programs, it’s time to collect information on each and narrow the list down to the ones that would best fit. Look at the information provided by the program itself and information from comparison sites. Also, ask an academic adviser if you can speak with current students and alumni to get firsthand accounts of the program experience.

4. Compare tuition costs.

Graduate school is a financial investment in your future, and you want to make sure that investment takes you where you want to go. Just because one program might be cheaper, doesn’t necessarily mean you are getting the best value. When comparing costs, be sure to also consider the quality of the program, the unique opportunities, and the resources available to students at each institution.

5. Apply to programs of your choice.

After you’ve narrowed the decision to the best schools for your needs, apply to the programs of your choice. Make sure to provide all of the necessary requested information as part of the application process.

6. Choose your program.

If you applied to one program and got in then you know which program you’ll be starting. But if you were accepted into multiple programs, it’s time to make the final decision of which one fits you best. You may have already picked a top school when you were narrowing your choices. If not, go back to the information you collected then and compare the schools. Now’s a good time to use a combination of your head and your heart to determine which school is the best fit for you overall. Think of which one you’re most interested in and drawn to, as well as which one best fits practical factors such as budget, time commitment, and job prospects. Which one best fits your career goals?

7. Begin your program!

Congratulations on making your final decision! You’re ready to start your graduate program. Now you’ll move forward with your studies according to the timelines and degree completion expectation of the program you have selected. You’ve taken a giant step toward a better future!

How to Balance Online School with Work and Family Life

We're going to be honest with you – going through school online comes with its challenges. It can be difficult enough to balance a commitment to school with commitments to your work and family, but the challenges can multiply when much of this is happening in the same physical space (your home). And because of COVID, you may have more people at home than normal, such as a spouse working remotely or children doing online schooling.

Fortunately, many people can balance all of these commitments successfully through planning, boundary-setting, time-management, and other useful techniques. Here are some helpful tips we’ve crafted that we hope will prepare you to successfully navigate life as an online graduate student: 

mom with child on her shoulders

1. Segment your time and attention.

To ensure that you can give your best to your work, school, and family responsibilities, you’ll need to create a schedule that will give you devoted time to each of your commitments. A solid schedule will help you effectively accomplish more and avoid burnout.

You’ll also need to get your household on board with your goals and plans. Find ways to work together and have them help you with your aspirations. For example, maybe you can find chunks of time where you and your child study together. You may need help with babysitting, elderly caregiving, or household chores — perhaps you can hire help, or encourage people in your household to chip in. Here is an article with more ideas on how to balance your work and school at home, including:

  • Create separate workspaces for different focuses
  • Have a schedule and stick to it
  • Communicate with your employer when you need flexibility

2. Explore time management techniques.

It’s important to accept that by adding schooling to your life, you’ll have a lot on your plate. Use time management techniques to help you balance everything. There are different ways to manage time, so you’ll want to find something that works for you. Part of the process will include identifying things on which you spend too much time, like watching TV and browsing social media. Then, consider trying various time management techniques such as prioritizing tasks, using to-do lists, setting aside blocks of scheduled time, and timing yourself – though don’t forget to schedule in breaks and periods of time for self-care.

You can explore this article to learn about some of the well-known time management techniques you may want to try. A few options include:

  • The Pomodoro Technique
  • The Pareto Principle
  • The GTD Technique

3. Remember the big picture.

When you started thinking about working on a degree program, you probably envisioned a goal that fueled your decision-making process. Maybe you want to move forward in your career, maybe you want to make more money, maybe you want to switch fields…or perhaps it’s a combination of several factors. Aside from the practical considerations, there also may be an emotion-backed reason behind your thought process, such as wanting to be a better provider for your family or wanting to have a career you’re truly passionate about. Think about your reason(s) for wanting a degree. What are you hoping it will change in your life? Why? Keep this big picture in mind to help you focus on your goals and to stay motivated to balance school with the other parts of your life.

4. Double dip, where possible.

You may be able to save time and energy by intersecting your study and work. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to combine your work and school efforts. For example, could you write about a work project for a school assignment? Could you incorporate concepts you’re learning in school into your work? You don’t need to wait to finish your online program to start using the concepts you’re learning in your job.

5. Rely on school resources.

Make sure you’re taking advantage of helpful resources that are available to you as a student. You may have access to online and/or campus-based resources. For example, your school may offer tutoring, counseling, scholarships or grants, career support and networking opportunities, and other resources. These resources can make your transition to school easier and can provide you with the support you need to be a successful student. 

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Learn More about USD’s Online Programs

The University of San Diego appreciates applicants who use both their head and their heart when pursuing graduate school. We keep both factors in mind when delivering our online programs, especially since online programs require a delicate balance of coursework mixed with everyday life challenges at home. Also, we know that many people will consider both their feelings and practical concerns when deciding whether to go to graduate school online and which program to choose. After all, this is a decision that will impact the course of a person’s life.

USD-SOLES is well-acquainted with the online education space and currently offers three online graduate programs to choose from:

  • Master’s in Education TESOL, Literacy, and Culture Online
  • PhD in Education for Social Justice
  • Certificate in International School Counseling

To learn more about these programs, you can scroll down below for brief descriptions of each or you can request more information to get in touch with one of our academic advisors! 

Master’s in Education TESOL, Literacy, and Culture

The MEd in TESOL, Literacy, and Culture prepares candidates to work in adult education, specifically in universities, community colleges, language academies, and other similar settings. This online graduate program educates students on teaching English to adult students, as well as culture and linguistics. This two-year online program includes more than 150 hours of varied education and includes a TESOL certificate.

Course hours combine research, observation, and experience as methods of learning. Sample courses include Human Development; Language, Literacy, and Culture; and Second Language Acquisition and Development. This program also includes international experience in places such as the United Kingdom, Japan, or South Africa. Students learn the skills needed for administrative and leadership roles.

You can request more information about this program below!

PhD in Education for Social Justice

The PhD in Education for Social Justice is designed to create scholars in the field of K-14 education. This degree can prepare students for roles such as teacher leaders, educational researchers, and leaders for change in the education field. This is a four-year online program that includes a global studies requirement, a dissertation, and required doctoral seminars.

This course uses theory, critical conversations, analysis, critique, and other methods of learning to explore education, social justice, culture, and other important areas. Sample courses include Critical Social Theory and Education; History of Education for Social Justice; and Education and Globalization. The degree program includes numerous doctoral seminars and a global course.

You can request more information about this program below!

Certificate in International School Counseling

The Certificate in International School Counseling provides education in school counseling, with a particular focus on counseling in international schools. This program prepares students to work as school counselors or educators looking to increase counseling knowledge. This online program tends to take one year to complete and results in a professional USD certificate.

This is a self-paced program with online courses that include Cross-Cultural Counseling Skills for International School Counselors, Crisis and Trauma Prevention and Intervention in International School Counseling, and International College and Career Readiness. Students are offered an Applied Theories and Techniques in International School Counseling course onsite depending on location.

You can request more information about this program below!

Connect with USD SOLES

Overall, attending a graduate program online is easier than ever before. An online program provides a convenient way to go to school while balancing the demands of work and home life. Society’s adaptation to COVID-19 has facilitated this transition, as virtual educational delivery is much more widespread than it was even just a year ago.

Now, you have plenty of options to choose from—beyond an online institution, you can choose an online degree program that's backed by an accredited, reputable, experienced university.

This is the case with the University of San Diego’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES). We have several years of experience providing online schooling and pride ourselves in delivering a stellar educational experience to our students, helping them achieve a degree or certificate from a quality institution. SOLES is excited and prepared to support online graduate students.

Whether you’re ready to apply to an online graduate program or you’re still considering the decision, we invite you to get in touch with our team about your online education journey!


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