The way online education is often viewed – as an easy way to go back to school and earn your master’s degree in education or teaching – may lead you to believe that these programs are easy to get into. In fact, the degree of difficulty of getting accepted into an online master’s degree program in education is similar whether you are studying on the university’s physical campus or online. Fortunately, even at schools that are often considered selective, most applicants to an online master’s program who meet eligibility requirements get accepted.
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Comparing Admissions Requirements for Online and On-Campus Programs
Although online learning is a popular education option, it hasn’t replaced face-to-face coursework. Many colleges and universities offer both online and on-campus versions of a master’s degree program in teaching or education. At schools with both distance learning and traditional study options, the admissions requirements are just as stringent for applicants to the online program as they are for the on-campus program.
GPA requirements are the same no matter which learning format you choose. If the school requires standardized test scores, letters of recommendation or a personal essay, it typically does so for applicants to both the online and on-campus programs. There is a slight difference in the admissions requirements for online versus face-to-face graduate programs that require an interview. While students planning to complete their studies on campus will usually be asked to come to campus for the interview, schools typically allow a phone interview to take the place of an in-person interview for online students. Although this option makes the logistics of the interview easier, it doesn’t impact the level of difficulty of getting into the program. In fact, some interviewees find it more difficult to build a rapport with interviewers over the phone than in person, where nonverbal cues are part of the interaction.
While not all online master’s programs in education require students to submit GRE or other graduate-level standardized test scores, plenty of online programs do require this data for consideration.
Selectivity at Online Colleges
A big part of determining how easy or difficult it is to get into an online program is to look at how selective that program is. Generally, looking at the acceptance rate of a program, or the percentage of applicants who were admitted to the program, gives you an idea of how selective it is.
Among the top 12 schools ranked on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best online graduate education programs, acceptance rates ranged from a low of 68 percent to a high of 94 percent. These acceptance rates may sound high, leading you to believe that the selectivity of these online degree programs is low and that these programs are easy to get into. However, many of these acceptance rates for online graduate programs in education are in line with those of the school’s traditional programs.
For example, Clemson University’s online graduate education program has a 68 percent acceptance rate. While that’s much higher than the 47 percent acceptance rate U.S. News & World Report lists for undergraduate applicants, it’s comparable to the 64 percent overall acceptance rate that Peterson’s reports for Clemson’s graduate school as a whole. The University of Iowa, which accepts 94 percent of applicants to the school’s graduate education programs, also accepts 83 percent of all undergraduate applications, according to U.S. News & World Report. Overall, U.S. News & World Report considers both programs to be “more selective,” despite seemingly high acceptance rates.
Why might a higher percentage of applicants gain into an online master’s program in education compared to the overall acceptance rate for undergraduate students? Often, the rigorous requirements to apply for admission to these graduate-level programs keep less qualified candidates from applying in the first place. For example, non-credentialing programs often require that applicants have a valid teaching license or certification and a minimum number of years of teaching experience just to apply. As a result, the candidates who are eligible to apply are likely to have the qualifications to be accepted.
Before you can qualify for your teaching certification, you need a bachelor’s degree, a minimum GPA, a passing score on one or more exams such as the Praxis tests and student teaching experience – so applicants who meet this requirement already have a lot to offer.