Master of Science Degree Options – Online vs Campus Programs

At one time, your only option for earning a Master of Science (MS) in your desired field was to take classes at a local college or university. Today, online programs are also an option – and one that more and more students are considering every year. There are advantages and disadvantages to each kind of schooling; let’s take a look at some of the major differences for MS degree students so you can decide which is right for you.

Program Flexibility

When it comes to program flexibility, online schooling beats out the traditional campus program by a mile. When you attend school virtually, you don’t have to drive to a physical location – you just log online and complete your work. This means that you can be “in class” from wherever is most convenient to you, by that at home in bed, at your local library, or even during a train commute to work. Because you can complete your work whenever you want, rather than having the structure of normal classes, this also means that you can complete little chunks of work here and there throughout the day as time allows, which is great for busy parents or those with full-time jobs.

Occasionally, you may have to log online at a specific time to attend a virtual lecture or participate in an online chat with your classmates. However, most online programs keep the bulk of their classes as flexible as possible. They’re also often more flexible in terms of program length – you can finish in two years, as is traditional with an MS, or finish more/less quickly as is possible for your schedule.

Course Offerings

On the flip side of the coin, if you’re looking for a wide array of courses, campus programs typically offer more than online colleges. Online schools are definitely closing the gap on this one, but there are just some classes that will always be impossible to teach online, such as dance or sculpture. Because online schools are newer than traditional campus colleges, there are also fewer course options in terms of programs in general. While there might be dozens of traditional campus programs offered in your field, only a handful of online schools might exist. Again, online colleges are closing the gap, but right now, there is a wider array of programs and individual courses offline.


Some campus programs offer students the chance to work in a highly independent environment; at online colleges, this is a guarantee. Having a ton of independence can be good or bad, depending on your learning style. Some students need a lot of motivation and constant contact with professors and other students to excel. For these students, online school might not be the best choice. On the other hand, some students thrive when they are given a lot of independence, so for these students online programs are a great option. Ask yourself this: If you are given a month to complete a large project on your own, would you work on it bit by bit, with a final push at the end of the month to finish, or would you procrastinate and find yourself at the end of the month with just a day or two to complete the entire thing? If you answered the former, online school may be right for you, but if you answered the latter, online school may not be structured enough for your learning style. Of course, at both online and offline schools, the degree of independence you have a student varies. You can find some online programs where students are extremely connected and you can find some campus programs where students are extremely independent.

Cost and Financial Aid

On average, online programs are less expensive than campus programs simply because the school doesn’t have to pay as much for real estate virtually as they have to in real life (and there are no property maintenance costs, not to mention that online colleges can typically survive with fewer staff members). Again, this varies, so you might find some online colleges that are more expensive than their campus counterparts, but most of the time, online college courses are more affordable.

That said, in order to take a class online, you need to purchase a computer, as well as required software and a subscription to a reliable Internet connection (unless you’re able to complete your work in full at a public location). If you already have a computer and subscribe to Internet through your cable or phone company, luckily this won’t be much of an added expense.

In terms of financial aid, both online and offline colleges offer help for students. Most outside organizations don’t specify, so as long as the program is accredited, you’ll likely be eligible.

Top Online Master's Degrees in Science

Concordia University at Portland
Master of Science
Master of Mathematics
Concordia University at Portland – Concordia University at Portland has two master's degrees that are online programs designed for students interested in education. Both programs focus on developing and consulting curriculum and instruction, allowing students to work as educators, consultants, advisors, and program directors. There are two specializations available, one in science and the other in mathematics.
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University of Southern California
MS: GIS & Technology
University of Southern California – Southern Cal offers an MS in Geographic Information Science & Technology (GIST) through their online program. This degree equips its students with the fundamntal skills to cope with increasing GIST data complexity and more robust computer applications for GIST analysis, suitable for professions in real estate, telecommunications, government, infrastructure development, and more.
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New York Chiropractic College
MS: Clinical Nutrition
MS: Anatomy & Physiology
New York Chiropractic College – Explore science as it relates to the human body with either the MS in Applied Clinical Nutrition or the MS in Human Anatomy and Physiology from Ney York Chiropractic College. Help others through consulting on dieting and exercsing through a career as a Nutritionist, or you can enter the teacher profession instructing students on anatomy.
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Purdue University
MS: Educational Psych
MS: Psychology
MS: Information Tech
Purdue University – Purdue University offers several different Masters of Science degrees including Environmental Policy, Educational Psychology, General Psychology, and Information Technology. Students will get a broader understanding of how their managerial and executive roles are an integral part of shaping their industry while teaching them the skills to make the indispensable to their respective companies. Students in the Environmental Policy program are given the opportunity to learn managerial skills of how to function in various environments and to be successful in each situation.
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Northcentral University
MBA: Computer Science
Northcentral University – This MBA in Computer Science degree program presents prospective managers with practical abstract modern theory and practice in each of the key areas of managerial responsibility. Students are encouraged to apply the theory learned in the classroom and problem solve via the use of computers in practical business situations for a uniquely rewarding and educational experience. The curriculum is designed to provide preparation for professional careers in the areas of Software and Network Administration. A bachelor's degree or its equivalent is necessary to apply to this program.
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