Graduate School Choice!!!
June 24, 2013 9:17 PM   Subscribe

So I've been debating where to take my masters for some time. I'm not here to specifically ask for opinions on schools but more so styles of school.

So in short. I need some thoughts on what people think about distance self directed masters programs. I've been looking at a lot, like City University and Capella because these schools would allow me to study and work full time as well would not force me to move away and be poor for another 2 years. I would be able to "start my life" etc. Whereas I could move and go to a traditional institution more than likely full time.

Keep in mind I am in Canada, and I do not wish to move to the US. As an international student plus the cost of living, the reality of grad school is financial irresponsible when I can have my graduate studies subsidized here.

Do people honestly look at institutions like Capella etc and scoff? Or is the onset of distance education rising and becoming more respected. I know for a fact that places here hire City university graduates, but I need more information as a whole.

posted by Atlantic to Education (11 answers total)
What field?
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:21 PM on June 24, 2013

What field?

It's kind of a toss up now, but clinical psychology, neuropsychology, more of a clinical related field in psychology. Also, where I live, you are only required to have a masters to gain licensure as a practicing psychologist.
posted by Atlantic at 9:27 PM on June 24, 2013

That was the next question -- what's your goal in getting the master's? (That will tell you who you need to impress with the degree - so, whose opinions matter on this question)
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:31 PM on June 24, 2013

The goal is to become employable as a mental health professional. However, I'm just not sure what people think when they see a masters from a place like the ones I listed.
posted by Atlantic at 9:33 PM on June 24, 2013

Have you checked to see what the licensing requirements are in your jurisdiction, and whether you will be able to fulfill the supervised practice/research/internship requirements through a distance program? Most of the ones I know got their supervised practice through their schools; I'd ask the admissions departments what support they have for meeting these requirements, and what percentage of their graduates are licensed within 3 years if completion.
posted by snickerdoodle at 9:44 PM on June 24, 2013

Do people honestly look at institutions like Capella etc and scoff?

Yes. HR managers like to know the universities on the resumes and distance institutions are not valued like a real location. Also the smaller number of universities in Canada means many hiring managers are familiar with all of them.
posted by saradarlin at 10:12 PM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

I can't imagine doing a clinical degree by distance learning. Mine required 100 working days of supervised clinical practice with an educator registered with the university. I think there are also certain clinical skills that are very difficult to learn except face to face.
posted by kadia_a at 11:05 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I can't imagine doing a clinical degree by distance learning. Mine required 100 working days of supervised clinical practice with an educator registered with the university. I think there are also certain clinical skills that are very difficult to learn except face to face.

You are correct, clinical training would be difficult to do distant. However, all the distant schools I've considered require the clinical parts of the program to be in person through a chosen supervisor. Essentially you sent a request to the school stating whom you would like to be supervised by in your area as long as there are no conflicts of interest. Then you log hours with the supervisor and send them back.
posted by Atlantic at 11:46 PM on June 24, 2013

Have you looked at Athabasca University? It specializes in distance education, but it is also a physical university, and I think it doesn't have that bad reputation. It's well know in Canada. I don't know what they have in the way of clinical pysch Master's programs.

For Athabasca or any other distance school, though, I'd caution you to make sure you really know what the courses you'll be taking are like before you go for it. I recently took an undergrad math course through Athabasca, and I was surprised to find that in spite of the significant tuition, they basically sent me the textbook and threw me in the deep end. There was a tutor available by email, but most of their responses were references to textbook pages. There was no professor, no online classroom component, no transcripts or video lectures. Some of this was because I took the course at an odd time, as solo study rather than with a group session... but I was really surprised not to have some kind of access to recorded lectures. I did not do enough homework before signing up, and I regretted it! I would recommend calling the school and talking to an actual person; you should know as much as possible about what the course(s) are like before you pay the registration fee.

You should also investigate testing centres and exam fees. Where will you write your exams, and how much will it cost? I casually browsed the Athabasca testing centres before registering, and none of those with charges listed charged more than $50. Once I needed to write exams and called the testing centres that were in my city, $80 was the cheapest I could find. And supervision was required for the midterm as well as the final.

As for the clinical part, how confident do you feel about finding your own conflict-free clinical supervisor? That sounds like a big challenge to me. What will you do if you get to the clinical practice part of the program... and then discover that no-one in your area will take you as a student? Does that mean you would have to move for 3 or 4 months? Travel for 6 weeks? What could you do, and is it possible to do it?

I don't know if you've thought of these things already--maybe you have. But make sure you're thorough in thinking this through and getting all of the details. Distance education has its own quirks, and for me, it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be.
posted by snorkmaiden at 4:50 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

One distinction that hasn't been explicitly made here is for-profit versus non-profit. Capella (University of Phoenix, Walden, DeVry, etc.) is a for-profit school, meaning that they are a business, and their primary goal is making money; in this particular case the way they make money is through online education. Their tuition is frequently very high, especially compared to your opportunities for public education in Canada. Their graduation rates are generally very low, because they have a huge financial incentive to enroll students but little incentive to ensure they graduate or that they graduate well-educated. As a result, they have a poor reputation among, for instance, HR departments.

Non-profit schools, whether city colleges or major universities, in person or online, exist to educate students. Their primary "product" is successful graduates who go out in the world, make them look good, and donate money to their non-profit school. Although private non-profit colleges or universities are more expensive than publically-funded ones, they are also frequently offer merit-based aid on top of other kinds of financial aid that may be available to you. Non-profit schools' graduation rates are generally much higher (city colleges may be an exception) and their academics general better because their reputation is largely built on the success of their graduates.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:28 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think that the best way to answer this question would be to reach out to people who hire/supervise in jobs you'd like to have and ask them what they think of the programs you're considering. If you know people related to those fields (personally, through past jobs or internships, or through your professors, for example), ask if you can buy them a cup of coffee and pick their brains. If you don't have those direct connections, find them on LinkedIn or on their organizations' websites and ask if they'd be willing to give you an "informational interview." You need to know not just what the reputation of the universities is, but also what the reputation in your field of your specific program is. And the best way to find that out is to ask the people to whom that reputation matters.

But yes, the general vibe is that for-profit universities almost always, and distance learning programs more often than not, are not highly regarded. And as a person who has done hiring in the past, I'd be especially wary of someone who did their clinical training supervised by any random person they chose. Especially if the only oversight the school exercises is making sure the supervisor doesn't have any "conflicts of interest," and then keeping track of how many hours you've claimed you worked. I'd want my employees to have been supervised by a trained clinical professor or other professional who has specific experience and training in clinical teaching. I'd be concerned that the student didn't learn all of the things they were supposed to learn because their clinical supervisor didn't know how to teach them.

And frankly, I think you as the student should be concerned about the quality of the education and clinical training you would get, too. Above and beyond whether you could get a job, presumably you want to actually learn the things you need to learn to be good at your job. Especially in a profession like psychology, where you're working independently a lot of the time and need to have the confidence, judgment, and training to make decisions about how to deal with situations that come up, it would feel really awful not to have confidence that your training had prepared you to do your job well. You might also consider asking alumni of the schools you're considering about their experiences at the school and whether they felt prepared to start their careers. Because it would really suck to suck at your job because you didn't get the training you needed.
posted by decathecting at 8:51 AM on June 25, 2013

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