How to get a Masters degree, like, NOW?
November 29, 2006 11:32 AM   Subscribe

Is there any way to get a seriously accredited Masters Degree online based all or in part on life experience? Any other ideas about getting a Masters quickly/inexpensively?

Background: For the past 2 years I’ve been teaching Art and Digital Imaging classes at an out-of-the-way Community College in California, but after June next year I’m apparently going to lose my equivalency certification because I don’t have an MA/MFA and the college is starting to crack down on the per-class OKs which up to now have been good enough to get me in. I’m 58, living on a very low budget and am a long way from any universities. On the plus side, I’m an active painter and designer with a nice portfolio, a still-in-print published book, and 20 years experience as an editor on a national instructional magazine... Blah-blah-blah=I’m just what my students need and can’t afford to waste much effort/time/$$ becoming “official.”

All I’ve found online is a bogus-looking offer from “Belford University” for a quick equivalent-life-experience degree in about a week for $500, and a lot of not-related online degree programs.

Ideas/experiences? Thanks!
posted by dpcoffin to Education (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Check out; there is an active community that discusses the pro's and con's of various non-traditional degree programs.
posted by Mutant at 11:47 AM on November 29, 2006

In general, you will find that "seriously accredited" and "quick, inexpensive Masters Degree" have basically zero overlap.

There are plenty of diploma mills, some cheap and some expensive. There is no quick, cheap shortcut to getting an actual Masters (in anything) that would be respected by someone who knows the particular field.
posted by enrevanche at 12:04 PM on November 29, 2006

I doubt you can find a degree from a seriously accredited school that will give you a masters on life experience. You may be able to find one from somewhere "accredited" by an organization that is just a front for the institution its accrediting or something like that. I guess it depends on what you mean by accredited. I guess if all you need is a degree from an "accredited" institution, it's worth looking around, but if anyone might actually notice, then you might not want to bother.

I will now proceed to give advice that is off-topic. Also, I don't know that mugh about your field, so admittedly, my opinion isn't worth that much: Maybe it's time to shop around for a position somewhere else? As I said, I don't know that much about it, but I've heard that in general, a degree in anything fine arts related isn't as important as your portfolio and experience. Since you have a good portfolio, and plenty of teaching and practicing experience, maybe you can get a job at some school that hasn't gone on a kick to get rid of "unqualified" instructors. Or maybe just the fact that you're looking around will make your college reconsider and let you stay on?
posted by gauchodaspampas at 12:15 PM on November 29, 2006

Not looking for respect, nor do I need any additional training to continue to be useful to my students—altho I’m constantly getting more on my own. Just looking for the least expensive, fastest piece of paper that will make the system go Click-OK. So, got a cheap diploma mill that is ASC-accredited?
posted by dpcoffin at 12:17 PM on November 29, 2006

There are only so many ways of saying "you can't have what you want." What you want is mutually exclusive: accredited, quick, cheap (pick two).

Outside of executive MBA programs (which are not cheap), a "quick" Masters degree takes about a year. I did mine in 16 months and that was considered reasonably fast for my field.
posted by mcwetboy at 12:23 PM on November 29, 2006

You might look into a low-residency, individualized Masters Program like Antioch University McGregor, specifically something like their Individualized Liberal & Professional Studies program.

[Full disclosure: I'm a current student, I like the program, it's probably not for everyone, and I get nothing for recommending new students.]
posted by dryad at 12:25 PM on November 29, 2006

Just looking for the least expensive, fastest piece of paper that will make the system go Click-OK. So, got a cheap diploma mill that is ASC-accredited?

You have to understand that there are two systems in play here, even though you only care about one of them. On the one hand, there are your college's requirements to teach courses, which it sounds like are not well-designed to handle cases like yours. This is the system you care about and want to satisfy. But on the other hand there is the system of higher education. An MA is a real thing that in general takes a lot of work to get, would not in general be the kind of thing that just life experience would get you (though life experience of course prepares many people to do well in grad school and finish quickly, I imagine this is especially true in the arts), and most importantly has some meaning and significance beyond your college's teaching requirements. This is why you probably aren't going to find what you seem to want. Diploma mills don't get accredited exactly because an MA (or any degree) has some real significance beyond particular job requirements.
posted by advil at 1:04 PM on November 29, 2006

I would really like to be helpful and not snarky. But the poster is trying to get around the system that the poster wants to be a part of.
All of the online masters degrees that I've found take 16 months or more, and 16 months is a tough program.
posted by lilithim at 1:41 PM on November 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

You can't have both, as mcwetboy says. You need to pick one, I'd pick the one that is more "legit" but that's just me.

Most (if not all) diploma mills are not accredited. No accrediting body would possibly accredit a program that doesn't actually teach anyone anything. You can go out and get the piece of paper, but I've read too many stories about people that have done so and are later "found out" and resign in embarrassment or are forced to resign, etc.

I would look into and sign up for an actual online program, explain to the CC people that you are in the process of getting your grad degree per their regulations, and that should be okay. Even if the completion date is past June, since you are actively working on it it seems like you'd be fine, but double-check first. Maybe you can even get them to foot a portion of the bill. There are online programs for digital media out there, but you'd have to actually take courses, not just get a piece of paper and be done.
posted by ml98tu at 2:11 PM on November 29, 2006

What people don't understand is that a masters degree or any graduate-level degree is supposed to culminate the contribution of one's work toward the development of original, innovative knowlege in a particualr field. Thus, it's kind of hard to get a meaningful and worthwhile masters degree quickly: it requires motivation and a unique contribution to a field. Having a master's degree on paper might be worth something, but unless you dilligently complete it at a somewhat recognizable school, it won't be worth much.

Perhaps it would be worth investing more time into this rather than trying to rush it: ultimately you'll be better off and it'll be more meaningful to you and others. And you might actually have something to show for it. Without a real accomplishment to back up your degree, it's just as much worthless as not having one.
posted by Aanidaani at 2:20 PM on November 29, 2006

Punchline seems to be:
Convince The Powers that they need me more than the degree, since it could easily take more time and money than I’ve already spent or earned on the job to get the ticket.

Maybe that’ll work, since disqualifying me looks likely to eliminate more than half of the existing Arts program where I teach.

Thanks for the suggestions, and apologies to any who took my question as an attack on all they hold dear, or won dearly. Excuse me if I feel (without intending the slightest disrespect to anyone else’s choices) that my existing education and experience was won quite as dearly and is worth every bit as much to my students as anything I could pay a degree-granting body for.
posted by dpcoffin at 2:35 PM on November 29, 2006

That sounds like a good solution, because if they really are trying to build a program up, they'll need experienced staff. Some schools are also into having lecturers with 'real world' background, so it's not all theoretical knowledge. Good luck!
posted by lilithim at 3:24 PM on November 29, 2006

Have you considered actually getting a master of arts degree?

You might try convincing your school to pay for the degree, or otherwise have some investment in it, so that they are willing to support you as you take the time to become accredited. (You might need to teach fewer classes, and it will take some time to get the degree.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 4:10 PM on November 29, 2006

Perhaps it would be worth investing more time into this rather than trying to rush it: ultimately you'll be better off and it'll be more meaningful to you and others. And you might actually have something to show for it. Without a real accomplishment to back up your degree, it's just as much worthless as not having one.

Did you even read the poor guy's question before you decided to pontificate? He's 58, not cashed up, and he wants a goddamn piece of paper to satisfy idiot bureacrats.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:53 PM on November 29, 2006

Thanks, stav...tho I admit that I’ve also been caught skimming over questions in the rush to make some wonderfully OT point:)
posted by dpcoffin at 1:58 AM on November 30, 2006

A lot of brick-and-mortar universities (mine included) are getting into online education. The advantage is that you diploma will not say anything about "online," it will be the same diploma as traditional students receive.
posted by LarryC at 8:42 AM on November 30, 2006

Is it possible to get enrolled in *your* college's MA or MFA program. That way, you can a) stay in the same place and b) get a degree over some amount of time that you can work out with your program. This is rare but not unheard of in other fields (I don't know jack about art programs). Research scientists, administrators, adjunct faculty and others getting degrees is common at my university, though we don't have that many adjunct faculty that teach courses.
posted by zpousman at 9:44 AM on November 30, 2006

missing a "?" Please insert where appropriate.
posted by zpousman at 9:45 AM on November 30, 2006

I conferred a Masters in "Information Technology" from Capella earlier this year and they are regionally accredited. It sure wasn't cheap ($2000/course), but they do have a petition program ($300 per course) and I petitioned out of four out of twelve required courses. (But then my employer paid for a significant chunk of that, so I guess I can't complain about the cost.) I never visited a campus or anything like that - all communication was fax, email and phone. I got through all the courses in a little over a year (even with taking a semester off) They sent my degree FedEx.

Capella has a 12-course MS in "Education
Postsecondary and Adult Education Specialization"
, whatever that means. That would satisfy your bosses. Since you work for a college do you have any kind of employee education assistance program? This would qualify - it's regionally accredited by NCS. (And hey, if you go and you say I referred you, I get some kind of kickback gift.) No, I'm not a paid spokesperson for Capella, just extremely satisfied with my experience.

Capella's petition program seems like it might be a good fit for someone with as much experience as you. Basically for each petition, it entails about 10 pages summarizing your experience providing examples of said experience that show you don't need to take that particular course. Provide references and spell everything right and they'll give you credit with no problem.

American Intercontinential University is one other place I might have gone, only they did not accept my BS from an ACICS-accredited university ("national" accredation) per their admission requirements for their Masters program. They are regionally accredited as well.
posted by ostranenie at 8:59 PM on December 2, 2006

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