The Internet has widened the scope of education by knocking down geographic barriers, affording rural students access to online degree programs in distant cities. Working professionals now have the opportunity to enroll in online graduate programs in any city in the world without taking a leave of absence or relocating to another city.

Mutual benefits

Partly as a result of the increasing presence of online education, specialized master’s degree programs have increased in number and popularity. The only requirement that busy or traveling professionals need to continue their education is Internet access, says Dr. Randy Jorgensen, associate professor of finance and director of the MIMFA program at Creighton, and access is available virtually every—at every airport, hotel and coffee house.

Furthermore, combining online and residential degree programs provides students the ability to customize their educational experience, opting to participate in the traditional classroom setting when schedules allow while taking advantage of online course offerings when job or personal responsibilities make class attendance physically impossible.

Colleges and universities also benefit from online programming; greater student access also makes specialized programming financially feasible. “A highly specialized degree program in investments, for example, might have a relatively small presence in a particular local market and therefore may not be financially practical,” comments Dr. Jorgensen. “Such a program becomes more viable if it can also be delivered online and made accessible to an audience beyond the boundaries of a university’s local geographic market.” Approximately 75 percent of students enrolled in Creighton’s MIMFA program, for example, live outside the Omaha metropolitan area.

"Combining online and residential degree programs provides students the ability to customize their educational experience, opting to participate in the traditional classroom setting when schedules allow while taking advantage of online course offerings when job or personal responsibilities make class attendance physically impossible."

More than a master’s

“The industry has experienced significant change over the last two decades, driven by technology and changes in investment products demanded by investors,” says Dr. Lee Dunham, an associate professor of finance at Creighton. Part of keeping current is recognizing that an undergraduate degree is a solid foundation for careers in investment management, but it is not enough. Graduate degrees and credentials, such as the CFA designation, are relevant, particularly for advancement in the investment industry.

Finance professionals seeking to attain the CFA designation can benefit from earning a master’s degree while studying for the CFA exam. “The value to students enrolled in a master’s program while preparing for a credentialing exam such as the CFA exam is the ability to fully immerse themselves in the curriculum content. Students truly learn the material rather than simply memorizing material for an exam,” states Dr. Jorgensen. “Passing the CFA exams speaks to a person’s intelligence and determination, but earning a master’s degree signifies that the person comprehends the material covered on the exam.”

Increasingly, employers are recognizing degrees earned from online degree programs, particularly from historically reputable universities. “The last time I was asked whether a student took their classes in residence or online was about five years ago,” says Dr. Jorgensen. This is good news for potential students who can take comfort in knowing that the online graduate degree they earn will have recognition on par with a degree earned in residence. Employers also benefit, as the talent pool of potential employees in a local market is likely to be enhanced from the availability of distance online degree programs.