When Tomer Shaked graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Business, he thought he had it made. “I was overconfident,” he says. “I had a background in tech and assumed getting a degree in business would make me a more varied and unique candidate for jobs.”

He soon ran into the realities of the modern career. “Having no experience in business and a lack of a degree in technology did not add up quite the way I had planned,” he says.

Like so many other young professionals looking to push their careers forward or change their career path while working full time, Shaked turned to an online graduate program, pursuing a Master of Science in Computer Information Systems from Boston University Metropolitan College.

The online advantage

“The impact of continuing education on careers is immediate and ongoing,” says Tanya Zlateva, dean of Metropolitan College and Extended Education. “It is often life-changing as it opens the doors to new professional paths.”

Founded in 1965, Metropolitan College offers 32 online programs, including business and management, health care informatics and communication, IT and software development, data sciences and cybersecurity and cybercrime.

“Education is what you make of it. Don’t just find a credential — find inspiration.”

“Fast-changing practices — fueled by competition that is mostly driven by technology — threaten to outpace current skills and competencies,” Zlateva points out. She stresses that BU MET programs are offered by a respected research university (at less than half the full-time tuition), with a unique 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio. “Programs such as ours must be accessible to busy people, but must also have options.”

Work-life balance

Online programs aren’t just for the young and hungry. After more than three decades in law enforcement, Joshua Ben Mayers turned to BU MET to pursue an online Master of Criminal Justice, with a concentration in cybercrime investigation and cybersecurity.

“My degree helped make me highly competitive for both consulting work and teaching at a major U.S. university after my retirement,” he says. “The BU MET program is ideally structured. The seven-week-long class terms, reading assignments and weekly evening live classroom discussions with the professor and other students work very well with a full-time job, helping with a good work-life balance.”

The key to a successful online degree program is a combination of sound technology and smart design. “It’s a good time to be teaching online,” says Eric Friedman, executive director in the Office of Distance Education at Boston University. “Because we're really able to take advantage of improvements to the technology.”

Friedman credits BU MET’s success to their award-winning course design. “Engaging content requires a well-designed, rich, technologically advanced and stable online environment,” he says. “BU’s online programs are designed, developed and brought to life by a team of distance learning experts, and students benefit from robust support services. That is why a number of our courses have been recognized for excellence by Blackboard, the United States Distance Learning Association and the Online Learning Consortium.”

How to choose

When seeking an online program, Dean Zlateva says the key is doing your research. “First, look at the quality of the institution. Is it accredited? Is it recognized in that field of study? Does it have experience in online learning? Consider the economics: Is there financial aid? Are graduates left with crippling debt? Most importantly,” she adds, “who is teaching you? Our courses, for example, are typically developed by full-time professorial faculty who also oversee the teaching team of each course offering.”

Continuing education is about more than your career. “I turned to higher education for personal growth, experience and perspectives,” Tomer Shaked notes. “Education is what you make of it. Don’t just find a credential — find inspiration.”