If you’re already out in the workforce, deciding to return to school can be complicated. On one hand, you may need a master’s degree or doctorate degree to advance your career and move into well-paying leadership or high-level positions. However, you have obligations: work responsibilities, financial commitments and maybe even family obligations. Online college might seem like an ideal way to conveniently get the education you need, but you may wonder if there are downsides to earning a master’s degree online.

The Pros of Online Education

Most students choose online college for the convenience, and this is as true for graduate students as for any other group. As a worker already in your desired field, you need to keep your job – not only for the money it brings in, but also for the experience and networking opportunities it provides. You probably can’t quit your job to go to school, and for many workers, decreasing your hours isn’t a viable option, either. You need the option to study, complete assignments and take examinations at your own pace. A traditional education can’t provide you this flexibility, but online college can.

Location is another important factor. Perhaps you want to study in a niche program that not many schools offer, or your prospects for career advancement depend on earning your degree from a prestigious school. You might not be able to move across the country just to live near your college. You probably own a home or have signed a rental agreement, and you can’t just walk away from your house or contract. If you have a family, you have to think about job availability for your spouse or partner and the quality of school districts for your children. Online colleges allow you to earn the exact degree you need without having to pick up and move. Depending on the program, you may never have to step foot on campus at all.

Considerations for Online Grad Students

One reason students hesitate to pursue a master’s degree online is the fear that their degree somehow won’t be as good as one earned traditionally. While online degrees haven’t always received their fair amount of respect, these programs are increasingly being recognized as legitimate. Even Ivy League schools now offer online programs, specifically at the master’s degree level. Earning a master’s degree online while working full-time requires you to spend several hours a week studying, just as earning the degree traditionally would. However, U.S. News & World Report urged prospective students to consider a few important factors, like the accessibility of student services, networking opportunities and whether the graduation requirements between online and traditional programs are comparable, before deciding whether to study online or on-campus.

If you’re considering earning a master’s degree online, weigh the pros and cons and investigate the school. Online education isn’t for every student, but it may be exactly what you need to achieve your career advancement goals.