December 3, 2015
From personal growth to increased employment opportunities and financial rewards, a graduate degree can make the difference in how far you can go on the ladder of success. In an often-tenuous economy, master's degree holders have a leg up on the competition, with a projected job growth of nearly 22 percent through 2020 - that's 2.6 million jobs in less than a decade, according to the Council of Graduate Schools, and the fastest growth rate for any education level.
So, where can a graduate degree take you?
Let's explore the path these students have taken through online master's degree programs at Southern New Hampshire University.
Candace Tribble '15 is an associate quality assurance engineer at WP Engine, in Austin, Texas. Earning her MS in Information Technology (IT) allowed her to move into a new field. "The coursework I completed in this program gave the introduction to information technology that I needed to confidently plan my career change and set it in motion," said Tribble.
Her desire to start on a software quality assurance career path was the impetus for her return to school, and "in 2015, not only was I able to make that leap, but I did so by joining the company that I had my eye on for a while."
Tribble was originally drawn by the broad range of topics in the online master's degree programs in IT, as she felt the courses would give her the right exposure to help her make informed decisions about her career. After researching many online programs and completing a lot of online program information request forms, Tribble found SNHU.
"From the very first contact I had with someone at SNHU, the interactions here felt different to me because everyone seemed sincerely interested in my growth and development," she said - and upon completion of her journey, Tribble landed at HP Engine, exactly where she wanted to be.
There were a lot of things that motivated Jessica Gilley to go back to school to earn her master's in organizational leadership, but most important were her three children and her profession. As the director of a Boys & Girls Club, she wants what is best for the organization and its members.
"We're really small, and we're looking to grow," said Gilley. "I just wanted to make sure that I was prepared to make that transition." She spoke of the needs of a larger club, and her desire to do more than basic grant writing or human resource tasks. She knew in order to grow the club beyond its 300 active-member status at present, there was much more for her to learn to become "the best leader possible."
When Gilley first returned to school, she wondered if she would simply be learning what she already knew; in essence, earning a piece of paper to validate her experience in the workplace.
"But that's not the case," she said. "SNHU is teaching me so many new facets of my own job - and I'm getting an amazing return on my investment. Just the fact that I can already utilize what I'm learning, that it's already being applied to my everyday work, and in the organization I'm in, that is a huge indicator that I'm getting my money's worth."
Once her master's in organizational leadership is complete, Gilley says she'll be able to come back with the confidence to not only run her club, but to grow and expand, taking on another 100 kids a day. "When my board of directors comes to me and they say, Jessye, we found the perfect building; we can build it for you this year; are you ready?' - I'm going to be like, absolutely. I have all the tools necessary," she said.
The impact Gilley expects to have on the community she ties directly back into the master's degree she is now earning.
When Gilley decided to return to school, she looked at online master's degree programs at ten schools, calling around and checking websites. SNHU made an immediate impression on her.
"Southern New Hampshire University had a huge impact, because the minute I called, the young lady I talked to - her name was Ariel - she was amazing," said Gilley. "She wanted to know what I was looking for, asking all kinds of questions about my everyday, what I could fit into my schedule, what I wanted to accomplish."
The admissions counselor told her about the things she could do help make Gilley's goals a reality, getting her transcript and helping to set up her course schedule. This was very different than other schools, which Gilley said focused on what she personally needed to do for them - not what they could do to help her.
"So that was a big deal. I don't really have time to be doing a bunch for my school, other than studying and getting my work in," she said. "I knew that they were there to support me."
She's found plenty of support, from that moment on, saying that her instructors are just an email away, never leaving her waiting for a response to a question or concern. Gilley's never felt as though she was on her own in an online environment - and receives regular outreach from her academic advisor, who helps with course registration and any questions she has.
"I didn't expect the human element," she said. "It's great. I guess I didn't expect as much individualized attention as I've been getting."
When it comes to her own kids, Gilley says they have her back, knowing when mom's laptop and school folders are out, it's time to let her be and focus on schoolwork. She says there's nothing better than sharing her good grades with them, too.
"Making my kids and my husband proud; that's success for me," she said. Gilley wants her children to be able to look back when they reach their own college years and remember her staying up and studying all hours of the night, knowing that if she could do it, they can too.
Dana Aulds '15 says she became a nurse out of tradition; all of her mom's sisters were nurses. The day before she was due to enroll in a physical therapy program, her mom came to her saying, "You know, nursing is in your blood." So while her new goal may have been tradition-based, once she got into the program Aulds continued on in nursing because she wanted to make a difference.
"I would always assess the environment I was working in, and try and make it a better place for not only myself, but for the patients and my colleagues," she said. Aulds began working in healthcare in 1987, as a home health aid, taking care of the elderly. She went to school and got her nursing license as an LPN, then an associate degree as an RN and finally, her bachelor's degree in nursing.
Post 9/11, Aulds joined the army as a reservist and was called up for active duty, while enrolled in a nurse practitioner program in Tennessee. She learned she was heading to Washington State, to work as a case manager for wounded soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.
"It was a very humbling experience taking care of the injured soldiers," said Aulds, but since her nurse practitioner program was an on-ground, classroom-based program, she had to put her education on hold.
When she made the decision to return to school, she began looking at online master's degree programs. When she chose to pursue her online master's in nursing, she did so as a military student with SNHU. As such, Aulds was pleasantly surprised by the ease of her admission process. "Once they identified me as a military student, everything was done for me," she said. "They worked through the VA process, which as a military person is the most tough, onerous process there is."
As a drilling reservist, Aulds was often put in places where she wasn't able to access a computer, which can be tough while enrolled in courses, with assignments due. She soon learned that this wouldn't be a problem with SNHU. "I just sent a schedule of my drilling dates to my professor, and a reminder before that weekend," she said. "I'd automatically get an extension on my assignments that were due - and I hadn't had that before."
Having been enrolled in online programs previously, and at schools who were said to be military friendly, Aulds was happy to see that SNHU actually did live up to its reputation as a top military-friendly university. She particularly liked that her academic advisor was also a former servicemember - as are all advisors to military-related students.
For Aulds, having an academic advisor that had shared what she had experienced made all the difference. "To have someone in your corner that's actually been through what you are going through is amazing," she said. "To have that automatic connection, and to use your acronyms that you've acquired over the years, it's just special." She says that meeting someone that's served before, there's an immediate kinship - and she felt that with her SNHU academic advisor from day one.
Earning her master's in nursing meant a lot to Aulds, yet it means even more in the world of healthcare. As a nurse with a master's degree, she is now within the top 1 percent in her industry. While this designation is pretty impressive, for Aulds it's more about what that number really means.
"It's not that you're in the top one percent, it's that you have the knowledge to make a difference in the healthcare industry," she said. "I can do research, I can work in the clinical setting as a leader. I can work in the corporate setting. It just puts you at a different level."
Aulds says that you can write your own ticket as to what you want to do and where you want to go with a master's degree in nursing.
As she completed her online MSN with SNHU, Aulds liked that the instructors were also nurses in the field, who saw her as a respected colleague. Her instructors' experience was particularly important, because "things in nursing change every day. So someone that's actually practicing in the field of nursing, they are aware of what you are facing."
For those struggling with hectic schedules, yet, like Aulds, wish to get ahead in their profession, she says, "Time's going to pass anyway. So a busy schedule's no reason no to elevate yourself to a higher level. Don't settle for where you are - achieve and elevate to help the nursing community."
IT Director Chris Eldridge '15 wanted to advance his career and grow professionally, not only for himself, but to allow his company to grow as well. He chose an MBA in Internet Technology Management as the path to get him there. While he had a bachelor's degree in business, he knew he needed to take his education to the next level if he wanted his career to advance to a new level, too.
An opportunity came his way, while in the midst of completing his MBA, to help a friend run a small IT startup company. Eldridge knew his education would beneficial, but what he hadn't expected was that he'd be utilizing his MBA every day in the workplace. "I never thought that what I was learning the night before, I would use the next day," he said. "It actually influences the company, and it can now grow in the right direction."
Eldridge chose SNHU's online MBA program because of its reputation, and the ability to have a flexible work-life balance while getting his graduate degree. He said it fit perfectly. He especially liked that his work experiences fed into his coursework and vice versa. "I think that it was better because I was able to work while getting my education and by having this hands-on experience, I was learning more than I would if I was just sitting in a classroom," he said.
The experience of working with instructors with real-world expertise and students from throughout the world, in varying industries and professions, benefited Eldridge too. As a young entrepreneur, just 24 years old, he's now more comfortable when he goes into different situations. "By utilizing what I have learned at Southern New Hampshire University as well as the hands-on experience in the company, I am able to formulate that into meaningful business decisions," he said.
One of the best parts of earning his online MBA in IT Management at SNHU was the direct communication with his instructors. "If I had a question, I could call them. They gave me their cell phone, and one of them called me and just said, 'Hey, you had a great post on the discussion board.' And it really meant a lot to me," said Eldridge. He says that many think in online education, you don't really know the faculty, but that wasn't the case at SNHU. "They actually wanted to learn and know who you are and help you along the way."
This type of support and assistance was found wherever he needed it, from faculty to his academic advisors. "Whenever I had to contact Southern New Hampshire University, they were always there to help me. Whether it was my advisor or a colleague of theirs, I was able to get on the fast track pretty quickly," Eldridge said.
While he entered his online master's degree program with a bit of skepticism, not sure if this experience would offer him personalized attention, he soon realized that SNHU had been the right choice for him. "SNHU proved itself different from the others as soon as I got that first phone call from my advisors. They truly wanted to help me...to point me in the right direction," said Eldridge. "They knew that based on my career, what my needs were and they helped me to meet my goals of getting my MBA, even with my chaotic schedule."
As for his online MBA in IT Management, he's been able to use his experience - all that he's learned - every single day in his everyday life. "At work, in my personal life, everything," he said. "It has definitely benefited me for the future."
Likes these students, you can take your career and your life to the next level through the online master's degree programs at SNHU. Consider what a graduate degree can do for you, and set your goal. Whether you want to change jobs - or careers, move up the corporate ladder, earn more money, pursue a personal passion or change the world around you, earning an online master's degree may be exactly what you need to make it a reality.
SNHU offers some of today's most sought-after master's in everything from accounting to sport management, with over 50 specialized MBAs, taught by instructors with real-world expertise. Browse our complete listing of online master's degree programs and find the graduate degree that's right for you.
You'll see yourself succeed at SNHU, because our affordable, online graduate programs are designed specifically with you in mind - a busy adult learner. You'll also have the support of academic and career advisors, tutors and peer groups, every step of the way.
Our next graduate term begins on December 14, 2015.
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