Why did you choose to pursue an online masters degree in human behavior from Capella University?
I decided to go to Capella University because its program is diverse and accredited. That was important to me for 2 reasons. First, I wanted to make sure that my degree was worth something, which is why accreditation matters. Second, I wanted to keep open the possibility of going on to get my doctorate degree. Therefore, I wanted to learn from a school that would teach me about many different areas of psychology so that I could apply a broad knowledge base to whatever area I chose to focus on.
The reason I chose to go to school online is because I have been battling clinical depression for about 20 years, and it is easier for me to study online. Eventually, I would like to use my degree in psychology to work as a professional mental health advocate in a community center.
How did you prepare yourself for going to graduate school online?
I didn't have to do anything in particular to prepare for graduate school because the admissions process was exceptionally quick. I started going to school at Kaplan University for my associates degree a few years ago. Even though I didn't finish that degree, the staff at Capella University was able to see my grades from that experience and they accepted me on that basis. All I had to do was download a form, fill it out, and send it back in and the admissions staff took care of the rest. The admissions staff at Capella University was very helpful. I was happy with my enrollment counselor and I still keep in touch with her. She is a valuable source of support.
Can you describe your online human behavior masters program?
The masters program at Capella University is accelerated, so that means that I take 2 classes per term. Each term is 5 weeks in length, which makes it a fairly rigorous program. I am actually enrolled in a combined bachelors and masters degree program, and I have only taken 1 class so far for the masters portion of the degree. But if I continue on at this pace, I should graduate by 2015.
I would like to emphasize that all of the instructors in my program hold doctorate degrees. They are actively involved in the facilitation of our class discussions and that makes me feel confident in not only their knowledge but in the program itself.
How is your masters degree curriculum in human behavior presented?
The basic format of my masters degree curriculum is the same as it was in my bachelors program. Each course has its own webpage, called a learning module, where all of the course information is displayed. We click on a tab that displays the weekly assignments and read about what reading materials we will need. After completing the assignment, we go into a discussion forum called BlackBoard where we can communicate our ideas with our teacher and classmates through regulated discussion posts and responses.
Does your program have an internship or residency requirement? If yes, can you describe your experience?
Yes, my program does have a residency requirement of sorts. After we finish the portion of our program that is devoted to coursework, we have to attend a series of colloquiums. That means the students of Capella University will physically convene together for several days in order to discuss case studies and learn about different psychological methods in person. For instance, we might learn how to handle a specific problem behavior.
What kinds of resources does Capella University provide to support you as an online masters student?
The most useful resource that Capella University makes available to us is the online library. In the online library system, we are able to not only access scholarly journals and academic articles, we can also check out books, just like in a physical library. If the book we need isn't available through Capella University's internal system, we can request an interlibrary loan from a cooperating school. There is also a very handy component of the library called RefWorks, which allows students to upload an article from the web and get the bibliography reference produced automatically. I also use a program called SafeAssign, which lets students upload a paper to be checked for proper citation.
Another resource that I appreciate is the availability of disability services at Capella University. When you sign up for school, they tell you immediately that if you have any disabilities you can contact the disability services office for help. That is very useful for me because I have been suffering from clinical depression for many years and that sometimes has an effect on my ability to finish my schoolwork. But I presented a letter from my doctor to disability services and the staff wrote a letter of accommodation on my behalf. At the beginning of each term, I present that official letter to my instructors, and they allow me additional time to get my work completed when necessary.
What is a typical day like for you as an online masters student?
In a typical day, I spend about 6 hours on the computer reading and writing my discussion posts. I can manage that amount of work because I am not currently working. I think it must be very difficult for people with a job or children to finish their work in a program like this.
Do you have any study tips that would help other online students to succeed?
In order to get all the work done, 1 tip that I recommend is to build a very specific study schedule and sticking to it every day. When you do study, find a place where you won't be distracted so you can concentrate on what needs to be done. Some people think that online programs are easier than the traditional on-site route, but I find the program at Capella University to be very challenging, which is a good thing.
How much does your online masters degree in human behavior cost?
Each class in my online masters degree program costs between $1,900 and $2,700. In addition, I have to pay for any physical books that I buy.
How are you funding your graduate degree at Capella University?
Luckily, I have been able to fund my graduate degree by obtaining financial aid. The financial aid office at Capella University was very willing to help me out and explain to me the different processes for getting that financial aid. I appreciated how friendly and knowledgeable they were because I had a rather poor experience with Kaplan University in that respect.
How do you intend to use your online masters degree in human behavior in your career?
I want to combine the knowledge that I will gain from my online masters degree in human behavior with what I already know about virtual business assistance to provide support services or administrative services for mental health professionals. Support services would involve making sure that people are directed to the proper mental health agencies to help them find a program that will help them gain a sense of self-worth, self-confidence, self-enrichment and sustainability.
If I am successful in that venture, I would like to expand my work into the realm of community advocacy. I would like to work within low-income community centers in the local area and provide outreach to those who are mentally ill. It is essentially a form of social work.
If you could begin your program again, is there anything you would do differently about pursuing your online masters degree at Capella University?
I wouldn't change anything about my degree path because I appreciate the resources available to me at Capella University like the library and disability services. I don't mean to sound like an advertisement for the school, but it has been a very good choice for me. In addition, most schools don't offer a combined bachelors and masters degree in any field of psychology. The fact that I can choose that route at Capella University allows me to shave off at least 6 months from the time it would otherwise have taken me to finish both of my degrees.
What should a student know about getting a masters degree in human behavior online?
It is important for students to know that they need to research the requirements in their state to see what weight an online degree in any area of psychology will hold. Some states will not recognize your credentials if you went to an online school, so you should know that before you decide to pursue your degree.