Before you can begin work on a distance learning graduate degree, you must first obtain an undergraduate degree such as a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. The bachelor's degree can be earned from an accredited distance learning program or an accredited on-site school. Some distance learning graduate degree programs are designed to allow you to work on both an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree simultaneously, or as part of a set curriculum that will have you earn both degrees after a set period of time and completion of coursework. It is important to research the best distance learning graduate degree program and make sure you qualify for admission into the program.
Applying for a distance learning graduate degree is similar to the process of applying for a graduate degree at a college or university on-site. Your undergraduate work as well as other qualifications will be considered, and you will have to fill out an application and include any supplemental paperwork to the degree program and the school. A fee is usually associated with the application process, so it may be wise to narrow your applications down to a few schools to avoid a large amount of fees. It is likely that you will be asked to write an essay or statement that makes clear your educational goals or career goals. Read each application carefully before filling it out completely so you know and understand what you must do to complete the application. It is also important to know and understand your educational goals before applying; if you intend to earn a master's degree only, your coursework will be different than if you want to move onto a PhD program.
If the school accepts your application and you are admitted into a distance learning graduate degree program, you should familiarize yourself with the ways in which courses are conducted. Distance learning courses will very often require that you have access to certain computers, programs, and knowledge of how to use distance learning tools, so be sure to research how classes are conducted and get help navigating them if necessary. Make sure your computer or the computer you will be using has all the appropriate programs, hardware, and software, because you will be spending a significant amount of time at the computer.
Once accepted to a distance learning graduate degree program, it is a wise decision to meet with an academic advisor, either in person or via the distance learning channels, to discuss the best coursework for your goals. An academic advisor can help you decide how to tackle your coursework and when to take certain classes to make the process smoother. He or she may also end up guiding you through a thesis or dissertation process.