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Regular MA vs Distance MA vs Online MA

Blog Date
August 29,

In today’s educational landscape, pursuing a Master of Arts (MA) degree has become a pivotal step toward personal growth and professional advancement. The MA curriculum and courses offer both a practical grasp of more advanced educational research methodologies as well as a foundational comprehension of theory in the teaching process. Compared to employment needing a bachelor’s degree, the US Bureau of Labour Statistics predicts that careers requiring a master’s degree will grow by over 13% over the next ten years. Let’s uncover the benefits, challenges, and unique features that define Regular, Distance, and Online MA programs, assisting you in making an informed choice.

What is the Master of Arts program?

MA, or Master of Arts, is a postgraduate program in the arts. After graduating, one may continue with the two-year curriculum. Many colleges and institutions in India and overseas offer degrees in a variety of specializations. Students who complete an integrated social sciences and humanities plan of study are eligible for this degree. 

Admission to the MA program is based on merit or the results of admission tests. Candidates who want to get a Master of Arts degree must be committed and focused on their chosen field. Students who get a master’s degree in the arts can advance their professions, develop their talents, and get ready for graduate school. If they are thinking of working in the fields of education, human services, or media, it could also be advantageous.

What are the different modes of MA programs?

In response to the evolving needs of students and advancements in technology, universities have introduced various modes of MA programs, namely regular, distance, and online.

Regular MA programs

Regular MA programs, also known as on-campus or traditional programs, involve students attending classes physically at a university or college. These programs offer a structured learning environment where students interact with faculty and peers directly. 

Benefits of pursuing a regular MA program

  • In-person interaction: Regular MA programs allow students to engage in direct discussions and debates with professors and fellow students, fostering a dynamic learning environment.
  • Access to resources: Students have access to libraries, research facilities, and campus amenities that enhance the learning experience and aid in research endeavors.
  • Networking opportunities: Being on campus provides ample opportunities for networking, which can be valuable for future career prospects.
  • Structured learning: The curriculum is well-organized, and students follow a predetermined schedule for classes, assignments, and exams.

Demerits of regular MA programs

  • Location dependency: Students must be located near the university, which might not be feasible for everyone, especially those with personal or professional commitments.
  • Limited flexibility: The fixed class schedule might not accommodate the needs of working professionals or individuals with other responsibilities.
  • Higher costs: Regular MA programs often come with higher tuition fees due to the need for physical infrastructure and resources.

Requirements for enrolling in a regular MA program

To enroll in a regular MA program, candidates typically need a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field from a recognized university. Some institutions may also require candidates to appear for entrance exams or interviews.

Top Institutions to pursue regular MA programs

  • Delhi University
  • Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • Sikkim Manipal University
  • University of Mumbai
  • Banaras Hindu University
  • Aligarh Muslim University

Distance Master of Arts Program

Distance MA programs are designed to cater to students who are unable to attend traditional on-campus classes due to geographical constraints or other commitments. These programs provide study materials and resources to students through various means, such as printed study materials, online resources, and periodic contact classes.

Benefits of pursuing a distance MA program

  • Flexibility: Distance MA programs offer flexibility in terms of study hours, allowing students to balance education with work or personal responsibilities.
  • Geographical liberty: Students from different parts of the country, including remote areas, can pursue a distance MA program without the need to relocate.
  • Self-Paced learning: Students can study at their own pace, which is beneficial for those who need more time to understand complex concepts.
  • Cost-effective: Distance programs often have lower tuition fees compared to regular programs, making higher education more accessible.

Cons of distance MA programs

  • Lack of direct interaction: Students might miss out on face-to-face interactions with professors and peers, which can hinder collaborative learning.
  • Self-Motivation required: Distance learning demands a high level of self-discipline and motivation to complete assignments and coursework.
  • Limited practical exposure: Some subjects require hands-on practical experience, which might be challenging to provide in a distance learning setup.

Eligibility criteria for enrolling in a distance MA program

Eligibility criteria for distance MA programs are generally similar to regular programs, requiring a bachelor’s degree from a recognized university or institution, or an equivalent degree recognized by the Association of Indian Universities.

Top institutions to pursue distance MA programs

  • Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU)
  • Anna University Distance Education
  • DR. B.R. Ambedkar Open University
  • Madurai Kamaraj University Distance Education
  • Delhi University Distance Education

Online Master of Arts Program

Online MA programs are a relatively newer mode of education that leverages the power of the internet and technology. These programs offer a virtual classroom experience, where students can attend lectures, interact with professors and peers, and submit assignments through online platforms.

Here are the details of online degree admission process at Sikkim Manipal University.

Benefits of pursuing an online MA program

  • Global accessibility: Online programs eliminate geographical barriers, allowing students to enroll in courses offered by institutions from around the world.
  • Convenience: Students can study from the comfort of their homes and choose flexible study hours, making it suitable for working professionals and individuals with busy schedules.
  • Diverse learning formats: Online programs often incorporate a variety of multimedia resources, making the learning experience engaging and interactive.
  • Skill enhancement: The use of digital tools and online platforms enhances students’ technical skills, a valuable asset in today’s digitally driven world.

Disadvantages of online MA programs

  • Lack of physical interaction: Similar to distance programs, online MA programs lack the direct engagement with professors and peers that traditional programs offer.
  • Tech challenges: Students need reliable internet access and technical proficiency to navigate online learning platforms effectively.
  • Isolation: The online learning environment can be isolating for some students who thrive on in-person interactions.

Admission criteria for enrolling in an online MA program

Admission criteria for online MA programs usually include a 10 2 3-year bachelor’s degree from a recognized university or institution, or an equivalent degree recognized by the Association of Indian Universities. It may involve additional requirements such as standardized test scores or interviews.

Top institutions to pursue online MA programs

  • Sikkim Manipal University
  • Amity University Online
  • IGNOU’s Online Programs
  • School of open learning, Delhi university
  • LPU (Lovely Professional University)

Comparison of Regular, Distance, and Online MA programs

BasisRegular MA ProgramsDistance MA ProgramsOnline MA Programs
Delivery MethodIn-person classesPrinted study materialVirtual classes & modules
FlexibilityLimited scheduling flexibilityMore flexible time-frameHighly flexible schedule
AccessAccess to campus facilities and resourcesLimited access to campusRemote access to resources
Geographical ScopeGenerally localized to a specific institutionWidened reach across regionsGlobal accessibility
Self-DisciplineA structured schedule and classroom settingRequires self-motivationStrong self-discipline needed
Technology UsageMinimal reliance on technologyCorrespondence through mail Utilizes various online tools
InteractionFace-to-face interaction with peers and professorsLimited direct interactionLive class, Virtual discussions & forums
Career ImpactLocal recognition and networkingVaries based on the institutionPotential global recognition
CostTuition commuting costsLower tuition, reduced commutingVaries, potential cost savings
Time CommitmentFixed class timingsVaries based on the scheduleDepends on the individual pace
ApplicabilityTraditional academic settingSuitable for employed individualsIdeal for remote learners & working professionals

You may like to know the differences between regular, distance and online BA.

Regular, Distance, & Online MA: Which is better?

The choice between regular, distance, and online MA programs depends on individual preferences, circumstances, and career goals. Each mode has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Regular MA Programs: Ideal for those seeking a holistic learning experience, ample networking opportunities, and direct engagement with professors and peers. It’s best suited for students who can commit to full-time, on-campus education.

Distance MA Programs: A great option for individuals who require flexibility due to work or personal commitments and are self-motivated to pursue independent learning. Distance programs are particularly beneficial for those who cannot relocate for education.

Online MA Programs: Suited for learners who are comfortable with technology, seek global exposure, and need the convenience of studying from anywhere. It’s especially useful for working professionals looking to enhance their skills without leaving their jobs.

Is pursuing an online MA degree program from SMU helpful?

Sikkim Manipal University, known for its distance and online education programs, offers a wide range of courses, including an online MA in English, Sociology, and Political Science. Pursuing an online MA from SMU can be beneficial, particularly for individuals who are looking for flexibility and quality education. Elevate your career prospects through engaging live and recorded virtual sessions, all from the convenience of your home. Similarly, the online MA in Sociology and MA in Political Science programs from SMU provide professionals with the opportunity to stay updated on the latest advancements in their respective fields while maintaining their work commitments. These programs open doors to progress in areas such as social service, advocacy, academia, government, media, and more. 

With a curriculum encompassing crucial subjects, you can conveniently enhance your expertise and career orbit. However, before enrolling, prospective students should thoroughly research the program, faculty, course structure, and accreditation to ensure that it aligns with their educational goals.

Know more details about Sikkim Manipal University.


Recently, the Master of Arts program has adapted to various modes, catering to the diverse needs of students. Regular, distance, and online MA programs each have their advantages and limitations, making the choice highly subjective. Students must consider their personal and professional commitments, learning preferences, and career aspirations when deciding which mode of MA program suits them best. As technology continues to reshape education, it’s essential to make informed choices that align with individual goals and circumstances. You can opt for the online MA course through Online Manipal to land a good job and advance your career.


Information related to companies and external organizations is based on secondary research or the opinion of individual authors and must not be interpreted as the official information shared by the concerned organization.

Additionally, information like fee, eligibility, scholarships, finance options etc. on offerings and programs listed on Online Manipal may change as per the discretion of respective universities so please refer to the respective program page for latest information. Any information provided in blogs is not binding and cannot be taken as final.

  • TAGS
  • online degree
  • online education in India
  • Sikkim Manipal University

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