Online Master’s Programs & Degree Options

Finding a great online master's program can be a tough task. However, the right data, information and tools can make the process a whole lot easier. The following page breaks down online master's programs in two helpful ways. First, the Best Colleges for Online Master's Programs highlights specific schools that excel at distance learning at the graduate level. Second, the online master's guide offers an in-depth look at this academic track from start to finish, aided by former online master's instructor and administrator, Greg Beatty, PhD. Find programs and learn more today.

Best Online Master's Programs for 2015

Some believe the master's is the new bachelor's. Top companies and organizations continue to target candidates with advanced degrees in relevant fields. This increased demand has spurred a spike in supply, with colleges and universities adding campus and online master's to their program collections. The following schools have made online master's programs a priority, offering more volume, higher quality and support services to help students get ahead. See which colleges offer 2015's Best Online Master's Programs.

For more information about the rankings criteria and scoring system, please visit our methodology page.

ACO Score: 98.34 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: New Mexico

Supporting a variety of online courses and a range of popular graduate programs, Western New Mexico University prides itself on its distance learning opportunities. The college’s remote master’s degree programs are broken down into seven areas:

  • Business Administration
  • Educational Leadership
  • Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Reading
  • Social Work
  • Teaching

The popular M.B.A. program develops in its students the analytical skills and in-depth knowledge necessary to run a successful modern business, with an emphasis on the case method. Classes are delivered online asynchronously so that students may take them whenever they choose.

One program unique to WNMU is the Master’s of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies. This program allows students to study multiple disciplines at the same time, pointing out the interconnectedness of these disciplines. For the completion of this program, 36 credit hours in either two or three fields of study are required. Students must work with faculty advisors from each discipline.

Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTAs) who want to advance their career can earn the Master’s of Occupational Therapy in either the full-time or part-time track. In order to be eligible, students must have an Associate’s Degree in Occupational Therapy, and a Bachelor’s of Arts or Science in any subject. There are several required on-campus laboratory sessions each semester, held on weekends.

ACO Score: 97.36 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Arkansas

Henderson State University students have one master’s degree they can earn online—Master of Science in Education in Educational Leadership. The degree is designed for those interested in P-12 leadership careers. Students will learn skills that help impact student achievement and quality of life through teaching, service, leadership, and technology.

Courses that master’s degree students can expect to take include organizational leadership, supervision, school finance and resource management, technology for school leaders and curriculum strategies for instructional leaders. Students must also complete an Action Research Project that focuses on impacting student achievement by determining a need and planning appropriate interventions. This project will begin in a student’s first semester and an advisor monitors the student’s progress throughout the course of the program. An Exit Portfolio Statement, which consists of class assignments and reflections on how they meet certain standards, is also required. Students may also take an internship course that requires an internship portfolio upon completion.

Online classes at HSU are delivered via Blackboard and TechSmith. Through these platforms, students can submit homework assignments, take exams, and post on discussion boards. Future students need to submit an application and official college or university transcripts to be considered for admission.

ACO Score: 97.12 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Delaware

For earning a business-centric master’s degree online, Wilmington University has several options unavailable. In addition to five different tracks for an M.B.A., WilmU also offers online graduate programs for a Master’s of Science in Administration of Justice and a Master’s of Science in Management, which can be further specialized into Marketing or Sports Management.

Accredited by the IACBE, WilmU’s M.B.A. programs are designed with working professionals in mind. In order to help deliver the education specific to the career goals of each students, the university offers five different concentrations in its online program:

  • Health Care Administration
  • Homeland Security
  • Management Information Systems
  • Marketing Management
  • Organizational Leadership

The M.S. in Administration of Justice prepares students for careers as leaders in the field of criminal justice. With its flexible schedule, the degree can be earned in as little as 12 months.

By focusing on the role of the manager on both the micro and macro levels, the M.S. in Management program trains its students to meet the challenges that come with leading any organization, whether regional or global. By choosing a concentration in Marketing, students will gain additional insight into how management issues affect marketing in a global environment and how to create business strategies to meet specific needs. A concentration in Sports Management will narrow down the Management concepts in their relationship strictly to sport organizations.

ACO Score: 96.86 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Texas

With nearly 30 different online master’s degrees, Texas A&M University is poised to provide flexible education options for anyone with a high-speed Internet connection. The following degree programs are a sampling of the college’s distance education offerings.

Master of Wildlife Science: Requiring 36 credit hours (30 within wildlife and fisheries sciences), the degree curriculum culminates in a thesis paper to be presented before–and reviewed by–an advisory committee. The program seeks to deliver knowledge and skills necessary to understanding the full range of natural resource management.

Master in Educational Technology: Coursework within this degree develops understanding of educational technology theory, educational psychology, measurement and evaluation, research techniques, instruction design, and learning theories. The 36 credit hours can be completed entirely online. The degree prepares graduates to enter into the education field as leaders, trainers, evaluators, and innovators.

Master of Petroleum Engineering: Students must already hold a bachelor’s degree in engineering in order to begin any coursework in this master’s program. Courses may include topics such as well stimulation, reservoir engineering, thermal EOR methods, enhanced oil recovery processes, unconventional oil and gas reservoirs, natural gas engineering, and modern petroleum production.

Common admissions requirements among the differing master’s programs include:

  • Bachelor’s degree with a 2.8-3.0 GPA
  • Grad school online application
  • Application fee
  • Professional resume
  • GRE scores (differ by school)
  • Statement of purpose
  • Three letters of recommendation
ACO Score: 96.56 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Oklahoma

Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s Distance Education program utilizes both BlackBoard and Interactive Educational Television to deliver course content and communication to its students. While the university’s program offers a multitude of online courses in various fields, it only offers two fully online master’s degrees in business administration and occupational safety and health.

Master of Business Administration: The online MBA program holds to the goal of creating business professionals who can lead the business world in problem solving, team management, and clear communication. The coursework in accounting, business information management, economics, finance, and marketing offers the opportunity for students to become experts in the different elements of the field. Applicants must submit an application, undergrad transcripts, a current resume, and three professional letters of recommendation.

Master of Science in Occupational Safety and Health: The OSH master’s degree is a 35-hour curriculum which focuses students’ attention on crisis preparedness, toxicology, industrial hygiene, food safety, construction safety, ergonomic engineering, and indoor air quality. Prospective students must have completed and undergraduate degree in an OSH-related field, and have maintained a 2.75 GPA. Applicants also must complete an 800-word essay describing goals and expected contributions to the OSH field.

ACO Score: 96.11 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: North Carolina

North Carolina State University’s Distance Education program strives to equip master’s degree students with the skills and knowledge needed to compete in the job market. Student access their coursework through online course management platforms (WolfWare, BlackBoard, and WebAssign) and through face-to-face, video conferencing. Online classes are synchronous, with scheduled assignment deadlines and class times. The Distance Education program offers access to online course catalogs, academic advisors, online library, and online tech help.

The admissions process requires an application, application fee, transcripts and test scores, depending on the prospective school of study. Students can begin the online application process and check the status of applications.

The school offers 42 fully online master’s degrees in various fields. For example:

  • Animal Science: Students planning to pursue jobs in livestock management or agricultural technicians can gain experience in biochemistry, strategic management, animal nutrition, and energy metabolism. The 36-hour curriculum culminates in either a thesis option or an exam option.
  • Education-Instructional Technology: This master’s degree requires 12 hours of coursework in general education classes, including curriculum development and professional leadership. There are 18 hours earmarked for educational technology for a 30-hour total.
  • Nutrition: This 36-hour, non-thesis degree covers a wide range of nutrition topics and research skills, designed to culminate in a six-hour, directed practicum.
  • Computer Engineering: Designed to engage students in 10 different courses (approximately 30 hours), the program strives to bring a depth of knowledge and skills within the computer engineering discipline. A 3.25 GPA and a passing score on the GRE are required for admittance into this online master’s program.
ACO Score: 96.09 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Nebraska

Chadron State College has numerous master’s degrees that can be earned online in the areas of education, the arts and science. Online classes are offered in the fall, spring and summer semesters. Online classes will appear the same as on-campus courses on an academic transcript.

Students interested in education have multiple choices. One of which is earning a Master of Arts in Education (MAE), History, or Mathematics. Those degrees prepare students for further education, professional development, or career advancement. Or, if they choose, students can earn a Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Educational Administration, with a focus on Principalship, Special Education Supervisor, or Curriculum/Assessment Supervisor. Other M.Ed. options in Curriculum and Instruction include General Education, Physical Education, and Business Education.

There are two non-education master’s degrees available online at Chadron State College –Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Organizational Management (MSOM). The MBA degree is designed for those already working in the business field, specifically mid-level managers and supervisors. Classes for this degree are offered in eight-week segments. The MSOM degree has two focus areas: Human Services and Sports Management. Students who earn the MSOM degree might eventually hold management positions in nonprofit, government or corporate organizations.

ACO Score: 95.87 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Wisconsin

The Stevens Point campus at the University of Wisconsin offers two graduate programs that lead to a Master’s of Science: Natural Resources Leadership and Administration and Environmental Education and Interpretation.

The program for the Natural Resources Leadership and Administration is designed for natural resources professionals from any number of disciplines with at least three years of experience in the field and who wish to advance into leadership positions in their organization. The program can be completed with 30 – 36 credits, with the transfer of up to nine graduate credits. The eligibility requirements include:

  • 3+ years of working experience in natural resources
  • Undergraduate degree in related field
  • Earned GRE score of 300+ (pre-August 2011: 1000+)
  • Maintained GPA of 3.0 or higher during final two years of undergraduate

The second graduate program for Environmental Education and Interpretation is intended for naturalist, interpreter, and other non-formal educators looking to expand their professional development.

Online courses at UWSP are supported by Desire to Learn (D2L). Students have the opportunity to attend their course at any time convenient to them and manage their coursework at their own pace, as long as they meet the required due dates of their assignments.

ACO Score: 95.7 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Pennsylvania

Baptist Bible College & Seminary of Pennsylvania offers twelve degrees online, including eight Master of Art degrees, three Master of Education degrees and one Master of Science degree.

Students interested in a Master of Arts degree can concentrate in Missions, Bible, Counseling, Literature or Organizational Leadership. Master’s students in these areas earn 30 credits overall, 15 of which are electives. Each class lasts eight weeks.

Concentrations in the Master of Education program are Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Administration and Secondary English/Communications. Education students all take seven core courses and complete a capstone project. The capstone project allows students to demonstrate their research and writing skills by writing an investigative paper, an explanatory paper or project or taking more courses. The capstone project must be completed within six years after a student starts earning their degree.

Students who want to earn a Master of Science in Counseling degree can complete the program in as little as three years. Students will earn wither 48 or 60 credits in classes such as theories and techniques in counseling, abnormal behavior and career counseling. Three classes in this program require a one-week on campus visit.

ACO Score: 95.45 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Ohio

The University of Cincinnati has recently added to its repertoire an online learning component, including fully online master’s degrees. The university offers 17 degree options in the fields of education, nursing, criminal justice, engineering, and business, employing BlackBoard as its learning management system.

The credit hour requirements are similar across the degrees, usually between 30 and 36 hours, over the period of approximately two years.

The master’s degree in women’s health falls under UC’s School of Nursing, and it explores treatments and diagnoses that are specific to women’s health. Coursework involves concepts related to healthcare policy, theoretical basis for clinical reasoning, advanced reproductive dynamics, and advanced physiology. Admission into the women’s health degree program requires current RN licensure, UC grad school application, official transcripts from attended institutions, three reference letters, professional resume, and completion of an undergrad statistics course with a “C” or better grade.

The admissions requirements for a master’s degree in special education are similar: completed UC grad school application, three letters of recommendation, official undergrad transcripts, professional and educational resume, and recent GRE scores. Core courses cover partnership and collaboration, assistive technology for learning, transition strategies for individuals with disabilities, educational research, and applied behavior analysis.

ACO Score: 95.34 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Nebraska

With diverse online graduate programs, the University of Nebraska – Lincoln accommodates distance learners seeking their master’s degree in a variety of specializations. The school’s web-based graduate programs include offerings such as agronomy, dietetics, engineering management, entomology, journalism and interior design.

The online Master of Applied Science option allows students to customize their curriculum, with a possible interdisciplinary emphasis like science for educators. The online graduate program in business administration provides a range of optional concentrations, including business analytics, finance, supply chain management, international business and marketing.

Several of the programs focus on education, with some specializations available as a Master of Arts or a Master of Education degree. Choices include early childhood special education, German language teaching, mathematics for teachers, or mild to moderate disabilities. Other degrees emphasize leadership and administration, whether in higher education or in schools with grades P-12.

Many other online master’s degree programs center on social services, for example:

  • Community Development
  • Family & Community Services
  • Family & Consumer Sciences Education
  • Family Financial Planning
  • Human & Family Services Administration
  • International Family Studies
  • Youth Development

For some of these programs, online certificates or endorsements are available, depending on the student’s needs. UNL also has a variety of hybrid or blended courses. University staff can advise applicants for distance education programs on matters such as transfer credits and exam locations.

ACO Score: 94.65 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: California

National University’s online master’s degree programs span the school of computing and engineering, the school of business and management, the school of education, the school of health and human services, and the school of professional studies. The online curricula focus on various aspects of the different fields. For example:

Computer Science: Gaining knowledge in cloud computing, database theory, and software engineering, students can gain the ability to solve complex problems through theoretical and practical avenues. Whether through computation models, marketable skills, or recent computer trends computer science graduates receive a devoted education. Students complete 34 credit hours to graduate, including several prerequisites: intro to programming, programming in C++, and programming in JAVA.

Accountancy: Prospective students can expect to complete 32, fully online credit hours, where they will gain an understanding of financial accounting, information systems, taxation of businesses and individuals, cost, accounting, and auditing principles. The curriculum is designed for students with a bachelor’s degree in any discipline.

Teaching: The Master of Arts in teaching is open to students who already hold a clear and renewable teaching license in the state of Nevada. Coursework covers topics such as meaningful learning, social pluralism, program design, models of teaching, and applied research. The degree program includes 12 different specializations, including educational technology, autism, teacher leadership, and applied behavior analysis.

ACO Score: 94.62 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Texas

Dallas Baptist University offers master’s degrees online in multiple areas. Online courses are administered via Blackboard, and online professors are often the same ones who teach on-campus courses. Students must participate in the courses via discussion boards and homework assignments.

Some of the options DBU Online students have for an online master’s degree include Master of Arts in Children’s Ministry, Master of Arts in Christian Education, Master of Arts in Management, Master of Arts in Professional Development and Master of Business Administration. Many of the degrees have concentrations available as well. For example, students interested in Christian Education can concentrate in Adult Ministry, Family Ministry, Worship Ministry and more. Some MBA concentrations include Finance, Marketing, and Project Management.

DBU Online also offers accelerated master’s degrees. Students can earn a Bachelor of Business Studies in Business Administration with a Master of Business Administration in several concentrations, including Health Care Management, International Business and Management. Additionally, students can choose to earn a dual degree online. Options include:

  • Master of Arts in Children’s Ministry/Master of Liberal Arts
  • Master of Arts in Management/Master of Arts in Student Ministry
  • Master of Arts in Management/Master of Education in Higher Education
  • Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction/Master of Education in Educational Leadership
ACO Score: 94.54 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Florida

UF Online offers online master’s degrees that connect to various fields and industries. Admission requirements for the different programs may include applications to both UF and the specific department as well as professional experience. The numerous programs fall into diverse categories, as shown in the following examples, with 10 options just in the area of agricultural and life sciences.

The master’s degree in pharmaceutical chemistry consists of 32 credit hours available entirely online, except for a three-day final cumulative exam on campus. The curriculum examines topics such as nucleotide activity, pharmaceutical analysis, metabolic chemistry, medical bioethics and herbal supplements.

The online master’s program in music education seeks to improve teaching practices and knowledge of the history, philosophy, theory and sociology of music. Electives may cover classical and contemporary music, research methods, modern music trends and instructional techniques.

UF Online’s Master of Business Administration program has a blended format including limited visits to the Gainesville campus. The optional two-year track is open to students with bachelor’s degrees in any field. The one-year accelerated Internet MBA program is designed for individuals who hold a degree in business or finance. Core classwork covers subjects such as international finance, professional writing, marketing, negotiation and entrepreneurship.

ACO Score: 94.5 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Wyoming

The acclaimed University of Wyoming offers five graduate programs for online learners to earn their degrees remotely. These programs include three education tracks, an executive M.B.A., and a nurse educator option.

The three education programs vary in their specialization. The first, Educational Administration with cognate in Adult & Postsecondary Education, is recognized as a leader in the area of adult development and learning theories, as it was one of the first schools in the Rocky Mountain area to teach the subject (this program requires the attendance of teleconferences). The second, Educational Administration with cognate in Educational Leadership, K-12, is designed for those seeking a leadership position in a K-12 school. The third, Instructional Technology, teaches instructional design, distance delivery, rural environments, and learning in a variety of settings.

The online M.B.A. program – accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business – combines the rigorous learning of on-campus M.B.A. program with the flexibility of online learning. The program begins every fall and consists of 30 credit hours of coursework.

The final graduate program, Nurse Educator, teaches the education and skills required for a nurse to become a nurse educator. In order to be eligible for this program, students must both be a registered nurse, and hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

ACO Score: 94.32 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Georgia

Georgia State University offers master’s degree programs online through the College of Education, including studies in teaching English to speakers of other language. The university has designed online Master of Education programs so that participants do not need to visit campus. Some distance learning programs have required activities outside of the online course work, for example, student teaching or internships.

Specific education-related online degrees include:

  • M.Ed. in Mathematics Education
  • M.Ed. in Science Education
  • M.Ed. in Reading, Language and Literacy Education
  • M.A. in Teaching: Reading, Language and Literacy (ESOL)
  • M.S. in Educational Research
  • M.S. in Instructional Technology

The M.Ed. degrees are targeted to current teachers. Students interested in mathematics education can expect to take 36 credit hours, 15 of which are geared toward math. The master’s program in educational research has courses in statistics, computer applications, survey research, policy research and measurement, with 24 credit hours of electives. Specific classes include the psychology of learning and learners, classroom testing, grading and assessment, and case study methods.

The master’s in instructional technology focuses on training students to analyze a variety of factors, applying their knowledge to create effective learning experiences. Classes could cover topics such as the foundations of curriculum development, use of the Internet in education and e-learning environments.

ACO Score: 93.9 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Alabama

UAB’s online learning system offers 17 different master’s degrees, delivered in a fully online format. Across the fields of art and sciences, business, education, engineering, nursing, and public health, the degrees provide students with theoretical knowledge and skills for real world situations and settings.

The master’s degree in construction engineering management can be completed in 18 months and provides an in-depth look into the current issues surrounding the field. Coursework involves advanced project management, construction estimating and bidding, construction liability and contracts, construction methods and equipment, techniques of project planning, and ‘green’ building design methods. All students pay in-state tuition and learn from instructors who have been and still are working in the field.

UAB’s master’s in information systems explores advanced concepts related to IT management, web and mobile development, and information security. Ideal for professional web developers, system analysts, software engineers, and network administrators, UAB strives to deliver a relevant and up-to-date education.

UAB provides numerous resources to current and prospective distance learners. From email to video conferencing with professors, the online degrees mirror the traditional counterparts in rigor and expectation. Students also will gain electronic access to more than 72,000 books from the university’s library.

ACO Score: 93.76 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Arizona

Arizona State University has several online graduate programs from which students can choose. Classes at ASU Online last seven and a half weeks per session and all coursework are completed online. Students take classes via LearningStudio, where they can access all course materials, quizzes, and assignments. Each class page features a Course Checklist, which tells students what they still need to complete or turn in. To ensure the quality of online courses, ASU Online uses a rubric and a peer-review system.

Master’s degrees available at ASU Online include American Media and Popular Culture, Business Analytics, Sustainable Tourism, Science of Health Care Delivery, Industrial Engineering, History, and Criminal Justice.

New students complete an Online Student Orientation with video tutorials to get them comfortable with the online learning process. Students should expect to spend six hours a week studying for every one course credit. For example, a three-credit-hour class would equate to 18 hours of studying and homework a week.

To make planning and organization easier, ASU Online teamed up with Google to offer several management tools. For example, students have access to the Google Calendar directly from the My ASU page.

ACO Score: 93.71 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Ohio

Cleveland State University students have their choice of four Master of Education degrees, two Master of Science degrees and one Master of Business Administration degree to earn completely online. To apply, students will need to submit an application, application fee, official academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, and entrance exam scores from the GRE, GMAT or MAT. Entrance exams and recommendation letters aren’t required for all programs, however.

Students have two options for a Master of Science degree: Health Sciences or Nursing Forensic Track. Those interested in the nursing option should hold a valid RN license and an undergraduate nursing degree with a 3.0 minimum GPA. This program starts every fall and focuses on the legal system, crime evidence, and care of crime victims. The Health Sciences program is meant for those already employed in health care or those with a health-related undergraduate degree.

The Mobile Accelerated MBA is designed to be completed in one year. Students receive an iPad with course materials and the iPad is theirs after graduation. Students in this program can choose from focus areas such as Adult Learning and Development, Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Technology, and Organizational Leadership. Some of the education programs, such as Educational Technology, are targeted to current teachers who have a teaching certificate or license.

ACO Score: 93.63 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Kansas

Pittsburgh State offers 100 percent online master’s degree programs for students who need to learn on a flexible schedule. Canvas, Pitt State’s learning management system, allows students to communicate with peers and professors, check grades, submit assignments, and more. The school’s admissions office requires an online application and an application fee.

The online program is home to 19 different degree programs, including engineering technology, history, and educational leadership.

  • Engineering Technology: Within the core classes, students gain understanding of systems engineering, quality measurement and control, and current issues. The degree program splits into four emphases: electronics, manufacturing, mechanical, and plastics technical. Each emphasis offers a research and thesis option.
  • History: Students within this Master of Arts degree can expect to develop research skills, create historical simulations, and view historical study as a lifelong pursuit. Students can choose between a seminar option and a thesis option. The thesis option (30 credit hours) requires the completion of a paper, and the seminar option (32 credit hours) requires completion of additional coursework.
  • Educational Leadership: Within this four-semester program, students engage in the foundations of education, leadership, and the melding of the two. The coursework covers elements like measurement, evaluation, research design, and statistical analysis. The course delivers content in 13 courses, two of which are on-site practicums where classroom theory meets field experience.
ACO Score: 93.63 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Arkansas

UCA Online boasts an education with world-class expectations and very few limitations. The school follows up on its promise by offering 14 online master’s degree programs. The following degrees provide standard examples:

  • Advanced Studies in Teacher Leadership: This master’s degree offers tracks or concentrations in early childhood, middle level, instructional facilitator, classroom content, elementary math, and writing theory. Core coursework for all tracks covers models of teaching, classroom assessment, teacher leadership, and research methods. The 30-hour degree leads to various licensure endorsements.
  • Library Media and Information Technologies: Graduates of the program leave the school equipped to work in a variety of educational and informational settings. Coursework in reference services, cataloging and classification, collection development, research methods, design and production of media, and developing programs for youth. The 36-hour, two-year master’s degree culminates in a practicum or field internship.
  • Geographic Information Systems: The degree requires its students to have completed a bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 GPA and at least one college-level GIS course. Classes include the study of mapping fundamentals, digital image processing, technical issues in GIS, spatial analysis and modeling, and GIS research methodology. UCA Online offers a thesis option and non-thesis option, the latter requiring more coursework.
ACO Score: 93.58 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: New York

Concordia College-New York has two online master’s degree programs in the areas of accounting and business leadership. Students should submit official academic transcripts, a letter of intent, a current resume, and an application in order to be considered. Additionally, students should already have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.

Students can earn their M.S. in Accounting in two years or less. After they earn the degree, students are eligible to take the CPA Exam. The 30-credit curriculum includes classes such as Governmental Not-For-Profit, Advanced Accounting, Corporate Taxation and International Leadership. Students also take Professional Tax Research, a capstone course. The capstone looks at problem identification and resolution in regards to tax issues and ends in a research-based thesis.

The business leadership master’s degree from Concordia College-New York can be earned in approximately 16 months. Students earn their 33 credits in courses such as effective decision-making and communication, managerial finance, risk management dimensions of leadership, and a capstone seminar. The seminar course allows students to apply the theories and concepts they’ve learned throughout the program to demonstrate their acquired business leadership knowledge. Graduates can go on to work in international commerce, or in nonprofit or corporate organizations.

ACO Score: 93.17 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: New Mexico

New Mexico State University’s Distance Education graduate program utilizes the power of the Internet to create a learning environment where students can acquire knowledge and skills in a flexible yet engaging way.

Distance Education at NSMU offers master’s degrees in a number of different fields. For example:

  • Education- Curriculum and Instruction: Within this distance learning opportunity, students will hone skills related to education of public, private, and government institutions. The required 33 credit hours of coursework take a deep look into multicultural education, pedagogy, technology, and action research.
  • Sociology: This degree plan provides development of research, analysis, and evaluation. The 36-hour curriculum offers students the opportunity to understand individuals, groups, organizations, and communities. Prerequisites include social research methods and quantitative data analysis.
  • Criminal Justice: Students seeking to further a career in the teaching or researching of criminal justice choose between a thesis option (27 hours), a research project option (33 hours), and a focused coursework option (39 hours). Coursework covers law enforcement policy, correctional agencies, and social science administration.

New Mexico State University also provides numerous online resources for its graduate students. Students can apply online for financial aid or receive financial counseling and support. NSMU also encourages each student to enter into the academic advisement process to ensure a smooth path through the degree program.

ACO Score: 93.13 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Arkansas

Arkansas State University has six Master of Science in Education degrees that can be earned online: Educational Theory and Practice, Educational Leadership, Curriculum & Instruction, Instructional Specialist P-4, Instructional Specialist 4-12, and Gifted, Talented and Creative. They also offer a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree that can be earned completely online.

A-State Online students have access to student services such as technology and academic support. Technology support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There’s also an online library with journals and e-books that students can access with their student ID number.

Admission to A-State Online requires general university admission and specific program requirements. Base requirements include an online application, official college or university transcripts, and an application fee. In addition, the College of Education requires that students: have a valid teaching certificate, no record as a felon or sex offender, and bachelor’s or master’s degree with a minimum 3.5 GPA. Some programs also have their own requirements, such as Curriculum & Instruction, which requires two years’ teaching experience or Gifted, Talented and Creative which requires a written commitment from an educator who will act as the student’s mentor while the student is earning a degree.

ACO Score: 92.99 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Illinois

DePaul University instructors receive specialized training for teaching online classes. Students at DePaul University have their choice of over a dozen master’s degrees that can be earned completely online. Online master’s degrees include:

  • Business Information Technology
  • Computer Game Development
  • Educational Leadership – Higher Education Concentration
  • Predictive Analytics
  • Software Engineering

DePaul University accepts graduate school applications year-round, with deadlines in August, December, March, and May for U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Application deadlines are earlier for international applicants. An online application, official transcripts, and an application fee are required. Students may also send in optional materials such as letters of recommendation or a resume. Students enrolled in online courses are exempt from the university’s immunization requirements.

Some degree programs offer students the chance to earn multiple degrees at the same time. For example, students in the RN to MS in Nursing program will earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a Master of Science in Nursing, and a Certificate of Health Professions Education or Health Administration. These degrees can be earned in two years for full-time students or three years for part-time students. The program is targeted to working nurses and all applicants must have a current RN license and an associate degree in nursing.

ACO Score: 92.85 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Texas

Stephen F. Austin State University offers twelve online master’s degrees in subjects that vary from early childhood education to public administration. The curriculum is structured to empower both educators and students through its integrative programming.

The degree program is 100 percent online. Students within the online education degree experience the same coursework as those who enroll in the tradition, campus-based program. Students complete 36 credit hours of coursework where they learn to interpret assessment data, analyze current educational literature, advocate for young children, use appropriate research methods, and positively affect child growth and development.

Potential graduate students must complete an application and submit a non-refundable application processing fee. All official undergraduate transcripts should be submitted to the graduate school, and SFASU may choose to accept previous coursework to replace current requirements. Prospective students should also hold an overall 2.8 GPA in the last 60 hours of undergrad work in order to be eligible. Applicants must also hold a teaching certificate in early childhood or elementary education. The GRE is not required.

ACO Score: 92.83 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Alabama

JSU’s online campus offers numerous opportunities for those seeking master’s degrees. From health care to liberal arts, the online degree programs include: business administration, computer systems and software design, information assurance, various levels and areas of education, emergency management, sports management, community health, nursing, nursing education, public administration, and manufacturing systems technology.

The admissions requirements are similar to many other graduate programs and require an application. Along with the application, Jacksonville State University requires official transcripts of all undergraduate work. A passing score on the GMAT, GRE or MAT is also required. Educators also need to provide copies of clear, renewable teaching certificate. JSU also offers financial aid options (student loans, grants, etc.) to aid prospective graduate students in financing the degree. The school also provides a tuition payment plan.

All courses are delivered fully online and utilize the BlackBoard technology. Through this technology, students can interact with each other, with professors, and with the course content. The university also provides just about everything a student needs to be successful in the university system–an academic calendar, online class registration, academic advisors, online bookstore, online library, testing support, counseling and career services, and more.

ACO Score: 92.83 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Indiana

Indiana State University offers more than a dozen master’s degree programs online. Students can earn a master’s degree in academic areas such as Electronics and Computer Technology, Health Sciences, Elementary Education, Nursing Education, Public Administration, Sport Management and more.

What type of degree a student earns depends on which program they choose. Some programs have multiple options. For example, students interested in Nursing can only earn a Master of Science degree, while students in the Criminology and Criminal Justice, History or Occupational Safety Management degree programs can earn a Master of Science degree or a Master of Arts degree. The requirements for each vary, even in the same field. Those earning a Master of Science in Occupational Safety Management, for example, must complete a field research project, while those earning a Master of Arts in the same program will complete a master’s thesis.

Online students have access to many of the same services as on-campus students. For example, they can access library materials such as databases and journals and can even request that books be sent to them as long as they have an ISU ID card. Online students can also email, chat with or call librarians for reference assistance.

ACO Score: 92.76 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: North Dakota

With more than 20 different programs for earning a master’s degree online, the University of North Dakota offers a broad spectrum of choices. Online master’s programs that may not be widely available include aviation, forensic psychology and space studies. Some programs blend online instruction with field work or limited on-campus visits, particularly in areas such as education and nursing.

UND provides several degrees in education, both specialized and general. Students can opt for elementary education or counseling with a K-12 school emphasis, or choose a more focused path with early childhood education, English language learning, reading instruction or special education. For a position in administration, a master’s in educational leadership is also available. Information science and education merge in the instructional design and technology program.

The school has nursing master’s programs for family nurse practitioners or for clinical nurse specialists and nurse practitioners specializing in adult gerontology. UND’s online offerings include programs in advanced public health, nursing education, and psychiatric and mental health.

In addition, UND offers online graduate programs for business administration and applied economics, as well as public administration and public health. There are two separate programs for social work, for those with or without a bachelor’s degree in the field. Each UND online program has its own prerequisites for admission and specific requirements for graduation.

ACO Score: 92.76 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Alabama

Troy University’s online learning department, eTroy, offers 13 different master’s degree programs in varying fields of study. Through the BlackBoard e-learning system, each program is delivered in a fully online format, yet mirrors the traditional, campus-based programs.

eTroy’s Master of Science in strategic communication degree focuses on the cutting-edge issues facing the communications industry of today. Students can expect to cover topics related to emerging media, organizational communication, public relations, communication law and ethics, and contemporary issues in strategic communication. The program begins with an application, a minimum 290 GRE score, transcripts showing a minimum of a 3.0 GPA in previous bachelor’s work, and a letter of recommendation. It ends with a capstone project as the culmination of learned skills and knowledge.

A Master of Science in international relations is also offered through eTroy. The 12-course, 36-credit-hour plan provides students with the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of international relations. Coursework covers conflict management, national security, international organization, geography, intercultural relations, international law, and politics of developing nations. While there are no prerequisites required, the admissions process requires either a master’s degree from an accredited university or 3.0 GPA bachelor’s degree and a GRE score of at least 294.

ACO Score: 92.73 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Indiana

Indiana Wesleyan University students have their choice of several master’s degrees to earn online. Potential IWU Online students don’t have to pay an application fee, but they do have to submit an application.

Of the degrees students can earn online, three are MBA-related: Master of Business Administration in Healthcare Administration, a dual MBA and Master of Science in Nursing, and a Virtual MBA. The dual program is 60 credits and focuses on the needs to health care managers. The Virtual MBA is similar to a traditional MBA program, but all classes are completed online. Students can choose to concentrate in Executive Management or International Business. Virtual MBA students are required to complete a 30-minute orientation course.

Other degrees that can be earned through IWU Online are the Master of Science with a major in Accounting (MSA) and Master of Science with a major in Management (MSM) degrees. MSA students earn 30 credits while learning accounting standards and practices, forensic accounting, and tax preparation. Ethics are also discussed. MSM students earn 36 credits while examining multiple management issues. The MSM program focuses on decision making in businesses, communication skills, critical thinking, and technology.

ACO Score: 92.69 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Louisiana

The University of Louisiana at Monroe offers online programs for master’s degrees across a range of specialties, from arts to sciences. For a Master of Arts, distance learners can pick from fields such as criminal justice, English, gerontology and history. Those looking for a Master of Science can explore psychology, counseling or exercise science. Also available are the Internet-based Master of Business Administration and a hybrid online/on-campus graduate program in occupational therapy.

Additional opportunities for higher degrees from eULM include four options for Master of Arts in Teaching degrees and three for Master of Education. Participants can choose between teaching grades 1-5 or grades 6-12. Also possible is a concentration in mild to moderate special education combined with either elementary or secondary education. Other master’s programs in education from eULM cover curriculum and instruction, educational leadership and educational technology leadership. Teaching programs typically include an extensive internship in addition to online studies.

Many of eULM’s online master’s degree programs require between 30 and 39 credit hours, although the master’s degrees in teaching require 42-45 credits. In addition to specific criteria for each program, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree and must submit GRE scores during the admissions process.

ACO Score: 92.64 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Indiana

Indiana University offers numerous master’s degrees online in a variety of subject areas. Some examples include: Adult Education, Health Sciences, Nursing Education, Public Affairs, Library Science, Social Work and Strategic Management. Online classes have specific start and end dates and are semester-based. Students in online classes earn the same credit as students in on-campus courses. Some courses may require that exams be proctored, or supervised.

All programs have different requirements for admission and a distinct number of required credits. Students interested in the Social Work program earn 60 credits over the course of 16 classes. Some classes are set up for specific times, while others have lectures that students can watch as they choose. Students who choose this program must attend a three-day orientation on campus.

Although students from most states can take online classes at Indiana University, some programs are targeted specifically to Indiana state residents. Students who wish to earn a Master of Science in Education for Special Education, for example, will be a student of the Special Education for Indiana Schools program. For this degree program, students earn 36 credits and also complete a capstone project or a thesis.

ACO Score: 92.57 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Mississippi

With numerous graduate degrees available online, the University of Southern Mississippi presents opportunities for higher learning focused on education and nursing. Outside of these two areas, distant learners still have several options for master’s degrees:

  • Library and Information Science
  • Logistics, Trade and Transportation
  • Political Science (International Development)
  • Sports Management

The University of Southern Mississippi’s online graduate programs in education vary in topic and the type of degree earned. Some related programs award a Master of Science: child and family studies, human performance (physical education), instructional technology, nutrition and food systems (management of child nutrition programs) and sport coaching education. Moreover, there are several Master of Education tracks, namely educational administration and supervision – for a managerial career in education – and special education. For a more specialized teaching degree, students can also pursue a master’s in music education or the teaching of languages.

The distance learning division of USM also provides healthcare and nursing programs. In addition to earning a Master of Science in Medical Laboratory Sciences, remote learners can earn their Master of Science in Nursing in three different fields: adult gerontological, family or psychiatric. Nursing programs have specific admissions requirements for applicants, and students often need to participate in clinical field work.

ACO Score: 92.24 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Texas

Angelo State University has 13 master’s degrees that students can earn online. These degrees cover a number of subject areas, including a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and a few Master of Education (M.Ed.) degrees. Specific graduate programs include applied psychology, business administration, nursing education, security studies, criminal justice and educational administration.

The admission process for online ASU students is the same as for future on-campus students. Students are required to submit exam scores such as the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), transcripts and an essay describing their academic plans. Each individual department determines students’ suitability for the program based on those materials, the applicants’ GPAs and how well undergraduate coursework has prepared them for a master’s program. Different degree offerings have their own prerequisites — the accelerated online master’s in nursing program is designed for qualified registered nurses with a degree or diploma in the field.

Online students at Angelo State University have access to a number of web-based services, including library resources, tutoring and academic support. Through SMART Online students are able to attend virtual workshops, find answers to frequently asked questions, and access worksheets and exercises that can help with independent study. The school website also provides user guidelines for the Blackboard learning system and RamPort, the online portal.

ACO Score: 92.2 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Massachusetts

For distance learners seeking higher degrees in disciplines such as public health, science, education or business, the University of Massachusetts Amherst has online programs. Each degree differs in its graduation requirements. Studies in clinical nurse leadership include over 500 contact hours in internships, while the MPH degree in public health practice typically involves a practicum at a location accessible to the student. Web-based master’s degree programs from UMass Amherst include:

  • Business Administration
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Engineering Management
  • Plant and Soil Sciences
  • Public Health – Nutrition
  • Public Health – Public Heath Practice
  • Science Education

Certain programs come with part-time or full-time options and a choice of fully online or hybrid study format. The MBA program from UMass Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management is offered as wholly online or as a blended online/on-campus experience. Each degree has its own prerequisites — the master’s in engineering management only accepts qualified applicants with Bachelor of Science degrees in fields such as engineering or management science.

UMass distance education classes are generally available anywhere or anytime; however, students have periodic assignments and coursework with set deadlines. Communication among students and instructors can be done through email or threaded discussions within the school’s forums. Services available to online students include academic advising, library facilities, textbooks and 24-hour tech support.

ACO Score: 92.17 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Kansas

Emporia State University offers multiple master’s degrees via distance education. Students earning their degree online have access to resources such as academic assistance and technology support. Academic services include online tutoring, a portal for graduate students, test preparation and library resources. ESU’s Distance Education portal also provides information on how to find proctors for off-site examinations

Potential students should already have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 2.5 GPA. The application process and fee vary based the student’s academic standing and what degree or certificate they’re seeking. Individual departments may have additional requirements that future students need to meet.

Interested students can inquire about the menu of online degrees, with options such as accountancy, business administration and history. Some of the fully or partly online master’s degrees are related to education, for example:

  • Health, physical education and recreation
  • Curriculum and instruction
  • Educational administration
  • Instructional specialist (with tracks in elementary, reading or STEM education)

Degree programs in the area of teaching often feature an experiential element through a practicum or internship. ESU also has hybrid programs, where classes occur online and on-campus. Library science, for example, has classes that are completed through distance learning, and students attend two weekend sessions on campus. Library science students can choose from three concentrations: leadership and administration, librarianship for children and young adults, or archival studies.

ACO Score: 92.11 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Texas

The University of North Texas has an array of master’s programs accessible online, serving remote learners working towards a higher degree. Some programs may include both online learning and elements of in-person participation like internships. Degrees may come with different options for specialization — for example, the College of Business has online MBAs in both marketing and strategic management. The school’s online master’s degree programs include:

  • Four options from the College of Public Affairs and Community Service
  • Six choices from the College of Information
  • Two from the College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism

Accelerated online programs provide further options for flexible learning. For example, students may be able to complete the UNT Master of Science in Learning Technologies in as little as 14 months, or the Master in Education Leadership in as little as 12 months. These self-paced programs allow students to access course materials when convenient.

Applicants can ask university advisors about attendance or participation requirements for online courses. The master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling has fully web-based instruction supplemented with a practicum providing 100 hours of client contact. Another example of a blended delivery format is the hybrid program for a Master of Education in Special Education with an emphasis in autism intervention.

ACO Score: 91.81 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Texas

UT Tyler’s Online Education offers a few 100 percent online graduate degrees in a number of varying fields. The available master’s degrees fall into the fields of education and psychology, arts and sciences, nursing and healthcare, business and technology, and engineering and computer science. The following programs are good examples of coursework, admissions, and academic expectations:

  • MA in School Counseling: Successful applicants will score well on the GRE, submit three letters of recommendation, write an admissions essay, and undergo an interview. The 18-month program requires 36 hours in classes such as cultural diversity, foundations of school counseling, and a professional internship.
  • MS in Kinesiology: The study of the human body and its motor skills engages research design, biometric methods, motor learning, exercise physiology, and biomechanics. Students have the option to complete a thesis or an internship as they finish their degrees. Both options are overseen by an advisor.

MS in Mechanical Engineering: Interested applicants should have a combined GRE score of 300, and should submit an application and undergraduate transcripts. The 30-36 hours of coursework involves a combination of theory-focused and hands-on classes, including vibration analysis of rotating machinery and finite element analysis. The degree carries three completion options: thesis, non-thesis, and professional development.

ACO Score: 91.8 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Tennessee

East Tennessee State University offers master’s degrees online in education, health and nursing, marketing, professional studies, and kinesiology. Some programs are completely online, while others are “mostly online,” meaning they may require some on-campus activities.

Students interested in earning an education master’s degree at East Tennessee State University have many options. Those earning a Master’s in Educational Leadership have the choice of three concentrations: School Administration and Leadership, Student Personnel Leadership and Teacher Leadership. Elementary Education is one of the mostly online programs and students must complete an interview in order to apply.

Health and nursing students also have many master’s degree options: Master of Science in Allied Health, Master of Science in Public Health or Master of Science in Nursing. MPH students can concentrate in Community Health, Epidemiology or Public Health Administration, while MSN students can choose from Family Nurse Practitioner, Nursing Administration, Nursing Education or Nursing Informatics.

Online classes at East Tennessee State University are taught through the Desire2Learn platform. Most classes have textbooks that are either required or recommended. Online students have access to library resources, as well as in-person or online tutoring.

ACO Score: 91.32 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State World Campus hopes to advance the career prospects of potential students through its online master’s degrees. World Campus courses are asynchronous and can be completed at any time during the semester and from anywhere in the world, making it a truly flexible education.

The school currently offers master’s degrees in 38 different fields of study including: cybersecurity and information assurance, higher education, public administration.

Within the cybersecurity and information assurance master’s degree program, students can expect to engage in 33 hours of coursework related to web and Internet information retrieval, network management and security, and crisis management.

Students who enroll in PSU’s higher education degree will begin a 30-hour curriculum, which enables educators to hone skills related to administration, student engagement, and institutional research.

The public administration master’s program invests its 36 credit hours in pursuing areas such as criminal justice, government administration, information resource management, and policy analysis.

The admissions requirements vary by program of study, but most of Penn State’s online graduate programs require the application, application fee, and transcripts from previously attended institutions. Penn State provides various resources to current and prospective students, such as tuition estimators to aid in budgeting needs, online financial aid applications to help students pay for the degree, and access to advisors to help work through the process.

ACO Score: 91.24 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: California

Golden Gate University-San Francisco has numerous master’s degrees that students can earn completely online. Students who are unsure about online learning can take a demonstration class, Keys to Successful Online Learning, to discover more about the process.

Online students communicate with one another and professors via online discussions boards. Students need to post a meaningful contribution to the discussions boards at least once a week. Professors can also be reached by phone or via email. In classes that are completely online, students will need to take at least one proctored, or supervised, exam. The exam can take place at GGU’s San Francisco campus or another university-approved site.

Online degree programs offered by GGU-San Francisco include accountancy, business administration, finance, human resource management, marketing, project management, public administration and taxation. Students can also earn a dual degree if they wish. The accelerated Master of Business Administration and Juris Doctor allows students to finish both degrees in as little as two and a half years, though it usually takes about three years. With the combined programs students earn about 94 credits, as opposed to the 118 credits needed for both degrees separately. The dual program begins each August.

ACO Score: 91.01 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Tennessee

UMOnline degrees are designed with a flexible schedule in mind. Many courses are asynchronous, meaning that students can fulfill the academic requirements when time permits. The University of Memphis has online master’s degree programs in areas such as business, education, public health and journalism. The following list provides examples of web-based offerings and a look at the curriculum:

  • Applied computer science: Studies in programming languages, web design, database design, software engineering and research methods, with a capstone project or thesis
  • Criminal justice: Classes in criminal justice principles, the role of social justice in policy decisions, criminology and the U.S. criminal justice system
  • History: Courses on American history and global regions such as the Middle East and Africa, with a thesis track for individuals planning on doctoral studies
  • Teaching English as a second language (TESL): Subjects include educational research and TESL competencies, with optional field experience overseas
  • Teaching with a concentration in secondary education: Focus on qualifications for grade 7-12 teacher certification, with field work and studies in adolescent development, learning theory and teaching methods

Online graduate degrees from the University of Memphis typically require 33 credit hours for completion, and programs such as teaching often incorporate experiential learning. Depending on the program, applicants need letters of recommendation and a certain minimum undergraduate GPA and GRE scores.

ACO Score: 89.71 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: New Hampshire

SNHU’s online graduate degrees offer flexible scheduling, affordable tuition, and a history of excellence. The school boasts 80 different online degree programs, with 40 of those falling under the category of business administration. Coursework can be completed 100 percent online. Below are some examples of available programs:

  • SNHU’s sport management degree focuses on the principles of athletic administration, sports marketing and media, and sports and society. Admissions requirements include a graduate studies application, application fee, and the submission of a resume. This 36-hour program provides the necessary skills to compete for employment in a fast-paced sports industry.
  • The online master’s degree in English does not require a GRE/GMAT exam for acceptance nor does it require an undergrad degree in English. It does require, however, a written statement of purpose (200-500 words) and a writing sample at least three pages in length. The majority of the coursework is designed around reading and researching topics such as early American literature, literary theory, global literature, and Shakespeare.
  • The MBA degree at SNHU follows a design intended to create a graduate student who can lead the business and economic world into the future. Coursework covers all aspects of the business world: managerial accounting, information technology, marketing strategies, quantitative analysis, operations management, and more. The 13-course degree plan provides flexibility in learning, while creating sharp business skills.
ACO Score: 89.64 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Michigan

Students at Central Michigan University can choose from numerous graduate degrees in a range of areas. There are four options for the Master of Arts in Education degree: Teacher Leadership, Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Technology and Training and Development. There’s also a Master of Arts degree in School Principalship with two areas of emphasis: Charter School Leadership and Site-Based Leadership. The Master of Business Administration program has five areas of emphasis, including Marketing and Logistics Management.

Master of Science in Administration students have the most options at CMU. They can choose from 11 areas, including Engineering Management, Human Resources Administration, Leadership, Public Administration, and Research Administration.

CMU Online offers an Online Learning Assessment so future students can determine if they’re ready for online classes. Additionally, they list some traits that online student should have, including persistence, organization, engagement and aspiration. CMU can provide students with an Online Ally, a student who has experienced and been successful with online courses. This ally can help a student with study habits, managing coursework and more. The Online Learning Resource Center also provides online students with a number of resources, including Blackboard tutorials that cover how to get started, submitting online assignments, and changing course notification settings.

ACO Score: 87.48 Career counseling: Yes Job placement: Yes State: Michigan

Specializing in higher-level engineering degrees, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor offers online programs for working engineers who lack the scheduling freedom needed to complete a master’s degree on campus. Programs from the U-M College of Engineering are available in close to 50 countries. Students can choose to earn their master’s degree in one of four specialties:

  • Manufacturing: Emphasis on improving the quality and efficiency of manufacturing systems, with a focus on product development and managerial skills
  • Automotive Engineering: Traditional engineering and issues of modern environmental concern such as energy solutions, ecological sustainability and electric hybrids
  • Energy Systems Engineering: Education to further clean, effective energy technology and system design
  • Global Automotive and Manufacturing Engineering: Application of principles from engineering programs worldwide, encouraging international collaboration

The U-M Ann Arbor online learning system provides lectures, course materials, multimedia resources, assignments, discussions, chat rooms, evaluations and email used for students to communicate with instructors and peers. The online engineering programs encourage self-paced studies, for example, students can view lectures more than once if needed. Engineering instructors try to answer course-related questions within 24 hours. Online instruction is also a component of certain other master’s programs at the University of Michigan such as pharmaceutical engineering and dental hygiene.

A Guide to Online Master’s Programs

Online master’s degree programs give students a more convenient way to earn a graduate-level credential. Colleges and universities across the country offer self-paced, real-time, hybrid/blended and a host of other flexible opportunities for anyone seeking an advanced degree. For those who already know they want to learn online, the quick search tool makes it easy to find quality online master’s programs in just about any subject. And the in-depth guide to online master’s degrees explores the ins and outs of distance learning at the graduate level, from searching for programs and submitting applications to graduation and career advancement. Get the inside scoop on the timelines, tools and tech that make the online master’s a top choice for students looking to get ahead.

Meet the Expert

Greg Beatty earned his PhD in English from the University of Iowa. He has over twenty years of experience in higher education and has taught traditional, online and hybrid courses at the master’s level and in multiple disciplines. Greg has developed curricula for several colleges and has served on a range of committees and advisory boards. He’s also won grants for course development and awards for teaching.

When Online Master’s Programs Make Sense

There are a number of reasons one might pursue a master’s degree. Some employers require them — for example, Burning Glass Technologies estimated in 2012 that 23% of jobs posted asked for a master’s. In other cases, students earn them in hopes of cementing a higher salary, increased job security and/or improving advancement potential. Whatever the case, master’s degrees can be a valuable investment in one’s future.

Yet earning a master’s takes time — two years or more of part- or full-time coursework while likely working and balancing personal commitments. More and more students today are turning to online master’s programs to capitalize on the flexibility they offer, which helps them earn an advanced degree while not sacrificing a steady job or family time in the process. Let’s take a look at three primary reasons people earn a master’s online.

New Career while Working

Working professionals make up a substantial portion of online master’s seekers. They hold down a full-time or near full-time job but may not view that job as a long-term career. For example, someone with a bachelor’s degree in finance and working as a junior analyst may want to transition to a career in accounting. An online master’s program would allow the person to work toward their degree while keeping their regular analyst hours.

Same Field, New Position

Some students apply to online master’s programs not because their chosen fields demand it, but because they want to move up the ladder faster, or land a new, better position in the same field, or even with the same company. This may be particularly true with highly competitive industries or managerial positions. Graduate education also gives professionals an opportunity to acquire new, specialized skills designed for advancement. Again, the online master’s can be earned while working, meaning you don’t skip a beat with your current company.

A Higher Hurdle to Climb

In some fields, a master’s degree is a baseline requirement for even entry-level work, especially in managerial or highly technical positions. In these cases, the credential certifies that applicants have certain skills and knowledge, even if they have very little experience. Other students earn an online master’s degree voluntary rather than out of necessity, showing potential employers they’re committed to long-term success.

How Online Master’s Programs Work

Precisely how online master’s degrees work depends very much on the program or institution. Some programs focus mostly on self-paced or “asynchronous” programs, meaning students can access recorded lectures and other materials when convenient, without following a set class schedule. Real-time, or synchronous classes, on the other hand, require students to stream live lectures and coordinate with fellow students and professors online at pre-set times. Many programs have highly advanced anti-cheating measures such as webcams or keystroke verification software; others require students to complete exams on campus or at another designated center with proctors. It is important to research a course’s technical requirements — including computer, webcam or software requirements — before enrolling. Some programs will actually supply or lend students all required devices or software.

When Face-to-Face Matters

Although many online master’s programs have solid processes and platforms for peer-to-peer and peer-to-professor communication, sometimes face-to-face interaction is a must. Many online MBA programs, for example, require students to visit campus at the start of the semester to forge relationships with their “pods” or team members and meet with instructors and administrators. This type of travel/communication helps keep people connected and get everything moving in the right direction.

Hands-on Programs

Earning a master’s online in a subject like English makes perfect sense. It’s a very academic major that lends itself to submission and discussion of papers, exam results and other elements. Yet for the more tactile disciplines, like those in health care and technology, there needs to be a significant amount of hands-on training. Teaching may be the most ready example. For anyone working toward an online master’s in teaching or education, interaction with students is a necessity. Part of effective teaching is working with a student in-person to gauge acquisition of (or gaps in) knowledge and skills. To bridge this gap, quality online programs establish relationships with school districts to set up classroom visits for its grad students.

Online Master’s Timeline

Deciding to apply to a program is only the first step toward earning a master’s degree online — the next is figuring out how these programs work (and how long they take to complete). The section below provides a start-to-finish look at the process of earning an online master’s. Understanding the full spectrum and its components is a vital part of finding the right graduate opportunity for you.

Application and Admission

Applying to any degree program may seem daunting, and online master’s degree programs are no exception. The key is to know what to expect, beginning with application deadlines and requirements. These vary from one school — and even department — to the next, so it pays to research and make careful note of each and every detail. Keep in mind that online master’s degree admissions can be more competitive than for undergraduate programs, so requirements tend to be steeper. Many colleges require applicants to submit standardized test scores, like the GRE or GMAT. They may also require essays and letters of recommendation in addition to transcripts. The following is an outline of the steps one might take when applying for admissions:

  • Take online learning assessment (through a college or independently) to see if an online master’s is right for you. If so…
  • Research and note application and other urgent deadlines
  • Download or bookmark applications, whether submitted via mail or online
  • Become acquainted with financial aid and student lending deadlines, if applicable
  • Compile a list of admissions criteria and deadlines for each. Transcripts, test scores and recommendations may have submission deadlines that differ from that of the initial application.
  • Contact undergraduate universities and request copies of official transcripts to be sent directly to graduate institutions.
  • Contact standardized testing firms to request scores be forwarded
  • Touch base with employers, professors and anyone else from whom you’d like a letter of recommendation.
  • Complete and submit admission essays, if applicable
  • Complete and submit final application by deadline
  • Complete and submit financial aid paperwork by deadline, if applicable

Many schools maintain a list of application steps and requirements on their websites. If not, an admissions counselor can provide specific direction. Now let’s look at what one can expect once admitted to a program. Note that most online master’s degree programs can be completed in about two years of full-time study. Some programs may take a bit more or less time, and students who do not take a full load of classes will need more time to complete their degrees.

Year 1

  • The first year of an online master’s program includes some basic or general coursework, but keep in mind that classes tend to be more specialized than they were in undergraduate programs: Most, if not all, courses will relate directly to one’s field of study. In other words, the general education courses typically required in bachelor’s degree programs are notably absent from graduate-level programs. Students enrolled in an online master’s degree program with specialty options (think: an MBA with an emphasis on finance or technology) may be required to choose their concentration and tailor their courses toward it right from the start; other programs allow students to delay specialization until the second year. Admissions or academic counselors can help students understand what classes need to be completed, and when.

Year 2

  • Over the course of this year, courses usually become more advanced and specialized. Many programs also require students to complete special projects, theses or comprehensive exams during this year. Students’ career and education goals may also drive course selection during year two: students preparing to go directly into the workforce may make different choices than those who intend to apply to doctorate programs. Once again, academic counselors can help figure out which courses are required to graduate, and when they tend to be offered.

Online Learning Q&A

Online master’s degree programs are not new, but for many students, they remain uncharted territory. Here are some of the most common questions students have about web-based learning.

How do online master’s degrees differ from online undergraduate degrees?

Programs can and do vary, but generally speaking, online graduate-level coursework translates just as well to the web-based environment as undergraduate coursework did. Note, however, that many master’s degree programs require students to complete theses that necessitate teacher mentorship, or special group projects. Students will need to coordinate with professors and peers to ensure they get the support they need. Some programs may also allow students to coordinate with local employers when completing certain projects. Programs requiring comprehensive examinations may require students to complete them on-campus or at an approved local center with proctors on staff.

Can I really study anything online?

Some disciplines translate to an online learning environment better than others, but thanks to technological advancements like 3D or holographic imaging, the share of courses that have to be completed in the classroom is shrinking. For heavily hands-on subjects, like nursing, students can often take some courses online and complete others on campus or through a local teaching hospital. The same applies to any course that has a lab component.

Are online master’s degree programs as credible as classroom-based programs?

In 2010, CareerBuilder conducted a survey in which 83 percent of executives said they believe an online degree is just as credible as one earned through a traditional campus-based program. As online programs have become even more familiar and mainstream, that share has likely increased. Note that in many cases, employers cannot even tell whether a candidate attended college online or on campus, especially with schools offering both modes of study.

Are online master’s degree programs easier than traditional programs?

Not necessarily. Online classes may be more convenient that classroom-based classes, but as PsychCentral once noted, they can be every bit as challenging, especially with difficult subjects. Also keep in mind that online programs can also require more organization and self-discipline than traditional coursework, particularly in student-guided and asynchronous programs where students are responsible for completing their work on schedule

Accreditation and the Online Master’s

For some online master’s programs, quality may be implied. For example, earning an MBA online from a college such as Stanford or the University of Texas at Austin means getting an education with the same rigor as their campus-based programs. But even with larger more established schools and programs, it’s important to research accreditation. In essence, accreditation indicates that a government-endorsed higher education agency has fully vetted the college and its programs for academic rigor, faculty experience and resources. Regional accreditation remains the gold standard today, although some colleges, universities and specialty programs may have either national or programmatic accreditation, both of which may be sufficient depending on the circumstance. For a detailed rundown of accreditation, including full profiles of the processes and the players, visit our complete guide to college accreditation.

Ten Most Popular Online Master’s Degrees

It’s no surprise that the top ten most-popular master’s degree programs are in fields that match the creation and rise of job specializations in the economy. While not all of these popular master’s programs guarantee high-paying jobs for graduates, they certainly reflect student interest in careers with high earnings potential in growing sectors such as business, education and healthcare. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that almost half of the 754,200 master’s degrees conferred in 2012 were in either business (25 percent) or education (24 percent). The remaining top degrees were, in order, healthcare-related, social services/public administration and engineering.

Master’s degree students tend to have work experience and, therefore, opt for graduate degrees that open doors to management roles or pathways into a new profession entirely. Whether they’re following their passion, the money or happily engaged in both, many students complete these popular degrees entirely online. Online programs dovetail neatly with working students’ obligations, providing opportunities to combine their advanced learning with real world business challenges.

Master’s in Business Administration (MBA)
Master’s in Business Administration (MBA)

MBA students, Boston.com reports, accounted for one-fourth of all graduate candidates in 2012, marking the first time since 1971 that a master’s degree in education wasn’t on top. Degree types include one-year online accelerated MBAs, part-time programs, two-year online and traditional MBA programs and concentrated executive MBAs for professional leaders. Some online MBA programs may allow candidates to forgo the GMAT requirement if they have substantial work experience in management or a related business field. Online MBA programs from top universities include:


Education
Education

Despite being knocked off the top spot by business administration, education remains by far one of the nation’s most popular master’s degree programs. Admissions to some programs may be highly competitive and a great number of applicants are experienced educators. The most-commonly sought credentials are the Master of Education (M.Ed.), M.Ed./Credential and Master of Arts in Education (M.A.). Students can also opt to focus their skills by pursuing specializations such as education administration and management, special education, education counseling and post-secondary education administration. Three top online education and teaching degrees include:


Management Information Systems (MIS)
Master of Information Science (MIS)

With a steady advancement of technology – particularly in the wireless space – comes a rising call for IT professionals to lead organizations in cloud network security, mobile communications and technology assessment. Online master’s degrees in information systems management are popular advanced-degree options for computer professionals seeking management credentials to lead enterprise-wide technology initiatives. The Master’s of Information Science (MIS) degree is an in-demand credential for leaders across all sectors including business, education, technology, healthcare and public and governmental organizations. Graduates of a MIS degree can go on to pursue jobs such as chief information officer (CIO), chief technology officer (CTO), IT manager or IT director of security. Some of today’s best online MIS programs include the following:


Homeland Security and Law Enforcement
Homeland Security and Law Enforcement

The combined fields of homeland security, law enforcement and fire science had the single-greatest percentage increase in the number of awarded master’s degrees during the 2001-2010 decade. The NCES reported a 186 percent spike in degrees in this sector of public service and security. Regular and predictable promotions and increased wages for these careers, along with job security and new hiring trends in national law enforcement organizations, account for the rise in popularity. There are accredited online programs leading to master’s degrees in fire science, criminal justice and homeland security. Typically degrees are designated as a master’s of science (MS) in areas such as professional studies, fire science, criminal justice and law enforcement.


Physician Assisting
Physician Assisting

According to Forbes, it could be the median annual wage of $97,000 and a projected 38 percent increase in job openings (2012-2022) that lie behind the popularity of a master’s of science degree in physician assistant studies. Physician assistants are rigorously trained, licensed and can often perform many of the duties commonly handled by a doctor. They take jobs in physicians’ offices, hospitals, outpatient care centers and clinics. Accredited online master’s degrees in physician assisting programs usually take two years to complete. Examples of top degree programs include:


Electrical Engineering (EE)
Electrical Engineering (EE)

Forbes ranks the master’s degree in electrical engineering among the top-three degrees for finding jobs. Electrical engineers can earn a median mid-career annual wage of $121,000. The degree’s popularity, however, may be directly related to a wide range of potential employers in high-growth sectors such as oil and gas energy, semiconductor design and manufacturing and consulting. Three top online master’s in electrical engineering include:


Health Care Administration
Health Care Administration

The BLS estimates that 15.6 million new jobs will be added in the healthcare sector during the 2012-2022 decade. With all the new hires, it’s not surprising that jobs for medical and healthcare service managers are anticipated to increase by 23 percent during the same decade. The popularity of traditional and online master’s degree programs in healthcare administration or MBA degrees with a concentration in the healthcare sector reflects the allure of an interdisciplinary education with widespread workplace options. Healthcare professionals can return to college to add a management degree or management professionals can concentrate graduate studies in healthcare. Graduates may qualify for roles in leading a single clinical department or managing a hospital, clinic, or medical group. Below are three popular online master’s programs in health care administration:


Civil Engineering
Civil Engineering

A bachelor’s degree in civil engineering will suffice if students want to work as an engineer and hold a license. However, the BLS now reports that one in five civil engineers has gone on to complete a master’s degree to qualify for management roles. Popular graduate programs include a MS degree in civil engineering or engineering mechanics and the master’s degree in engineering management (MEM or MsEM). Depending on the traditional or online degree program, students can pursue management and core strategic knowledge similar to that of an MBA curriculum, with a focus on engineering. Some top online master’s degree programs in civil engineering include:


Psychology Counseling
Psychology/Counseling

While earnings may not be the attribute behind the popularity of counseling psychology degrees, this master’s degree is the minimum educational requirement for those interested in becoming a psychology professional. Typical degrees in the field include Master’s of Arts (M.A.) or Master’s of Science (M.S.) in Counseling and Master’s in Counseling Psychology. Due to a hefty 19 percent projected increase in jobs for counselors and social workers (2012-2022), people drawn to the mental health professions should enjoy ample career opportunities. Online programs in counseling or social work are common and offer options to students who are already working in a public service or mental health environment to bolster their credentials. Below is a glance at three popular online master’s degrees in psychology:


Physics
Physics

Forbes ranks a Master’s Degree in Physics the 6th most-powerful degree for landing a career. Graduates take jobs with diverse titles such as gravity researcher, radar project manager, science advisor, games designer, science journalist, structural engineer, Alzheimer researcher, solar energy physicist, astrophysicist, nuclear engineer, biophysicist, physics teacher and medical physicist. Many M.S. in Physics degree programs lead directly into Ph.D. programs. Master’s degrees often must be completed in four years, with a seven-year time frame to complete the Ph.D.

The Online Master’s Payoff

Though master’s degrees do not always correlate with higher earnings, master’s degree holders do tend to earn more over the course of their careers than colleagues with less education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for instance, master’s degree holders earned a median weekly salary of $1,329; bachelor’s degree holders earned $1,108 while those with associate degrees earned $777. Workers with a high school diploma alone earned $651 a week. The BLS reports that employment rates tend to improve with education, too: master’s degree holders faced a 3.4 percent unemployment rate in 2013, nearly half the 6.1 percent average for all workers nationally. Professionals working in fields that do not require master’s degrees can ask their managers or human resources representatives how investing in a degree could impact their bottom line. Prospective students can also consult online salary databases to learn how earnings within specific roles and regions shift with education.