Best Online Master’s Degrees 2021

Earning a master's degree can lead to increased earning potential. Here, we list the best online programs available.

Updated April 11, 2023

Reviewed by ACO Rankings Team
Best Online Master’s Degrees 2021 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Master's Programs

An online master's program allows students to build advanced skills in an academic or professional field. These skills can prepare candidates to advance their careers. A master's degree's cost is often worth the investment because it prepares graduates for leadership roles in their field, which often come with strong salary potential.

For some fields and career paths, a master's degree serves as the minimum educational requirement. For others, a master's can help candidates distinguish themselves in a competitive job market. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that master's recipients earn an annual median salary of $68,000 — about $12,000 more than bachelor's degree recipients.

Break down your current financial situation, and receive a college tuition estimate you can afford to pay. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Featured Online Programs

Find a program that meets your affordability, flexibility, and education needs through an accredited, online school.

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's Degrees

How long does it take to earn a master's degree?

Completion time varies by program, but most master's programs take 1-4 years to complete.

How do you get a master's degree?

Most master's programs require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree. Some programs may also require standardized test scores and/or professional experience in the field.

Do you need a bachelor's to get a master's?

Yes. Students typically need a bachelor's degree to apply to master's programs.

Can I skip a master's and do a Ph.D.?

Some Ph.D. programs admit applicants directly out of undergrad. However, students should consult individual Ph.D. programs to determine specific admission requirements.

Affordable Online Master's Degrees 2021

  1. University of the Cumberlands

    Williamsburg, KY



    University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky, emphasizes practical, career-oriented academic graduate programs for working professionals. Master's students can choose from more than 20 fully online degree paths in subject areas including business, counseling, criminal justice, education, health sciences, information technology, medical science, and international executive studies. UC also offers a master's program in ministry, reflecting its venerable Baptist heritage.

    Degree-seekers engage with instructors and peers through a cutting-edge e-learning platform designed to support collaboration and replicate the traditional classroom learning experience. The institution's innovative approach to pedagogy includes continuous updates that prioritize the latest field-specific research, propelling many online master's programs into the upper tiers of national rankings.

    Founded in 1888, UC features affordable online tuition starting at $315 per credit as of the 2019-2020 school year. Alumni include multiple state governors, members of Congress, and scores of successful professionals.

  2. Logan University

    Chesterfield, MO



    Exclusively focused on health sciences and chiropractics, Logan University supports an evidence-based approach to holistic healing. Following the methods developed by its celebrated founder, the renowned chiropractor Dr. H.B. Logan, the school and its programs ground students in a patient-centered approach to care that eschews invasive surgical procedures and the unnecessary use of pharmaceuticals.

    As of the 2019-2020 school year, Logan University offers three fully online master's programs: health informatics, nutrition and human performance, and sports science and rehabilitation. All three degree paths support the school's signature tailored curriculum, which allows students to customize their degrees through a broad variety of electives.

    Logan University enjoys outstanding student retention rates and has earned many accolades and distinctions for its academic excellence. The institution holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission along with programmatic endorsements from the Council on Chiropractic Education and the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics.

  3. Concordia University-Chicago

    River Forest, IL



    With world-class faculty drawn from elite global ranks of academia and a structured yet flexible online learning environment, Concordia University-Chicago ranks as a national leader in online master's education. Small class sizes and an institution-wide student-to-instructor ratio of 11-to-1 foster an intimate, interactive learning experience.

    Buoyed by a decisive commitment to innovation, Concordia University-Chicago offers a long and enriched list of online programs. The 2019-2020 school year features more than 30 online master's degree paths, including both traditional and novel subject areas.

    Concordia places particular emphasis on education degrees with graduate students enjoying unique learning opportunities in such specialized fields as curriculum development for bilingual learners, educational technology, K-12 reading education, and teacher leadership. The school also enjoys a prestigious reputation for its online MBA degrees and certificates, which include 17 distinctive areas of concentration.

  4. Touro University Worldwide

    Los Alamitos, CA



    A private, nonprofit school based in California's Orange County, Touro University Worldwide has leveraged its longstanding commitment to academic innovation into a thriving online learning environment. In 1998, TUW became the first regionally accredited institution in the world to deliver a 100% online doctoral program with no campus requirements. The school has since expanded its distance offerings to include dozens of online master's degrees.

    For the 2019-2020 school year, TUW features online master's programs in three major subject areas: business and management, psychology, and health and human services. Students enjoy distinctive learning opportunities in specialized, career-focused areas such as organizational psychology, dispute resolution, human resources, and marriage and family therapy.

    All programs support TUW's institutional goals of embracing the needs of underserved student communities, helping established professionals advance their career goals and applying a problem-solving approach to project-based learning experiences.

  5. North American University

    Stafford, TX



    Based in Houston, Texas, NAU distinguishes itself through five intensive, fully online graduate programs. Its acclaimed online MBA program opens up learning opportunities to nontraditional business students and does not require GMAT or GRE scores. Tech-oriented learners can earn a master of science in computing, and aspiring educators can choose from paths in school counseling, curriculum and instruction, and educational leadership. The school reports a 100% post-graduation employment rate for computer science graduates.

    Founded in 2007 with the objective of establishing a superior educational institution with a strong focus on innovation, NAU holds accreditation from the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. Recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, NAU also features endorsements from the International Association of Universities and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

  6. Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health

    Omaha, NE



    NMC exclusively prepares students for careers in healthcare professions through innovative, rigorous academic programs informed by cutting-edge scientific research. Formally affiliated with the Nebraska Methodist Health System, which ranks among the largest in the state, NMC has trained thousands of successful healthcare practitioners since its 1891 founding. Institutionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, NMC favors a holistic, community-centered approach to learning.

    The school's current lineup of online master's programs uses the proprietary MyMethodist e-learning platform to engage students through lectures, forum-based discussions, and presentations. All learning paths include field placement or practicum requirements, which students can complete in their local areas if they live outside NMC's base in Omaha. Students can pursue master of science in nursing degrees as well as healthcare management and continuing education programs designed for working professionals who must meet ongoing professional development requirements to maintain licensure.

  7. Clarkson College

    Omaha, NE



    Nearly 90% of students at Clarkson College take at least one online course, a statistic that speaks to the reliability of the institution's advanced approach to digital learning. Clarkson College uses the Canvas e-learning platform to facilitate interactive lectures, online discussions, and an efficient assignment management system. Online instructors are required to answer student questions within 48 hours, with most faculty members providing same-day responses. As a result, Clarkson College's online learning community enjoys atypically high levels of student engagement and academic success.

    Graduate students seeking a flexible path to an advanced degree can take advantage of multiple career-oriented online healthcare programs in administration and management, community health, informatics, medical imaging, nursing, radiography, and physical therapy. Degree-seekers enjoy flexible full-time or part-time program structures.

  8. Concordia University-Irvine

    Irvine, CA



    Established in 1976, CUI began its history as a religious education center for Christian community leaders. Though it has since branched out into many other academic areas, CUI retains its focus on spiritual values while delivering flexible, customizable learning experiences. Students in its online master's programs can earn their degrees 100% online or blend digital and traditional classroom learning at CUI's Southern California campus.

    As of the 2019-2020 school year, CUI features 14 accredited online master's degrees in subjects including nursing and healthcare, coaching and athletic sciences, education, counseling, organizational leadership, and theology. In keeping with the institution's Christian roots, faculty members double as mentors, working to guide the learners under their care to elite levels of academic, personal, and professional success. Nationally recognized as a leading regional private university, CUI holds accreditation from the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

  9. Cleveland University-Kansas City

    Kansas City, MO



    CUKC enjoys a prominent position as an acclaimed regional leader in healthcare education. This private, nonprofit institution offers a flexible, fully online master of science in health education and promotion, which delivers multiple appealing supplementary benefits in addition to an exemplary education.

    Students in the CUKC online master's program benefit from the insights and expertise of highly qualified professors with advanced degrees and extensive professional experience. While enrolled, degree-seekers and their immediate family members qualify for free chiropractic care through partner providers as well as complimentary fitness center memberships. Accessible admission standards reflect the school's commitment to facilitating career growth opportunities for nontraditional healthcare learners.

    Applicants need only a bachelor's degree in any field from a university with regional accreditation and must submit supporting materials, including a current resume, personal statement, and academic transcripts.

  10. Hamline University

    Saint Paul, MN



    Founded in 1854, HU is Minnesota's oldest college and continues to rank among its best, earning accolades and distinctions that place it among the most prestigious higher education institutions in the Midwest. Self-paced asynchronous learning defines the HU digital experience, and the school features online master's degrees in three professional areas: business, law, and education.

    HU's online business programs lead to master of public administration (MPA) designations, and the school hosts the region's oldest MPA program. Students interested in pursuing their academic interests in law and legal institutions can undertake a master's in the study of law, a purpose-built program designed for working professionals seeking to deepen their academic qualifications. HU education programs offer excellent versatility and provide the opportunity to earn specialized certificates and concentrations in dozens of distinct fields while working toward a master of arts in education.

What Are the Goals of Master's Programs?

Schools offer online master's programs in a variety of fields. Master's candidates can pursue programs in academic fields, such as math, science, and the humanities. They can also pursue professional fields, such as business, education, and nursing.

Master's programs commonly delve into specialized areas of a broader academic discipline. Psychology master's students, for example, may study a subset of psychology, like industrial-organizational psychology. In general, online master's programs build high-level skills and knowledge, preparing graduates for leadership roles in their chosen field.

Why Get a Master's Degree?

Online master's programs offer various personal, professional, and academic benefits, several of which we cover below.

  1. 1

    Advanced Education

    Online master's degrees confer advanced skills and knowledge, preparing candidates for more specialized career paths or further education.
  2. 2

    Expanded Career Options

    Master's graduates can typically pursue a wider selection of career paths than bachelor's graduates.
  3. 3

    Increased Salary Potential

    As they move into more advanced positions with increased responsibilities, master's graduates typically command higher salaries than bachelor's graduates.
  4. 4

    Networking Opportunities

    An online master's program introduces students to peers, faculty members, and other leaders in their field, allowing students to build a strong professional network.
  5. 5

    Experiential Learning Opportunities

    Many online master's degrees include internships, capstone projects, and other activities that enable students to gain hands-on experience in a professional setting.

What Are the Requirements for Master's Programs?

While application requirements vary by school, online master's degrees typically require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree. Some programs only admit applicants with a bachelor's degree in a relevant field. Other programs may admit applicants of all undergraduate majors, though some students may need to complete additional prerequisite courses.

Along with a bachelor's degree, many online master's programs require applicants to submit scores from graduate-level exams, such as the GRE or GMAT. Many programs also require applicants to submit a statement of purpose and recommendation letters. The statement of purpose details an applicant's motivations and goals for graduate school. Recommendation letters speak to a candidate's preparedness for graduate-level study.

Scholarships for Master's Students

Graduate students can take advantage of many options to pay for an online master's program, including loans and scholarships. Unlike loans, scholarships do not require repayment, making them an ideal form of financial aid. This list highlights three popular scholarships for graduate students.

Scholarships for Master's Students
Scholarship Amount Who Can Apply

Violet and Cyril Franks Scholarship

$1,000 Offered through the American Psychological Association, this scholarship serves graduate psychology students conducting research into mental health stigma issues. Applicants must submit a detailed research proposal, a budget, a CV, and one recommendation letter from a faculty advisor.

Davis Putter Scholarship Fund

Up to $15,000 This scholarship awards undergraduate and graduate students who demonstrate a commitment to racial and social justice. Applicants must submit academic transcripts, a personal statement, two recommendation letters, and financial information.

Barbara A. Cooley Master's Scholarship

$1,000 The Society of Health and Physical Educators offers this scholarship to graduate students pursuing programs in health education. Applicants must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA. They must also submit a CV, two recommendation letters, and a personal statement outlining their philosophy of health education.

Master's Degree Programs

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