The Best Online Master's Degrees of 2020

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Pursuing a master's degree online provides students with specialized knowledge in a discipline and can lead to opportunities for career advancement, transition to another field, or a doctoral degree. Graduate education is ideal for students who want clinical experience, research experience, or additional skills and credentials in order to attain their career goals. In some cases, a master's degree is required for state licensure.

For instance, to obtain a state license as a licensed professional counselor or licensed mental health counselor, candidates must complete a master's degree and several counseling hours under supervision. Other students may pursue a graduate degree to qualify for executive-level positions and higher salaries, such as a master of business administration (MBA), master of healthcare administration, or master of education (M.Ed.). Obtaining an online master's degree can also be a way to transition into a different career or field.

Master's programs require 30-60 credits and take 1-3 years to complete. They entail a combination of coursework and clinical or research requirements and culminate in a capstone project or thesis. Students often work closely with faculty advisors to develop their own professional identity as practitioners and researchers. This guide provides an overview of online master's degrees, including school rankings and summaries, common courses, accreditation, and scholarships.

Top 10 Affordable Online Master's Degrees

Rank School Location
1 University of the Cumberlands Williamsburg, KY
2 Logan University Chesterfield, MO
3 Concordia University-Chicago River Forest, IL
4 Touro University Worldwide Los Alamitos, CA
5 North American University Houston, TX
6 Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health Omaha, NE
7 Clarkson College Omaha, NE
8 Concordia University-Irvine Irvine, CA
9 Cleveland University-Kansas City Overland Park, KS
10 Hamline University Saint Paul, MN

Affordable Online Master's Degree Overview

Students completing a master's degree online have access to the same courses, faculty, and resources as students who attend traditional on-campus programs. Online master's programs that have an internship or clinical experience requirement typically allow students to complete these requirements at a qualified organization or institution in their community.

Other student resources, such as tutoring, writing center services, and editorial office assistance are also available virtually. For instance, in master's programs that require a thesis, students must meet editorial and formatting requirements in order to graduate. Many schools run an office dedicated to providing this assistance, which is available to distance learning students as well.

Online degrees allow for additional benefits, such as increased flexibility in scheduling, the ability to attend classes from anywhere, lower costs, and the possibility of retaining previous employment during graduate study. Courses are offered in synchronous or asynchronous formats.

Synchronous classes require students to log in at a specific time and attend a virtual lecture while asynchronous classes allow students to access course materials at any time and watch lectures according to their own schedules as long as they meet general deadlines. Both formats allow students to take courses from schools located anywhere in the nation. Some online programs also offer courses in an accelerated format of 6-8 weeks instead of the typical 15-16, which means students can complete their degree in a shorter amount of time.

Many online master's degrees cost less than their traditional face-to-face counterparts. Online programs may offer a flat tuition rate regardless of residency. Students save on expenses related to transportation and facilities fees. In addition, online degrees offer students the flexibility to balance work or other obligations alongside their schooling. This allows learners to maintain an active income to offset tuition costs.

Why Get an Online Degree?

  • More Choices

    Prospective students may be restrained in their graduate school selections by geographic location or other factors. Obtaining a master's degree online allows students to attend programs across the nation regardless of where they are.

  • Develop Technical Skills

    Learning through a virtual platform can allow learners to develop technical skills, such as familiarity with new softwares and troubleshooting common problems. Students may also learn to use project management and communication tools commonly used in the workplace, including Skype, Zoom, Dropbox, Slack, and Trello.

  • Time Management and Discipline

    The self-paced format of many online graduate programs requires students to manage their time wisely and demonstrate self-discipline and motivation. These are skills that are also valued by employers in the workforce.

  • Reduced Costs

    Many online programs cost less than their on-campus counterparts. In addition, students save on room and board, transportation, and other costs affiliated with living on or near campus.

  • Retain Current Employment

    For anyone who has already started working, earning a master's degree online allows them to keep their job while they earn their degree.

Cost of an Online Master's Degree

Many online master's degrees are more affordable than traditional on-campus programs because lower overhead costs for offering online courses allows schools to charge lower tuition rates. Some programs charge a flat rate for online tuition, which means out-of-state students do not incur higher tuition costs.

What to Expect from Tuition and Fees

Online master's programs typically charge $400-$800 per credit. Tuition costs vary depending on the institution, graduate program, and discipline. For instance, MBA programs are generally more expensive than other master's degrees.

In addition to the tuition rate, students must also pay fees and cover the cost of textbooks and other course supplies. Technology fees affiliated with online courses range from $25-$75 per course. The cost of books and supplies can cost up to $1,000 per year, depending on the courses and professors. Professors and courses that have adopted open source textbooks or upload all required texts can reduce or eliminate these costs for online students.

Students in online master's programs also save on expenses such as facilities fees, room and board charges, and parking on campus. Some programs offer graduate assistantships or stipends for online master's students that can offset the costs of attendance.

Common Online Master's Degree Courses

Counseling Intervention and Techniques

This course covers foundational counseling skills and therapeutic interventions to help patients navigate personal, social, and work-related struggles. Students learn techniques and strategies associated with crisis intervention, conflict, and multicultural or ethical issues. This course is required in master's programs in clinical mental health counseling, addictions counseling, counseling psychology, and related fields.

Data Management in Healthcare

This course provides students with the knowledge and skills to collect, organize, and analyze health data. Students learn to maintain health records, capture and communicate insights gleaned from data analytics efforts, and manage databases containing data. This course is required in health informatics, healthcare administration, and related disciplines.

Organizational Theory and Behavior

This course focuses on theories that explain human behavior in an organizational context, particularly employee behavior within companies or public organizations. Students learn about elements of individual and interpersonal behavior as well as organizational-level factors that affect behavior. This course is typically offered in MBA programs and other business-related disciplines, such as nonprofit management or healthcare administration.

Criminological Theories

This course examines sociological, psychological, and criminological theories on the etiology of crime and their implications for the criminal justice system. Students learn about past and present research in criminology and how these paradigms affected policy. This course is frequently required in master's programs in criminal justice, legal studies, or sociology.

Foundations of Curriculum and Instruction

This course provides students with an overview of learning theory, the historical and social foundations of education, and their impact on practices in curriculum development and assessment. This course can be found in many education-related master's programs.

Accreditation for an Online College

Accreditation of educational institutions provides students and parents a level of quality assurance. Accrediting bodies and organizations are responsible for evaluating educational institutions and programs according to a set of standards and ensuring they meet those standards.

In the United States, schools and programs can be regionally or nationally accredited. Regional accreditation is considered more prestigious and reputable because regional accrediting agencies serve academically oriented schools and adhere to the same standards. Credits earned from regionally accredited schools are more widely recognized and easily transferable. National accrediting agencies, on the other hand, serve technical, trade, vocational, and professional schools and programs.

In searching for an online master's program, students should look for regional accreditation from the agency that serves the geographic region in which the school is located as well as any relevant discipline-specific accreditations. The U.S. Department of Education provides a searchable database of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs.

Scholarships for an Online Master's Degree

A variety of scholarships are available to students pursuing an online master's degree. Some scholarships are designed to help minority and underrepresented communities, some are designed for students in specific disciplines, and others are based on merit or financial need. Students should research and apply for any scholarships or fellowships they qualify for.

AICP Scholarship

The Association of Insurance Compliance Professionals offers three scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a degree in disciplines such as insurance, actuarial science, economics, finance, management, statistics, and other business-related fields.
Who Can Apply: Full-time students pursuing a degree in a relevant discipline who have completed at least two years of college-level coursework and have earned minimum 3.0 GPA.
Amount: $1,500

American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation Graduate Student Scholarship

The ASH Foundation awards 15 graduate student scholarships to full-time students currently enrolled or accepted to a program in communication sciences or disorders.
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be accepted or enrolled full time in an accredited communication sciences or disorders graduate program, such as audiology, speech language pathology, and other related clinical or research degrees.
Amount: $5,000

Frederic G. Melcher Scholarship

This scholarship provides financial assistance to graduate students pursuing a master of library science who intend to work in children librarianship, including any type of library serving children up to age 14.
Who Can Apply: Citizens of U.S. or Canada pursuing graduate study in the field of library work with children.
Amount: $7,500

Eckenfelder Scholarship

Brown and Caldwell, a company that designs and builds water and waste systems, offers a scholarship to support students interested in pursuing a career in an environmental discipline.
Who Can Apply: Undergraduate juniors and seniors and graduate students enrolled in an accredited institution pursuing a degree in civil, mechanical, electrical or environmental engineering, or an environmental science.
Amount: $5,000

Albert W. Dent Graduate Student Scholarship

The Foundation of American College of Healthcare Executives offers a scholarship for minority students in healthcare management graduate programs to help offset the costs of tuition and expenses.
Who Can Apply: Minority students who are U.S. citizens, are enrolled full time in a healthcare management graduate program, and demonstrate financial need may apply.
Amount: $5,000


Question Answer
Can I complete a master's degree online? Yes, a variety of master's programs are available online. Degrees obtained online from accredited institutions provide the same courses, faculty, and credentials as traditional master's programs.
How long does it take to earn a master's degree online? An online master's degree can take anywhere from 1-3 years to complete, depending on program requirements and whether a student enrolls full time or part time.
How much is the average cost of online college? Most online master's programs cost $400-$800 per credit. However, these costs can vary depending on the school, graduate program, and discipline.
Is there a free online college? Yes. In some cases, students can attend an online master's program at no cost. Some highly competitive programs offer graduate assistantships, tuition waivers, and stipends. In addition, schools such as the University of the People offer tuition-free online education, including MBA and M.Ed. programs.

Affordable Online Master's Degrees 2020

The ranking below includes 50 of the best online master's programs available. Prospective students can use this list to begin researching prospective schools. The ranking considers factors including tuition rates, program offerings, financial aid opportunities, and student-to-faculty ratios.

Rank Logo School Tuition # of Online Programs Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid Credit For Experience Placement Service Counseling Services Description & Additional Information Toggle
1 University of the Cumberlands Williamsburg, KY
$5,970 Tuition

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
$10,000 Tuition

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
$9,180 Tuition

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
$9,000 Tuition

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 Houston, TX
$5,777 Tuition

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
$12,877 Tuition

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
$11,178 Tuition

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
$7,774 Tuition

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 Overland Park, KS
$13,300 Tuition

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
$9,257 Tuition

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.

11 Saint Joseph's College of Maine Standish, ME
$8,982 Tuition

Founded in 1912 and chartered in 1915, SJC adheres to the pedagogical approach developed by the Sisters of Mercy, an Irish religious collective that seeks to bring advanced educational opportunities to underserved and socioeconomically disadvantaged learners. Regionally accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education, SJC embraces a pedagogical approach that values classroom and community-based learning.

The college's lineup of online master's programs offers learning opportunities in career-oriented subject areas including business, education, healthcare administration, and nursing. Students interested in religious studies benefit from access to one of the most complete collections of online divinity and theology programs in the New England region. Guided by Catholic values, SJC also provides generous financial aid packages to students in need of funding assistance.

12 Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico-Miami Miami, FL
$7,935 Tuition

Students interested in advanced online business or engineering education can choose from multiple professionally oriented master's degree paths at Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico-Miami, a private, nonprofit institution based in Florida. The university's Graduate Management School offers 100% online master's degrees in business administration and engineering management, with both programs supporting a long list of concentrations designed to build proficiencies in targeted areas of professional practice.

The master of business administration path offers 10 different specializations, and students in the master of engineering management program can choose from four focused areas: construction, environmental management, manufacturing, and project management. Established in 1966, the university holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education , and the online MBA program holds a programmatic credential from the International Accreditation Council for Business Education.

13 Concordia University-Saint Paul Saint Paul, MN
$8,550 Tuition

CSP's Saint Paul, Minnesota, campus grounds its pedagogical approach in student-centered curricula designed to develop career-oriented skills. Embracing a Christian worldview in its liberal arts programs, CSP delivers rigorous academic programs while maintaining some of the most affordable tuition rates of any private university in Minnesota.

For the 2019-2020 academic year, CSP features a varied, dynamic lineup of 100% online master's programs in 20 distinct subject areas. In addition to a strong focus on education degrees, CSP also supports the advanced study of criminal justice, human resources, human services, creative writing, sports management, communications, information technology, and exercise science. Business-oriented degree-seekers can also pursue an MBA specifically designed for working professionals, which runs on compact seven-week terms.

Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission since 1959, CSP also holds multiple programmatic endorsements that recognize its education, family therapy, human resources, physical therapy, and nursing programs.

14 Virginia University of Lynchburg Lynchburg, VA
$7,200 Tuition

At Virginia University of Lynchburg, online master's students can pursue degrees in multiple career-oriented academic fields including business administration, educational leadership, nonprofit leadership, and public health. This regionally accredited institution, which holds an endorsement from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, also features an acclaimed master of health benefit design, which leads to dynamic and rewarding careers in institutional finance, administration, and management in the healthcare field.

The school's flexible and supportive online learning environment facilitates accelerated degree-completion timelines, with some programs leading to master's degrees in less than one calendar year. Nationally ranked and recognized, Virginia University of Lynchburg features a small, close-knit learning community that maintains formal associations with the Disciples of Christ branch of the Christian faith. A private, nonprofit institution, the school ranks among America's leading historically black colleges and universities and welcomes learners of all backgrounds and faiths.

15 Morningside College Sioux City, IA
$4,770 Tuition

Morningside College specializes in liberal arts and career-focused training. Online learners at this private, nonprofit institution advance their academic qualifications through two professional programs leading to master's degrees. First, aspiring educators can obtain a master of arts in teaching with concentrations in professional education and special education. Working and emerging nurses have three master of science in nursing programs to choose from: clinical nurse leadership, family care nursing, and adult gerontology nursing.

Priced for affordability, Morningside College's online programs can usually be completed without setting foot in a traditional classroom, though some have hybrid structures that require an occasional campus presence. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, Morningside College also holds endorsements and programmatic accreditations from the Iowa Department of Education, the Iowa Department of Nursing, and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Graduates of the school's online training programs for regulated professions meet the academic requirements for licensure in Iowa and beyond.

16 Maryville University Saint Louis, MO
$15,646 Tuition

Nationally recognized for the quality of its academic programs, Maryville University ranks among the oldest private higher education institutions in the Midwest. Established in 1872, Maryville University posts impressive statistics related to student satisfaction and career success: average class sizes top out at just 15 students, and the institution reports a career placement rate of 97%.

Students seeking online master's degrees have 17 options as of the 2019-2020 school year, including graduate programs in business, computer and data science, and nursing. Degree-seekers enjoy many advantages at Maryville University: its generous transfer policies reward applicable educational, professional, and life experiences with advanced standing, and the school has a long history of innovation. An early adopter of distance education, Maryville University has successfully integrated e-learning at an institutional level, providing learners with a seamless and enriched educational experience.

17 Trine Online Fort Wayne, IN
$9,900 Tuition

Trine Online offers 100% online master's programs in four subject categories: business administration, healthcare leadership, engineering and technology, and criminal justice. Graduate students proceed toward degree completion in compact eight-week terms designed to make it easy to manage course loads while honoring outside personal and professional commitments. Self-pacing options enable degree-seekers to accelerate or decelerate their learning as needed from term to term.

Trine Online backs its track record of 130-plus years with regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The school also supports a novel initiative known as Trine Innovation 1 that connects the institution with industries, businesses, and community programs. Trine Innovation 1 provides students with valuable experiential, project-based, and practical learning programs, creating a proven school-to-employment pipeline that opens up a wealth of career opportunities. Learners enjoy full access to Trine's Career Services division, which offers an additional gateway to networking opportunities, career training programs, and jobs.

18 Marian University Fond Du Lac, WI
$5,130 Tuition

Established in 1936, Marian University supports one of the most flexible and innovative online program structures of any e-learning institution in the Midwest. Learners can proceed in extended 15-week semesters that mirror traditional on-campus classes or opt for compact seven-week terms that accelerate graduation timelines. Certain programs offer other customization options, giving learners advanced control over their study schedules.

The institution administers its online programs through its proprietary MPath platform, which includes customized degree-completion schedules for each student. The institution's collection of online master's degrees includes study opportunities in teacher education, management and organizational psychology, public safety, and nursing. It also features a rare master of science in thanatology, an ideal credential for aspiring bereavement and grief counselors.

Marian University remains true to its Catholic roots, adapting its religious values to secular, career-oriented education. Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, the school's education degrees hold programmatic endorsements from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

19 Clarks Summit University Clarks Summit, PA
$7,800 Tuition

Online graduate students at CSU can choose from four accredited and acclaimed program options, including a general master of arts and advanced degrees in literature, education, and counseling. Structured to meet the needs of busy learners, CSU's online master's programs deliver classes across five annual eight-week terms. Motivated full-time learners can complete their degrees in less than two calendar years, and all learning follows 100% online, asynchronous models that empower students to customize their studies.

Degree-seekers interested in religious scholarship have additional study paths available through the school's nationally renowned Baptist Bible Seminary. The seminary provides master's programs in general theology, ministry, and divinity.

This Pennsylvania-based institution embraces a faith-centered learning model with full regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. An independent, private, nonprofit school affiliated with the Baptist church, CSU features affordable tuition rates that cap fees for exclusively online students at the school's lowest levels.

20 Chicago State University Chicago, IL
$8,595 Tuition

CSU ranks among the top public universities for online graduate education. Delivering classes through the Moodle learning management system, CSU orients its diverse lineup of online master's degrees toward working professionals seeking to upgrade their academic credentials on their own schedules. Five academic colleges develop and administer programs under the guidance of the institution's graduate school, creating degree paths in arts and sciences, business, education, health sciences, and pharmacy studies.

Founded in 1867, CSU began its institutional life as a teacher training school and transitioned into a full-service undergraduate and graduate university when it became a public college during the 1960s. Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, CSU continues to rank among the leading teachers' colleges in the Midwest. Its lineup of online courses covers dozens of traditional and innovative areas of academic and professional study, and generous pricing policies lock students in at low tuition rates for the duration of their online attendance.

21 Los Angeles Pacific University San Dimas, CA
$10,800 Tuition

Branding its e-learning graduate programs with the tagline "academic excellence with real-world relevance," LAPU offers online master's degrees in five subject areas with strong long-term employment profiles. Distance learners can earn advanced credentials in business administration, organizational leadership, psychology, public administration, and public health. With rigorous academics guided by the institution's status as a Christ-centered community, LAPU functions exclusively in the e-learning space. With no physical campus to maintain, the school offers the lowest online tuition rates of any Christian institution in California.

Affiliated with the Azusa Pacific University system, LAPU has a historical legacy dating to 1899. Regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission, LAPU offers 10% tuition discounts to military students and displays an institution-wide commitment to removing socioeconomic and financial barriers to higher education.

22 Arizona State University-Online Scottsdale, AZ
$6,462 Tuition

Online graduate students at ASU benefit from the school's name recognition and high profile as one of the largest and best-funded university systems in the United States. Learners at ASU Online enjoy outstanding depth of choice, as the school features more than 80 online graduate degree and certificate programs as of the 2019-2020 academic year. Options include a comprehensive set of traditional academic disciplines as well as highly specialized and innovative programs in emerging and evolving fields. Incoming learners also benefit from multiple start dates throughout the year.

At ASU Online, courses feature the same world-renowned faculty as traditional campus classes. ASU hosts more than 200 officially designated prestigious faculty members who hold honors and recognition from various National Academies branches. More than 40 of the school's academic programs have top-25 national rankings, and authoritative academic review publications agree that ASU counts among the nation's most innovative schools.

23 Lincoln Christian University Lincoln, IL
$7,920 Tuition

Illinois-based Lincoln Christian University embraces a spiritual worldview in its unique institutional philosophy, designing relevant and rigorous academic programs that reflect the school's proud tradition as a Christian college. Established as a Bible studies institute in 1944, Lincoln Christian University has evolved into a full-service degree-granting school with a private, nonprofit structure. Class sizes average 14 students, with the school's signature intimate, interactive learning environment translating perfectly to the virtual classroom.

Lincoln Christian University's small but elite collection of online master's programs include master of arts degrees in two subject areas: Bible and theology, and organizational leadership. The secular organizational leadership program imbues every course with a Christian perspective as it aims to create capable, ethical professionals with inspirational qualities. With nationally recognized membership in the Higher Learning Commission, Lincoln Christian University also holds programmatic endorsements from multiple biblical and theological accrediting agencies.

24 Kettering University Flint, MI
$12,460 Tuition

Flint, Michigan-based Kettering University specializes in advanced training for engineering and technical professionals seeking to broaden their career prospects with degree upgrades. The renowned school's online master's programs include master of business administration degrees specifically intended for working engineers seeking expanded roles on the enterprise side of their industries.

Degree-seekers can also earn master of science designations in engineering management, lean manufacturing, operations management, and supply chain management. Another unique option focuses on electrical and computer engineering, which concentrates on advanced mobility systems for autonomous vehicles. Kettering states that the program is the first of its kind anywhere in the world.

Online learners at Kettering can also combine multiple programs to earn dual designations. All classes feature 100% internet-based asynchronous structures, and the school provides extensive academic planning and degree-completion support to all incoming students.

25 University of Saint Joseph West Hartford, CT
$14,532 Tuition

The online master's programs at the University of Saint Joseph focus on human and health sciences through degree concentrations in biochemistry, biology, chemistry, nutrition, and public health. Qualified students can also complement their existing academic credentials by earning graduate certificates in numerous related fields, including health coaching and informatics, genomics, environmental science, and emerging diseases. This strong focus on sciences supports career paths in research, professional practice, and policymaking.

Regionally accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education, the University of Saint Joseph strives to provide the most flexible educational environment possible through its online learning policies. Degree-seekers do not need to enroll in courses every semester if outside commitments impede their ability to study, and learners can take temporary sabbaticals without endangering their program standing. All classes feature asynchronous structures, and all programs enable new students to commence learning at the beginning of any semester rather than waiting for set start dates.

26 Fitchburg State University Fitchburg, MA
$3,828 Tuition

Massachusetts-based Fitchburg State University began its history in 1894 as a training academy for aspiring female teachers. That legacy remains visible today in the school's collection of online master's programs, which include acclaimed, nationally renowned programs in educational leadership and curriculum development. Fitchburg State also offers MBA degrees in five specializations along with online graduate programs in forensic nursing, history, and an innovative applied social media communications degree.

Fitchburg State University favors a flexible online learning model built around asynchronous delivery through the Blackboard learning management system. Learners benefit from strong support systems that include excellent troubleshooting and tech support as well as complete academic success resources for distance learners. Programmatic endorsements from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the International Accreditation Council for Business Education augment regional institutional accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education.

27 Concordia University-Wisconsin Mequon, WI
$10,848 Tuition

Concordia University-Wisconsin distinguishes itself through a comprehensive lineup of career-focused online master's degrees in high-growth, in-demand fields. Learners benefit from strong support and community resources from the moment of enrollment. With regional accreditation recognized by the Higher Learning Commission, Concordia University-Wisconsin also holds 12 programmatic accreditations from high-profile agencies in fields including education, nursing, occupational therapy, and business administration.

The school's collection of online master's degrees includes a strong breadth of education and MBA programs. Most education degrees feature master of science designations, reflecting their evidence-based orientation toward emerging research. MBA students can choose from 18 concentrations, including innovative specializations like sports and entertainment, public relations, and nonprofit leadership. Graduate learners can also earn advanced degrees in niche areas including child development, occupational therapy, food and beverage product development, and information technology. Tuition fees vary by program but remain advantageous for a private university.

28 William Woods University Fulton, MO
$6,400 Tuition

A private, nonprofit university, WWU features online graduate programs in business and education with the two fields combining to represent nine available master's degree paths as of the 2019-2020 school year. Graduate business students can earn a coveted MBA degree entirely online or obtain their master of health administration for impactful careers in healthcare institution management. Aspiring teachers have numerous intriguing specialization options for their master of education degrees, including novel focuses like equestrian education and STEM instruction.

A nationally ranked institution, WWU features a flexible online course structure that delivers classes in compact eight-week terms. Specifically designed to promote peer and faculty interaction, networking, and collaborative learning, classes also support accelerated course completion timelines. As an added benefit, WWU maintains a policy of maintaining affordable tuition rates. Costs will never go up for students who remain continuously enrolled for the duration of their program.

29 Union University Jackson, TN
$8,220 Tuition

Tennessee's Union University formed when three antebellum-era schools merged to become regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1948. This chartered private university maintains an affiliation with the Tennessee Baptist Convention, weaving its Christ-focused community orientation into a strong secular and religious education program. The school delivers its online classes with flexibility and ease of access designed to meet the needs of working professionals.

Online master's students at Union University study in four subject areas: business, education, nursing, and theology. Every program prioritizes rigorous academics and cutting-edge research informed by Christian ethics and values. The school represents a strong option for students seeking a Christ-centered yet practical education from a credentialed and recognized institution. Tuition rates are affordable, and online students qualify for the school's generous financial aid packages.

30 Amridge University Montgomery, AL
$13,000 Tuition

Amridge University specializes in instructional innovation. This private, nonprofit Alabama-based institution embraced online learning in 1993, well before the phenomenon reached the educational mainstream. Forging a healthy head start through the early adoption of distance-learning technologies, Amridge University enjoys a widely recognized position of regional leadership. During the 1990s, the U.S. Department of Education selected Amridge as one of 15 universities to participate in a groundbreaking distance education pilot project. The prestigious distinction reflects the school's primary focus on nontraditional, technology-driven class formats.

Online master's students can choose from 14 programs. Amridge's lineup of online master's degrees places strong emphasis on divinity and theology, giving religious scholars ample opportunity to specialize in focused faith-based learning areas. Secular programs include graduate degrees in business administration, leadership and management, human services, and counseling. Every degree path incorporates Christian values and ethics into its structure and content.

31 Regis University Denver, CO
$13,177 Tuition

Denver's Regis University differentiates itself through a wide-ranging set of career-focused and academic online master's degrees. This private Jesuit Catholic institution traces its history to 1877 and counts as one of only 28 colleges and universities in the United States with formal Jesuit affiliations. Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, Regis University also holds nine prestigious programmatic endorsements covering degree paths in pharmacy science, STEM, counseling, health informatics, physical therapy, nursing, family and marriage therapy, chemistry, and project management.

Many of these subjects are represented in the school's diversified lineup of 100% online master's programs. Regis University places particular emphasis on business, healthcare, teaching, and nursing education, supplementing these focuses with degree paths in computer science, human resource management, project management, and organizational leadership. More than 10% of the student body of this military-friendly school comprises veterans, active-duty service members, and reserves.

32 University of Illinois at Springfield Springfield, IL
$11,899 Tuition

The University of Illinois at Springfield features a generous tuition policy that charges all online students e-tuition rates, which sit far below standard fees for traditional in-class attendance. All online learners enjoy full eligibility, regardless of their location or residency. Upon acceptance into an online master's program, UIS students convene with dedicated program coordinators who prepare and assist them with their online educational journeys. These policies make UIS an affordable, supportive learning environment for nontraditional students, especially those with jobs and families.

Through the University of Illinois system, online degree-seekers have 54 master's degree paths available as of the 2019-2020 school year. The system's Springfield campus administers 13 of these programs, with subject options including popular and career-oriented subjects in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences. The University of Illinois at Springfield also embraces environmental science, mathematics, and computer science education, opening a wealth of options for students seeking affordable online graduate education from a widely recognized, nationally ranked university.

33 Northwestern College Orange City, IA
$6,050 Tuition

Northwestern College maintains an exclusive focus on education degrees and endorsements in its collection of online master's programs. All degree paths lead to master of education designations, with available concentrations including early childhood education, special education, teacher leadership, and master teacher specializations. Learners can supplement their degrees or upgrade their existing credentials through educational endorsements and certifications in nine additional areas.

Northwestern College marks an appealing option for budget-conscious learners seeking advanced education degrees. The school maintains affordable tuition rates that compare favorably with the nation's most financially accessible public schools. A private, nonprofit institution, Northwestern College maintains ties to the Reformed Church in America and holds membership in the exclusive Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. Selective and well-known for its lofty academic standards, Northwestern College's student body has an impressive average high school GPA of 3.56.

34 University of Sioux Falls Sioux Falls, SD
$6,930 Tuition

Guiding its academic program development with the Christian principles of faith and fellowship, the University of Sioux Falls offers online master's degrees in business and education. The school's renowned MBA programs offer specializations in management and healthcare, while master of education students can specialize in innovative emerging areas of professional practice such as technology, customized learning, reading, and higher education administration. Established teachers and education professionals can enhance their existing credentials with multiple 100% online professional development, continuing education, and specialized certification programs.

Tracing its Baptist heritage to its 1872 founding, the University of Sioux Falls boasts impressive statistics in several key metrics. Within six months of graduation, 99% of graduates hold jobs or placements in advanced programs. The institution also features school-wide average class sizes of 16 learners with many online courses hosting even smaller and more intimate learning groups. This fosters student success through personalized attention and instructor interaction, made even more valuable by the school's impressively low tuition rates.

35 Saint Mary's University of Minnesota Winona, MN
$9,000 Tuition

Saint Mary's University of Minnesota embraces the time-honored Lasallian education model championed by the Catholic saint John Baptist de La Salle. Catholic Lasallian pedagogy fuses academic advancement and a strong appreciation of artistic and cultural heritage with a compassionate, inclusive worldview that reflects Christian ethics. Through this model, the school strives to develop influential, responsible leaders -- an objective supported by the university's extended list of online master's programs.

The institution applies its Catholic Lasallian perspective to practical, career-oriented programs. Online learners engage with 100% distance-based graduate degrees in business, computer science and technology, education, human resources and organizational leadership, healthcare administration, public administration, and social work.

Degree-seekers benefit from high levels of engagement with accomplished, credentialed faculty members who have buoyed the school to nationally ranked positions for value and student satisfaction. Recognized as one of the region's top private schools in 2019 by the Princeton Review, Saint Mary's University of Minnesota maintains excellent standing with the Higher Learning Commission and 15 distinguished programmatic accreditors.

36 Trevecca Nazarene University Nashville, TN
$10,004 Tuition

Trevecca Nazarene University, located in Nashville, Tennessee, offers fully online master's programs. Founded in 1901, Trevecca designs affordable online programs for busy adults balancing school with work or personal commitments. The private Christian university uses a cohort model, meaning students complete program requirements in small groups.

Trevecca offers an online MBA program with specialty tracks in data analytics, healthcare administration, project management, leadership, and human resources. Trevecca also delivers online graduate programs in educational leadership, healthcare administration, library and information science, and instructional design. In addition, the university offers online master's degrees in religion and in worship and leadership.

Online graduate students at Trevecca complete classes asynchronously. According to the University, 98% of students receive some form of financial aid.

37 Wilson College Chambersburg, PA
$9,000 Tuition

Located on a 300-acre campus in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, Wilson College was founded in 1869. A private liberal arts institution, Wilson offers several online master's degree options for students who prefer a flexible learning environment. Online learners benefit from affordable tuition rates and career development programs that help prepare master's students for the job market.

Wilson offers online graduate programs in education and nursing, including master's degrees in educational technology, mass customized learning, and special education. Learners can also pursue affordable online programs in healthcare, such as the master of science in nursing, which offers tracks in nursing education and nursing leadership and management. Wilson also delivers an online RN-to-MSN program.

The school's financial aid staff help students create a plan for funding their master's degree. Because of financial aid options, the private university provides better value than many public institutions. More than 95% of Wilson students receive some type of financial aid.

38 Catholic Distance University Charles Town, WV
$8,220 Tuition

Founded in 1933 as a private Catholic institution, Rivier University became a co-ed institution in 1991. Based in Nashua, New Hampshire, Riv confers on-campus and online master's degrees. Riv's online programs offer scheduling flexibility, while emphasizing active learning and individualized attention.

The online MBA program offers concentrations in healthcare administration, management, information technology management, and marketing. The university's MBA programs use open educational resources, which save students over a thousand dollars in textbook costs. Riv also offers online master's degrees in public health, computer information systems, and nursing, with several online nurse practitioner tracks.

Riv provides personal advising to all online students. The university admits students on a rolling basis, and terms start every seven weeks. Prospective master's students submit an online application, transcripts, a statement of purpose, and letters of recommendation.

39 Rivier University Nashua, NH
$10,925 Tuition

A private liberal arts college in Westminster, Maryland, McDaniel College dates back to 1867. McDaniel enrolls 1,400 graduate students and offers flexible online master's programs. Many of McDaniel's affordable online master's programs use a hybrid format, which blends on-campus and online coursework.

McDaniel offers hybrid and online graduate programs in fields of data analytics, elementary education, educational leadership, and school librarianship. Online students can also earn a master of liberal arts, which features an interdisciplinary curriculum that encourages intellectual growth.

More than 90% of McDaniel students receive some form of financial assistance. The school's financial aid office helps students access need-based grants, merit scholarships, and loans. Prospective students work with a graduate admissions counselor during the admission and enrollment process.

40 McDaniel College Westminster, MD
$9,150 Tuition

Founded in 1869 in Henderson, Tennessee, Freed-Hardeman University offers affordable online master's programs. The private Christian institution delivers distance programs, including master's degrees in ministry and divinity. The university's financial services office helps graduate students understand funding options and access financial support.

FHU offers several Christian-focused online master's programs, including master's degrees in ministry, New Testament, and Old Testament. FHU also delivers its master of divinity and master of arts in pastoral care and counseling programs online. Additionally, FHU offers online master's programs in business administration and education.

Prospective FHU graduate students should hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution. FHU evaluates each applicant's academic performance, achievements, and personal conduct. The university caps each student's institutional aid at $15,000 per year, including scholarships and discounts.

41 Freed-Hardeman University Henderson, TN
$10,620 Tuition

Nova Southeastern University is a private institution based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. NSU offers online master's degrees in a variety of fields. Graduate students develop academic and professional expertise. Distance programs include hands-on learning and research opportunities to help students prepare to succeed in the workforce.

NSU offers online master's programs in accounting, biological sciences, biomedical informatics, and computer science. NSU's MBA program is one of the largest in the state. Online learners can also pursue master's degrees in college student affairs, clinical vision research, public health, and nutrition. Healthcare-related programs include nursing, medical education, and health sciences.

Online learners at NSU participate in internships, clinical experiences, and research projects. Flexible enrollment options help graduate students balance coursework with family and career responsibilities.

42 Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL
$20,620 Tuition

Salve Regina University is a Catholic institution based on an 80-acre campus in Newport, Rhode Island. Today, Salve enrolls more than 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students. The university offers a variety of convenient online programs, including graduate options.

Salve delivers online master's programs that prioritize accessibility and collaboration. Master's students can tailor their program's curriculum to align with their educational, personal, and professional goals. The university offers fully online master's programs in fields that include administration of justice, homeland security, and international relations. Online learners can also pursue an MBA and a master's in healthcare administration and management.

Salve delivers online classes during seven-week terms, and online coursework encourages student interaction. Distance learners complete assignments asynchronously and do not need to log in at set times.

43 Salve Regina University Newport, RI
$10,650 Tuition

Founded in 1894 as a private Lutheran institution, Concordia educates students on its Seward campus. The university also offers online master's programs ideal for students who need flexible scheduling options.

Concordia offers online master's degrees in healthcare administration, literacy, public health, and school counseling. Learners can also pursue an online MBA, along with master's programs in early childhood education, curriculum and instruction, and educational administration.

Concordia operates on eight-week terms, allowing students to progress through their coursework quickly. Learners who choose accelerated options can earn their master's degree in as little as one year. Concordia does not require master's-level applicants to submit GRE or GMAT scores.

Many of Concordia's graduate students fund their education through tuition reimbursement programs, grants, scholarships, and loans. Concordia's financial aid specialists help each student create a plan to pay for their degree.

44 Concordia University-Nebraska Seward, NE
$9,250 Tuition

Founded in 1889, Saint Leo is a private Catholic institution in Florida. Along with on-campus programs, the university offers online master's degrees that help students gain field-specific knowledge and advance professionally. Many online students work full time while earning their degree.

Saint Leo students can pursue online master's degrees in fields of business, education, criminal justice, and social work. Saint Leo offers an online master's in theology, and online MBA students can qualify for an academic achievement scholarship. The MBA program offers concentration areas in accounting, data analytics, cybersecurity management, and healthcare management.

Saint Leo also offers master's programs in education, including degrees in educational leadership, instructional leadership, and exceptional student education. Learners pursuing their master of social work online can choose from advanced standing, two-year, and three-year routes.

45 Saint Leo University Saint Leo, FL
$8,498 Tuition

A public institution with more than 14,000 students, Arkansas State University educates learners on its Jonesboro campus and online. A-State offers online master's degrees in subjects of education, business, and engineering. About 90% of all students receive some form of financial assistance.

In the education field, A-State offers online master's degrees in early childhood education, educational leadership, and teaching. Online learners can also earn a master's in school counseling or early childhood services. A-State offers an online MBA program, along with master's degrees in engineering management and public administration. Distance learners can also pursue a master's in college student personnel services.

Master's students at A-State often receive financial assistance through scholarships, grants, loans, and tuition waivers. The university's counselors and staff help graduate students access financial assistance and determine how to pay for an online degree.

46 Arkansas State University Jonesboro, AR
$7,209 Tuition

Gardner-Webb University is a private Christian institution founded in 1905. Based in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, Gardner-Webb offers on-campus and online master's degrees. The university's online graduate programs largely enroll full-time professionals seeking career advancement. Gardner-Webb's master's programs emphasize research, professional practice, and continual learning.

Gardner-Webb delivers online master's degrees in nursing with focus areas in nursing administration and nursing education. Online learners can also pursue an MBA and a master of accountancy. Additional online programs include master's degrees in K-12 curriculum and instruction, sport education, and executive leadership studies.

Graduate students often benefit from the institution's inclusive financial aid policies. The university works to enroll students from a variety of backgrounds by making graduate studies affordable.

47 Gardner-Webb University Boiling Springs, NC
$9,050 Tuition

A public institution established in 1973, UHV offers more than 80 academic programs, including online master's programs ideal for students who need flexible scheduling options. The most popular degree programs at UVH include master's programs in computer information systems, entrepreneurship, and adult and higher education.

Master's students at UHV can pursue online education degrees in principalship and superintendency. The university also offers an online creative writing MFA program and a criminal justice master's degree. Master's-level business students can pursue degrees in finance, healthcare administration, human resources management, and international business. Learners in the online interdisciplinary studies master's program can customize their degree by choosing two or more concentration areas.

UHV prioritizes personalized attention and small class sizes. UHV is one of the most affordable public universities in the state, and students can work with the financial aid office to locate scholarships, grants, and loans.

48 The King's University Southlake, TX
$9,360 Tuition

The state's oldest institution of higher learning, Mississippi College dates back to 1826. MC grants undergraduate and graduate degrees from its Clinton campus and through online programs. A private Christian institution, MC enrolls more than 5,000 students and prioritizes affordability.

MC delivers online master's degrees in teaching, communication, educational leadership, and homeland security. The online MBA program offers an accelerated track, in which students complete ten courses during eight-week terms. MBA students can choose a concentration area, such as finance or accounting.

Graduate applicants must submit official transcripts and standardized test scores. Individual graduate programs may set additional admission requirements. In addition to tuition, online learners pay a per-course online fee. MC offers institutional scholarships to help learners fund their education.

49 University of Houston-Victoria Victoria, TX
$9,889 Tuition

A private institution located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, William Carey University was founded in 1892. Graduate students can pursue online master's degrees in flexible learning formats designed for busy students. The Christian institution offers online master's programs in fields of business, education, criminal justice, and music.

Online students at William Carey University can pursue master of education degrees in elementary education, secondary education, special education, and teaching and learning globally. The university also offers an online MBA, a master's in nursing, and a joint MSN/MBA program. The university confers several unique degrees, including a master of music in church music and a master of music education program.

Through William Carey University's online programs, students can earn their master's degree without visiting campus. Online courses follow the university's trimester schedule and incorporate readings, research, and active participation.

50 Mississippi College Clinton, MS
$11,630 Tuition

A private Catholic institution founded in 1954, Holy Family University enrolls nearly 1,000 graduate students on its campus in Philadelphia. HFU also offers two online master's degrees in business. Each fully online MBA program comprises eight-week courses, allowing students to earn a master of business administration in as little as 12 months.

HFU offers an online MBA program for professionals with supervisory experience and an option for individuals who are entering the field. Applicants to the MBA program for new professionals should have fewer than three years of management experience. Online business students choose a concentration, such as administration, finance, or human resource management.

MBA students take core business courses in accounting, operations, economics, and marketing. The curriculum also includes electives, allowing graduate students to customize the degree according to their personal or professional interests. HFU does not require prospective online MBA students to submit GMAT scores.

Why Should I Earn a Master's Degree Online?

Median Weekly Earnings by Education

Associate Degree Bachelor's Degree Master's Degree
$836 $1,173 $1,401

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Below are some common reasons for students to pursue an online master's degree. Distance learning often provides additional benefits, such as more affordable tuition rates. Many schools charge all online learners the same tuition rates, regardless of residency.


Online master's programs tend to be more accessible than on-campus options. Online learning reduces barriers associated with geographic location. Distance learning programs allow degree-seekers to study from anywhere, and many programs require no campus visits. Learners can advance their education through their ideal program without considering long commutes or an increased cost of living.


Most online master's programs offer high levels of convenience and scheduling flexibility. Designed with motivated and disciplined individuals in mind, online master's programs generally encourage self-paced study. Distance learning is ideal for busy learners and working professionals who need to balance education with other obligations. Degree-seekers can take courses that fit into their schedule and can typically access class materials and complete assignments at their convenience.


Online master's degree programs often attract learners from diverse backgrounds. Many programs include students of various ages, nationalities, and vocational aspirations. Studying in this type of environment can help learners develop their social and interpersonal skills to prepare for success in the workforce.

What Are the Most Popular Master's Degrees to Earn?

Major Description
Business Master's programs in business provide specialization options and can help professionals increase their earning potential. Master's degree-holders in the field often qualify for more advanced positions. For example, certified public accountants need a master's degree.
Education Educators often pursue a master's degree to teach specific types of learners. For example, teachers who want to work with students who have disabilities typically need a master's degree in special education. Additionally, administrative positions, such as school principal or superintendent, usually require at least a master's.
Health Professions and Related Programs The highest-paid nurses usually hold a master's degree in a specific type of medicine. Additionally, positions in healthcare administration and other business-focused aspects of the healthcare industry often require a master's degree.
Engineering Engineers can increase their earning potential and specialize their career by pursuing a master's degree. Completing a master's program is also a stepping stone to earning a doctoral degree. Engineering professionals can also specialize by obtaining certifications, many of which require candidates to hold at least a master's degree.
Computer and Information Sciences This competitive and in-demand field offers above-average salary potential. Some computer and information science professionals, such as computer and information research scientists, need a master's degree. While other positions require only a bachelor's degree, candidates with a master's are often more competitive in the job market.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

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How Long Does It Take to Earn a Master's Degree Online?

Most learners complete their online master's degree in 1-3 years. Degree completion time depends on factors including enrollment status, employment, and field of study. This section outlines the typical process of earning a master's degree online.

Application Process

Preparation for master's studies begins well before students complete the application. Many schools set GPA requirements, so undergraduate students who plan to continue their education should work diligently to maintain a good GPA. Some graduate schools also require applicants to submit scores from entrance exams, such as the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). Degree-seekers can study and take practice tests before sitting for the GRE.

Most online master's degree programs have similar application processes. Applicants must typically hold a relevant bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Students must generally submit official transcripts and 1-3 reference letters from professors and academic advisors. Many programs also require a written statement outlining the applicant's professional and educational goals. Depending on the field of study, applicants may need to submit an academic writing sample.

Year One

Because master's programs do not typically include general education requirements, learners focus on their field of study beginning in the first year of their graduate program. Master's students should have a bachelor's degree, work experience in the field, or both. Graduate-level learners also need a solid understanding of foundational concepts in their field.

Students in some master's programs choose a specialization area during their first year, although most programs do not emphasize specialization coursework until the second year.

Year Two

The second year of a master's program features high-level courses that cover specific field topics. Students usually complete a capstone project or thesis at the end of their second year. Many master's students begin their job search during the second year of their program. Learners often spend significant time networking and applying for positions.

Students can also continue to doctoral studies after earning their master's. These learners may research and apply to doctoral programs during the second year of their master's program. Master's degree-holders can also enter the workforce and gain professional experience before pursuing a doctorate.

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Are Online Master's Degrees Cheaper?

In many cases, earning an online master's degree can cost less than pursuing a degree on campus. This section compares online education to on-campus learning, exploring factors including cost and scheduling options. Each of these elements varies by school and major, so prospective students should contact their institution for details.

Housing Costs

Online master's programs do not typically require learners to relocate to campus, which allows distance students to save on housing costs. Off-campus housing options are often more affordable than on-campus dorms. Additionally, students can choose to live with their family or in an area with a lower cost of living.

School Fees

The cost of fees varies widely by institution. Many schools charge technology fees, administrative and wellness fees, and library fees. These fees may be assessed for each course or once per semester. Although distance learners may not be required to pay fees associated with campus services, many schools charge fees specific to online students.

Travel Costs

Online master's programs tend to have few travel costs. Often, all course instruction takes place online, eliminating the need to commute to campus. However, some programs require degree-seekers to attend orientation meetings or intensive sessions in person.

Tuition Differences

Tuition rates often depend on the learner's state residency status. In-state tuition rates are generally much lower than rates for out-of-state students. Some schools charge all online learners the same flat tuition rate, regardless of residency, so students should contact their prospective institution for tuition details.

Computer and Internet Costs

Learners pursuing a master's degree online must often upgrade their computer and internet to comply with technical requirements of the learning management system. These costs vary based on the learner's school, residential location, and personal preference.

Flexibility to Work Full Time

The ability to maintain full-time employment while studying is a distinct advantage of earning an online master's degree. Online programs typically offer flexible scheduling options, allowing degree-seekers to work and develop their professional status while completing the program at a reasonable pace.

Can You Get Financial Aid for Online Master's Programs?

Students pursuing an online master's degree can apply for the same financial aid opportunities as on-campus learners. Students can begin by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to determine their eligibility for federal aid.

Learners can also apply for scholarships, grants, and loans from businesses and professional organizations. A student's funding options depend on their school, program, and demonstrated need. Learners can also consider work-study programs and fellowships, and they can take out loans to cover remaining costs. The sections below explore a few funding options for students pursuing a master's degree online.

Types of Financial Aid Available for Online Students


Many businesses, nonprofit organizations, and professional associations offer scholarships for learners enrolled in online master's programs. These scholarships may be available based on organizational affiliation and area of study. Also, many schools provide departmental scholarships to qualifying master's students.


The federal government and state governments offer grants to eligible learners. Grants do not require repayment, and applicants must typically demonstrate financial need. Students can submit the FAFSA form to automatically apply for federal grants. Learners can also research grants available from private organizations and their institution.


Through work-study placements, learners receive income in exchange for part-time employment. Students may work on campus or off campus, and placements sometimes correlate with students' professional goals. Learners in work-study positions often perform clerical, administrative, or research tasks for the institution. Work-study opportunities vary by school, level of education, and field of study.


Federal and private loans help learners cover tuition costs and expenses. These loans accrue interest over time and require repayment. The federal government offers student loans with lower interest rates than many private options.


Many schools and professional organizations offer fellowships. These opportunities typically provide learners with a stipend, and many fellowships involve a service component. Fellows may perform lab work, conduct research, or teach classes.

Continuing Education Opportunities

After earning an online master's degree, graduates can pursue further education or professional development. Obtaining credentials beyond a master's can facilitate career advancement and increase earning potential.

Master's degree-holders can continue into a doctoral program, obtain licensure, or pursue certification. This section explores a few continuing education opportunities for graduates with an online master's degree.

Doctoral Degrees

Most doctoral programs require applicants to hold a relevant master's degree from an accredited institution. The highest level of formal education, a doctorate qualifies learners for expert-level teaching and research in their field. Learners who intend to earn a doctorate often pursue an online master's degree satisfy prerequisites and hone their skills.

Professional Licensure

Many careers that require a master's degree also require professional licensure. For example, teachers and rehabilitation counselors must hold a state license. Many licenses require candidates to hold a master's degree and to have professional experience.

Professional Certification

Professional certification demonstrates that an individual has skills beyond those gained during formal academic education. While certifications cannot replace a degree, these credentials often broaden career prospects. Professionals in fields such as engineering, telecommunications, and marketing often pursue certifications to demonstrate expertise in their specialization area.

How Can I Find the Best Online Master's Programs?

When researching schools, learners should consider their personal preferences and goals. The ideal program for one student may not be right for another. The following list ranks schools based on factors including affordability and number of available programs. Learners can use this list as a starting point when researching academic options that fit their personal and professional goals.

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