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.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Master's Degrees
Completion time varies by program, but most master's programs take 1-4 years to complete.
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.
Yes. Students typically need a bachelor's degree to apply to master's programs.
Some Ph.D. programs admit applicants directly out of undergrad. However, students should consult individual Ph.D. programs to determine specific admission requirements.
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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.
Online master's degrees confer advanced skills and knowledge, preparing candidates for more specialized career paths or further education.
Expanded Career Options
Master's graduates can typically pursue a wider selection of career paths than bachelor's graduates.
Increased Salary Potential
As they move into more advanced positions with increased responsibilities, master's graduates typically command higher salaries than bachelor's graduates.
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.
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
||Who Can Apply
Violet and Cyril Franks Scholarship
||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
||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.
Affordable Online Master's Degrees 2021
University of Washington-Seattle Campus
UW educates about 54,000 students through campus and online programs. The school offers 14 online master's degrees. Most programs run fully online. Some programs offer part-time curriculums and evening classes. Students can earn a master's in 1-6 years, depending on the program.
UW offers online engineering programs in areas such as aerospace and mechanical engineering. UW's MS in civil engineering program offers concentrations in construction engineering and energy infrastructure. A master of pharmaceutical engineering provides advanced training in device design. Enrollees also study clinical drug development and new drug applications.
Learners can enroll part time in the master of sustainability transportation program. Other online master's degrees include library and information science and clinical informatics. Online students pay the same tuition regardless of residency. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA.
UF offers dozens of online master's degrees. Most programs run asynchronously. Degree-seekers can pursue traditional master's degrees online, including business and education. The school also offers unique majors such as gerontology and sustainable design.
Enrollees can customize some master's programs with concentrations. The MS in pharmaceutical sciences offers 13 concentrations. Options include precision medicine and managed care pharmacy systems. The MA in mass communication offers eight concentrations. Options include social media and digital strategy. Educators seeking to advance their careers can earn a master in reading education or music education.
UF also offers online master's programs in sports management and veterinary forensic science. Some programs accept transfer credits from regionally accredited colleges. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA.
University of South Florida-Main Campus
Tampa-based USF enrolls about 11,000 graduate students. Learners can pursue several master's degrees online, including many in the education field. Options include gifted education and physical education.
Students interested in healthcare careers can pursue a master of public health with seven specializations. USF also offers an MS in health informatics and MS in medical sciences. Each offers a concentration. Degrees in behavioral and community sciences include an MA in gerontology and an MS in child and adolescent behavioral health.
USF's MS in pharmaceutical nanotechnology offers several concentrations, including biomedical engineering. Other online degrees include an MBA and MS in cybersecurity. Some online programs require on-campus internships or clinical experiences. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
UNC-Chapel Hill offers online master's degrees through several professional schools. Students complete most programs asynchronously in about two years.
Business students can choose an MBA or master of accounting. A master's in clinical laboratory science offers tracks in molecular diagnostic science and medical laboratory science. A master's in radiological science prepares students for national certification as a radiologist assistant. UNC-Chapel Hill also offers an MA in digital communication.
Online students can access research and public service opportunities. They receive one-on-one mentoring and close interactions with faculty. UNC-Chapel Hill offers several annual start dates. Students pay the same tuition regardless of residency. Each professional school sets its own admission requirements. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA. UNC-Chapel Hill offers GMAT/GRE waivers or exemptions.
The University of Texas at Dallas
UT Dallas offers online master's degrees focused on business and management. The online professional MBA (PMBA) offers 15 concentrations. The part-time PMBA offers a fully online curriculum. The PMBA FLEX allows learners to take virtual or on-campus courses. Learners can alternate as needed.
All MBA students complete 53 credits. Courses cover accounting, financial management, and strategic management. Students can customize the degree with elective courses or a concentration.
Enrollees can complete an MS in management science at their own pace. This degree combines business principles and technical coursework in areas such as cybersecurity and business analytics. UT Dallas also offers an MS in accounting and an MS in marketing.
Students can earn a master's in 18-24 months. Veterans and their dependents receive in-state tuition regardless of residency. Admission requires a strong GPA. Applicants submit GMAT or GRE scores.
Florida International University
FIU offers dozens of online master's degrees. Students can earn some degrees in less than a year. FIU offers most degrees fully online. Learners can major in areas such as business and criminal justice.
The 10-month master of accounting prepares students for the CPA exam. The program offers taxation and assurance tracks. The MS in engineering management offers several tracks, including enterprise systems. Educators can advanced their careers with master's degrees in music education and special education. Programs such as the executive MPA and Florida's first MS in internet of things offer a hybrid curriculum.
Online students pay the same tuition regardless of residency. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA. Most programs don't require GRE or GMAT scores.
University of California-Riverside
UC Riverside offers a master of engineering online for working engineers. Students can complete the degree entirely online in just 13 months. Learners can enroll part time. Enrollees study business and technical engineering competencies. They also develop advanced managerial and leadership skills.
The 36-credit degree offers seven concentrations. Options include bioengineering and data science. Learners complete four core courses, including engineering management. Students use elective credit for specialized courses in their concentration. A concentration in materials at the nanoscale explores the latest research in nanostructured materials. Students apply their knowledge to a design project.
Learners pay the same tuition regardless of residency. UC Riverside offers three start dates. Applicants need a bachelor's degree in engineering or related field. Prospective students submit GRE or Fundamentals of Engineering scores.
UGA offers several online master's programs. Students can complete most degrees entirely online. Educators can advance their careers with the M.Ed. in educational psychology. The degree offers a specialization in applied cognition and development. Learners can also specialize in gifted and creative education. The M.Ed. in workforce education enrolls educators who want to teach career and technical education at public schools and technical colleges.
MFA enrollees can choose a concentration in screenwriting or narrative nonfiction. This program runs primarily online. However, enrollees must complete eight-day residencies at the beginning of each term. UGA offers other online programs, including an MS in financial planning.
Online students pay the same tuition regardless of residency. Applicants need a minimum 2.6-3.0 GPA. Most programs make GRE or MAT scores optional.
Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus
Georgia Tech enrolls about 40,000 students. The school offers 10 fully online and three hybrid master's degrees. The programs focus on STEM fields. Enrollees can complete the online master's degrees in 2-3 years. Engineering students can pursue fully online programs. Options include an MS in aerospace engineering and an MS in electrical and computer engineering.
Georgia Tech offers several professional master's degrees. Options include applied systems engineering and manufacturing leadership. These programs include asynchronous lectures and real-time web-conferencing. Students attend three week-long residencies at Georgia Tech's Atlanta campus. IT students receive advanced training in the MS in analytics, MS in cybersecurity, and MS in computer science.
Learners can complete the MS in operations research in 12-16 months. Enrollees study operations research methodology and best practices. Students pay the same tuition regardless of residency. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
UW's graduate school offers 18 online master's degrees. Students can complete the programs in 2-4 years. Most degrees run asynchronously entirely online. Learners can choose programs such as an MS in applied biotechnology and an MS in nutrition.
UW offers several options for working engineers. The master's programs in civil and environmental engineering explore engineering solutions for environmental challenges. Enrollees develop communication, leadership, and project management skills. Engineers may also consider master's degrees in polymer engineering, manufacturing systems engineering, and power engineering.
An MS in pharmaceutical sciences focuses on psychoactive pharmaceutical investigation. Enrollees explore psychoactive drugs as therapeutics in clinical settings. The MS in educational psychology trains teachers how to apply analytics in educational settings. Some programs offer part-time enrollment for working professionals. All learners pay the same tuition regardless of residency. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Louisiana Tech University
Established in 1894, Louisiana Tech enrolls 11,000 students. Learners can pursue online master's degrees in fields such as engineering and business. The online MS in engineering and technology management builds advanced skills in risk modeling analysis. Concentration options include management of technology and engineering management.
MBA students choose a hybrid or fully online option. Learners study financial management and marketing management. They also explore how to analyze accounting when making decisions. The master's in health informatics trains enrollees on healthcare compliance and consumer health informatics. Learners complete research for projects and independent studies.
Louisiana Tech's MA in English develops technical writing skills. Enrollees can focus on studying British and American literature. All online learners pay in-state tuition regardless of residency. Applicants need a minimum 2.5-3.2 GPA. Some programs require GRE or MAT scores.
Purdue University-Main Campus
West Lafayette, IN
Purdue runs a system of campuses throughout Indiana. The university's virtual college educates working professionals and nontraditional learners. Students can choose from several online master's degrees, including business and aeronautics. Purdue also offers hybrid programs.
Business students can earn an online MBA, an MS in finance, or an MS in accounting. Nurses can enroll in a dual program to earn a master's degree in nursing and an MBA in 2.5 years. Purdue offers several online master's degrees in engineering. Options include nuclear engineering and civil engineering. The MA in teaching prepares learners for teaching careers. However, the degree doesn't lead to licensure in every state.
Other online master's degrees include the MS in information technology and MS in cybersecurity management. In-state students pay a more affordable tuition rate. Purdue offers military tuition discounts. Multiple start dates give learners flexibility. Applicants need a minimum 3.0-3.25 GPA. Some programs require GRE or GMAT scores.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Illinois offers about 60 online master's degrees. The school's business programs typically accept students with post-bachelor's work experience. The MS in management runs fully online. The program trains social workers with academic and practice experience.
Illinois' master of engineering offers majors in bioengineering and electrical and computer engineering. The MS in health informatics offers a course-only degree and a traditional research option. The research option qualifies enrollees to sit for the Registered Health Information Administrator exam. Students interested in healthcare careers can also pursue a master's in veterinary science or a master of public health.
Another online option includes a master's in foundations of e-learning in higher education. Enrollees learn how to design and implement e-learning across organizations. Some programs require campus visits. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA. Other admission requirements vary by program. Illinois requires or recommends GRE or GMAT scores for some programs.
Florida Atlantic University
Boca Raton-based FAU enrolls 30,000 students in about 170 programs. Students can pursue online master's degrees in fields such as education and business. FAU Online offers fully online and hybrid programs. Students can complete an affordable master's degree online in 15-24 months.
FAU's master's in nursing program offers two concentrations. Learners choose from advanced holistic nursing or nursing administration and financial leadership. The school's master of health administration uses a cohort model. Learners can complete the program in 15 months.
Enrollees pursuing leadership roles can earn an MBA or master of educational leadership. FAU also offers many engineering programs online, including an MS in biomedical engineering. Online learners pay the same tuition regardless of residency. Admission requirements vary. FAU waives GRE and GMAT scores for some programs.
Founded in 1851, FSU offers some online master's degrees. Coaches designed the MS in athletic coaching to give sports professionals research- and science-based expertise. Coaches learn best practices in areas such as sport psychology and physical education.
The U.S. Navy co-developed the MS in systems engineering. The course-only degree develops enrollees' technical skills and prepares them for licensure. Engineers study design considerations for systems engineering. Full-time students can earn the degree in 18 months. Part-time enrollees complete the degree at their own pace.
The master's in civil engineering runs fully online. Recent graduates and working engineers can apply. Students choose from a concentration in structural engineering or construction and infrastructure engineering. Learners can complete the degree in 3-4 semesters. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA.