Accredited Online Master's Degrees

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Pursuing a master's degree can help professionals specialize their knowledge, qualify for leadership roles, and increase their earning potential. More than 1.1 million graduate students took online courses in 2017, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, with over 850,000 graduate students attending fully online programs.

During an online master's degree, graduate students complete course requirements through an online learning format. Depending on the program, students may watch recorded or streamed lectures, participate in online discussion groups, and complete assignments from their home. The flexibility of an online learning format appeals to students balancing their studies with personal and professional obligations.

Our list ranks the top online master's degree programs to help prospective students find the best program for their needs. We only include accredited schools to ensure the academic quality of the programs on our ranking. This page also introduces common online master's degrees, earning potential for graduates, and scholarships for graduate students.

Top 10 Accredited Online Master's Degrees 2020

1. Logan University - Chesterfield, MO

2. Touro University Worldwide - Los Alamitos, CA

3. Prescott College - Prescott, AZ

4. Regent University - Virginia Beach, VA

5. Gratz College - Melrose Park, PA

6. Brandman University - Irvine, CA

7. Amberton University - Garland, TX

8. Pacific Oaks College - Pasadena, CA

9. Johnson & Wales University - Online - Providence, RI

10. Western Governors University - Salt Lake City, UT

Accredited Online Master's Degree Overview

An online master's degree provides focused, advanced training in a specific field. For example, an MBA prepares graduates for management-level roles in business, while a master's in education trains educators for leadership roles. Other popular online master's programs include degrees in information technology, healthcare, social services, and criminal justice.

Some online master's degree programs incorporate an internship or practicum to build hands-on experience, which students can often complete at an approved local site. At the conclusion of the program, graduate students often complete a capstone project, write a master's thesis, or take an exam. Typically, a master's degree takes two years of full-time study to complete. Some online programs offer accelerated or self-paced options, which can expedite graduation.

Earning a master's degree helps professionals increase their earning potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that professionals with a master's degree earn an average of $12,000 more per year than those with a bachelor's degree. In some occupations, master's degree-holders earn an even higher wage premium. For example, marketing professionals with a master's degree earn $25,000 more, on average, per year.

Why Get an Online Master's Degree?

Earning a master's degree online offers several personal and professional benefits over an on-campus program, especially for working professionals.

Flexibility: The flexibility of an online master's program allows students to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations.

Affordability: Online learners often benefit from tuition discounts and other financial savings. For example, many schools offer in-state tuition rates to all fully online students.

Convenience: The flexibility of an online master's degree lets students continue working while in school. Online students can also complete coursework from the comfort of their homes.

Accessibility: Online learning lets students attend top around the country programs without relocating. Additionally, online students can often continue working while earning their degree.

Online Resources: Online programs often support students with resources like online career services, tutoring, and academic advising.

Accreditation for an Online College

Prospective graduate students should always check a school's accreditation status before applying. Regionally accredited schools meet the highest standards for academic excellence. Accreditation benefits students in several ways. For example, only students at accredited schools qualify for federal financial aid, and many schools only accept degrees and transfer credits from accredited institutions. Additionally, many professional certifications require accredited degrees.

Colleges must undergo a rigorous review process to earn accreditation. An independent accrediting agency evaluates schools based on factors like student learning outcomes, faculty qualifications, and degree requirements. After earning accreditation, colleges must undergo periodic reviews to maintain their status.

In addition to institutional accreditation, programs within a university may hold accreditation, such as business, social work, and education programs. Prospective students can verify a school's accreditation status by visiting the Department of Education's database of accredited schools and programs.

Common Online Master's Degrees

Business Administration: MBA programs prepare students for leadership roles in business. Many MBA programs offer concentrations in high-demand business areas, like finance, human resource management, marketing, and supply chain management. In addition to MBA programs, online students interested in business can consider degrees in management, economics, finance, or organizational leadership.

Nursing: A master's in nursing leads to advanced practice roles like nurse practitioner and nurse anesthetist. Learners study topics like leadership, nursing education, and nursing research. Online nursing students also strengthen their clinical skills through practicum requirements. Some programs offer RN-to-MSN options for students without a bachelor's degree.

Education: A master's in education prepares teachers for career advancement. During a master's program, educators can strengthen their instructional skills or focus on educational administration. A master's degree meets the qualifications for administrative roles like principal and higher education administrator.

Accounting: A master's degree helps accountants meet the credit requirements for CPA credentials and move into managerial roles. Accounting learners study topics like financial analysis, auditing, and tax accounting. Students may specialize their skills by focusing on areas like forensic accounting or public accounting.

Information Technology: Information technology graduate programs train students in software development, computer science, and business analytics. Depending on the program, coursework may cover topics like artificial intelligence, network architecture, or robotics. Graduates can pursue high-level IT roles.

Online Master's Requirements

Application requirements vary by program, but most master's programs require a bachelor's degree and standardized test scores. Typically, applicants should hold a bachelor's degree in a field related to the master's major, though some programs admit students from other disciplines.

Most programs also set a minimum GPA for admission. Applicants may also need to submit letters of recommendation, a resume or CV, and a statement of purpose. Some programs also require an essay or writing sample.

In certain fields, applicants must meet professional experience or licensure requirements. For example, master's in nursing programs typically require a registered nursing license and a bachelor's in nursing. Additionally, students applying to an online MBA program may need professional business experience.

Online Master's Scholarships

The Beinecke Scholarship: This scholarship supports students earning a graduate degree in the arts, humanities, or social sciences. Applicants must demonstrate scholastic achievement and financial need. Recipients must attend an accredited graduate school full time to receive the scholarship. The scholarship grants $34,000 to selected scholars.

AAUW Career Development Grant: Offered by the American Association of University Women, this grant supports women returning to school more than five years after earning a bachelor's degree. Recipients must attend an accredited institution, with primary consideration given to women of color and women earning their first advanced degree in a nontraditional field. Recipients receive $2,000-$12,000 in funding.

Get Educated Online College Scholarship: Students attending an accredited online program qualify for this scholarship opportunity. Applicants must submit transcripts showing a minimum 3.0 GPA, a 500-word essay, and a copy of the FAFSA to demonstrate financial need. The committee selects recipients based on academic merit and financial need. Winners receive a $1,000 scholarship. $1,000 Online College Scholarships: offers six scholarships annually to students attending an accredited online school, including master's students. Applicants must be taking at least 80% of their courses online. The scholarship also requires a minimum 3.0 GPA. Awardees receive a $1,000 scholarship.

2020 Accredited Online Master's Degrees

Best Online

2-Year Colleges

Students with personal and professional obligations often pursue online master's programs. Many distance programs include asynchronous courses, which allow learners to view lectures and complete assignments at their convenience. Schools may also offer accelerated online programs that students can complete more quickly.

The following list highlights the top online master's degree programs for the 2020-2021 academic year. You can use the list to begin researching prospective institutions and to identify programs that match your educational objectives.

Rank University Title Tuition % of Online Students Expand University Description
1 Logan University $9,900 95%

Logan University opened in 1935 with an initial enrollment of seven men and women. The school went through a series of mergers, consolidations, and name changes before moving to its current location in Chesterfield, Missouri and finally adopted its current name in 2013. Logan University offers online master's programs in the following fields: nutrition and human performance, sports science and rehabilitation, and health informatics. Students can pursue any of these programs completely online. Each of the programs prepare students to take the certification exam required by the field. For example, the online master's in health informatics prepares students to sit for the Certified Professional in Health Informatics & Management Systems exam. Students can apply to transfer previous credits from another accredited institution for which they received a grade of 3.0 or higher. Online classes at Logan follow a trimester schedule, with each term lasting 15 weeks. Logan University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

2 Touro University Worldwide $9,000 100%

Touro University Worldwide is committed to its founding principle of providing for the educational needs of adult learners. It offers on-campus bachelor's degree programs and online master's and doctoral degrees in several different academic areas. TUW offers several online master's degrees that students can complete without any campus visits. All three academic schools that make up the university offer online master's degrees, several of which do not require applicants to submit the scores of a standardized graduate admission exam like the GRE or GMAT. Students can choose from online master's degrees in fields like industrial and organizational psychology, public administration, marriage and family therapy, and dispute resolution. Online students who enroll on a full-time basis usually earn their degree in one year. TUW's online master's programs feature six start dates a year. Some programs offer specialization areas that can also be completed online. For example, the online master of arts in industrial and organizational psychology offers specializations in coaching and consulting, human resource management, and occupational health psychology. Touro University Worldwide holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

3 Prescott College $20,976 100%

A small private liberal arts college founded in 1966, Prescott College enrolls fewer than 1,000 undergraduate and graduate students. It offers several flexible online master's degrees that students can pursue completely online or as hybrid programs. Prescott College offers online master's programs in fields like critical psychology and human services, environmental studies, resilient and sustainable communities, and social justice and community organizing. Some programs, such as the master of science in resilient and sustainable communities, limit the number of online enrollees to 22 students to help ensure quality class discussions and individualized attention. The college gives both on-campus and online students the opportunity to craft an individualized learning plan that incorporates their academic interests and supports their professional objectives. Many of Prescott's online master's programs comprise 36 credits and can be completed after one year of full-time enrollment. Prescott College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

4 Regent University $14,929 100%

With an initial enrollment of only 77 students, Regent University began in Chesapeake, Virginia in 1978. Today, it enrolls more than 10,400 undergraduate and graduate students and offers over 135 areas of study. Regent University offers several highly ranked online master's programs in education and business. Some of the university's online master's maintain residency status, such as the master of arts in clinical mental health counseling and the master of arts in theatre. However, the majority of Regent's online master's degrees do not require any campus visits. The Office of Career and Talent Management helps online students make the most of their educational experience at Regent. The office organizes onsite and online professional networking events, helps students locate internships and international learning opportunities, and provides academic and career counseling. Regent University holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

5 Gratz College $12,132 97%

Founded in 1895 as the first independent school for Jewish studies in North America, Gratz College now offers undergraduate and graduate programs in other academic areas including nonprofit management and general education. Committed to providing affordable education to all of its students, Gratz College offers several financial options. For example, non-resident students pursuing the online master of education program pay the same tuition as in-state on-campus or online enrollees. Additionally, the college reserves a scholarship (The Norman E. Friedman Scholarship Fund) especially for students pursuing the online master's degree in camp administration and leadership. The program comprises 36 credits and offers 8-week accelerated classes. Many online master's programs at Gratz College maintain flexible course offerings so that students can customize their learning experience and enroll in classes that support their education and career goals. Gratz College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

6 Brandman University $11,700 98%

Established by Chapman University in 1958, Brandman University's original purpose was to provide for the educational needs of U.S. military personnel assigned to the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. Brandman University has since extended its student base to include non-military enrollees, but it has retained its focus on nontraditional students. It currently supports a student population of 8,700. Brandman offers many of its master's degrees both as hybrid programs and 100% online. Students can choose to pursue an online master's degree in several fields including organizational leadership; social work; and psychology, marriage, and family counseling. Some online master's degrees also offer specialization areas. For example, the master of arts in education offers specializations in curriculum and instruction, educational administration, educational leadership, instructional technology, and in teaching and learning. Students can complete the online master's in geographic information systems and data analytics without any campus visits. Brandman University holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

7 Amberton University $6,360 48%

Since its founding in 1981 as an extension campus of Abilene Christian University, Amberton University has concentrated on providing the educational needs of adult learners. The university offers more than 12 online master's programs, many of which can be pursued without any campus visits. Students can pursue an online master's in fields like family studies, human relations and business, school counseling, and marriage and family therapy. Amberton University's online MBA program offers six specialization areas: strategic leadership, Agile project management, international business, general business, human resources, and management. Amberton University offers master's programs online that meet the licensure or certification requirements for professional practice in specific fields. For instance, the master of arts in school counseling satisfies the academic and licensure requirements for the School Counseling Certificate in the State of Texas. Amberton University holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

8 Pacific Oaks College $20,847 100%

Pacific Oaks College was established in 1958 to train teachers for the Pacific Oaks Children's School, which began in 1945. It originally only offered programs in early childhood education, but quickly expanded their academic offerings to other fields like education, human development, marriage and family therapy, and organizational leadership. Online classes at the college typically follow seven-week delivery schedules. The college offers an online master's in education with two specialization areas: elementary education and special education. The elementary education program meets the requirements set by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing for Preliminary Multiple Subject Credential. Pacific Oaks College only offers their online master's in education to California residents. Students pursuing the online master's in human development can choose from the following specializations: early childhood education and development, social change, leadership in education and human services, and ecological perspectives of lifespan development. Pacific Oaks College holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

9 Johnson & Wales University-Online $13,350 100%

Starting out as a business school in Providence, Rhode Island in 1914, Johnson & Wales University now offers more than 80 majors in several academic areas, enrolling more than 7,300 undergraduate and graduate students. U.S. News & World Report includes JWU among the top regional universities in the North (No. 80 out of 179 schools). Students can pursue an online master's degree in popular fields like business and criminal justice and also in emerging arenas such as global tourism and sustainable economic development and in international beverage management. JWU's online MBA includes 15 concentrations in areas like nonprofit management, information security/assurance, and global fashion merchandising and management. Online students can take advantage of the services offered at the Experiential Education & Career Services Office. Some of these services include resume writing assistance, interview preparation, networking opportunities, and information on internship or practicum programs. Johnson & Wales University holds accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

10 Western Governors University $7,500 73%

A group of U.S. governors founded WGU in 1997 with the goal of serving the unique academic needs of nontraditional learners across the country by providing quality online education. WGU adheres to the principle of competency-based education wherein students advance in their program by showing mastery of the coursework rather than waiting for the end of a term. WGU offers online master's programs across four colleges: the Teacher's College and the colleges of business, information technology, and health professions. The master of arts in education leads to initial teaching licensure in all 50 states in the fields of science, elementary, English, and mathematics education. WGU charges a flat-rate tuition each term, with each term lasting for six months. Students can complete as much coursework as they want within that period as long as they meet the requirements and test successfully for each class. WGU holds accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

11 Clarkson College $10,764 47%

Clarkson College began as a school of nursing in 1888, the first in the state of Nebraska. Today, the college offers an expanded academic roster and includes degrees in education and leadership, imaging informatics, health information management, and community health. U.S. News & World Report ranks the online master's nursing program at Clarkson College among the best in the country (No. 82 out of 183 schools). The school's MSN program features five specializations: nursing healthcare administration, nursing education, family nurse practitioner, adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. The nurse practitioner specialization maintains some onsite requirements for students and prepares graduates to sit for the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program National Certification Examination. Students can take advantage of the Career Services portal where they can search for jobs posted by the corporate and institutional partners of the school. Clarkson College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

12 Golden Gate University-San Francisco $18,900 47%

Since its founding in 1901, Golden Gate University has maintained an adult-focused educational stance. The university currently enrolls approximately 2,500 students and offers more than 60 academic programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Some of the online master's programs at GGU offer concentration areas to help students choose a program that fully supports their educational and professional objectives. For example, the school's online MBA program features 13 concentrations including business analytics, project management, adaptive leadership, and entrepreneurship. Students may transfer up to six credits from another accredited institution toward their online master's program at GGU. The university provides both its online and on-campus students with extensive advising services that include writing and mathematics tutoring assistance, academic research, career consulting, and personal counseling. The university maintains close professional ties with area employers to provide GGU graduates with local employment opportunities and country-wide jobs leads. Golden Gate University holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

13 Nova Southeastern University $19,131 100%

Nova Southeastern University resulted from the 1994 merger of two Florida schools -- Nova University of Advanced Technology (founded 1964) and the Southeastern College of Osteopathic Medicine (founded 1981). The university offers online master's degrees in diverse academic areas including information assurance and cybersecurity, technology and organizational leadership, sports science, and national security affairs and international relations. U.S. News & World Report ranks NSU's online master's in criminal justice among the best programs in the field. The program offers 12 concentration areas including child protection and juvenile justice, emergency preparedness leadership, conflict and crisis management, and investigative forensic technology. Students can earn the degree without any campus visits. Online students gain full access to the university's digital resources including library services and research materials, as well as other student support services -- such as tutoring, academic counseling, and career planning. Nova Southeastern University holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

14 University of the Southwest $14,376 100%

Although founded in 1962 as a four-year independent non-denominational college, the University of the Southwest can trace its beginnings to the Hobbs Baptist College, which was founded in 1958. USW currently enrolls just over 1,000 students and offers online master's degrees across three colleges -- business, arts sciences, and education. The university makes all of its graduate programs available entirely online. USW offers comprehensive online master's programs. For example, the online MBA program supports 12 concentration areas including sport management and recreation, healthcare administration, strategic management, and law enforcement and corrections. Additionally, the curriculum for the master's in clinical mental health counseling meets the educational requirements for licensure in most states. Online learners can access many of the student services available to on-campus enrollees, including career and academic advisement, personal counseling, and major-specific tutoring. The University of the Southwest is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

15 Penn State World Campus $21,268 99%

Partnering with the different departments and colleges at the Pennsylvania State University gives Penn State World Campus the unique ability to offer more than 150 certificate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs to its over 20,000 enrollees. U.S. News & World Report ranks many of Penn State's online master's programs to be among the best in their specific fields including engineering (No. 6), business administration (No. 6), information technology (No. 7), and education (No. 6). The university's online courses follow an asynchronous delivery schedule, which gives students greater flexibility and convenience. However, students must still submit their papers and assignments, take exams, and complete other course requirements within the deadlines set by the course instructor. Online students can take advantage of various student support services, including writing assistance and tutoring services, academic counseling, and career guidance. Penn State World Campus is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

16 Walsh College $14,130 41%

The Walsh College of Accountancy and Business Administration began in 1922 as Walsh Institute. It had an initial enrollment of 23 students. Today, the college supports a student population of just over 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Walsh College began offering online courses in 1998. Students can choose from seven online master's programs in business administration, finance, management, and organizational leadership. Walsh College offers two dual online master's degrees -- an MBA/MS in Management and an MBA/MS in Information Technology Leadership. Walsh College offers lifetime career services and assistance to all of their graduates. Walsh College conforms to a year-round registration schedule so that online students can start their program at the most convenient time for them. The school's online master's programs do not require GMAT scores, and courses are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to complete their program at their own pace. Walsh College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

17 University of the Cumberlands $5,670 48%

The University of the Cumberlands began in 1888 when a group of Baptist ministers founded the Williamsburg Institute for the purpose of preparing young adults for ministry. Today, the university offers programs across several academic disciplines and supports a population of nearly 12,000 undergraduate and graduate enrollees. Students can pursue an online master's degree in one of several areas, including education, nursing, information technology, and business. Just like their on-campus counterparts, online learners can access the student support services offered at The Learning Commons. Some of these services include virtual workshops on learning strategies, study groups, and online one-on-one tutoring. The online master's programs at the college do not require any campus visits and most offer classes that follow an asynchronous delivery format. Only the master of science in physician assistant studies program requires some amount of on-campus presence for completion. The University of the Cumberlands holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

18 Amridge University $11,700 97%

Amridge University started out in 1967 as the Alabama Christian School of Religion, which primarily served as a seminary for future ministers. Today, Amridge University offers degrees in general studies, business and leadership, theology, and education and human services. The university began providing students with online learning opportunities in 1993. Amridge University offers more than 35 online programs, many of which can be completed without any campus visits. Students pursuing a degree requiring internship hours for completion are responsible for locating a facility where they can fulfill the clinical requirements of their program. The university provides academic, social, and career support services to both its online and on-campus enrollees. Academic advisors guide students through the admissions process, program selection, and graduation requirements to ensure timely progress throughout their program. Amridge University holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

19 Johns Hopkins University $53,740 100%

Founded in 1876 and now a top-ranked national university, Johns Hopkins University comprises nine academic divisions and enrolls more than 24,000 undergraduate and graduate students. U.S. News & World Report ranks several of JHU's online master's degrees among the best in the country including their programs in computer information technology (No. 2), nursing (No. 3), and engineering (No. 13). JHU offers 18 online master's programs in various fields including business administration (MBA), individualized genomics and health, geospatial intelligence, and nursing (MSN). Students can pursue one of two online dual programs available at JHU: an MBA/MSN in Health Systems Management or an MBA/Master of Public Health. Students can enroll on a part-time or full-time basis except for the allied health science informatics and the history of medicine programs, which require full-time enrollment. Johns Hopkins University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

20 City University of Seattle $15,450 72%

Since its founding in 1973, the City University of Seattle has maintained its focus on providing for the educational needs of adult learners. It offers more than 60 certificate and degree programs in disciplines like health and human services, computer and information systems, project management, and education. Students can choose from 11 online master's programs available at CityU. U.S. News & World Report ranks the university's online master's in computer information technology among the best of its kind in the country. The online MBA program at CityU helps students earn a degree that supports their career objectives by offering several areas of emphasis, including global management, public accounting, change leadership, and supply chain management. CityU designed the master of education in educational leadership program specifically for educators who plan to pursue a career as principals or school administrators. The program includes a year-long internship that online students can complete within their geographic area. The City University of Seattle holds accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

21 University of West Alabama $6,678 100%

The University of West Alabama started out in 1835 as a teacher-training school for women called the Livingston Female Academy. It began accepting men after 1900, achieved university status in 1967, and finally adopted its current name in 1995. The University of West Alabama currently enrolls more than 5,200 undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees offered by six academic schools and colleges that comprise UWA. Theonline master's degrees at UWA follow eight-week delivery schedules and many offer asynchronous classes for added flexibility and convenience. Students can choose from more than 50 online degree and certification programs in the fields of business, teaching, and psychology and counseling. UWA offers comprehensive online master's programs to help students focus on a program that best supports their professional goals. For example, the online master of education maintains 13 concentration areas including learning design and technology, student affairs in higher education, school counseling, and instructional leadership. University of West Alabama holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

22 Colorado State University-Global Campus $9,000 100%

CSU Global achieved independent university status within the Colorado State University System in 2009, just two years after it was founded in 2007. The university began with an initial enrollment of 200 students and now supports more than 18,000 enrollees worldwide, offering more than 40 degree and certification programs. CSU Global offers online master's degrees in information technology management, organizational leadership, artificial intelligence and machine learning, human resources management, and nine other academic areas. U.S. News & World Report ranks the university's online master's in criminal justice among the best programs available today. Students can customize their criminal justice programs by specializing in fraud management or information technology. The university complies with a Tuition Guarantee program that freezes a student's tuition at the time of their enrollment. CSU Global students pay the same tuition from enrollment to graduation. Colorado State University Global Campus is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

23 Regis University $13,177 100%

Founded in 1877 and expanding through a series of consolidations with other colleges in succeeding years, Regis University now enrolls more than 10,000 students and offers over 180 degrees across five academic colleges. Regis University currently offers 32 online master's degrees in fields like information technology management, health services administration, data science, and project leadership and management. Many of the online programs at Regis follow eight-week delivery schedules and asynchronous classes for greater accessibility, convenience, and flexibility. Additionally, several programs support up to six start dates a year. Online students can access the services offered at The Learning Commons, including three hours of free writing and tutoring assistance each week. Regis partnered with Smarthinking to offer students an additional 10 hours of free tutorials and academic support. TLC also sponsors on-campus and online workshops throughout the year, tackling a variety of helpful topics such as time management, academic writing style guides, and effective learning strategies. Regis University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

24 Averett University $11,790 100%

Although chartered in 1859 as a college exclusively for women, Averett University is now a coeducational institution and supports nearly 1,500 undergraduate and graduate students. U.S. News & World Report ranks the university among the best regional colleges in the South (No. 15 out of 124 schools). Averett University offers online master's programs through the division of Graduate and Professional Studies. At the current time, students can select from six online master's degrees in accountancy; business administration education; applied data analytics; criminal justice; and human resource management, leadership, and marketing. The university assigns student success counselors to online enrollees to assist them during the admission process and throughout their program. Online students can access the vast digital resources of the Blount Library and receive free tutoring and writing assistance from Smarthinking. Averett University holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

25 Arizona State University-Skysong $6,264 100%

Arizona State University began as the Territorial Normal School in 1886, almost 30 years before Arizona achieved statehood. The school enrolled a total of 33 students during its initial year and held classes in a simple four-room building. Today, ASU supports a student population of nearly 52,000 and offers certificate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs across 17 schools and colleges. The university offers more than 80 programs at all levels that students can complete entirely online. U.S. News & World Report ranks several of ASU's online master's programs among the best in various fields including business administration (No. 10), engineering (No. 13), and education (No. 15). Online students receive the same student support services as on-campus enrollees, including access to the extensive digital resources of the university library, online one-on-one tutoring sessions, and career and professional development guidance. Arizona State University - Skysong is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

26 John F. Kennedy University $8,500 100%

Established in 1964 in Pleasant Hill, California, John F. Kennedy University enrolls approximately 1,400 undergraduate and graduate students. It comprises three colleges focused on business and professional studies, psychology and holistic studies, and law. The university offers online master's programs in three academic areas: business administration (MBA), sport psychology, and consciousness and transformative studies. Online students begin a program by completing an initial learning assessment to find out how much they already know before mapping out an individual degree plan with an advisor. Students can pursue the MBA as a FlexCourse program, the university's unique and innovative learning platform. The university keeps the tuition for a FlexCourse program flat throughout each year. Students can enroll in as many courses as they can complete successfully within that time period, which can lead to substantial savings and an earlier graduation date. John F. Kennedy University holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

27 University of Maryland Global Campus $8,244 80%

UMGC began in 1947 as the College of Special and Continuation Studies, which was a branch of the University of Maryland's College of Education. The college provided for the specific educational needs of adult learners and servicemembers in overseas assignments. UMGC attained independent institutional status in 1970 and continues to maintain its focus of adult education to this day. Students can choose from 18 online master's degrees in a variety of academic areas, such as health informatics administration, digital forensics and cyber investigation, accounting and information systems, and cloud computing architecture. UMGC structures graduate courses as six-credit units, which allows students to concentrate on only one class each semester and still complete a typical 36-credit master's program in six semesters or two years. Online classes follow an asynchronous delivery format and UMGC offers several starting dates each year. University of Maryland Global Campus is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

28 Florida Institute of Technology-Online $16,128 77%

Founded in 1958 as the Brevard Engineering College, Florida Institute of Technology offers over 200 programs at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. It comprises four colleges and enrolls nearly 6,300 students. Students can pursue an online master's degree in five fields: organizational leadership, business administration, information assurance and cybersecurity, information technology, and supply chain management. FIT's online MBA features 11 concentration areas including accounting, healthcare management, marketing, and project management in information technology. Online classes at FIT follow an eight-week delivery format and are available asynchronously. Trained university representatives assist students during the enrollment period and throughout their academic residence at FIT to help ensure their success. FIT also has a career management center to assist students in their job search and provide resume writing guidelines and helpful interview tips. Florida Institute of Technology is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

29 University of Illinois at Springfield $8,550 53%

Established in 1969 as Sangamon State University, the University of Illinois Springfield now ranks among the best regional institutions in the Midwest (No. 33 out of 162 schools). It enrolls just over 4,200 students and offers 30 bachelor's, 20 master's degrees, and one doctoral program. Illinois Springfield students can pursue an online master's in one of several academic fields, such as environmental health, management information studies, public administration, and political science. U.S. News & World Report ranks Illinois Springfield's online master's in education programs among the best in the country (No. 69 out of 309 schools). The program prepares students for leadership roles both in the classroom and a larger school setting, and it meets the educational requirement for teacher certificate renewal. Online students, including enrollees who are not Illinois residents, pay a flat e-tuition rate, which is below what the university typically charges out-of-state students. Illinois Springfield is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

30 Concordia University-Chicago $8,910 62%

Founded in 1864 as a school for teacher formation, Concordia University Chicago today comprises five academic colleges and offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programs. It enrolls close to 6,000 students and is a top-ranked Midwest university. CUC offers a comprehensive online master's in education in areas such as curriculum and instruction, educational administration, teacher leadership, and early childhood education. Students who pursue an online MBA can choose from 10 areas of specialization. Online students can take advantage of CUC's tuition guarantee program. As long as they do not interrupt their enrollment at the university, online students pay the same tuition throughout their entire course of study. Online students at CUC enroll in only one course at a time, with each course lasting for eight weeks. Online classes are delivered asynchronously for increased accessibility, convenience, and flexibility. Concordia University Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

31 National Louis University $11,646 98%

National Louis University began in 1886 as a school for training kindergarten teachers. Today, NLU comprises four academic colleges and offers over 80 bachelor's, master's, specialist, and doctoral degrees. It supports a population of approximately 9,000 students. NLU offers online master's degrees in the following academic arenas: business administration, education, health services administration, human resources management and development, and industrial and organizational psychology. NLU offers an online master's in education in early childhood administration; teacher leadership; learning sciences; and teaching, learning, and assessment. Online students enrolled in programs requiring state licensure or certification can take advantage of the services offered at the Academic Advising Center to make sure their courses meet the educational requirement for licensure or certification. The university establishes professional connections with alumni and various employers to provide learning, internship, and employment opportunities for graduates of both their online and on-campus programs. National Louis University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

32 Wilmington University $8,586 91%

Wilmington University began in 1968 with an initial enrollment of 194 students. Today, the university supports a student population of more than 20,000 undergraduate and graduate students and comprises seven academic colleges. WilmU offers online master's degrees in eight academic disciplines, including applied technology in education, administration of human services, business administration, and cybersecurity. Students who enroll in the online MBA program can choose from 12 specialization areas, such as business technology management, environmental sustainability, and organizational leadership. Online students pay the same tuition as in-state enrollees no matter where they reside, which can yield significant savings over a typical two-year enrollment in a master's program. Online classes follow a seven- or 15-week delivery schedule and are available asynchronously. Students can transfer up to six credit hours toward their master's program at CUC. Credits must be relevant to a student's area of study. Wilmington University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

33 Union Institute & University $14,652 69%

Union Institute & University started out in 1964 as the Union for Research and Experimentation in Higher Education. The university maintains its focus on the nontraditional learner and providing an education that engenders service and social responsibility. UI&U offers online master's programs in eight areas including healthcare leadership, creativity studies, history and culture, and leadership, public policy, and social issues. The curriculum for the master of arts in clinical mental health counseling meets the educational criteria for the National Counselor Examination recognized by the National Board for Certified Counselors. The program includes supervised internship and practicum hours. Many of the online master's programs allow students to transfer up to six semester hours toward their degree at UI&U. However, the master's in clinical mental health counseling program accepts up to 12 semester hours of transfer credits. Union Institute & University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

34 Emporia State University $6,328 89%

Established in 1863 by the Kansas Legislature, Emporia State University started out as the Kansas State Normal School with an initial enrollment of 18 students. Today, the university supports a student population of 5,800 and offers more than 200 programs at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. ESU offers online master's degrees in business and education. Students pursuing the online MBA program can choose from three concentration areas: accounting, information systems, and marketing. ESU also offers an online master's in accountancy. The School of Business at ESU holds accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Students who wish to pursue an online master's in education can choose the MS in educational administration or the MS in curriculum and instruction. Students can pursue any of ESU's online master's programs without any campus visits. ESU maintains six start dates each year for its online programs. Emporia State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

35 National University $15,480 99%

Starting out in 1971 with just 27 students, National University is now San Diego's largest private nonprofit university, enrolling close to 17,000 students and offering more than 75 online and on-campus programs. It continues to focus on the educational needs of nontraditional learners by providing them with online learning opportunities and flexible programs. National University has been offering online courses for over two decades. The university currently offers 62 online master's programs in eight fields including business and marketing, healthcare and nursing, social sciences and psychology, and engineering and technology. Online students enroll in one four-week course at a time, which is designed to help them earn their degree sooner. National University accepts applications year-round and classes begin every month, so students can start their program at practically any time. National University offers a top-ranked online master's in criminal justice. The program comprises 54 quarter units, and students can transfer up to 13.5 quarter units from another accredited institution. National University holds accreditation from the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

36 University of MarylandBaltimore $14,550 91%

One of Maryland's major public colleges, the University of Maryland, Baltimore confers most of the state's degrees in fields including law, healthcare, and human services. UMB's distance learners can choose from a variety of fully online and hybrid degree options, available with both full-time and part-time enrollment options. UMB's online master's programs focus primarily on health sciences and nursing, with options including health services leadership and management, nursing informatics, palliative care, pharmacometrics, and regulatory science. Students can also pursue hybrid programs including cybersecurity, crisis management, forensic medicine, and the country's first graduate program in medical cannabis science. As a member of the Southern Regional Education Board's Academic Common Market, UMB may offer in-state tuition rates to residents of member states enrolled in online programs. Eligible states include Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Tennessee, and Virginia. Students should contact their local state education board for eligibility details. University of Maryland, Baltimore is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

37 Adler Graduate School $7,774 100%

Named for Austrian psychotherapist Alfred Adler, the Adler Graduate School emphasizes an "Adlerian" approach to mental health counseling and psychotherapy. Based in Minnetonka, Minnesota, this private college offers several online master's degrees. AGS offers a master of arts in applied Adlerian psychology in leadership and a master of arts in Adlerian counseling and psychotherapy. The 30-credit psychology in leadership program is available either fully online or in a hybrid format. Students can also pursue a 21-credit professional post-baccalaureate psychology in leadership certificate. The counseling and psychotherapy degree offers five concentrations: art therapy, clinical mental health counseling, co-occurring disorders and addiction counseling, marriage and family counseling, and school counseling. Both the art therapy and school counseling tracks use a hybrid format that includes some required campus courses. Adler Graduate School is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

38 George Washington University $30,780 78%

A renowned private college in Washington, D.C., George Washington University offers dozens of distance education programs through its GW Online platform. Many of the school's online programs offer lower student-to-instructor ratios than their campus counterparts. GW students also benefit from the school's connections to prestigious national and international organizations in a variety of professional fields. GW offers online graduate degrees through several schools and colleges, including public health, engineering and applied science, education and human development, medicine and health science, international affairs, and professional studies. Some of GW's graduate academic offerings include publishing, international policy and practice, and political management. As a top private college, GW provides comprehensive support services for distance learners, including library resources, career services, mental health counseling, and disability services. Online students can access tutoring services through both the GW Writing Center and the Academic Commons, which primarily supports quantitative subjects such as math and science. George Washington University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

39 Dallas Baptist University $17,262 54%

Located in Dallas, Texas, Dallas Baptist University serves students from around the state and the U.S. through its sizable distance education program. DBU boasts an average online class size of just 11 and a student degree-completion rate of 94%. Graduate applicants must typically possess a minimum undergraduate 3.0 GPA and submit at least two recommendation letters. DBU offers more than a dozen online master's programs in fields including business, education, liberal arts, ministry, and professional development. All of DBU's programs combine academic and professional preparation with a Christian worldview. DBU offers several dual master's degree options, which enable candidates to earn two related master's degrees, often with just one year of additional study. Online learners can choose from several practical degree pairings to increase their professional marketability, such as educational leadership/business administration or theological studies/Christian ministry. Dallas Baptist University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

40 Thomas University $11,790 90%

Located near the Georgia-Florida border (about 30 miles from Tallahassee), the private Thomas University serves students throughout both states and around the country with its distance learning program. The college offers an online master of business administration and a master of clinical mental health and rehabilitation counseling. The MBA uses a fully online, accelerated format that enables candidates to graduate in as few as 12 months. The degree comprises 30 credits and includes courses in business law, financial management, organizational behavior, and marketing management. Candidates can also complete an optional concentration in human resource management. The 60-credit clinical mental health and rehabilitation counseling degree prepares candidates to obtain professional counselor licensure as well as the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor credential. Candidates can add a specialization in alcohol and addictions counseling to their degree by completing an additional 12 credits of coursework. Thomas University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

41 Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center $6,000 68%

A major public medical school based in Lubbock, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center graduates more healthcare professionals than any other institution in the state. The college offers online master's programs in biomedical sciences, health professions, and nursing. Distance learners can pursue seven online master's degrees, with options including public health, addiction counseling, healthcare administration, clinical rehabilitation counseling, and nursing. The school also offers several post-baccalaureate and graduate certificates online, including clinical laboratory science, healthcare finance and economics, and health systems policy and management. TTUHSC is authorized to offer distance learning programs to residents of all U.S. states except California. While this authorization allows out-of-state students to complete most required field experiences within their state of residence, it may not extend to state licensure requirements. Out-of-state students should consult their individual state licensing boards to determine if TTUHSC's online programs meet local requirements. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

42 Maryville University $14,346 99%

Ranked among the country's fastest-growing colleges, Maryville University hosts a variety of professionally focused degrees, with many programs available fully online. This St. Louis-based college offers several annual start dates and a generous credit transfer policy, creating a flexible education environment for working students. Online learners can choose from 16 master's degrees, primarily focused on the fields of business, information technology, and healthcare. Degree options include health administration, business data analytics, software development, strategic communication and leadership, and family nurse practitioner. All programs occur 100% online, with no campus visits required. Maryville's focus on flexibility extends to its admission requirements, with the GRE and GMAT not required for any of the school's graduate programs. Applicants must generally possess an undergraduate 3.0 GPA or higher, though many programs offer GPA exceptions or conditional admission options. The school accepts up to six transfer credits from graduate transfer students. Maryville University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

43 Texas Woman's University $4,852 87%

Enrolling more than 15,000 students annually, Texas Woman's University ranks as the country's largest college primarily serving women. The school also enrolls male students. This Denton-based college offers more than two dozen hybrid and online master's degrees in subjects as diverse as kinesiology, education of the deaf, library science, theater, and healthcare administration. TWU's hybrid programs occur primarily online, with some required campus visits. Fully online programs require no campus visits, with the exception of the education of the deaf program, which requires candidates to complete sign-language courses on campus. Several programs use synchronous video components, which require students to log on at set times. Certain programs, including healthcare administration and speech-language pathology, include televideo sessions, which take the place of campus courses. Televideo courses mimic the classroom environment, enabling students to virtually attend live courses via video communication facilities at satellite learning sites. Texas Woman's University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

44 Worcester Polytechnic Institute $27,234 88%

Located about 40 miles from Boston, Worcester Polytechnic Institute emphasizes multidisciplinary graduate research and comprehensive professional preparation, preparing students for careers in both academia and industry. The school's online master's degrees focus primarily on information technology, engineering, and related professional fields. Distance learners can choose from more than 15 online master's degrees and certificates, with options including bioscience management, environmental engineering, computer science, construction project management, and mechanical engineering. For students interested in exploring the online platform, WPI offers virtual open houses that demonstrate the benefits of distance learning. WPI prioritizes the needs of working students. Most course content occurs entirely online and asynchronously, enabling online learners to log in at any time to complete assignments. Some courses may include synchronous elements in the form of live chat or video conferencing, requiring students to log on at designated times. Worcester Polytechnic Institute is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

45 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide $7,980 68%

A professionally focused college primarily known for aviation and aerospace education, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide offers a variety of online master's degrees. The school also maintains campuses around the country, enabling students to combine online learning with hybrid campus courses. ERAU offers a unique selection of online aviation and aerospace programs, including aeronautics, aviation maintenance, unmanned aircraft systems, and airworthiness engineering. Online learners can also select from an array of professional graduate programs, including cybersecurity management, entrepreneurship in technology, logistics and supply chain management, and occupational safety management. ERAU provides a high level of flexibility for distance students, with several annual start dates and 10 graduate terms held throughout the year. Courses use a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous elements, including video conference sessions that enable students to interact live with peers and faculty. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

46 St. Thomas University $10,416 27%

A private Catholic college based in Miami Gardens, Florida, St. Thomas University offers academic and professional education infused with Christian spirituality and ethics. The school hosts several online master's programs in three major areas: business, nursing, and education and leadership. STU offers graduate degrees including family nurse practitioner, educational leadership, and instructional design and technology. Business majors can pursue an MBA with several concentration options, including marketing, accounting, human resource management, sports administration, and cybersecurity management. Most programs take 12-18 months to complete, while learners can complete the instructional design and technology in as few as 10 months. All programs use a 100% online format that requires no campus visits. Courses occur asynchronously, enabling students to access and complete assignments at any time. STU's online learning platform allows distance learners to complete coursework from a computer, tablet, or mobile phone. St. Thomas University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

47 Concordia University-Irvine $7,774 65%

Serving about 4,200 students from its campus in Irvine, California, Concordia University Irvine offers Lutheran-informed education in both secular and non-secular fields. The school hosts more than a dozen online master's degrees, including coaching and exercise science, educational administration, international studies, organizational leadership, and public health. CUI emphasizes community learning. Every online course includes some synchronous learning activities. Typically occurring through video conferencing or live chat, these sessions enable students to interact with peers and faculty in real-time. Learners who live in southern California can also take advantage of the school's blended courses, which feature a mix of online and campus sessions. CUI provides extensive support services for online learners, including dedicated academic advising, career services, tutoring, spiritual counseling, and veterans services. The school's Online Writing Lab provides feedback on student writing of all types, enabling online learners to submit assignments and receive detailed critique from experienced tutors. Concordia University Irvine is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

48 Villanova University $18,905 37%

The country's only Augustinian Catholic college, Villanova University enrolls around 10,000 students from a main campus located just outside Philadelphia. The school offers a variety of online master's programs through its schools of business, liberal arts and sciences, engineering, and law. Online courses often use a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous content, combining live weekly class meetings with other assignments that students complete at their convenience. Some programs, such as the school's engineering degrees, allow learners to mix and match synchronous and asynchronous course components based on their own scheduling availability. Other programs, such as the master of business administration and master of laws in taxation, feature primarily asynchronous coursework, with some synchronous sessions incorporated. While online learners are encouraged to attend all synchronous meetings, most sessions are recorded, allowing students to view any missed material at their convenience. Villanova University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

49 Brenau University $12,510 22%

With a history of online learning that dates back to 1998, Georgia-based Brenau University ranks among the top distance education providers in the South, offering dozens of graduate certificates and master's degrees online. The school's online programs feature low student-to-faculty ratios and accelerated seven-week courses. Brenau's online graduate programs break down broadly into four major degree types: master of arts in teaching, master of education, master of business administration, and master of science in organizational leadership. However, each degree offers a selection of specializations. For example, organizational leadership candidates can choose from options including business analytics, marketing, nonprofit leadership, and cybersecurity management. Brenau designates all online learners as full-time students regardless of their credit load, making all students eligible for state and federal financial aid. The school also pairs all online students with a personal counselor to help them navigate the financial aid system.

Brenau University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

50 Ball State University $8,730 36%

A major public college based in Muncie, Indiana, Ball State University hosts a variety of fully online master's programs, including educational psychology, interior design, nutrition and dietetics, and nursing. All online courses use an asynchronous format, which enables students to log on at any time to complete coursework. Several programs, such as quantitative psychology, public relations, and music education, offer blended options that enable students to mix campus and online education. Certain degrees, including emerging media design and development, use a low-residency format that combines primarily online coursework with a small number of required campus residency sessions held in the Greater Indianapolis area. Distance learners benefit from BSU's comprehensive student services, including academic advising, peer mentoring, academic support, technology support, and career planning. Academic advisors serve as the leaders of student support teams, assisting with degree planning and connecting students to other relevant college resources. Ball State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

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Master's Degrees: The Basics

The most common master's-level degrees are the master of science, master of arts, master of business administration, and master of fine arts. Coursework often includes group seminars, lectures, independent research, and internships. Since master's programs consist largely of independent studies and research, curricula are often well suited to distance learning.

Some master's degrees, such as a master of fine arts, are considered terminal degrees. A terminal degree is the highest degree available in the field. Other master's programs serve as stepping stones to doctoral programs.

Master's-level coursework is more advanced and focused than undergraduate coursework. The following table highlights the complexity and variety of courses students may take while earning their master's degree.

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Course Name Description
Seminar in International Finance This course explores financial management principles related to international monetary systems, foreign trade, working capital, exchange rates, investments, and taxation.
Advanced Topics in Animation Learners in this class study theoretical and practical applications of computer animation technology, including kinematics, motion capture, and key framing. The class typically includes a laboratory component.
Air Pollution Suppression Engineering This course examines the theory and design of pollution-reduction technology, along with its applications in fossil fuel power generation and industrial facilities.
Physical Therapy: Biomechanics of Abnormal Movement Students explore dynamics and statics evidenced in abnormal multi-joint movement. Coursework covers practical applications of remedial interventions and typically involves laboratory and lecture components.
Principles of Healthcare Human Resource Management Students learn to use software applications and research to explore theories and practices relevant to recruitment, employee development and retention, personnel management, productivity assessment, and organizational leadership.
Criminal Justice Seminar: Race, Gender, and Social Classes This class examines how legal decisions, cultural influences, gender, and class distinctions influence training, policy, law enforcement, and institutionalization.
Advanced Nursing: Neonatal Management Students learn to work with high-risk, acutely ill, and gravely ill infants. Coursework emphasizes assessment, stabilization, and intervention in settings focused on patients and families.
Topics in Social and Personal Psychology Learners review current scholarship and research in the personal and social psychological field. Course topics vary by semester.

Master's Degree Earning Potential

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median earnings for master's degree-holders in 2018 was $1,434 per week. This figure is nearly 20% higher than the median weekly earnings for bachelor's degree-holders and more than 66% higher than median wages for individuals with an associate degree. Master's degree-holders made nearly double the median weekly earnings of professionals with only a high school diploma.

Earning potential varies significantly by field. The BLS provides comprehensive information about the employment outlook for master's degree-holders by field. Prospective students can consider this data when choosing their career path.

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Why Get a Master's Degree?

Many students enroll in master's programs immediately after earning their bachelor's degree. Other graduates pursue professional experience before applying to graduate school. Some professionals earn a master's degree to qualify for advanced positions in their field, while others enroll in graduate school to facilitate a career change.

For professionals in the following fields, a master's degree is either required or can lead to advanced opportunities.

  • Education: Postsecondary teachers, school principals and administrators, and corporate trainers and researchers can benefit from earning a master's degree.
  • Business and Management: Human resource administrators, financial managers, technology officers, entrepreneurs, and personal investment consultants often need a graduate degree.
  • Healthcare: Master's degree-holders in the healthcare field may include nursing managers, healthcare administrators, physician assistants, physical therapists, audiologists, and epidemiologists.
  • Communications: Professionals may need a master's for roles as advertising and public relations account executives, internal communications editors, and market research specialists.
  • Social Sciences: Marriage and family therapists, substance abuse counselors, occupational therapists, and social workers often need a master's degree.
  • Technology and Engineering: Graduate programs prepare learners for positions as network and systems engineers, mobile application developers, petroleum engineers, cloud architects, IT consultants, systems analysts, and civil engineers.

How Online Master's Degree Programs Work

Students earning a master's degree online engage with course material through a specialized learning management system. Common learning management systems include Coursera, D2L Brightspace, and Blackboard. Instructors use learning software to provide engaging course elements, such as lectures, diagrams, interactive displays, and slideshow presentations.

Most online master's programs closely replicate the in-class learning experience. Students complete assignments and exams, and online learners typically use digital textbooks. Technology fees typically cover access to specialized software.

Online students often have access to self-paced learning options and accelerated programs. Many distance courses follow an asynchronous format, which allows learners to view recorded lectures and complete coursework at their convenience. However, some classes use a synchronous format, which requires learners to participate at scheduled times.

Online Learning Q & A

As an online graduate student, how will I meet research requirements if I am never on campus?

Online master's students can typically access campus libraries and information systems digitally. Many schools offer a variety of online support resources for distance learners.

What are the technical requirements for attending classes online?

Technical requirements depend on elements such as program format. Synchronous programs typically require students to create a secure login and have hardware capable of supporting live streams. Asynchronous programs generally require learners to participate in online forums and chat groups.

Is student aid available for online graduate students?

Students in online master's degree programs can typically qualify for the same federal aid as on-campus learners. Online students must meet relevant eligibility requirements and must generally attend an accredited school.

Is the academic quality the same for online and traditional degree programs?

Online programs deliver the same academic quality as on-campus options. Online learning may even be superior for some students, since digital learning fosters the use of a variety of multimedia study formats.

How are tests and written exams taken online?

Testing procedures depend on the school's policies. Some institutions require students to use secure browsers that disable all other applications during the exam. Other programs use webcam monitoring, automatic proctoring, and screen-capture technologies to prevent cheating.

Master's Degree Accreditation

Institutions and programs demonstrate their academic quality by earning accreditation. To receive accreditation, schools undergo a voluntary evaluation by an independent accrediting agency. The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation oversee accrediting agencies in the United States. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation currently recognizes more than 20,000 accredited academic programs throughout the country.

Entire institutions and individual programs can earn accreditation. Degree-granting schools typically seek regional accreditation, the most prestigious form of institutional accreditation. Career and vocational schools often earn national accreditation. Individual departments and programs may receive field-specific accreditation from agencies comprising industry experts. Online programs may hold specialized accreditation from an agency such as the United States Distance Learning Association or the Distance Learning Council.

Students should attend an accredited school to ensure that they qualify for financial aid. Additionally, many employers and graduate schools only recognize degrees earned from accredited institutions.

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