25 Best Online Master’s Programs for 2021
Many colleges offer online master’s programs.
If you’re looking for convenience, an online master’s program may be a good option for you.
Best Online Master’s Programs
There is a wide variety of online options to choose from. No matter your career path, there’s very likely a master’s degree program to suit your needs.
Select the program that most interests you to jump to that section of the guide:
- Business Administration
- Computer Science
- Criminal Justice
- Healthcare Administration
- Human Resources
- Information Technology
- Social Work
Regardless of the specialty you select, you will still receive a strong foundation.
If you have an undergraduate degree in accounting, finance, or economics, a master’s in accounting could be an easy transition. This field usually appeals to those who are good with numbers, logical and systematic. If you have an interest in the financial or accounting fields, this could open doors to a wide array of relevant careers.
Courses in the curriculum usually incorporate topics covering capital markets research, upper-level accounting classes, accounting, tax, and finance law, empirical research methods, forensic accounting, and more.
Potential jobs after graduation include tax and payroll accounting, government accounting, public accounting, forensic accounting, auditing, and compliance accounting.
The most popular master’s degree in business administration is the MBA, or Master of Business Administration. Most schools require an undergraduate degree in business administration or a similar field. Some, but not all, also require you to take the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT).
If you would prefer not to take the GMAT, you can check out our guide here: Online MBA No GMAT Programs.
The course curriculum usually features advanced classes in business law, marketing, finance, accounting, and management. There’s also a heavy focus on management training, leadership development, organizational behavior, business strategies, and unique, innovative planning.
In addition to business management, the program should prepare you for jobs in higher-level accounting, HR management, project management, business intelligence, consulting, or higher education.
The computer science master’s program could be right for you if you’re a fan of the STEM-related fields and enjoy developing, designing, and implementing innovative solutions to complex problems. Computer science covers many specific disciplines, including IT, networking, computer programming, software development, and more.
The curriculum should consist of many advanced-level computer science-related courses geared towards teaching you to solve the most difficult technological problems. You should also learn to creatively use even the most difficult and obscure programming languages.
Potential jobs include supervisory, managerial, or even director-level positions in computer science-related fields. Examples include computer hardware engineer, senior software developer, systems analyst, lead database administrator, and computer network architect.
Criminal justice is a career field that can be entered into easily enough. When it comes to higher positions in the field, though, it can be a bit harder to advance without higher-level education.
If you want to eventually advance to some of the more esteemed positions – forensic psychologist, CIA analyst, or FBI agent – earning your master’s degree in criminal justice can help.
The program is designed to provide you with everything you’d need to rise through the ranks of the criminal justice system. Some common course topics include justice policy-making, analysis, analysis, and design of criminal justice research, cyber crime, emergency management, victimology, and advanced courses in crime prevention and control.
A master’s degree in education can prepare you for careers in education, educational leadership, or educational administration. It can also make it possible for you to teach at the post-secondary level.
A standard master’s level curriculum in education should cover such topics as advanced childhood development, introduction to special education, incorporating technology use into the classroom, instructional leadership practices, and more. If you have a certain goal in mind, there are also concentrations on which you can streamline your focus.
Some of these include STEM instruction, literacy for those with learning disabilities, literacy for ELL students, technology and learning instruction, leadership, and sports coaching, and special education. If you have a specific direction for your career, focusing your classes could help.
If you enjoy working with money and have a good head for numbers, a master’s degree in finance could open up many fulfilling career paths. This degree can lead to upper-level careers in entrepreneurial or corporate finance, private wealth consulting, and investment banking.
If you’re pursuing a career as a certified personal accountant (CPA), this degree could also get you there. The degree usually takes about two years to earn, but there are several options for intensive, one-year programs as well.
The curriculum is a mixture of advanced accounting, economics, and finance classes coupled with courses on business leadership, statistical analysis, and financial reporting.
When it comes to a master’s degree in healthcare administration, there are two main options, the Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) or Master of Business (MBA) in Healthcare Management. Both degrees can help prepare you for managerial or administrative positions in hospitals, healthcare clinics, or private doctors’ offices.
These degrees can lead to a career as a nursing director, hospital administrator, nursing home director, financial manager, or something similar. Your job responsibilities could include managing groups of people and determining their work schedules, overseeing the budget and business matters of your facility, and other administrative duties.
Either degree could also lead to careers that are more specialized. Some of these include careers in global healthcare, strategic healthcare planning, healthcare law, and policy and finance in healthcare.
For this program, you should enjoy working with people and have excellent communication skills. At the master’s level, you should also be prepared to do quite a bit of research.
This degree could prepare you for management positions in the human resources department. You’ll likely perform such tasks as recruiting and training new employees, mediating workplace problems, and monitoring current market, benefit, and compensation trends.
With this degree, you could move into a supervisory or director’s position where you’d have the added responsibilities of managing the entire HR team, designing, and conducting distance learning webinars and creating assessment protocols for new hires. Courses you’ll have in this program should prepare you for these new responsibilities.
The field of information technology (IT) is very popular right now. While many jobs in the IT field can be had with only a bachelor’s degree, the highest paying ones require more education.
A master’s degree in information technology can prepare you for several of these higher-level careers. It can also provide you with the knowledge and skills you need to move into a doctoral program in information technology or several other similar computer science fields.
Common careers at this level are project manager, information technology director, senior software engineer, systems administrator, and business analyst.
A master’s program in management can lead to a larger variety of potential career fields than just about any other master’s degree. Regardless if you work in healthcare, retail, construction, or technology, managers are needed.
A master’s in management prepares you to work in any of these fields by giving you a broad overview of the management field that can be applied to nearly any profession.
In this program, you’ll cover organizational theory and behavior, network theory, research skills, and various social science topics. You’ll also get an advanced look at business finance, economics, and human resources management.
Management programs are generally fast-paced. If you’re an excellent multi-tasker with promising leadership qualities, you should do well. In addition to management careers, you could also use this degree as a stepping stone to becoming a policy analyst, professor of business, or management consultant.
If you’re creative, outspoken, friendly and a good salesperson, you could be well suited to marketing and might consider enrolling in a master’s level marketing program. Strong public speaking skills and a love of design can also be helpful.
In addition to general marketing, there are also master’s programs in specific types of marketing, such as sports marketing, digital marketing, and public relations. In each of these programs, you’ll focus mostly on learning to brand and sell products.
Topics covered in the course curriculum usually include global marketing, marketing principles, and advanced courses in statistics, brand management, and analysis. There is a wide variety of potential careers for graduates of this program, including PR specialist, research analyst, and social media marketer and marketing manager.
There is a wide variety of potential master’s programs in the field of nursing. While most are Master of Science Nursing (MSN) degrees, the specific focus of each one is different. Some popular programs include Master of Science degrees in
- Pain Management Nursing
- Critical Care Nursing
- Nursing Research
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Regardless of the specific program you enter, there’s one thing. The world will always need nurses, making this a safe career choice.
In addition to a possible pay raise, an MSN degree can also give you access to administrative or directorial roles in your facility. Most programs have a heavy focus on both healthcare administration and leadership.
As with psychology degrees at every level, there are a few characteristics, you should possess to be successful. These include a strong sense of empathy, exceptional listening skills, enjoy research, and have an intense dedication to your career.
While there are some rewarding and lucrative careers available for undergraduate degree holders in psychology, many jobs require a graduate degree. With a master’s in psychology, you could work as a counselor inside a school, hospital, or prison.
This degree is also a stepping-stone for a Ph.D. in psychology, which you’ll need to become a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist.
A psychology master’s degree is usually one of the more quickly earned degrees, taking somewhere between 30 and 36 hours of college credit. If you take classes full-time, you could earn this degree in less than two years.
Some of the traits that make a good social worker are empathy, kindness, and genuine love and concern for others. If you have these traits and a desire to work in social work, you might want to pursue your MSW, or Master of Social Work.
There are several specialized degrees within this field. These can include veteran services, social worker to the disabled, trauma worker or counselor, mental health social work, and social work with children. An MSW can also prepare you to work in social work administration.
An MSW can prepare you to enter a doctoral program. It can also be the first step to earning many social work licenses, such as the LMSW (Licensed Master of Social Work.)
Online Master’s Curriculum & Courses
The types of courses you’ll take in a master’s program will depend on your major. Here are some possible class examples:
- Financial Management – In this course, you’ll learn about the principles of financial decision-making. Topics covered should include principles of capital structure, determining costs, and portfolio theory.
- Personal Leadership – This course should teach you to cultivate skills like active listening, effective mentoring, and empowering others in order to be an exemplary leader.
- Theories of Learning – If you’re working towards your master’s in education, this class should teach you about students’ different learning styles and how to incorporate them into your lessons for maximum efficiency.
- Organizational Development in Healthcare – This class should teach you about management, leadership, and organizational assessment within healthcare facilities.
- Principles of Programming Languages – If you’re in any of the computer science fields, this class should give you advanced lessons on different programming languages used for web and software development.
- Advanced Pathology – This is an advanced-level nursing course that teaches nurses how to read and understand the most difficult pathology reports.
- Social Welfare and Social Work – Here you’ll examine social welfare problems and how to deal with them in your everyday work. How politics and economics affect social welfare should also be covered.
- Brand Strategy – In this class you’ll learn about what a brand is, how customers perceive it, and how to market it to stakeholders and customers alike.
- Forensic Psychology – This class should teach you to use psychology in a criminal or forensic setting to interview suspects, collect evidence, and testify at trials.
- Cyber Crime Investigation – This is an in-depth class in the field of cyber security. It teaches you to recognize, prevent, and stop these crimes once they’ve happened.
Depending on your specific major, your classes could be quite different. Course curricula for master’s programs are usually listed on the program’s website.
Online Master’s Careers & Salaries
The master’s degree you earn will largely determine the types of jobs for which you’ll be eligible.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person with a master’s degree is paid about $12,000 more a year than someone with a bachelor’s degree. Here are a few of the careers that may interest you:
|Careers||Annual Mean Salary|
|Computer and Information Systems Managers||$146,360|
|Human Resources Managers||$116,720|
|Public Relations and Fundraising Managers||$116,180|
|Medical and Health Services Managers||$100,980|
|School and Career Counselors||$57,040|
From this shortlist, it’s easy to see the average salary for jobs for master’s degree holders is well above the salary for most American workers.
As is usually the case, professions in the computer, business and management fields generally pay the highest, with medical careers somewhere in the middle and education towards the bottom of the spectrum. Even so, with a master’s degree, educators are paid fairly well.
Choosing an Online Master’s Degree
Even though there are affordable master’s programs, graduate-level degrees still cost too much money to throw away on a bad program. That’s why it’s so important to find the right program before spending your money.
To find the right program, you should put together a list of what you need out of your master’s program experience and compare that against different schools. There are several factors to consider when making these comparisons.
First, make sure the program has your desired major. For example, if you’re sure you want to earn your master’s in nursing and the college you’re looking at doesn’t have a nursing master’s program, you can safely dismiss that one.
Next, you should make sure the cost of the school is within your budget. Many colleges have “cost of attendance” calculators on their websites. For every school you’re considering, visit the website.
Look up the tuition rates and fees. Plug everything into the cost of attendance calculator if there is one. Make sure the program fits into your budget.
Other factors to consider are how long the program lasts, what the student-to-teacher ratio looks like, and whether or not you’ll be required to present a thesis at the end of the program. For some people, this is a big turn-off. For others, it’s no problem at all, but it’s always good to know the requirements beforehand either way.
After you’ve found the right school for you, the next step is applying. It’s important you meet all the admissions requirements the school requests in order to be considered for enrollment as soon as possible. Some of the most common admissions requirements in a master’s program are:
- Application & Essay – An application is standard at any college. At the master’s level, you’ll probably also have to write an essay on why you’re interested in that particular program, why the school should consider you, and what your plans are.
- Letters of Recommendation – Along with your application packet, a school usually also wants you to submit one to three recommendation letters from people who think you’d do well in the program.
- Official Transcripts – Your official transcripts will show your high school graduation status, college degree conferred, GPA and standardized test scores, and all the classes you’ve taken in college and how you did in them. Colleges want official copies of these so they have a full picture of your academic history.
Other requirements could include an application fee or a list of any internships or work experience you’ve had that’s relevant to what you’ll be doing in the graduate program.
Benefits of an Online Master’s Program
There are a few reasons to choose an online program over a standard, on-campus program.
- Flexibility – With online programs, you don’t have to go to campus two or three days a week. There are even some online programs that offer work-at-your-own pace schedules, which provide ultimate flexibility.
- Lower Costs – There are some online programs that are much cheaper than on-campus programs. You will also save money on travel costs.
- Transfer Credits – Many online programs allow you to transfer relevant work or military experience into actual college credit. This can save you time and money.
- Shows Impressive Qualities – Being able to complete an online master’s program shows you have great time management skills, determination, and are self-motivated. These are all qualities employers like.
- Improves Your Computer/Tech Skills – Online programs require you to use all kinds of software and apps you may have never even heard of before. This can give you new and impressive computer skills.
These are only some of the many benefits of online degree programs.
Making sure your college has regional accreditation by one of the seven regional accreditation agencies is also important. Without regional accreditation, you have no guarantee your credits will be transferable or employers will accept your degree. With regional accreditation, you can be reasonably certain of both of those things.
You can check the accreditation of most schools by looking at its official website. If, for some reason, you can’t find the information there, you can also look up the school on the Department of Education’s website.
They have a searchable database of schools called the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs that lets you check the accreditation status of any U.S. school.
Financial Aid & Scholarships
There are three main types of financial aid available to help with funding your education – grants, loans, and scholarships.
Although graduate students aren’t eligible for the federal Pell Grant, you can still apply for federal loans by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You can also apply for other, non-government student loans at banks and other institutions that lend people money.
Scholarships, which can be found on your school’s official website, are usually free money that doesn’t have to be repaid. You can also find scholarships through professional organizations, your workplace, and community organizations.
Grants and fellowships are also popular financial aid options at the graduate level. They can usually be found in the same places you find scholarships.
Can You Get Your Master’s Degree Online?
There are several different master’s programs you can find online.
Some of the most popular are business, management, finance, and psychology, but they’re by no means the only ones.
Are Online Masters Programs Worth it?
Yes, online masters programs are worth it for many students. With an annual average salary of $77,844 compared to that of a bachelor’s degree holder of $64,896 (Bureau of Labor Statistics), a master’s degree may help launch your career and open up a variety of new career options for you.
How Much Does it Cost to Get Your Masters Degree Online?
On average, a master’s degree program costs between $500 and $650 per credit hour. There are some master’s programs, which are cheaper than this.
There are also some that are much more expensive, but that’s the average rate.
Are There Any Online Masters Programs that Don’t Require the GRE?
There are actually several online master’s programs that don’t require you to take either the GRE or the GMAT for entrance into them.
A few of the schools that do require the tests will waive that requirement if your grades and GPA are high enough.
Are There any Affordable Online Master’s Programs?
Although the average cost per credit hour of a master’s program is between $500 and $650, there are some programs considerably cheaper than that.
There are also plenty of financial aid options available.
Is an Online Master’s Degree Credible?
As long as your online master’s program has regional accreditation, it should be just as credible as any master’s degree earned on a college campus.
How Long Does it Take to finish an Online Master’s Program?
Depending on the program, a master’s degree can take anywhere from one to four years to earn. The length of time it takes to get a master’s degree is usually between two and three years.
There are also several programs that offer fast-paced or accelerated programs. These can shorten that time frame quite a lot.
Universities Offering Online Masters Degree Programs
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
Created in 1971 with the idea of offering a Christian-based education to students in the Garland, TX area, Amberton University is a private school with two campuses and a dynamic distance-learning program.
Bachelor’s and master’s degrees at AU are taught with a faith-based, rigorous curriculum. Work and military experience are often used as college credit.
Amberton University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Students looking to find a program to fit their individual needs, often look no further than Arizona State University. Finding its beginning in 1886, Arizona State is a state-of-the-art public education to students looking to become innovative leaders.
Many of the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees, can be obtained through distance learning and in person.
Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Committee.
Averett University is home to a co-educational private postsecondary school whose main campus sits in Danville, VA. Beginning in 1859, Averett University is affiliated with the Baptist church and Helps students find success in undergraduate and master’s degree programs, both on-campus and online.
Some of the popular campuses include its flight center and its equestrian center.
Averett University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Finding a program that leads to an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree at Brandman University Is a smooth process for many students. Brandman University has been offering a sound education since 1958. This private school has a variety of skill-based and course-based programs to meet the needs of students from all walks of life.
Brandman University is accredited by the WSCUC Senior College and University Commission.
As a top school nationwide for busy adults, City University of Seattle serves a global student population online and on-campus.
Starting in 1973, City University has flexible, innovative degree programs for students to reach an undergraduate or graduate degree in more than sixty programs and help hem network with alumni from some of the area’s top companies.
The City University of Seattle is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Research is an essential aspect for students looking for a groundbreaking, creative public college experience. Colorado State University has been offering students this since 1870 and continues to evolve in technology and exploration in its many undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs.
Serving students internationally through distance learning is a strength of CSU.
Colorado State is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
Offering a culture-centered private education, Concordia University – Chicago started in 1864 as a private, faith-based school. CU-Chicago gives students countless opportunities to network through internships, co-ops, and events while earning a BA, BS, MA, or doctoral degree.
With five colleges and online classes, busy adults have great success at Concordia.
Concordia University Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
1958 marks the beginning of the Florida Institute of Technology’s long history of offering research-based education to students all over the world. This private university sets the bar high for providing cutting-edge technology in all of its bachelor’s, masters, or doctoral programs.
With esteemed faculty, including astronauts and engineers, FIT has hands-on academics to prepare students for the career world.
Florida Tech is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Ranked highly as a school for adult education, Golden Gate University delivers private educational services to students around the world. Helping military members and civilians gain an undergraduate or graduate degree, GGU also has a path to a degree in law. It has been leading the way in educational service for working adults since 1901.
Golden Gate University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876 and is the nation’s first school to offer research as part of the foundation of its curriculum.
As a private university internationally recognized for excellence in technology, advancement, and positive contributions to society, John Hopkins offers degrees that range from undergraduate to postdoctoral in an assortment of programs.
Johns Hopkins University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Johnson and Wales University teaches students to think creatively and research all possible solutions to solve real-world problems.
Beginning in 1914 as a private postsecondary school, Johnson and Wales have a diverse range of online and on-campus programs that allow students to earn BA, BS, MA, or doctoral degrees to build life and career skills.
JWU is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Since 1935, Logan University has been helping students acquire the education needed to advance in a career in the health field. Logan is a private university that gives busy students an online option to obtain a DHPE, master’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree in several medical-related programs.
Logan offers on-campus classes for those who prefer face-to-face learning.
Logan University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
National University is continuously breaking new ground to provide students with more education opportunities by adding new campuses, new programs, and new ways to earn one of the many associates, BA, BS, MA, or doctoral degrees offered.
Since 1971, National University has been a leader in private education, giving service members and civilians a first-rate education.
National University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Nova Southeastern University offered degree programs for students looking to complete their degree quicker and who need a strong focus on fewer classes at once. Nova Southeastern is a private facility that started in 1964.
Since then, it had added over 150 programs that are based on research and technology to help students earn an undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral degree.
NSU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Pennsylvania State University World Campus is an internationally recognized public school that has offered affordable education opportunities to students around the world since 1998.
Catering to military members and their families, Penn State-Global allows related work and military experience to become college credits used towards an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate.
Penn State World Campus is regionally accredited by Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
Since its beginning in the 1960s, Prescott College takes pride in its ability to use non-traditional methods to teach future leaders and thinkers to take on the challenge of helping to make the world a better place.
This private educational institution uses collaborative instruction, experiential teaching, and rigorous academics that lead to undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Prescott College is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Based on the ideas set forth by Christian values and faith, Regent University has offered a first-class education since 1977. Its main campus sits on Virginia’s beautiful beach. Still, its online programs allow international students to take part in some of the best undergraduate, graduate, and law programs that a private college can offer.
Regent University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Going beyond the bounds of traditional education, Regis University has worked to find new ways to offer a sound, private education to working adults since 1927. Its undergraduate and graduate programs are based on research and hands-on learning that allow students first-hand knowledge of the latest innovations in their field.
Professional degree programs are also offered at Regis University.
Regis University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
With roots that spread from 1790, when educational visionaries became inspire by George Washington, Touro University Worldwide developed in 1970 and is now a private school with spiritual ideals of inclusion for all. Touro University’s bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees incorporate its ideas of social justice and community service to those in need.
Touro University Worldwide is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
Starting as a public land grant postsecondary school in 1969, the University of Illinois – Springfield now enables more than 5,000 students a year to attain a better education that is grounded in liberal arts and rigor.
With over twenty-five undergrad, twenty graduate, and doctoral programs, the University of Illinois helps students reach their educational goals.
The University of Illinois Springfield is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
University of Maryland Global Campus’s public postsecondary school began in 1947 and now unites students globally though on-campuses and online programs that lead to undergraduate and graduate degrees in an assortment of program options.
Helping working adults earn their education is pertinent to the University of Maryland-Global. Students can turn real-world experiences, like military and work, into college credits.
UMGC is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Founded in 1835 as a small school for women, the University of West Alabama was initially supported by the church. It now stands as part of a large public university system that serves thousands of students annually. Offering a path to an AA, AS, BA, BS, MA, or a doctorate, it has many clubs and sports for students to connect.
The University of West Alabama is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Walsh College is a world-renowned business that offers a private education to students looking to advance in their careers by participating in one of the bachelor’s or master’s degrees offered at Walsh.
Its main campus sits in Walsh, MI, but with three satellite campuses and a vigorous distance-learning program, Walsh College reaches thousands of students around the world.
Walsh College is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
Western Governors University gives busy adults a new way to explore their educational options by providing self-paced programs that lead to BA, BS, or master’s degrees.
Western Governors started in 1997 and has been providing a dynamic private education since. Teaching student the essential knowledge needed, WGU build career leaders in a variety of fields.
Western Governors University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Offering a small teacher to student ratio, Wilmington University has been helping students further their education since 1968. Students get a personal touch at WU’s private school that helps them be successful in one of the many associates, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs.
WU’s doctoral programs offer advancement in research and technology to bring students to the next level.
Wilmington University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Getting Your Master’s Degree Online
Earning your master’s degree can lead to promotions, entirely new job opportunities, and higher pay. Earning your master’s degree online can be the easiest, most convenient way to do that. You have much greater flexibility in an online program than an on-campus one, and many online programs are even cheaper than on-campus programs.
There are more master’s programs in more fields being moved online now than ever before. No matter what your profession, or desired profession, there is probably an online master’s program available in that field.
Don’t waste any more time trying to worry about how to fit a graduate program in your schedule. Enroll in an online one today.