Online Master’s Degree

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Looking to climb the ladder fast? Ready for more responsibility and a pay raise? An online master’s degree can open new doors, helping you move forward in your profession without putting the rest of your life on hold.

Online Master’s Degree

More and more well-known, accredited universities now offer master’s degree programs online. These online degrees allow students to fit higher education around work and family commitments. You can expand your knowledge base, learn new skills, and gain a specific area of expertise… and you can do it at your own pace!

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An online master’s degree program is still a big commitment, though, so we have gathered all the information you will need – the cost, duration, admissions process, transfer process, and some of the most popular programs out there – to help you make the right decision about your future!

What Is an Online Master’s Degree?

Woman taking master's degree online

An online master’s degree is the same as a traditional master’s degree, but with some or all of the coursework having been completed online.

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A master’s degree is a graduate-level degree that some individuals chose to pursue after earning a bachelor’s degree (though some unique programs offer students the option to pursue a bachelor’s and master’s simultaneously). The programs typically take 1.5-2 years of full-time study to complete, and during that time you will dig deeper into the field, perhaps even choosing a specific area to concentrate on.

Are there Different Types of Online Master’s Degrees?

There are several options for earning a master’s degree online, and the degree you choose is highly dependent upon your field of study.

The two major degree types discussed below are considered “taught master’s degree” programs. Some schools also offer postgraduate research degrees or certificate and diploma programs to expand on your education.

Online Master of Science (MSc) Degree

Man getting his Online Master of Science (MSc) Degree

For those who want to earn a master’s degree in a science, technology, or mathematics subject, this degree program is likely the most suitable option. As an MSc degree covers STEM subjects and professions, many of these degree programs for specific career fields are part of a professional qualification pathway.

For example, if you are studying for a Master’s in Engineering, you will likely take part in an integrated master’s program that results in an MEng (Masters of Engineering) degree. Examples of popular Master of Science degree programs include:

  • Computer Science
  • Finance or Accounting
  • Engineering
  • IT
  • Marketing
  • Business
  • Economics

Online Master of Arts (MA) Degree

Professor completing her Online Master of Arts (MA) Degree

A MA degree program focuses on studies related to the Arts and Humanities. While some fields within the arts require a PhD in order to reach top career positions, an MA degree is an excellent step towards a lucrative professional career.

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Examples of popular Master of Arts degree programs include:

  • Visual Arts
  • Education
  • Political Science
  • Languages
  • Sociology
  • Psychology

How Long Does It Take to Earn an Online Master’s Degree?

Generally, it takes 1.5-2 years of full-time study to earn a master’s degree, but an online program maybe even faster! How quickly you can complete an online master’s program depends on several variables, including:

  • The course duration – Does the school operate on traditional 16-week semesters or in fast-paced 8-week sessions?
  • How many courses you can handle at a time
  • How often required courses are offered
  • Whether you are part-time or full-time

As an example, by taking accelerated online courses – 2 per 8-week session – and choosing a program that does not require a thesis, you can breeze through the program and earn a master’s degree in as little as one year. It truly depends on what a school offers, and how it will fit into your schedule.

How Much Does an Online Master’s Degree Cost?

Couple checking on cost to get Online Master's Degree

How much your online master’s degree costs depends on the school, location (in or out of state), type of school (public or private) and type of program.

Most schools charge the same tuition rate to online and on-campus students, but occasionally the online programs are cheaper. Here’s why:

  • Often schools don’t charge out-of-state tuition fees to online students. You pay the same rate whether you live across the street or across the country.
  • Online students don’t have additional expenses like campus fees, commuting costs and parking fees, and often do not have to purchase expensive textbooks and course materials.

So you can expect your online degree to cost the same or less than it would cost to earn the same degree on a college campus.

How Much Money Can I Make With an Online Master’s Degree?

Online graduate programs are an investment of time, effort, and money – but there is usually a payoff! According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workers with a master’s degree earned $249 per week more than those with a bachelor’s degree – that’s a difference of $12,948 over a year!

The change in earning potential varies by occupation. Some of the fields you can expect to see the most dramatic increase in earning potential include:

  • Business
  • Education
  • Healthcare / Social Services
  • STEM Fields

In some occupations, workers with a master’s degree earned about the same as, or even less than, those with a bachelor’s degree. The BLS is a good resource to check to ensure your investment will pay off.

What Is the Application Process Like for an Online Master’s Degree Program?

Man checking on requirements for Master Degree Online

The application process for an online graduate program, whether it’s for online masters or online PhD programs, is typically more involved than the application process for programs leading to bachelor’s degrees online. In order to apply for a graduate-level program, you must provide proof that you have successfully completed an undergraduate program at a regionally accredited university.

You will need to provide transcripts showing your grades. Some schools will have a minimum GPA, such as a 3.0, in order to enter into a master’s degree program. Next, find out whether the school you’re applying to requires you to submit admission test scores. Many graduate school programs – but not all – require you to take the GRE or GMAT, or a similar test specific to your field.

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Finally, in addition to the application, transcripts, test scores, and fees, you may be asked to submit other supportive documents for admission. These documents may include professional references, a personal statement or essay, a resume, and an approved degree plan.

Can I Transfer Credits I Already Have to Use Toward an Online Master’s Degree?

Student checking to transfer credits for Master's Degree Online

If you have taken graduate-level courses at an accredited institution – recently or years ago – you will of course want to transfer those credits to give you a head start on your new program. But ultimately, which credits (if any) are accepted and how they apply toward your degree are at the discretion of the receiving school.

Every college sets its own policies for transferring credits, and some have very specific rules and limitations. For example, your new college may allow you to transfer as many as 12 credits into an equivalent master’s degree program, but if you are beginning a new, different master’s program you may be limited to 6 transferred credits. There are some universities that do not allow credit transfers at the graduate level.

If you have credits you wish to transfer, it is very important that you review the school’s policy and work closely with an academic advisor to ensure you get the most out of your completed work.

Top 10 Online Master Degree Programs

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Online Master’s Degree in Education/Teaching

A master’s degree in Education/Teaching will give you more hands-on experience in a variety of classroom settings, providing the tools to deal with tough situations and helping you better understand your role within the school system.

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It will qualify you for a broader range of positions – working with gifted or special needs students, for example – or in leadership or administrative roles, and will help you earn more money.

Online Masters Degree in Accounting

Earning your master’s in Accounting will deepen your understanding of accounting principles and catch you up on the latest technology. You will qualify for higher level positions in banking, auditing, taxation, insurance or related areas.

Online Master’s Degree in Business

An online master’s degree in Business – whether it’s an online MBA degree or another master’s program – is versatile and valuable in nearly any industry.

It can enhance your career prospects, land you a promotion (and a significant salary boost!) or provide the skills you need to start a business of your own.

Woman completing her master's degree in Business online

Online Master’s Degree in Computer Science

A master’s program in Computer Science can provide a foundation for a career in technology research and development, and/or allow you to specialize in a niche area, such as network security, software development or artificial intelligence.

Your expertise in the field will qualify you for advanced and/or managerial positions, and you can expect a significant pay increase.

Online Master’s Degree in Psychology

While a bachelor’s degree can get you into the field, a master’s in Psychology will open the door to many, many more job prospects, from mental health services to government agencies to businesses and more! Your role will be
much more in-depth and your earning potential will increase as well.

Online Master’s Degree in Business Management

An online master’s degree in Business Management (MBM) will emphasize management and leadership skills, whereas online MBA programs allow for more specialization and provide field-specific training.

You will be fully equipped to set goals, coordinate operational activities, implement organizational plans, and direct departments. With this degree, you can expect to work high up in the company, or even own a company of your own.

Healthcare Specialist getting her master's degree online

Online Master’s Degree in Healthcare Management

A master’s in Healthcare Management program will cover healthcare policy and law, marketing, organizational behavior, healthcare financing, human resources, and related topics.

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Your program will prepare you for top levels of management in hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities.

Online Master’s Degree in Engineering

Earning a master’s in Engineering will allow you to dig deeper into the advanced theories and practices you learned in your undergraduate studies. A graduate-level degree is particularly common in disciplines such as civil, mechanical and electrical engineering, and/or for those who would like to get into teaching, managing, or research and development.

Online Master’s Degree in Social Work

A bachelor’s degree can get you into an entry-level position, but for more in-depth positions working directly with individuals, groups, families and communities, you will need a master’s degree in Social Work. This work can be highly rewarding – personally and financially!

Online Master’s Degree in Information Technology

Man completing his master's degree in IT online

While earning a master’s in Information Technology, you will continually expand your knowledge of the concepts and techniques used in computer operations, learning the latest technologies. Your advanced degree will help you land a career in nearly any industry – business, health, education, government, entertainment, and so on – and even take on a management role if you desire!

Ready to start your journey?
Elizabeth Abner
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.