Online Master’s Degree

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Online masters programs can help open new doors, allowing you to move forward in your profession without putting the rest of your life on hold.

Online Master’s Programs

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

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Earning your masters online is still a big commitment, though, so we have gathered important information about these programs to help you make the right decision about your future.

Online Masters Programs

As you explore options for the best online masters programs, it’s important to consider the many valuable degrees you can choose from to build your skills and advance your career.

Outlined below are some online masters degree programs that you can pursue. Select the program that most interests you to jump to that section of the guide:

You may want to explore your options to decide which program is right for you.

Online Master’s Degree in Accounting

accountants with Master's degrees doing taxation accounting

Earning your master’s in accounting can give you the opportunity to deepen your understanding of accounting principles and catch up on the latest technology in the field. It can help you qualify for higher-level positions in banking, auditing, taxation, insurance, or related areas.

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A master’s in accounting program can help you specialize further to provide more niche services. Common concentrations offered include auditing, forensics accounting, taxation, management, and international accounting.

Online Master’s Degree in Business Administration

Business Administrator monitoring reports & updates on her tablet

An online master’s degree in business administration can teach you skills that are versatile and valuable in nearly any industry. This degree focuses on developing management and leadership skills and specializing in specific areas of interest.

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Earning it can potentially enhance your career prospects, land you a promotion, likely with a significant salary boost, or help you develop the skills needed to start a business of your own.

Online Master’s Degree in Business Management

Business operations manager, discussing with team leaders

An online master’s degree in business management typically emphasizes overall management and leadership skills needed in a variety of industries.

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Courses typically cover how to set goals, coordinate operational activities, implement organizational plans, and direct departments. With this degree, you may qualify for advanced positions in your current company or even own a company of your own someday.

Online Master’s Degree in Communication

Public relations manager working with team of writers

Earning an online master’s in communication can help you expand your career opportunities in various industries, including public relations, publishing, and all forms of media.

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Some programs may offer concentrations you can choose from, including public relations, health or political communication, or advocacy and social impact. Graduates with this degree often pursue careers as public relations managers, writers, or advertising, promotions, or marketing managers.

Online Master’s Degree in Computer Science

Senior software developer reviewing & testing programs

A master’s degree in computer science can help you develop a foundation for a career in technology research and development or allow you to specialize in a niche area, such as network security, software development, or artificial intelligence.

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Your expertise in the field may qualify you for advanced or managerial positions, and will likely increase your salary potential.

Online Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice

Emergency management directors discussing at headquarters

Earning your master’s in criminal justice can give you the opportunity to gain the leadership skills and in-depth knowledge of the justice system needed to pursue a career in criminal justice.

Concentrations that some programs may offer include Public Safety Administration and Advanced Counterterrorism. You may also find specialized master’s programs in criminal justice, including forensics, homeland security, law enforcement, and criminology degrees.

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Many graduates pursue careers in law enforcement, security, community advocacy, and government positions, such as emergency management directors.

Online Master’s Degree in Education

School director discussing with parents of a new student

A master’s degree in education can give you the chance to gain more hands-on experience in a variety of classroom settings and develop tools to deal with tough situations. These programs also tend to have a focus on school systems, providing more niche knowledge on administration duties and teachers’ roles.

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Earning this degree may qualify you for a broader range of positions, such as working with gifted or special needs students or in leadership or administrative roles, and will likely allow you to earn a higher salary.

Online Master’s Degree in Engineering

Civil engineer sending email updates to his team

Master’s in engineering programs typically dig deeper into the advanced theories and practices that can be learned in undergraduate studies.

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A graduate-level degree is commonly required for advanced careers in civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering and for those who would like to get into teaching, managing, or research and development.

Online Master’s Degree in Healthcare Management

Healthcare Specialist getting her master's degree online

A master’s in healthcare management program typically covers healthcare policy and law, marketing, organizational behavior, healthcare financing, human resources, and related topics.

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Earning this degree can allow you to pursue top-level management careers in hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities.

Online Master’s Degree in Information Technology

developer completing his master's degree in IT online

Earning a master’s in information technology can give you the opportunity to expand your knowledge of the concepts and techniques used in computer operations and learn about the latest technologies.

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Your advanced degree can help you pursue a career in nearly any industry – business, health, education, government, entertainment, and so on – and perhaps even take on a management role if you desire!

Paralegal checking appointments of lawyers

Earning a master’s in legal studies can help open the door to job opportunities across numerous industries that need professionals with in-depth legal skills and knowledge. Concentrations that you may take include healthcare law, business law, human rights, intellectual property, and environmental law and policy.

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You may find employment in a range of industries and sectors, including government agencies, nonprofit organizations, private firms and companies, and educational institutions. This degree can allow you to pursue a career as a contract manager, a postsecondary teacher, a paralegal, a legal assistant, a human resource manager, or a compliance officer.

Online Master’s Degree in Nursing

Registered nurses working in a hospital

As an experienced RN, you can potentially advance your career in a variety of ways by earning a master’s degree. A master’s in nursing builds on an RN’s education and experience, with some programs offering nursing administration, nurse educator, and family nurse practitioner specializations.

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After graduating, you may pursue careers in numerous healthcare settings as a nurse educator, nurse practitioner, health services manager, nurse manager, or nurse director.

Online Master’s Degree in Psychology

Behavioral Psychologist in a session with a child and mother

While a bachelor’s degree can get you into the field, a master’s in psychology can help open the door to many more job prospects, from mental health services to government agencies to businesses and more.

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Earning a master’s degree in psychology can allow you to pursue a much more in-depth role and increase your earning potential. Earning a master’s can allow you to specialize in a specific field of psychology as well, such as behavioral, forensic, organizational, or educational psychology or human and family development.

Online Master’s Degree in Public Policy

Survey researchers team analyzing data

Earning a master’s in public policy can provide the opportunity for you to have an impact on society, from nonprofit organizations to all levels of government.

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Many programs offer specializations, including law and public policy, health policy, nonprofit sectors, and environmental policy. With this degree, you can explore careers in government agencies, nonprofit organizations, or private businesses. You may pursue a career as a political scientist, a policy analyst, a social and community service manager, or a survey researcher.

Online Master’s Degree in Social Work

Licensed social worker visiting a community resident

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, a master’s in social work is typically needed.

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A Master of Social Work is a requirement for becoming a licensed social worker and for clinical work. With this degree, you may pursue work in child welfare, mental health, public policy, gerontology, community social work, administration, management, healthcare, or criminal justice.

Common Types of Online Master’s Programs

There are several options for earning a master’s degree online. 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 your education.

Online Master of Science (MS Degrees)

Man getting his Online Master of Science 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. MS degrees typically cover 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 ME (Master of Engineering). Examples of popular Master of Science degree programs include:

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

Online Master of Arts (MA Degrees)

designer completing her Master of Arts  Degree Online

An 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 can potentially be an excellent step toward a lucrative professional career.

Examples of popular Master of Arts degree programs include:

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

Whether you should pursue an MS or an MA will depend upon your interests and career goals, but either degree can help open the doors to advanced careers and increase your salary potential.

How to Choose a Masters Degree Online Program

Friends exploring options for online master programs

As you explore options for online master programs, there are various factors you can take into consideration, including:

  • Accreditation: Choosing an accredited program is a key factor that can affect everything from transfer credits to potential employment opportunities.
  • Program Format: In some programs, you can take courses on your schedule, while others have scheduled classes, so you’ll need to find an option that works best for you.
  • Cost and Financial Aid: The overall cost of your program and financial aid that might be available is a key consideration that needs to work for your budget.
  • Length of Time: A master’s program is a significant time commitment, so it’s important to ensure the overall length of the program works with your goals and timeframe.
  • Support Services: Student support services vary by school, giving you another point of comparison when deciding on a program.
  • Concentrations: If you have a specialization in mind for your degree, it’s important to ensure that the school offers that concentration and associated curriculum.
  • Location: Some online programs require an in-person component, which may make the location a factor in your decision. It may also factor into the program tuition.

It can be helpful to rank these factors in order of importance for you as you narrow down your choice of online graduate schools.

Online Graduate Programs Admissions Requirements

Man checking requirements for Master's 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 bachelor’s degrees online.

While requirements will vary from program to program, these are some common requirements for the admissions process for graduate-level degrees:

  • GRE or GMAT scores (only some schools require them)
  • Minimum GPA
  • Undergraduate transcripts
  • Personal statement or essay
  • Professional references
  • Supplemental documents, such as a resume or portfolio

You’ll also need to fill out an application and submit it along with your program’s required admission materials. You may also have to pay an application fee, though some schools will waive the fee for those with financial need.

Online Master Degree Programs Accreditation

University offering Online Master Degree Programs

As you explore masters programs online, one important consideration is a school’s accreditation status. Accreditation helps to ensure that a school meets agreed-upon educational standards, with regional accreditation being the most widely accepted type.

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Many schools will only accept transfer credits or prior degrees from regionally accredited institutions. Employers may also favor degrees earned from accredited schools and programs more favorably. To learn more, you can visit the Council for Higher Education Accreditation website.

Online Masters Degrees Financial Aid and Scholarships

Online Masters Degrees Financial Aid

When looking into options for online graduate degrees, one factor to consider is the overall cost of your program and the resources available to help you financially.

If you are currently employed, it’s worth exploring assistance your employer may offer, including tuition reimbursement or reduced tuition with cooperating programs. Scholarships may also be an option, with many scholarships provided through public and private institutions and individual schools.

You may also find assistance through government loans, grants, or work-study programs that allow you to work to help fund your program. You may visit the Federal Student Aid website to learn more about the various financial aid options available to you.

What Is an Online Master’s Degree?

Woman taking her master's degree online

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

A master’s degree is a graduate-level degree that some individuals choose to pursue after earning a bachelor’s degree, though some unique programs offer students the option to pursue both simultaneously.

The programs typically take 1.5 to 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.

What Can You Do with an Online Masters Degree?

People with Masters Degree, working in business industry

Graduates of online masters degree programs have numerous options to pursue in terms of career, including advancing in their current career or changing fields.

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Many graduates pursue leadership or management opportunities in healthcare, education, human resources, business, or finance. Earning a master’s can also allow you to specialize in a niche area. For example, IT professionals can study cybersecurity, software engineering, or information security systems. Careers for professionals with a master’s degree also tend to pay above-average salaries.

How Much Can You Make with a Master’s Degree?

Master’s degree income

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 master’s degrees earn, on average, $240 more per week than those with bachelor’s degrees – that’s a difference of $12,480 in a year!

The change in earning potential varies by occupation. According to the BLS, these are some examples of careers you may pursue with a master’s degree and their average yearly salaries:

  • Computer and Information Research Scientists: $131,490
  • Physician Assistants: $121,530
  • Economists: $105,630
  • Instructional Coordinators: $63,740
  • Marriage and Family Therapists: $49,880

These are just some careers you may pursue, and they may require further experience or credentials to obtain. The specific salary you will earn will depend on a number of factors, including your career field, location, education, employer, and experience.

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.

How Much Does a Master’s Degree Cost Online?

Couple checking Online Master's Degree cost

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

The cost per credit hour for graduate school can range greatly, often from $300 to $800, and sometimes even higher. The average cost per credit hour for all graduate schools is about $660.

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

  • Often schools don’t charge out-of-state tuition fees to online students. If this is the case, you’ll pay the same rate whether you live across the street or across the country.
  • Online students often 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.

Your online degree will likely cost the same or less than it would cost to earn the same degree on campus.

Can You Transfer Credits for a Master’s Degree?

Student checking transfer credits for Master's Degree Online

If you have taken graduate-level courses at an accredited institution – recently or years ago – you will likely want to transfer those credits to give you a head-start on your new program. Which credits (if any) are accepted and how they will apply toward your degree will be 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. 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.

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

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master’s Degree Online?

Man pursuing his Master’s Degree online

On average, it takes 1.5 to 2 years of full-time study to earn a master’s degree, but an online program may be even faster. How quickly you can complete an online master’s program will depend on several variables, including:

  • How long your courses are, e.g. traditional 16 week courses vs. accelerated 8 week courses
  • The number of courses you take at a time
  • How often required courses are offered
  • Whether you attend part-time or full-time

By taking accelerated online courses – two per 8-week session – and choosing a program that does not require a thesis, you may be able to earn a master’s degree in just 1 year.

What’s the Difference between MA vs. MS Degree Programs?

While both types of master’s programs are valuable, there are some key distinctions between Master of Science programs and Master of Arts programs.

Online MS Programs Online MA Programs
  • The study tends to be on STEM subjects with a focus on analysis, scientific research, and evaluation.
  • It can be ideal for professionals entering careers needing strong technical skills.
  • The study tends to be on the humanities and liberal arts with a focus on research, debate, and discussion.
  • It can be ideal for students who plan to pursue a doctoral degree.

In addition, there may also be a difference in the final project, with many MA programs requiring a thesis and MS programs frequently requiring a cumulative research project.

Is a Master’s Degree Worth It?

students taking master's degree, attending class in university

Yes, a master’s degree is worth it for many students looking to advance their education and career opportunities. In highly competitive fields and job markets, a master’s degree can help set you apart from the competition and likely increase your earning potential and job security.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers like political scientists are projected to grow 6% over the next ten years and pay above-average salaries. Many administration and management careers, including in nursing and education, can become available as potential career paths after earning a master’s degree.

Universities Offering Online Masters Degree Program

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.

Arizona State University

Arizona State University

U.S. News & World Report named Arizona State University as one of the best schools in the nation for online master’s degrees. The school offers over 120 online graduate degree options. Courses follow a semester schedule, and most are asynchronous in format. Programs are offered in fields such as biomimicry, construction law, and global education.

ASU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Drexel University

Drexel University

Drexel University offers a variety of master’s degree options. Programs are fully online with most courses in an asynchronous format with weekly assignments. Courses follow a quarter-semester schedule with 4 start dates each year. Programs are offered in areas such as creative writing and cybersecurity.

Drexel University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Florida State University

Florida State University

U.S. News & World Report ranked Florida University among the top public universities for online degrees. The school offers a number of master’s degrees through its online learning platform. Courses are in synchronous and asynchronous formats. Online courses follow a semester schedule. Fields of study offered include athletic coaching and management information systems.

Florida State University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Indiana University – Bloomington

Indiana University Bloomington

Indiana University – Bloomington offers the opportunity to choose from over 60 online master’s degrees. Most courses are fully online and in an asynchronous format. Courses are 8 to 13 weeks long with several start dates each year. Areas of study include health informatics, strategic finance, and more.

Indiana University – Bloomington is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Liberty University

Liberty University

Niche named Liberty University as one of the best colleges for online degrees. Liberty offers over 200 master’s degrees for those looking to take the next step in their education. Most programs are entirely online. Courses are in 8 week accelerated formats with 8 start dates throughout the year. Programs are offered in fields such as aeronautics, public policy, and nutrition.

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

National University

National University

National University offers over 50 master’s programs. All programs are fully online. Courses are 4 weeks long with convenient start dates each month. Online students are eligible for tutoring services. Fields of study offered include applied behavioral analysis, business administration, and computer science.

National University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

New York University

New York University

New York University offers the opportunity for continuing education online through several master’s degree options. Programs are offered fully online or in a hybrid format. Courses follow a semester schedule with start dates in the fall, spring, and summer. Fields of study offered include global health, taxation, and professional writing.

New York University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Pennsylvania State University

Pennsylvania State University

Pennsylvania State University offers over 50 master’s degrees online through its World Campus. Courses are in an asynchronous format with weekly assignments. Fall and spring courses follow a semester schedule with 2 accelerated summer terms. Majors offered include artificial intelligence and geographic information systems.

Pennsylvania State University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Stanford University

Stanford University

Stanford University offers the opportunity to further education and careers through its master’s degree offerings. Programs are fully online and asynchronous in format. Stanford currently offers 12 online master’s degrees in fields like materials science and engineering, statistics, and biomedical informatics. Courses are offered in quarter semesters and can be attended part-time or full-time.

Stanford is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

University of Central Florida

University of Central Florida

U.S. News & World Report named the University of Central Florida as one of the most innovative schools in the country. The school offers over 30 master’s degree programs, all entirely online. Courses follow a semester schedule. On average, programs can be completed in 18 months. Majors offered include civil engineering, aerospace engineering, and research administration.

The University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

University of Florida

University of Florida

The University of Florida offers a wide variety of master’s degrees through its distance learning program. Degrees are designed for working professionals who want to advance their careers. Courses follow a semester schedule and are offered in the fall, spring, and summer. Fields of study offered include student personnel in higher education and wildlife ecology and conservation.

The University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign

University of Illinois Urbana Champaign

The University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign offers over 40 online master’s degrees. Courses follow a semester schedule, with start dates in the fall, spring, and summer. Most courses are asynchronous. Degrees are offered in translation and interpreting, industrial engineering, and animal science.

The University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

University of Michigan Ann Arbor

A master’s degree can be earned through the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor’s online learning program. Degrees are offered fully online or in a hybrid format. Many programs are in an accelerated learning format. On average, the programs can be completed in 2 years. Areas of study offered include social work and applied data science.

The University of Michigan – Ann Arbor is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill offers online master’s degrees in a variety of fields. Most programs are entirely online with some requiring a short residency. Many degrees are in an accelerated format and may be completed in as few as 12 months. Programs are offered in digital curation and management, radiologic science, public administration, and more.

The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Texas – Austin

University of Texas Austin

Various online master’s degree programs are available through the University of Texas – Austin. Fields of study include data science, computer science, and artificial intelligence. On average, each program can be completed in 18 months. Courses follow a semester schedule with start dates in the fall and spring. A GRE score is not required to apply for any of the programs.

The University of Texas – Austin is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges.

Getting Your Master Degree Online

student getting her master degree online

Earning a masters online can give you the opportunity to develop valuable skills needed to advance your career or change to a new career path.

Careers for professionals with master’s degrees tend to pay above-average salaries, and some, like medical and health services managers, are projected to grow 28% over the next ten years. Earning a master’s degree can allow you to demonstrate your commitment to continuing your education and professional development and help you become an expert in your field.

If you want to take the next step in furthering your education, you can explore online masters degree programs from accredited schools today.

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.