What Are the Goals of an Online Master’s Program?
A master’s degree helps professionals advance their careers and increase their earning potential. Many career paths require a master’s degree for supervisory roles or for positions with increased responsibilities. For example, a master’s in business can lead to managerial opportunities, while a master’s in nursing can qualify nurses for advanced practice roles.
Earning a master’s degree generally takes two years. However, many online master’s programs offer accelerated or self-paced options to speed up the process of earning a degree. Many professionals also prefer the flexibility of an online master’s program. Unlike an on-campus program, which requires set class times, many online programs let students complete coursework requirements around their schedule.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the three most common master’s fields are business, education, and healthcare. Other popular degrees include computer and information sciences, engineering, public administration, and psychology. Most business managers, school principals, and advanced practice nurses hold a master’s degree.
This page introduces the most affordable online master’s programs in multiple fields.
|Can I get a master’s degree online?
||Yes. Many universities offer online master’s degrees in
business, education, healthcare, and other fields.
|Do I need a bachelor’s degree to get a master’s degree?
||Yes. The educational requirements for entering a master’s
program nearly always include a bachelor’s degree. However,
applicants do not necessarily need to hold a bachelor’s degree
in the same field as their master’s program.
|How long does it take to earn a master’s degree?
||Earning a master’s degree generally takes two years for
full-time students. Some programs offer accelerated one-year
master’s programs, while a part-time master’s degree takes
|What kinds of master’s degrees are there?
||Universities offer master’s degrees in several areas,
including education, nursing, business, and social work.
Students can also earn a master’s degree in counseling,
engineering, information technology, and other fields.
Looking for a graduate program that won’t break the bank? These accredited universities deliver both quality and affordability—online.
The National Center for Education Statistics reports a 70% increase in on-campus and online master’s degrees conferred by U.S. institutions from 2000-2017. The New York Times reports that many companies prefer job applicants with a master’s over those with just a bachelor’s. Colleges and universities throughout the country have increased the number of their onsite and online graduate programs to better prepare individuals for the modern workforce.
Top 10 Most Affordable Online Graduate Schools for a Master’s Degree in 2020
||University of the Cumberlands
||Fitchburg State University
||Touro University Worldwide
||Texas Woman's University
||North American University
||University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus
||River Forest, IL
||Georgia Institute of Technology
||National Louis University
Why Study Online?
An online master’s degree provides more flexibility and convenience than an on-campus program. Online learning also provides several financial benefits. Online learners save on tuition costs, with many institutions offering tuition discounts or flat tuition rates for fully online students. Students enrolled in an online program also save on housing, transportation, and parking costs.
The flexibility of an online program means students can continue working while earning a degree. Maintaining a consistent income and work history while pursuing an online graduate degree appeals to many students. Online graduate programs often design their coursework with working professionals in mind.
Many online programs use an asynchronous learning format, in which students complete coursework on their schedule without set class times. Online master’s programs also offer self-paced study and accelerated enrollment to meet the needs of professional students. By logging into learning management systems at any time from any place, graduate students can fit school around their personal or professional responsibilities.
According to a 2019 study on student satisfaction, online learners report higher satisfaction numbers than any other group, including undergraduates and graduate students. While graduate students overall report a 66% satisfaction rate, 72% of online learners report feeling satisfied or very satisfied with their program.
However, 84% of online learners point to cost as a key factor in deciding whether to enroll in a program. By ranking the cheapest online master’s programs, our list helps students make a budget-friendly decision about their education.
Accreditation for Online Programs
Accreditation recognizes colleges and universities that meet high standards for academic excellence. Prospective graduate students should always check a program’s accreditation status before applying, as accreditation benefits students in several ways.
Students at an accredited school qualify for federal financial aid, and an accredited degree meets more professional licensure and certification requirements. Many employers prefer to hire candidates with an accredited degree.
In addition to institutional accreditation, which evaluates an entire school, many programs hold specialized accreditation. For example, nursing programs, business schools, and educator preparation programs typically hold programmatic accreditation. To earn this form of accreditation, programs undergo a voluntary review from an independent agency dedicated to education in that specific field.
Online schools can also earn specialized accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). The DEAC evaluates online programs to make sure they meet curriculum, academic, and institutional standards.
Learn more about why accreditation matters.
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Recommended Online Programs
Most Affordable Online Master’s Programs 2020 | College Choice
This ranking lists the most affordable online master’s programs to help prospective students find the right fit for their budget and career goals. The list considers several factors, including accreditation status, program reputation, and total cost. Prospective graduate students can also consider factors like average salaries in their field and job growth when researching master’s programs online.
See our rankings methodology page.
A private health sciences university in Chesterfield, Missouri, Logan University’s commitment to holistic healthcare education goes back to 1935. Logan offers seven evidence-based degrees in four in-demand fields, including online master’s degrees in health informatics, nutrition and human performance, and sports science and rehabilitation.
Logan boasts small online classes (12-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio) that facilitate high levels of interaction and personalized attention. Distance learners get access to career services, a learning resource center, world-class faculty, and academic technology services. Logan partners with a variety of regional and national academic and professional institutions to offer opportunities for hands-on experience in students’ local communities.
Transfer students may be able to get credit for prior coursework with a minimum 3.0 GPA. The school accepts up to 30% of the program’s total credits in transfer coursework.
Logan University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
University of the Cumberlands
Founded by Baptist ministers in 1888, University of the Cumberlands (UC) in Williamsburg, Kentucky, provides a broad, Christ-informed liberal arts education to students from all backgrounds. The university boasts a 15-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, 40 undergraduate academic programs, eight focus areas for graduate study, and more than 15,000 in-person and online students.
Designed for adult learners, UC’s flexible and affordable online master’s programs cover fields such as counseling, business, education, and ministry. The school’s practical online graduate programs combine a 125-year-old tradition of academic excellence with modern, cutting-edge technologies that support distance learners. Online students get access to UC’s library resources, academic advising, and the learning commons and writing center.
UC’s admissions committee evaluates students based on their resume, GPA, courses taken, extracurricular activities, and essay quality.
University of the Cumberlands is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Fitchburg State University
Founded in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, in 1894, Fitchburg State University is a public school that offers professional programs that incorporate the liberal arts and sciences. The academic catalog includes 30 undergraduate and 22 master’s programs for 7,000 students. Online offerings include continuing education and professional development programs.
Distance learners can choose from some of the cheapest online master’s programs in fields such as educational leadership and management, history, marketing, and forensic nursing. Online learners can pursue completely online degrees on their own schedule, with course materials available 24/7 and no set class times required. Online programs also offer dedicated faculty, high-quality curriculum, and technical support.
Students complete all online coursework asynchronously using Blackboard, Fitchburg’s simple, user-friendly interface. Prospective online students can take a demonstration class to see if they like the online learning environment.
Fitchburg State University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).
Touro University Worldwide
Based in Los Alamitos, California, Touro University Worldwide (TUW) offers flexible, accredited degrees completely online. Academic departments include business, psychology, and health and human services. Distance learners can pursue master’s degrees in areas such as dispute resolution, human resource management, and marriage and family therapy.
TUW’s online master’s programs feature affordable tuition and an all doctoral-level faculty. Because of the university’s rolling enrollment period, distance learners can start their program six times a year. No online programs require an onsite residency, allowing students to complete their degree while fulfilling personal and work commitments.
Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited postsecondary institution with a minimum 2.5 GPA. TUW accepts graduate transfer students in good academic standing with a minimum 2.75 GPA. TUW does not require GRE or GMAT scores.
Touro University Worldwide is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
The largest American university primarily for women, Texas Woman’s University (TWU) in Denton enrolls 15,000 students. TWU’s academic catalog includes undergraduate and graduate degrees in the liberal arts, health sciences, business, and nursing. TWU offers more than 30 hybrid and fully online graduate programs, including master’s degrees in education for the deaf, health administration in global health, and nursing education.
TWU’s online learners can take advantage of personalized academic advising, a center for women in business, a career connections center, a writing center, and financial aid assistance. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college and a minimum 3.0 GPA in the last 60 credits of undergraduate coursework. Applicants must also meet individual program requirements. International applicants must submit proof of English language proficiency.
Texas Woman’s University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
North American University
One of the newest universities in Houston, Texas, North American University (NAU) emphasizes student-centered, individually based support to foster academic success. Founded in 2007, the private, nonprofit school offers accredited bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science, business administration, and education.
Online learners at NAU can pursue courses at the undergraduate and graduate level. NAU also offers an accelerated 16-month master of business administration (MBA). The online MBA emphasizes leadership, change management, and data analytics. Business professionals and experienced faculty members collaborate to create NAU’s MBA curriculum. The MBA program does not require the GRE or GMAT.
NAU delivers its distance education programs using the Moodle course management system. Distance learners gain access to a career center, library resources, IT help, and a student success center that offers mentoring, academic coaching, and tutoring.
North American University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus
One of the country’s top urban public research universities, the University of Colorado (CU) Denver Anschutz Medical Campus consists of two campuses: the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora and CU-Denver in downtown Denver. The university serves more than 18,000 students and offers 130 academic programs through 13 colleges and schools.
Distance learners can pursue more than 50 fully online bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and certificate programs through CU Online. The school’s distance education offerings also include many standalone online courses. Popular online master’s programs include information systems and criminal justice.
CU’s pioneering commitment to distance education goes back to 1996, when the school offered its first online class. Online learners enjoy the same world-class faculty and curriculum as on-campus students. Degree-seekers take classes asynchronously through the Canvas learning management system.
University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
River Forest, IL
Founded in 1864 and part of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Concordia University-Chicago in River Forest, Illinois, offers a private, liberal arts education that incorporates Christian values. Concordia offers dozens of fully online bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in fields such as computer science, early childhood education, and healthcare management.
Designed for working adults, the school’s asynchronous distance education programs include daily interaction with faculty and classmates. Degree-seekers take one class at a time in a predetermined order. Concordia’s faculty members and online learners come from dozens of states and across the world.
Admission requirements for Concordia’s master’s programs include a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college. Full admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants must submit an objective statement, transcripts, and two recommendation letters. Prerequisite requirements vary by program.
Concordia University-Chicago is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Georgia Institute of Technology
The internationally recognized public research university Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, serves more than 25,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The university emphasizes science- and technology-focused majors in computing, business, design, liberal arts, sciences, and engineering. The university’s experience offering online education to students around the world goes back more than 40 years.
The school’s online programs feature world-class faculty, rigorous courses, and cutting-edge digital learning tools. Distance learners experience a media-rich online learning environment where they can collaborate with classmates and instructors, watch videos, and access lectures 24/7. Georgia Tech offers 13 flexible online master’s programs in fields such as aerospace engineering, cybersecurity, and medical physics. After completing their degree requirements, distance learners can attend commencement on campus in Atlanta.
Georgia Institute of Technology is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
National Louis University
One of the most diverse universities in the Midwest, National Louis University (NLU) in Chicago, Illinois, offers fully accredited online bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. NLU got its start more than 130 years ago as a kindergarten training school, and its education programs remain strong today.
NLU’s online graduate programs include 10 master’s degrees in areas such as early childhood administration, teacher leadership, and industrial and organizational psychology. Degree-seekers can also pursue six online education endorsements. NLU’s distance learners experience the same curriculum and credentialed faculty members as their on-campus counterparts, but benefit from the flexibility of self-paced, asynchronous classes.
Admission requirements for master’s programs include a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university, a resume, official transcripts, a graduate admission essay, and three references. Each program may also include its own specific requirements.
National Louis University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) in Lubbock graduates more healthcare professionals than any other Texas school. The university conducts cutting-edge clinical and biomedical research and provides patient care. An independent university separate from Texas Tech University, TTUHSC operates five schools and satellite campuses, including a school of medicine, school of nursing, and graduate school of biomedical sciences.
TTUHSC offers a variety of distance education options, including online master’s programs in clinical rehabilitation counseling, healthcare administration, and nursing. The university’s online programs do not cover state professional licensing requirements. Degree-seekers should verify state licensing board eligibility with their program. Distance learners get access to student support services including library resources, academic advising, student business services, a writing center, and IT help.
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Louisiana State University-Shreveport
Established in 1967, in Shreveport, Louisiana State University Shreveport (LSUS) boasts one of Louisiana’s lowest student-to-teacher ratios. The university’s eight-week semester system lets students earn their degrees faster.
LSUS offers distance education programs for undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education students. Fully online master’s degrees from LSUS encompass fields such as nonprofit administration, curriculum and instruction, and educational leadership. LSUS also offers an online MBA program with 10 specializations, including project management, human resources management, and hospitality and casino management. Most online master’s degrees from LSUS take less than one year to complete.
Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA or a minimum 2.75 GPA in the last 60 undergraduate semester credits. Applicants must also be in satisfactory academic standing at their last institution.
Louisiana State University Shreveport is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Located in New Castle, Delaware, Wilmington University (WilmU) offers more than 125 flexible online degrees that prepare working adults for career advancement. The university’s distance education programs feature award-winning faculty, affordable tuition, and special support for military students. A transfer-friendly school, Wilmington accepts up to 12 transfer credits from accredited institutions towards a graduate degree.
Classes start every eight weeks, allowing degree-seekers to choose a start date that works best with their professional and personal commitments. Online students enjoy access to advising, tutoring, and library resources.
Applicants to WilmU’s online master’s programs need an accredited bachelor’s degree. The university’s open admission policy means that applicants do not need a minimum GPA or GRE/GMAT test scores to qualify for most programs. Distance learners can graduate sooner by applying to get credit for previous academic coursework or military training and professional experience.
Wilmington University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
A public research university and medical center founded in 1828, Augusta University in Augusta, Georgia, offers 160 undergraduate and graduate programs and clinical research opportunities. Augusta holds the Carnegie classification of very high research activity for a doctoral university and boasts top-ranking nursing and business schools. More than 9,000 students attend classes at Augusta each year.
Augusta’s graduate school offers online master’s programs in fields such as business administration, educational leadership, and kinesiology. The university’s distance education offerings include a variety of online courses from the division of professional and community education.
Admission requirements for master’s programs at Augusta vary by program. Distance learners pay a flat fee per credit, regardless of where they live, and they may qualify for the same financial aid as on-campus students.
Augusta University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Nova Southeastern University
Fort Lauderdale, FL
A private, nonprofit institution established in 1964 and based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Nova Southeastern University (NSU) serves 21,000 students annually. NSU provides student-centered undergraduate and graduate on-campus and online programs. Nationally recognized as a leader in online learning, NSU traces its pioneering efforts in distance education to 1972. Today, learners can choose from a variety of affordable online master’s programs in fields such as accounting, data analytics, and disaster and emergency management.
NSU’s online programs feature 24/7 access to course content, web-based instruction, high levels of student engagement, and real-time classroom presentations and audio. Distance learners get access to the university’s electronic library and online databases, career development services, and individualized academic advising. The university may accept up to 12 transfer credits from a regionally accredited college towards a master’s degree.
Nova Southeastern University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Texas A & M University-Commerce
Texas A&M University-Commerce, a public postsecondary institution in Commerce, Texas, was established in 1889 and serves more than 12,000 students. The school’s more than 130 academic programs include a variety of hybrid/blended and online bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.
The university’s academic offerings include colleges of science and engineering, education and human services, business, and agriculture. Popular online master’s programs include business, physics, and higher education. Online courses use the Brightspace learning management system and follow the same semester schedule as the physical campus.
Distance learners receive the same support services as on-campus students, including access to financial aid, library resources, career services, technical support, and the university bookstore.
Texas A&M University-Commerce is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Established in 1958 to educate service members at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, Brandman University in Irvine, California, remains military-friendly but serves a diverse population of working adults seeking flexible learning opportunities. Brandman serves 13,000 students with on-campus and online accredited bachelor’s, master’s, and certificate programs.
Brandman’s online master’s programs include fields such as organizational leadership, special education, and psychology. Distance learners get access to career coaching, mentoring, and networking opportunities and receive individualized academic advising. Practitioner faculty offer mentorship and career guidance to students. All instructors learn to teach using a model that emphasizes best practices for adult learning.
Applicants to Brandman’s online master’s programs need a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university. Other application requirements may include graduate-level examinations, official transcripts, and additional documentation.
Brandman University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
A public Ivy and one of the nation’s oldest and top-ranked public universities, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) offers degrees in more than 70 fields of study. Online and distance education offerings at UNC include nine master’s degrees, two doctoral degrees, and eight certificate programs. UNC also offers online education opportunities through the center for continuing education and its professional schools.
Distance learners can earn some of the cheapest online master’s degrees from UNC in subjects such as public health, technology and communication, public administration, and accounting. The school’s online master’s programs let students continue working while pursuing their degree. Online courses include multimedia coursework, optional on-campus immersion experiences, and access to support services such as a writing center, tutoring, and a virtual computer lab.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Established more than 160 years ago, the University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville boasts $838 million in annual research expenditures and more than 200 research, education, and service centers and institutes.
Students can pursue more than 200 undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates online, including affordable online master’s programs in fields such as aerospace engineering, educational leadership, and international construction management. The university also uses Coursera to offer free online classes to the general public.
UF’s distance courses may include both synchronous and asynchronous instruction. Online learners receive academic advising, financial aid opportunities, and IT help. The cost of tuition and admission requirements for UF’s online graduate degrees vary by program. Students should contact their prospective department for specific information.
University of Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
University of Alabama at Birmingham
A public research institution, The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) boasts one of the nation’s biggest academic medical centers. UAB offers more than 170 academic programs with study-abroad opportunities in 53 countries. UAB’s distance learners can pursue bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs online in fields such as management information systems, instructional design and development, and construction engineering and management.
UAB offers mostly online, fully online, partly online, and blended degree options. Many primarily on-campus programs also deliver some courses at a distance. The Collat School of Business provides more than 95% of its courses both online and on campus, giving degree-seekers flexibility. Many online programs at UAB charge the same tuition rate for residents and non-residents.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system, Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York, got its start in 1957 as a training college for math and science secondary school teachers. The university boasts over 200 undergraduate programs and more than 150 graduate programs. Popular degrees include biology, business management, and mechanical engineering.
SUNY Stony Brook’s school of professional development offers online master’s programs in areas such as higher education administration, human resource management, and liberal studies. Other online offerings include graduate certificates and post-master’s certificates in coaching, educational leadership, and higher education administration. Most online programs run asynchronously and follow an accelerated 10-week semester schedule that does not observe state holidays or fall or spring breaks.
Distance learners get access to support services, including library resources, the writing center, counseling and psychological services, and information technology assistance.
Stony Brook University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
University of Illinois at Chicago
One of the country’s most highly regarded and diverse postsecondary institutions, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) enrolls more than 33,000 undergraduate and graduate students each year. In collaboration with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Illinois at Springfield, UIC offers several online bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and certificate programs and continuing education courses.
Academic offerings include online graduate programs in aerospace engineering, curriculum and instruction, and community health sciences. Admission requirements vary by program. Online student support includes access to library resources, career development services, disability services, and veteran services.
Highly qualified instructors teach in UIC’s online programs and receive support from the school’s center for innovation in teaching and learning, the faculty and staff technology training team, and information technology.
The University of Illinois at Chicago is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
A public university in Beaumont, Texas, and a member of the Texas State University System since 1995, Lamar University serves more than 15,000 students. Offering more than 100 degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels, the school emphasizes experiential learning and opportunities for student-led research.
Distance learners can pursue master’s degrees in areas such as business administration, healthcare administration, criminal justice, and clinical mental health counseling. Lamar also offers online degree and certificate programs in nursing, liberal arts, and health sciences.
The same top-ranked faculty that teach on campus also provide instruction for the university’s online programs. Lamar’s completely online courses offer 24/7 availability and features such as streaming video, online chat rooms with real-time interaction, and discussion boards.
Lamar University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
University of Oklahoma-Health Sciences Center
Oklahoma City, OK
A public research institution founded in 1890, the University of Oklahoma (OU) in Norman boasts more than 170 academic programs. OU’s extended campus offers blended onsite/online and fully online master’s programs designed to meet the needs of working adults.
The academic catalog includes online degrees in organizational leadership, museum studies, health and human services, and criminal justice. Courses run asynchronously and offer 24/7 access, allowing learners to complete assignments whenever convenient. Student support advisors, program directors, a technical support team, and a dedicated distance-learning librarian provide personalized support to online students.
Prospective online students can apply three times a year. Admission requirements for online graduate programs include a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college and a minimum 3.0 GPA. OU may accept some applicants with a lower GPA who demonstrate other potential for academic success.
University of Oklahoma is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
With a history going back 150 years, Maryville University in Saint Louis, Missouri, ranks among the nation’s fastest growing universities. Maryville’s future-focused commitment to using innovative technology to support learning earned it recognition from Apple as a Distinguished School for 2018-21.
Online offerings include more than 50 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees and certificate programs. The school’s online graduate programs feature completely online coursework with no in-person requirements. Learners can pursue online master’s programs in data analytics, strategic communication and leadership, and nursing. Maryville is also developing new online programs, some in partnership with companies such as Boeing and Edward Jones.
The university offers flexible start dates and individualized enrollment support and academic advising. Maryville’s streamlined admission process does not require any entrance exams or an application fee.
Maryville University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Career and Salary Outlook for Graduates
Professionals with a master’s degree benefit from higher salaries and lower unemployment than those with a bachelor’s degree or associate degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), professionals with a master’s degree made a median salary of almost $1,500 per week in 2019, while workers with a bachelor’s degree earned a median salary of around $1,250 per week. Professionals with an associate degree earned under $900 per week.
As such, professionals with a master’s degree earn nearly $13,000 more per year than those with a bachelor’s degree and over $31,000 more than those with an associate degree.
An advanced degree also leads to a lower unemployment rate. Workers with a master’s degree had a 2.0% unemployment rate in 2019, while those with a bachelor’s degree had a 2.2% unemployment rate. Workers with an associate degree faced a higher unemployment rate of 2.7%
When comparing the career and salary outlook for professionals with a graduate degree, prospective students should note that earning potential and job growth varies depending on the field. Salary and job openings also vary by geography and work experience. However, median annual salary and unemployment rates demonstrate the benefits of earning a graduate degree.
The total cost of an online master’s degree depends on the program. Tuition makes up the largest expense. Graduate tuition varies widely based on the institution and program. For example, in-state public universities generally charge the lowest tuition rates, followed by out-of-state public schools and private schools.
Students must meet residency requirements to qualify for in-state status. To qualify, learners must demonstrate at least 12 months of full time, permanent residency in their state. Students must also demonstrate financial independence by demonstrating an income source not linked to their parents.
Some online schools offer tuition discounts for fully online students who live elsewhere. Graduate students can often save thousands by choosing a school that charges in-state tuition for fully online students. Similarly, many online schools charge a flat tuition rate for online students regardless of the student’s residency status. In most cases, the flat rate offers a much lower cost than out-of-state tuition.
Students looking for the cheapest online master’s degree must also research fees. Online schools may charge a distance learning or technology fee, and some programs charge a graduation fee. These fees can add thousands to the total cost of an online master’s degree.
Students attending accredited online master’s programs qualify for many scholarship, grant, and fellowship opportunities. Many private organizations and professional associations provide scholarships for graduate students based on their field of study. These scholarships can help cover the cost of an online master’s degree.
Who Can Apply: The AICPA offers several scholarships for graduate students in accounting. Applicants must plan to pursue careers as CPAs, and some scholarships require a minimum GPA.
Foster G. McGaw Graduate Student Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Offered by the American College of Healthcare Executives, this scholarship supports students earning a healthcare management graduate degree. Applicants must demonstrate financial need.
Who Can Apply: Graduate students in nursing qualify for several scholarship opportunities offered by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The association also lists outside scholarship opportunities for master’s in nursing students.
Who Can Apply: The federal government provides TEACH grants to master’s in education students planning to work in a high-demand area or in a low-income school. Recipients must meet work requirements after completing their degree.
GEM Fellowship Program
Who Can Apply: The National GEM Consortium offers graduate scholarships for students earning a master’s in engineering or a closely related field. Recipients receive a living stipend, paid summer internships, and tuition assistance.
Graduate students pay for their degrees through many forms of financial aid, including federal financial aid, graduate fellowships, and employer tuition reimbursement programs. Students pursuing accredited online graduate degrees can qualify for federal aid by filling out the FAFSA every year. The FAFSA requires financial information to determine whether applicants meet the requirements for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs.
The federal government offers several types of loans through its financial aid program. Graduate students may qualify for subsidized or unsubsidized loans. Recipients of a subsidized loan do not pay interest while in school. Instead, the federal government covers interest until six months after graduation. With an unsubsidized loan, interest accumulates while earning the degree.
In addition to federal loans, graduate students can apply for private loans from banks and other lenders. Many schools support graduate students through grants or scholarships, and master’s students can also apply for fellowships or assistantships offered by their program or private organizations. Graduate programs often hire graduate teaching assistants or research assistants, who receive a tuition remission and stipend during their program.
Working professionals earning a degree to advance their career may also qualify for employer tuition reimbursement programs. Under these programs, a student’s employer pays for part or all of their tuition costs. Some programs include a requirement to work for the employer for a certain amount of time after earning the degree.