A graduate degree can help you advance in your chosen career or even open additional career directions entirely. Completing your master’s degree online can be a convenient and affordable option—especially for busy adults who are already working full-time.
But which are the best online master’s degree programs? And how do you pick the one right for you?
The Benefits of a Master’s Degree
Pursuing a master’s degree can bring many advantages.
Some industries require a master’s for certification or licensure. Others don’t require a graduate degree, but do recognize the value of employees possessing a more advanced education, and pay these grads higher salaries accordingly. Depending on your career, some employers may even be happy to help fund your tuition!
On the other hand, you also may need a master’s degree in order to continue advancing upward along many career paths. While a bachelor’s degree will get a young professional started, you may find it difficult to move up into management positions without a master’s. Rather than limiting your options, pursuing a master’s degree adds weight to your growing resume.
For some individuals, a graduate degree is not necessary for their careers, but a goal for personal satisfaction. The true value of these students’ benefits from continued education may be hard to quantify, but they are equally meaningful.
How Much Do Graduate Online Programs Cost?
The total cost of a master’s degree can range between $30,000 and $120,000, depending on a variety of factors (including the major and school). The overall average for a traditional master’s, however, is more than $66,000.
Online master’s degree programs are generally much more affordable than traditional alternatives, but again: this can vary, depending upon the school you attend. When looking for a degree program, balance affordability with the quality of education you’ll receive.
As you calculate these factors, also consider the return on investment a master’s degree might bring you. If a master’s means a large bump in salary, then you can afford a more expensive program. If you’ll only receive a small salary increase or none at all, then look at schools with the lowest overall costs.
Types of Master’s Programs Online
When people think of a master’s degree they often think only of a Master of Science (MS) or a Master of Arts (MA). But there are many other types of master’s degrees, each one awarded depending upon the field.
Here are some—but not all—of the master’s degrees available, accompanied by a list of the industries or fields to which they generally pertain.
Master of Arts (M.A.)
Awarded in the arts or social sciences [such as English, communications, history, linguistics, and languages, just to name a few].
Master of Science (M.S.)
Typically awarded for science subjects, or those that have a stronger research component [such as chemistry, biology, health, engineering, and nursing].
Master of Business Administration (MBA)
Typically pursued by business professionals—often those looking to advance their careers, or enter management. Can pair with a specialization [such as finance].
Master of Library Sciences (MLS, MLIS)
Most professional librarian positions require an MLS or MLIS.
Master of Social Work (MSW)
While not every role in social work requires a master’s degree, this degree is required for licensed positions and clinical work.
Master of Education (M.Ed., M.S.Ed., M.A.T.)
A handful of states require a master’s degree for all teachers. Many other states have requirements that could be fulfilled with these courses, depending upon the teaching position.
Some Great Choices for an Online Master’s
There are hundreds of choices out there in where to earn a master’s degree online. The list below represents a few of them. It’s nearly impossible to include all the different programs available and all the universities that you could attend, so don’t be afraid to do your own research as well.
We’ve selected a few popular degree majors and evaluated major factors. These programs and universities are accredited, affordable, flexible, and often accelerated to help you complete your degree faster.
MBA from The University of Texas Permian Basin
The University of Texas Permian Basin offers a solid and well-respected online MBA. The program is 100% online and AACSB accredited.
Some key features are rolling admissions, accelerated eight-week pacing, asynchronous learning to fit busy schedules, and affordable tuition. Costs are the same regardless of residency status and are a reasonable $356 per credit.
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) at Saint Xavier University
With graduate nursing degrees often costing more than $1200 for each credit, an MSN from Saint Xavier University in Chicago is an outstanding option. Consistently highly ranked, nationally recognized, and CCNE accredited, this online program costs just $750 per credit regardless of residence.
Saint Xavier has an application deadline of July 15th, and students may attend either full-time or part-time. There are three tracks to choose from—Clinical Leadership, Family Nurse Practitioner, or Nurse Educator.
Master of Education (M.Ed.) from Clemson University
The consistently top-ranked program for an online master’s in education at Clemson University is also affordable. Tuition costs are $499 per credit. The 30-credit program is designed to be completed in 18 months.
CAEP accredited, Clemson offers many different specialization areas that are 100% online in a synchronous format. Courses are eight weeks long and students take one at a time, completing two per semester.
Master of Social Work (MSW) from New Mexico State University Online
One of the most affordable options out there for a master’s of social work, NMSU Online offers a CSWE-accredited program for $444.40 per credit hour. The online program is designed to be completed in one to two years and is for full-time students.
A top-ranked online university, the MSW degree program is an advanced generalist program with an emphasis on practice in multicultural settings with vulnerable populations.
Choosing the Best Program for You
Online master’s degree programs are as varied as they are numerous. A program that is great for you, may not be the best for the next person.
Choosing the best online graduate program starts with narrowing down the field by the major you’re interested in. From there, then other important factors that could make or break your decision—such as tuition cost, program length, or course delivery style. Don’t forget that you can consult an expert in college admissions for guidance during this phase to make sure you don’t miss out on any great opportunities!
With a little bit of effort, you’ll have found an exciting, comfortable fit in a program where you can continue chasing your dreams!