Why This Matters

  • 33% OF EMPLOYERS SEEK CANDIDATES WITH A MASTER’S DEGREE

    According to a 2017 CareerBuilder survey, one-third of employers have raised their educational requirements since the early 2000s, a trend that will likely continue.

  • HALF OF THE FASTEST-GROWING OCCUPATIONS REQUIRE A MASTER’S

    Among the top 10 fastest-growing occupations in the U.S., five require a master’s degree, including nurse practitioner, physician assistant, and information security analyst.

  • A MASTER’S DEGREE CAN INCREASE ANNUAL SALARY BY $12K

    Individuals with a master’s degree earn a median weekly salary of $1,401, compared to $1,173 for people who only hold a bachelor’s degree.

Our Research

When it comes to selecting the best master’s degree programs in the U.S., there are thousands of institutions to choose from. To compile our list of the best master’s degrees, we reviewed programs and institutions based on their reputations, faculty, flexibility, and value.

A key criteria for inclusion on our list is accreditation. All of the degrees programs on our list are offered by institutions that are regionally accredited. This means the schools are held to a higher standard of quality, and can also affect financial aid eligibility and the transferability of credits.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. Our top picks for the best Master’s Degrees program are affordable, respected, and flexible. (For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.)

  • 62 hours to write this article
  • 175 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 303 education programs we compared

The Top 50 Master’s Degrees

Best Master's Degrees
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What You Should Know About This Degree

There are several different types of master’s degrees. For some areas of study, you can earn a general master’s degree, such as a Master of Arts, Master of Science, or Master of Business Administration. Other professions require a more specific master’s degree, such as a Master of Social Work, or a Master of Education. Before selecting a program, consider your career goals, to help you determine which type of master’s degree is the best choice for you.

It typically takes two to three years to earn a master’s degree, although the exact length of the program will depend on the specific program and number of credits, and whether you attend the program full-time or part-time. Pursuing a master’s degree requires a significant investment of time and money, in addition to what you have already invested in a bachelor’s degree. Understanding why you are earning this degree, and how it will benefit you will help keep you motivated.

Depending on your career aspirations, you may not need to enroll in a full master’s program to enter or advance in your field. Certificate and diploma programs offer individuals additional education and training, and typically take less time to complete than a master’s degree.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching master’s degree programs:

  • Am I eligible for this program? As advanced degrees, master’s programs typically have more stringent eligibility requirements than bachelor’s degree programs. This can include having an undergraduate degree or coursework in a particular area, meeting certain GPA thresholds, or having some professional experience. Before applying to a program, review their admissions requirements to confirm that you have the proper qualifications.
  • Is the program offered full- or part-time? Since master’s programs tend to attract a more diverse group of students, scheduling for these types of degrees may be more flexible than for bachelor’s programs. Some master’s programs are designed for working professionals, with classes on evenings and weekends, while others follow a more traditional schedule, with classes during daytime hours. Be sure to find a program that works with your schedule and lifestyle.

A key thing to pay attention to as you research programs is what their admissions requirements and deadlines are. You will likely need to provide undergraduate transcripts, essays, and letters of recommendation, and may also need to take standardized tests like the GRE or GMAT as part of the admissions process.

It’s also important to consider how you will finance your master’s degree. Research financial aid opportunities, including need-based student loans, scholarships, and assistantships. If you are employed, find out if your employer offers tuition reimbursement.