Why This Matters


    It’s not just bachelor degrees that are in high demand. By 2024, more than 2.5 million jobs will require a master degree just to get your foot in the door — a 13.8% increase from 2014.


    While fewer people are earning a bachelor degree compared to its peak in 2010, more people graduated with a master degree in 2016 than ever before. 2016 saw nearly twice the graduates as 1996.


    Advanced degree holders are the most likely to break into a six figure annual salary. Only 5% of those with a high school diploma and 25% with a bachelor’s are in this income bracket.

Our Research

Earning a Master’s Degree is a great way to hone in on your interests and advance your career. While there are hundreds of master degrees available, we honed in on the top ten that are in high demand and readily available in online learning. Our top ten online master degrees include:

  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Counseling
  • Master of Education
  • Master of Healthcare Administration
  • Master of Human Resources
  • Master of Nursing
  • Master of Public Administration
  • Master of Public Health
  • Master of Psychology
  • Master of Social Work

To find the best universities for each degree, we only considered accredited, nonprofit institutions. Then, we analyzed each university based on the rigorousness of its program and relative cost. We also looked for whether the university offered a variety of specializations within a degree, and whether it is accredited by degree-specific organizations.

Together, these evaluations gave us our Intelligent Score for each university program. The best programs scored close to a perfect 100, and offer affordable online degrees that are highly-recognized for strength.

  • 500+ Universities
  • 30 Hours of Research
  • 10 Top Degrees

The Best MBA

Master’s of Business Administration (MBAs) are the most popular post-graduate degree in the U.S., with over 200,000 new graduates every year. To help you stand out from the crowd, we focused on universities offering in-demand specializations like healthcare, technology, and entrepreneurship.

The three best universities for MBA degrees are all fully online, and are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) — the gold standard for business degrees. Additionally, they allow you to tailor your MBA degree with a high percentage of elective credit hours a variety of specializations.


To see our full list and methodology, check out our article, the Best Online Master of Business Administration.

The Best Master of Counseling

Like most healthcare fields, counseling is a growing field in the U.S., and a master degree is one of the next steps to take to attain a license. Growing focuses on mental health and substance abuse — in addition to shortages in the number of student counselors — mean that counselors will have plenty of career opportunities.

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is the gold standard for master of counseling degrees. In addition to accrediting offline programs, they take special consideration when evaluating online degrees. While our final list of the best master in counseling degrees will be published Summer 2019, here are three of our front-runners:


The Best Master of Education

Whether a Master of Art in Teaching (MAT), Master of Science in Teaching (MST), or Master’s in Education (MEd), earning a master’s degree in education opens up career opportunities in a growing field. If you’re already a teacher, earning your master’s degree can boost your income potential by as much as $20,000.

Our top picks for the Best Master of Education are all accredited, affordable, highly reputable, and come with a variety of specialized degrees to choose from. See our article, the Best Online Master’s in Education, for a full list and to see our complete methodology.


The Best Master of Healthcare Administration

In part because of the Affordable Care Act, 2012 introduced over 300,000 new healthcare administration jobs — and the field is still growing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that with increasing demand from hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other healthcare organizations, healthcare administration jobs will increase by another 20% by 2026.

The best Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) degrees are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). We’re still doing the research to find the best of the best (stay tuned for our article Summer 2019), but early results suggest the following programs:


The Best Master of Human Resources

The human resource specialists roles tend to encompass many more skills than they did even ten years ago. These positions can pay well, and having a master degree in human resources nets a $7,000 annual boost in income. In particular demand are hiring specialists who can help their companies find the right employees in the midst of an “acute talent shortage” — 46% of U.S. employers found it difficult to find skilled workers in 2016.

While there isn’t a specific accrediting agency for master of human resources, these degrees fall within the business department. Having AACSB accreditation is a good indicator that the program is rigorous — as is membership with the Society for Human Resource Management. Early research shows that the following schools will be our three top programs, but stay posted to hear more when we release our final picks in Summer 2019.


The Best Master of Science in Nursing

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that over the next ten years, the U.S. will need one million more nurses to help fill new positions and replace nurses entering retirement. Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs vary by degrees available, where you can specialize in education, clinical, or administrative fields, and by entry-requirements. Some require a bachelor’s in nursing to apply, while others welcome registered nurses without one.

Our top three universities for MSN programs offer fully online degrees and are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Additionally, they each offer multiple specializations, so you’ll likely be able to find a degree that fits your interests, regardless of career goals.


The Best Master of Public Administration

With a Master of Public Administration (MPA), you can chase down your ideal career in just about every sector: private, nonprofit, or with the local, state, or federal government. There were more than 12.3 million jobs in the civil service and nonprofit sectors alone — and with a 17% growth in nonprofits between 2007 and 20016, it’s an excellent field to enter.

MPA degrees are accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA). We’re still researching for our upcoming Summer 2019 article, the Best Online Master of Public Administration, but three of our front-runners include:


The Best Master of Public Health

Practically every healthcare profession is seeing increasing growth — and need — in the next decade. Earning your Master of Public Health (MPH) can enable you to work in a number of fields, from public health project manager to research analyst, to healthcare social worker. Having a master degree pays off, too. You’ll earn on average $12,000 more per year with a MPH than with a bachelor degree.

To find the best Master of Public Health, we’re looking at those universities accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) to help identify which programs can best prepare you for your career. We’ll keep you posted on our final top picks (Summer 2019), but early results suggest the following programs to be at the top of our list:


The Best Master of Psychology

As the U.S. places increasing focus on mental health, we’re seeing increased demand for both counselors and psychologists. In particular need are psychologists trained to help the elderly, as well as veterans and other trauma survivors. While most states require a doctorate of psychology to be licensed, your master of psychology degree will enable you work in a variety of positions at hospitals, mental health centers, and schools.

To find the best online master of psychology, we looked at multiple accreditors: from the American Psychological Association (APA) which only evaluates a department’s doctoral programs, to CACREP, which traditionally evaluates counseling programs. We’re still researching for our Summer 2019 article, the Best Master of Psychology, but early results suggest the following programs as our top picks:


The Best Master of Social Work

Social workers are in high demand in the U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 16% increase in job positions by 2026, making social work one of the fastest growing fields. Every Master of Social Work (MSW) program requires field work in addition to online class hours, and the best universities work with you to find local placements.

Our top three programs are all accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), giving your diploma a little extra weight of importance to employers. Additionally, each university offers advanced standing options for students with a bachelor’s in social work, and offer specializations for students to customize their MSW degree.


This Degree Isn’t For Everyone

Earning a master degree can be a great way to advance your career by delving deep into a specialization, or bringing yourself up to speed to enter a new field. However, depending on your background and your career goals, a master degree might not be the best fit for you. If you know you’d like to pursue a doctorate in the field, and your background shows your experience in that field, you may not have to complete a master’s to apply. Look for doctorates or PhD programs that allow you to enter with a bachelor’s degree, and see if you can skip the master’s step.

What’s Next?

As you consider the degree options and schools on our lists, make sure to look at the state authorizations for a particular college before you apply. While many states have agreed to recognize degrees issued by universities in other states, there are a few exceptions. If you live in a different state than the prospective university, you’ll want to check with the college’s website or admission office to see whether they’ve been authorized to award diplomas to citizens of your home state.