Why This Matters

  • MASTER’S-LEVEL EMPLOYMENT TO INCREASE 17%

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs requiring a master’s degree are increasing at a faster rate than bachelor’s- and doctoral-level occupations. Fast-growing field include healthcare, education, and social services.

  • 33% OF EMPLOYERS REQUIRE ADVANCED DEGREES

    As the skills needed for many different jobs evolve, employers in various industries are increasingly seeking employees who have master’s degrees for entry-level and mid-career positions, Careerbuilder reports.

  • EARN $30,000 MORE PER YEAR WITH A MASTER’S

    The average median wage for individuals, with a bachelor’s degree is $37,690, according to the BLS. Meanwhile, those with a master’s degree earn nearly double that, with a median annual wage of $68,090.

Our Research

We did not review specific programs for this list, but took an overall look at online master’s degree programs offered by various institutions. As such, this list includes all types of popular master’s degrees, including Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), Master of Business Administration (MBA), and more. Your particular career field and goals will determine which type of degree you seek.

All of the listed schools have regional accreditation, which assures quality in higher education. Some programs also have specialized accreditations. A degree from a specially accredited program may be required to obtain professional certification or licensure after graduation.

These programs are all offered online, although some can also be completed in an online/in-person hybrid format.

We evaluated the online programs based on their reputation, course strength, cost, flexibility and faculty, and calculated the Intelligent Score of each on a scale from 0 to 100. Our top picks for the best online master’s programs are respected, affordable, and customizable. (For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.)

  • 66 hours to write this article
  • 187 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 399 education programs we compared

The Top 50 Online Master’s Programs

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What You Should Know About This Degree

There’s no denying the popularity of online degrees, but there are some special considerations and challenges one must address when thinking about an online program. Online students don’t have face-to-face interaction and accountability to keep them on track, so they must be self-motivated and good at time management. This lack of in-person discussion can also be an adjustment for individuals used to learning in a classroom setting, and can make it more difficult to network with peers and faculty. Distance learners must also be proficient with technology, and have reliable devices and Internet connections.

If you are considering an online program offered by an out-of-state school, make sure that school is authorized to grant degrees to students who live where you do. The National Council of State Authorization of Reciprocity Agreements oversees distance learning in the U.S., and is a good resource for understanding which schools can offer you an online degree.

When considering a master’s, it’s important to understand your career aspirations, and whether a master’s is the best route to achieving them. Depending on the field, you may be able to advance with a certification program or on-the-job training. Earning an online master’s is a significant commitment of time and money; knowing why you’re doing it will help you stay motivated.

What’s Next?

Ask the following questions when researching online master’s programs:

  • Does the program have any in-person requirements? Even if all of a program’s coursework is offered online, it may have in-person requirements like internships, residencies, or orientations. Find out if the program has any in-person requirements, and if they can be completed where you live, or if they require travel to campus.
  • What support services are offered for distance learners? Online students require many of the same support services that on-campus learners do, including tutoring, library access, tech support, and job placement. Many schools now offer these services specifically tailored to online students through video conference or live chats, or online access to library materials. Also, make sure that your instructors will be accessible, via email, phone or video chats, so you have the support you need to succeed.

You will also want to review the program’s admission procedures and deadlines. Begin gathering application materials early, to ensure that everything is submitted in a timely manner. Funding your master’s degree is another important consideration. Find out if you are eligible for financial aid and scholarships through the school. If you are currently employed, find out if your employer offers tuition assistance.