Why This Matters


    The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average weekly salary for workers with a master’s degree is $1,574, which is significantly higher than the average wage for workers who only have a bachelor’s degree ($1,334).


    Workers with a master’s degree have an unemployment rate of 2.6%, while workers with a bachelor’s degree have an unemployment rate of 3.5%.


    The highest-paying jobs that require a master’s degree include nurse anesthetists, political scientists, and mathematicians.

Our Research

This list features some of the most affordable online master’s degree programs at top colleges across the country. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions. The programs on our list have been accredited by reputable organizations, such as the Higher Learning Commission and New England Commission of Higher Education, that assess the objectives, quality, and overall effectiveness of colleges and universities.

We evaluated each school’s program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, and reputation as well as the student resources provided for online students. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of affordable online master’s degree programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report among others to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

The Top 50 Most Affordable Online Master’s Programs

Most Affordable Online Master's Degree Programs
Intelligent Pick
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Best for Liberal Arts Degrees
Fort Hays State University
Best for Organizational Management Degrees
Wayne State College
Best for Healthcare Degrees
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Best Research University
Stanford University
Best for Legal Studies Degrees
Purdue University
Best Program Options
Arizona State University
Best for Professional Studies Degrees
Wilmington University
Best for Hispanic Students
California State University at Fullerton
Best for Education Degrees
Georgia Southern University

Arkansas State University

The University of Alabama

Georgia Tech Professional Education

Sam Houston State University

University of Wisconsin System

Kennesaw State University

East Carolina University

Liberty University

Texas Tech University

What You Should Know About This Degree

The cost of a master’s degree is a significant consideration for most students, especially if you are still paying student loans from an undergraduate degree. Many graduate programs charge tuition on a per-credit basis. When calculating tuition for an online master’s program, look at the number of credits a program requires as well as the tuition rate to get a clear sense of what the overall program cost is.

If you have federal student loans from your undergraduate degree and are planning on using additional federal loans to subsidize your master’s degree, be aware that the total amount of money you can borrow from the U.S. Department of Education is limited. Make sure you understand how your current student loan balance affects the amount of money you can borrow for grad school before selecting a program.

Online programs are attractive to working professionals because they allow you to keep your job while earning your degree. However, attending school online while working full or part-time requires excellent time management, organizational, and self-motivation skills. Online students don’t have face-to-face interaction and accountability to keep them on track, so it is up to you to make time for schoolwork and stay on track with assignments. Distance learners must also be proficient with technology and have reliable devices and internet connections.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching Affordable Online Master’s Degree programs:

  • Does the program have in-person requirements? Programs that deliver all coursework online may still have in-person requirements for internships, clinical residencies, or student teaching. Other programs may require travel to campus for orientations or residencies. These requirements can affect your budget by adding travel costs or limiting your ability to work, so make sure you factor this into your decision when selecting a program.
  • What support services does the school offer to distance learners? Online students require the same support as on-campus students, including tutoring, library access, tech support, and job placement. Many schools tailor these services to online students through video conference or online access to library materials. Also, find out how your professors will be accessible to you.

Regardless of how affordable a program is, you should explore all of your options for financing your graduate degree, including student loans, scholarships, assistantships, grants, and tuition assistance benefits from your employer, if available. Your school should have financial aid counselors available to help you understand your options and submit applications.