2021 Best Online Masters Programs [Ultimate Guide]
With so many universities offering online master’s programs these days, we created a guide to help you select the graduate program that best matches you.
Earning a master’s degree online can help you restore your passion and open new doors for your future. Compare top schools offering accredited graduate degrees in 30+ fields!
Accelerated Online Master’s Degrees
If you don’t want to spend any more time in the classroom than necessary, you can earn your master’s degree online through either an accelerated master’s program or by taking accelerated classes.
What is a master’s degree?
A master’s degree is an advanced degree that shows you have a “mastery” of a particular subject.
Earning this degree can help open the door to new career opportunities as well as increased earning potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), full-time working adults with master’s degrees earn on average $249 per week more than workers who hold a bachelor’s degree.
In order to pursue a master’s degree, you must first earn your bachelor’s degree.
Why Should I Earn a Master’s Degree Online?
If you’re thinking about pursuing a master’s degree, you are likely already well established in your career. You may also have a family, own a home and have other adult responsibilities. These are things you can’t just put on hold to go back to school!
Online master’s programs can help you obtain the flexibility to maintain your obligations while earning your degree.
What’s more, some online programs may allow you to speed up the process, helping you complete your master’s program in a fraction of the time it would take on campus. They do this by offering accelerated 6 week to 8 week terms and omitting the traditional thesis requirement.
What are the Highest-Paying Master’s Degrees?
Advancing your education almost always results in increased earning potential. But there are, of course, certain fields in which it’s especially beneficial.
Here are the online master’s degrees that lead to the highest paying jobs:
|Major||Median Annual Salary|
|Computer Information Research / Computer Science||$146,360|
|Mathematics / Statistics||$108,350|
|Education Leadership / Education Administration||$95,410|
|Genetic Counseling / Genetics||$81,880|
There are also many high-paying fields you maybe be able to get into without a master’s, but a master’s can potentially lead to faster advancement and increased pay.
How long does it take to get an online master’s degree?
The time it takes to get a master’s degree is usually about two years, but this is normally for traditional master’s degree programs. Online masters programs may be able to be completed much faster!
You may be able to earn your master’s in just one year if you…
- Attend online
- Choose an accelerated program with 8 week semesters online
- Take at least 2 classes per 8 week term
- Choose a program that does not require a traditional thesis
Does an online master’s degree require a thesis?
Not always! More and more universities are finding ways to offer online masters programs without thesis requirements.
Instead of the daunting thesis, schools may offer alternatives like capstone projects, internship opportunities or other courses or projects that serve as a culmination of the program. You will still need to demonstrate that you’ve “mastered the field” but now you may be able to do it in a way that doesn’t take a year or more!
How many credits is an online master’s degree?
Most online master’s programs require students to complete 36 to 54 credit hours, which is equal to 12-18 courses.
One of the most time-consuming elements of many master’s programs is the thesis, which can often take a year or more to complete. Fortunately, many online masters programs have eliminated the thesis component, making it possible for some students to earn a master’s degree online in just a year!
Can You Get Financial Aid for Online Master’s Programs?
Absolutely! Just like on-campus students, online students have a variety of financial aid opportunities to pursue.
Let’s review the options.
- Federal Financial Aid: To receive federal aid, you will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Thousands of students fail to submit the FAFSA because they don’t believe they will qualify for aid. However, the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Office reports that there is more than $150 billion in federal financial aid available to college students, including graduate students. So be sure to apply! The three types of aid available through the FAFSA are:
- Grants: Money that does not have to be repaid; Maybe need-based or offered for students in certain in-demand fields, like teaching
- Loans: Must be re-paid with interest; Opt for Federal Loans before private ones, as they generally have lower interest rates and more repayment options.
- Work Study: Part-time employment that helps pay for educational expenses
- State Financial Aid: Check here to see what aid resources are available in your state
- Institutional Aid: Check with the financial aid office at the school you choose to find out what aid they offer and how you can apply
- Employer Tuition Reimbursement: Many companies offer tuition reimbursement programs to encourage their employees to pursue higher education and training. The terms of the agreement may require you to maintain a certain GPA or agree to stay with the company for a certain length of time after completing the education, for example. Be sure you’re familiar with all the terms upfront.
- Payment plans: Find out if your school offers payment plans with incentives, such as low or no interest loans if you are paid off at the end of each semester.
- Scholarships & Fellowships: You can find scholarship and fellowship opportunities by contacting your school’s financial aid office, professional associations, local organizations and through search sites such as FastWeb.
To be clear, as long as you are enrolled in an accredited program, you should have no trouble finding financial aid to help cover the costs of earning your master’s degree online.
One Year Masters Degrees
Since most master’s degrees are only 36 credit hours, one year masters programs online are quite common.
Online Master’s in Public Health Degree Programs
Online Master’s in Business Administration
Online Master’s in Social Work
Want to make a difference in the lives of others and impact your community? A Master of Social Work (MSW) might be a good degree choice.
Want to earn your MSW degree fast? We cover accelerated Master of Social Work programs in-depth in this article.
Online Master’s Degree FAQs
- Is getting a Master’s Degree worth it?
- What is a Master’s in Business Administration?
- What are the top 10 MBA concentrations?
Universities Offering Online Master’s Degree Programs
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Auburn University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Ball State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Boston University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Colorado State is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
Florida International University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Florida State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
FHSU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
George Washington University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
The Johns Hopkins University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Lamar University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
North Carolina State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Sam Houston State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
UNC-Chapel Hill is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of South Carolina Columbia is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Wisconsin is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Earning your masters degree online will require time, money and a lot of hard work.
But the investment can be worthwhile. With this advanced degree, you may be eligible for promotions, be able to pursue new positions, and dramatically increase your earning potential. But perhaps the biggest benefit to pursuing a masters degree online is that it can help breathe new life into your career, getting you excited to learn more about your chosen field!