Best Online Master’s Degrees and Program Guide

Online master's degree programs offer flexible, affordable options to help you balance the demands of work, family, and your education. Read on to learn more about how you can start your path forward today.

portrait of Doug Wintemute
by Doug Wintemute

Published on February 18, 2022 · Updated on June 27, 2022

Edited by Colin Weickmann
Share this Article

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to start your journey?

Online master's programs typically feature 30-45 credits and run for 1-2 years, providing advanced and specialized training. Master's students typically research, analyze, and write more than they do at the undergraduate level. They may also receive more practical training and apply their learning more regularly.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), median weekly earnings for graduates with a master's degree exceeded those of bachelor's graduates by approximately $250 in 2019. This amounts to about $13,000 annually. The BLS also projects 17% growth for master's degree jobs between 2016 and 2026 — faster than all other degree levels.

When thinking about whether you should go to graduate school, consider your short- and long-term career goals and determine if they require a master's degree. Here, we aim to help with that process by exploring different types of online master's programs, the pros and cons of these options, and common career possibilities for graduates. We also showcase the best online master's degrees from the top online schools.

What Is a Master's Degree?

A master's degree is an advanced college degree awarded to students who complete graduate-level coursework. Master's degree recipients can expect to develop theoretical, analytical, and/or professional expertise in their field of study.

Types of Master's Degrees

Master of Arts (MA)

An MA is a humanities-based master's program that provides a theoretical exploration of disciplines like English, communication, and philosophy. Electives in these programs typically relate to humanities disciplines, and a thesis may or may not be required. MA programs often take an interdisciplinary approach to a topic, particularly within non-arts subjects.


Master of Science (MS)

An MS degree is a science-based master's program that focuses on technical training in fields like health sciences and information technology. MS degree programs may conclude with a thesis or a practical capstone project. Electives are predominantly science courses. Many MS programs take a technical approach, equipping students with practical skills.


Master of Business Administration (MBA)

An MBA degree focuses on management training across the business discipline. Students also boost their leadership, problem-solving, and networking skills. MBA programs typically offer specializations, such as marketing, finance, and business technology. Master's programs often attract experienced business professionals, and many schools provide part-time study options to accommodate working professionals.


Master of Education (M.Ed.)

An M.Ed. is a degree for aspiring leaders in the educational field. While this type of online master's program may feature a research component, it emphasizes practical and applicable training. An online master's in education often attracts licensed educators. It prepares learners for leadership positions and advanced educational careers, such as principal and instructional coordinator roles.


Master of Nursing (MSN)

Online MSN programs provide practical training in the nursing field, along with the possibility for a clinical specialization. Accessible by RNs and BSN-holders, these online master's programs can lead to advanced practice registered nurse careers and doctoral programs in nursing. Typically taking 1-3 years to complete, MSN degrees contain significant clinical experience requirements.


Master of Public Administration (MPA)

An MPA program examines management processes, practices, and systems in politics and the public sector. Students can graduate with their online master's degree in 1-3 years, preparing for careers in government, community leadership, and nonprofit advocacy. An online master's in public administration equips students with strong communication and critical thinking skills, along with knowledge related to human resources, ethics, and law.


Master of Social Work (MSW)

An MSW is the credential required to pursue clinical social work licensure. These online master's degrees usually take 2-3 years to earn, and students complete significant supervised practical components. An online master's in social work typically accepts applicants with a BSW.


Master of Laws (LLM)

An LLM provides advanced and specialized legal training. Students in these master's programs can concentrate in areas like corporate law, immigration law, and intellectual property rights. In addition to legal leadership roles, the training can lead to policy positions with the government. Graduates may also qualify for some teaching and research careers.

Is a Master's Degree Worth it?

The worth of an online master's degree program is subjective, and it may involve more than a simple calculation of the return on your tuition investment. Some things to consider include:

Cost

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average program tuition and fees for a graduate degree was $19,792 during the 2019-20 academic year. However, some professional programs, such as many MBA options, exceed a total of $100,000. Verifying estimated costs with an admissions counselor is important.

Future Earning Potential

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that master's degree-holders earned a median weekly salary of $1,497 in 2019. In comparison, those with only a bachelor's degree earned a median weekly salary of $1,248. This means that master's degree recipients earned an average of $12,948 more per year than bachelor's degree-holders.

Professional Aspirations

If you wish to pursue a career as a licensed professional, a master's degree from an accredited institution may be mandatory. For example, licensed clinical social workers must hold a master of social work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. State licensure requirements can be verified through your state government's website.

Should I Get a Master's Degree Online?

When deciding whether to attend school online or on campus, you should compare things like cost, location, program format, and program schedule. Through online learning, you may be able to access out-of-state programs. However, should you choose online study, you should be prepared for a different type of learning experience.

Online Learning vs. In-Person Learning

The best type of training depends entirely on your individual preferences. Online and on-campus programs each have their benefits and drawbacks. Before enrolling, make sure to compare online and on-campus costs, study schedules, and available courses as you weigh the pros and cons.

Below, we highlight some of the common pros and cons of online and on-campus master's degree programs. Think about how you learn and how each delivery format might meet your needs and goals.

Master's Degree Online

Pros of Online Learning

Flexible scheduling, including asynchronous and synchronous study options More accessible programs, such as those offered by out-of-state schools Easier to balance school with other obligations Accelerated opportunities with heavier course loads and self-paced or asynchronous study

Cons of Online Learning

Requires strong time management, organization, and discipline The possibility of internet connectivity issues and technology complications Can feel more isolating, less personalized, and less interactive May be harder to network with classmates and professors

Master's Degree On-Campus

Pros of In-Person Learning

More involved learning experience and more hands-on learning Access to university and college facilities, including labs and libraries Fewer distractions at your fingerprints than studying from home More personalized communication with peers and instructors

Cons of In-Person Learning

More time consuming to travel to and from classes Less scheduling flexibility Limited classes and programs at local schools Higher associated costs, including food, parking, and transportation

In-States vs. Out-of-State Options

According to NCES, more than half of online graduate students attended a school outside their home state during the 2019-20 school year. Of the roughly 1 million graduate students who exclusively took distance education courses, about 437,000 were enrolled at institutions located in their state of residence, while about 525,000 were enrolled at institutions in a different state.

A school's location can significantly impact the overall cost of a master's program, with out-of-state learners at public schools sometimes paying more than twice as much as in-state residents. However, some master's students may be able to pay in-state tuition rates, regardless of their residency status — especially if they're taking classes online. Additionally, many colleges and universities grant in-state residency to anyone who has resided in that state for at least one year. Master's degree-seekers can reduce their financial burden by relocating one year prior to enrollment.

How Much Does a Master's Degree Cost?

NCES data shows that in-state graduate students paid an average of $12,410 in tuition and fees in 2019-20. However, out-of-state students often pay considerably higher prices. At some schools, out-of-state learners pay more than twice as much as in-state students. Additionally, the base tuition at private schools tends to be even higher.

While the tuition rates may look similar for online and on-campus students at many colleges, online learners can find savings in other ways. They may save on costs associated with travel, materials, and room and board. They may even have access to in-state tuition rates at out-of-state schools.

Online learners can also access more accommodating study schedules, which may allow them to manage a job more easily. Therefore, when comparing education costs, consider the true program cost. This takes into account all fees associated with the training, along with the loss of income that results from it.

How Long Does it Take to Earn a Master's Degree Online?

The average length of a master's degree program for full-time, online or traditional students is two years. This can equal anywhere from 36-60 credits of study. Actual completion times may range from 1-4 years, depending on the subject, program curriculum and format, and the number of credits a student completes each term.

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's Degree Program?

When preparing for graduate school online, prospective students should understand how online learning differs from traditional in-person training. Online learning can provide a much different learning experience, including new opportunities for students. Here, we examine common educational components of online courses.

Lectures

Online class lectures can run synchronously or asynchronously. Teachers may use Zoom for online classes and invite students to participate in real time or simply watch a live recording of an on-campus lecture. Asynchronous classes give students access to pre-recorded lectures via a learning management system.

Peer-to-Peer Interaction

Online students have many ways to interact with their peers. They can connect during synchronous lectures, video conferences, online forums, and online group projects. The amount of online collaboration depends entirely on the program, with some relying heavily on group work and peer-to-peer interaction.

Instructor Interaction

Most online teachers provide their students with multiple contact opportunities. They may leave room for chats after lectures, use forums, or provide virtual or in-person office hours. When contacting professors, online learners should adhere to the rules of email etiquette in college.

Assignments and Homework

Online assignments and homework help students stay on track with their independent online studies and inform teachers how well students are following along. Online assignments and homework also provide students with interaction, engagement, and practical application opportunities.

Presentations

Online presentations can look quite different, depending on the class and assignment. These may be pre-recorded or presented in real time. Both presentation types require preparation and practice. Learn how to deliver an effective online presentation by checking out our online presentation tips.

Tests and Exams

Schools use many types of online tests and exams. Online tests may be shorter, more frequent, less reliant on multiple-choice questions, and more open-ended than on-campus tests. Exams may be proctored at a set location to prevent cheating and help answer any test-taker questions.

Other Requirements

Online classes can have many additional requirements, just like on-campus options. For example, online learners may conduct virtual lab work. Students may also need to complete practicum and internship requirements, finding opportunities close to home.

What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Master's Degree Program?

Generally, the admission requirements for online master's programs do not differ from on-campus programs. Applicants typically need a bachelor's degree and suitable grades for entry. Schools may request specific degree types, prerequisite courses, and minimum GPAs and test scores.

In addition to the common application requirements outlined in our graduate admissions guide — and summarized below — online applicants may also need to satisfy technological requirements. Certain programs may also require admissions interviews or portfolios.

Application

Online and on-campus master's programs typically use similar application processes. At the graduate level, applicants usually apply directly to their school or program of choice.

Test Scores

Like undergraduate programs, many master's programs require applicants to submit standardized test scores. The most common test taken by master's applicants is the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). The GRE features three sections: verbal, consisting of reading comprehension, vocabulary, and critical reasoning questions; quantitative, which consists of mathematics and logical reasoning questions; and a critical writing assessment, which is optional.

The GRE is scored on a scale of 130 to 170, which only accounts for the verbal and quantitative sections. Some master's programs may also require applicants to submit their scores from specialized, subject-specific exams. These include the GMAT (business), LSAT (law), and MCAT (medical).

Students who speak English as a second language (ESL) may be required to take a graduate entrance exam that assesses their abilities to read, write, and understand English. The three most common ESL exams for master's students are the TOEFL, IELTS, and MELAB exams. It's important to note that many schools do not require standardized test scores of any kind for master's applicants.

Letters of Recommendation

Master's program applicants should carefully choose who they ask to write their letters of recommendation. The best options usually include undergraduate professors and advisors, current and past employers, relevant co-workers, and other individuals who have firsthand knowledge of the applicant's academic and/or professional background.

Resume and Work Experience

Applicants should tailor their resume to reflect academic and professional experiences that are relevant to their intended field of study. Prioritize jobs that showcase skills and knowledge related to the program. A resume can also include information about community service projects, volunteer experiences, and other applicable details that will bolster the employment history.

Essays

Like undergraduate applications, many graduate school applications require candidates to write a personal statement and/or prompted essay. This gives students the chance to show off their writing and critical thinking skills. Some progams may ask for one or two essays, while others could ask for as many as five or six.

Official Transcripts

Master's programs ask applicants to submit official undergraduate transcripts, although high school transcripts are usually not required. These official documents are available from undergraduate institutions for a small fee.

Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

Financial Aid Guide for Graduate Students The Student's Guide to College Loans The Student's Guide to Financial Aid and the FAFSA

What Can I Do With an Online Master's Degree?

An online master's degree can provide graduates with many promising career prospects. Between 2009-10 and 2018-19, the number of master's degrees awarded in the U.S. increased by more than 20%, according to NCES. More than half of all master's degrees come from business, education, and healthcare disciplines, reflecting the demand for managers, high-level teachers, and specialized healthcare providers across the U.S.

Additionally, students who earn an online master's degree can pursue desirable positions in counseling, law, and STEM. According to Payscale, the average base salary for professionals with a master's degree was $78,000 as of February 2022 — considerably higher than the $65,000 average salary reported by workers with a bachelor's.

According to the BLS, the top master's degree jobs include several of the fastest-growing careers in the country, such as nurse practitioner and statistician. Since many high-demand fields require specialized knowledge and skills, master's programs can serve as a powerful incubator for these types of professionals.

How Do I Choose an Online Master's Degree Program?

Cost

Creating a budget is an important first step for prospective master's students. Browse tuition rates at schools on your list to see if the overall costs fit within your personal budget constraints. Add up all expenses — including tuition, housing, and student fees — to calculate an accurate cost estimate.

Research scholarships, grants, and other financial aid opportunities, including general awards and those offered exclusively to students in your field or program. Finally, look at the student outcomes of each school — particularly the average salaries of master's graduates after they leave school.

Program Format

The choice between a synchronous or asynchronous master's online program typically comes down to student preference. Some learners appreciate the flexible schedule of a self-paced program or want to try and earn their degree ahead of schedule. Others prefer a firmer academic structure or look forward to moving through the curriculum with a cohort.

Location

The distance between your current residence and your school's campus may play an important role in your decision. While most coursework in an online master's program can be done at home, some courses may require campus visits.

These might include classes with lab or practicum components or proctored exams. Living close to campus also allows you to fully utilize school resources, including libraries, computer labs, writing centers, and job boards, which are not always available online.

Nonprofit vs. For-Profit Schools

Many for-profit online colleges and universities have received criticism due to their below-average academic offerings and poor student outcomes. Many students who graduate with an online master's from a for-profit school are saddled with more debt and are considered less employable than those who have earned a master's from a nonprofit schools.

Students should take the time to vet all the potential schools on their list to look for past criticisms and controversies.

Private vs. Public

For many students, the total cost is a primary consideration when choosing between public and private schools. The base tuition rates at private colleges are typically higher than those at public schools. However, private institutions often award sizeable financial aid packages which can reduce out-of-pocket costs. When comparing costs, don't just look at a school's sticker price.

Accreditation

Prospective online students need to ensure their school and program have the appropriate accreditation. Institutional accreditation can impact financial aid and postgraduate licensure and employment — learn more about this on our online college accreditation guide. Candidates should also check with their specific industry and state regulations to determine if their mast'ers program should hold specialized accreditation.

Student Support

Student services — especially online student services — can make a major difference in a distance learner's experiences and outcomes. Wellness programs, career services, and academic support can all help degree-seekers in unique ways. Additionally, college internships and college mentorships can lead to student success — prospective students should look for programs that provide these opportunities.

2022 Best Accredited Online Master's Degree Programs

Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team

Is your school on this list? Get the BestColleges ranking seal.

How We Rank Schools

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

#1 Online College in Arkansas

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

School Information
Location Little Rock, Arkansas
Admission Rate 66%
Graduation Rate 43%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 54% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $383
Out of State | $383

Credits to Graduate
27-60

Program Information
Institutional Accreditation | Higher Learning Commission

UA Little Rock offers more than 450 total online courses. The university oversees 11 online master's programs in fields like mass communication, criminal justice, health education and promotion, and professional and technical writing. 

Most programs do not have any on-campus requirements. Faculty deliver coursework asynchronously through the Blackboard platform, providing increased flexibility for working professionals. Admission requirements vary by individual program. 

#2 Online College in Ohio

Franklin University

School Information
Location Columbus, Ohio
Graduation Rate 28%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 80% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $670
Out of State | $670

Credits to Graduate
30-42

Program Information
Institutional Accreditation | Higher Learning Commission

Based in Columbus, Ohio, Franklin offers more than 20 online master's programs in fields like business, public administration, computer science, cybersecurity, and nursing. Distance learners can take courses that last for six, 12, or 15 weeks, and most programs eliminate on-campus requirements. Programs use a variety of methods to keep students engaged, including discussion boards, projects, labs, and simulations. 

Admission requirements are different for each of Franklin's individual master's programs, although common requirements include holding a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. 

#3 Online College in Georgia

Brenau University

School Information
Location Gainesville, Georgia
Admission Rate 58%
Graduation Rate 46%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 60% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $755
Out of State | $755

Credits to Graduate
30-42

Program Information
Institutional Accreditation | Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Located in Gainesville, Georgia, Brenau offers more than 40 online master's programs in fields like education, business, nonprofit leadership, healthcare management, and conflict resolution. Most of these programs deliver coursework asynchronously through the Canvas learning management system. Courses in these programs typically last for seven weeks, and most classes are capped at around 20 students. 

Applicants to Brenau's online master's programs must submit an application and official postsecondary transcripts.

#4 Online College in Ohio

Franciscan University of Steubenville

School Information
Location Steubenville, Ohio
Admission Rate 77%
Graduation Rate 77%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 43% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $525-$550
Out of State | $525-$550

Credits to Graduate
36-39

Program Information
Institutional Accreditation | Higher Learning Commission

Located in Steubenville, Ohio, Franciscan maintains a Roman Catholic affiliation. The university offers six online master's programs in the following fields: catechetics and evangelization, Catholic studies, theology and Christian ministry, Catholic leadership, business administration, and education. 

Online students at Franciscan can access recorded lectures and complete coursework around their schedules through the Blackboard learning management system. Prospective students must complete an application and submit official transcripts from prior schools.

#5 Online College in Indiana

Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis

School Information
Location Indianapolis, Indiana
Admission Rate 81%
Graduation Rate 50%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 41% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Courses

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $320
Out of State | $450

Credits to Graduate
30-54

Program Information
Institutional Accreditation | Higher Learning Commission

Located in Indianapolis, Indiana, IUPUI offers online master's programs in more than 15 different fields, including social work, public affairs and administration, public health, parks and recreation, and computing and technology. Online offerings take advantage of the Indiana University System to provide a variety of program options for distance learners. 

These online options primarily serve working professionals. To that end, most programs deliver coursework asynchronously and eliminate on-campus requirements. 

#6 Online College in Kentucky

Campbellsville University

School Information
Location Campbellsville, Kentucky
Admission Rate 70%
Graduation Rate 36%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 77% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $299-$559
Out of State | $299-$599

Credits to Graduate
30-75

Program Information
Institutional Accreditation | Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Located in Campbellsville, Kentucky, CU offers more than 30 online master's programs, including degrees in criminal justice, education, English, business, computer science, nursing, sociology, and ministry and theology. The university primarily serves working professionals and delivers the majority of online coursework asynchronously. Classes are available fully online, eschewing on-campus requirements. 

The university offers a significant tuition discount for military members, along with several scholarships available to online learners.

#7 Online College in Wisconsin

Marquette University

School Information
Location Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Admission Rate 83%
Graduation Rate 82%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 11% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $500-$1,220
Out of State | $500-$1,220

Credits to Graduate
30-60

Program Information
Institutional Accreditation | Higher Learning Commission

Located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Marquette offers eight online master's programs in fields like business administration, Christian doctrine, clinical mental health counseling, and computing. Distance learners can also pursue graduate degrees in corporate communication, healthcare data analytics, management, and supply chain management. 

The supply chain management program includes an on-campus residency, while the other seven programs take place entirely online. Admission requirements are different for each individual program — consult the program's website before applying.

#8 Online College in Virginia

Liberty University

School Information
Location Lynchburg, Virginia
Admission Rate 51%
Graduation Rate 47%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $565-$615
Out of State | $565-$615

Credits to Graduate
30-60

Program Information
Institutional Accreditation | Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty serves more than 100,000 students, many of whom enroll in online programs. The university offers a variety of online master's programs in fields like the arts and sciences, aviation, business, criminal justice, and education. Most of these programs serve working professionals by eliminating on-campus requirements and delivering coursework asynchronously. Many courses last for seven or eight weeks. 

Applicants must submit official postsecondary transcripts. Minimum GPA requirements for Liberty's online master's programs range from 2.50-3.25.

#9 Online College in Maine

University of New England

School Information
Location Biddeford, Maine
Admission Rate 84%
Graduation Rate 68%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 47% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $600-$980
Out of State | $600-$980

Credits to Graduate
30-64

Program Information
Institutional Accreditation | New England Commission of Higher Education

Based in Biddeford, Maine, UNE offers nine online master's programs through its College of Professional Studies. Distance learners can pursue online graduate degrees in applied nutrition, education, health informatics, public health, and social work. 

Each program delivers all coursework online and asynchronously through the Blackboard and Brightspace learning management systems. Students never need to visit campus to graduate. Prospective students must complete an online application and submit official undergraduate transcripts.

#10 Online College in Minnesota

University of Northwestern-St Paul

School Information
Location Saint Paul, Minnesota
Admission Rate 92%
Graduation Rate 68%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Courses

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $499-$550
Out of State | $499-$550

Credits to Graduate
30-76

Program Information
Institutional Accreditation | Higher Learning Commission

Based in St. Paul, Minnesota, UNW offers seven online master's degrees in business administration, divinity, education, human services, ministry leadership, organizational leadership, and theological studies. Students can complete each of these degrees entirely online, although some programs offer blended learning options for learners who want to take some courses on campus.

All prospective students must submit an application, a resume, two essays, and demonstrate a "new birth in Jesus Christ." Applicants must also have earned a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Master's Programs

What percentage of people have a master's degree?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of master's degree-holders nearly doubled between 2000 and 2018. In 2018, approximately 21 million Americans held a master's degree, while another 3.2 million held professional degrees and 4.5 million held doctoral degrees.

Census data also shows that 37% of bachelor's graduates pursued a master's degree in 2018. The BLS projects that jobs requiring a master's degree will grow faster than any other degree level from 2016-2026.

How many credits is a master's degree?

Master's programs typically require students to complete 30-45 credits in total. This usually works out to about 10-15 courses. Students can finish these programs in 1-3 years, though accelerated and online programs may allow degree-seekers to finish more quickly.

The amount of credits in a master's degree depends on the program and the depth of training. Certain medical programs, for example, may have more credit requirements because of the intensity of the training. Other programs may feature a lot of prerequisites, which applicants may need to complete prior to starting their core program.

Do online master's degrees have value?

An online master's degree can be quite valuable and lead to the same professional and educational opportunities as an on-campus degree. Graduates with online degrees can access management positions, specialized healthcare and counseling roles, and STEM careers — just like their counterparts who graduated from an on-campus program.

Online master's degrees may even provide additional value to students that on-campus programs cannot replicate. For example, online learning often offers greater schedule flexibility, which can lead to shorter graduation timelines. Online learning is also more accessible for many learners, including working professionals and out-of-state students.

How do I pay for a master's degree?

Paying for a master's degree can be one of the most challenging aspects of going back to school, but there are several options available. Many prospective students pursue federal financial aid, which includes grants for students who demonstrate financial need. Scholarships are another popular method to help cover the costs of the training.

Through online learning, degree-seekers can more easily balance a job and education at the graduate level. Some employers even reimburse employees for all or part of the education, if it contributes to their organization. Learners can also look into private loans.

Which master's degree is the most in demand?

To get a sense of the most in-demand master's degree, we can look at the most popular degree for students and the most in-demand career that requires a master's degree. According to NCES, the most popular master's degree for students is business. In 2018-19, 24% of all master's degrees conferred were related to the field of business.

Among careers that require master's degrees, the fastest projected growth belongs to nurse practitioners. The BLS projects 52% growth for nurse practitioners between 2020 and 2030.

Is a one-year master's degree worth it?

A one-year master's degree can be very worthwhile for students. The length of the program does not necessarily determine its quality. As long as the program has been accredited and the training prepares students to advance their careers, acquire licensure, and/or access the field they wish to enter, the degree serves its purpose.

While certain master's programs simply have less core material to cover, many one-year master's degrees are professional programs. These are typically course-based programs that prepare students for a specific career.

Have a Question About College?

In our Ask a College Advisor series, experienced advisors provide an insider look at the college experience by answering your questions about college admissions, finances, and student life.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare your school options.

View the most relevant school for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to find your college home.