Affordable Online Master’s Degree Programs

Are you considering graduate school? You’re not alone. From 2004-2015, the number of awarded master’s degrees has increased by 31%. And for good reason — advanced education gives you specialized knowledge, which statistically leads to better job opportunities and higher pay. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with a master’s degree are less likely to be unemployed and receive a higher median pay. A master’s degree also prepares you for careers reserved for people with advanced degrees, makes you eligible for better promotions, and can possibly lead to a PhD program.

In the past few years, online education enrollment has risen steadily; since 2012, the percentage of undergraduate and graduate students taking at least one class online has increased by about 11%. This is due in part to the affordability and flexibility that an online education offers. Online learning also allows students to earn their degree more quickly, while still maintaining career and life commitments.

On this page you’ll find some of the most affordable accredited online master’s degree programs. We design our rankings to highlight the programs with the lowest tuition, and the highest return on investment. Are you considering a leap into graduate school? Be sure to check out these top schools.


50 Most Affordable Online Master's Degrees
Rank School Score Toggle Content
1

Grace School of Theology

Value Score 9.41
Average Tuition $3,240
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 100%
Number of Online Programs 4
Part-time cost per credit hour $180

Based just outside of Houston in Conroe, Texas and founded in 2002, Grace is one of the newest Christian colleges in the country. Accordingly, the school is a strong proponent of online education, offering four online master’s degrees programs to students both in Texas and around the country: a master of ministry, a master of arts in biblical studies, a master of divinity, and a master of theology. The school’s master’s programs are designed for students already working in ministry, and a flexible online format makes it easy to balance work and academics. Classes are available in both synchronous and asynchronous formats, allowing students to stream lectures live or view course material whenever they have time. Grace’s virtual classroom environment also allows for live video communication and collaboration with other students and faculty.


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2

University of West Georgia

Value Score 9.15
Average Tuition $3,996
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 76%
Number of Online Programs 6
Part-time cost per credit hour $222

Founded in 1906, UWG currently serves more than 13,000 students from its campus in Carrollton, Georgia. The college is consistently ranked as one of the best in the Southeast, and UWG has produced several notable alumni in the arts, media, politics, and sports, including country singer Zac Brown and Georgia Poet Laureate David Bottoms. The school offers several affordable master’s programs online, ranging from applied computer science and media instructional technology to music education and nursing. Both state residents and non-residents pay the same cheap tuition rate, making UWG a smart choice for students regardless of location. Nontraditional adult students over the age of 25 save money by participating in the school’s Credit by Prior Learning program, which allows students to document relevant professional experience in a portfolio and receive academic credit. Students may also be able to gain credit through departmental exams in various academic subjects.


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3

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Value Score 9.12
Average Tuition $4,500
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 86%
Number of Online Programs 8
Part-time cost per credit hour $250

SEBTS was founded by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1950, with the goal of offering Christian-centered education to students on the East Coast. The school’s campus in Wake Forest, North Carolina serves over 3,400 students, who also have access to a range of online programs. The college offers four fully online master’s degrees programs: master of divinity, master of arts (Christian studies), master of arts in intercultural studies, and master of arts in church planting. The master of divinity is the school’s most popular graduate degree program, providing students with an advanced overview of Christian history, biblical studies, theology, and applied ministry. SEBTS recommends online students pursue the Christian ministry track, which offers the largest selection of online elective courses. While the generalized master of divinity program requires 81 total credits, the other degrees cover specialized topics and require far fewer course hours, making it easier for students to graduate faster.


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4

Fort Hays State University

Value Score 9.05
Average Tuition $3,205
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 88%
Number of Online Programs 12
Part-time cost per credit hour $214

One of the largest state colleges in Kansas, FHSU serves around 14,000 students, nearly half of them enrolled in distance education programs. The school has developed its virtual college over more than two decades, and today it offers some of the most respected and affordable online degrees in the country. Students can choose from several online master’s degrees programs, including special education, business administration, liberal studies, history, and nursing education. All degrees are available fully online, except for counseling and school psychology, which require students to visit campus occasionally for intensive workshops. FHSU students receive individualized attention from personal academic advisers, who help with course planning, class scheduling, and professional preparation. Cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit among students, FHSU is particularly focused on career preparation, and this results in a body of highly successful alumni -- according to the school, over 95% of students find employment quickly after graduation.


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5

Valdosta State University

Value Score 9.01
Average Tuition $4,374
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 63%
Number of Online Programs 8
Part-time cost per credit hour $243

Based in Valdosta, Georgia, VSU is one of four comprehensive schools in the University System of Georgia, serving more than 11,000 students from all around the state. The college is a major center of regional education, but it also attracted students from around the country, and VSU boasts notable alumni such as CNN media personality Nancy Grace. VSU students can select online master’s degrees programs ranging from healthcare administration and business to criminal justice and library science. The college also offers a wide selection of education degrees, including curriculum and instruction, early childhood education, and education leadership. Students can pursue hybrid programs, combining online and campus courses, in areas such as social work, nursing, and public administration. For students taking 95% or more of their courses online, VSU offers a special eTuition rate that remains the same regardless of state residence. Students who take their courses entirely online are also exempt from most student fees, allowing them to save even further on tuition.


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6

Chadron State College

Value Score 8.99
Average Tuition $3,443
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 97%
Number of Online Programs 8
Part-time cost per credit hour $191

Based in Chadron, Nebraska, in the northern region of the state’s Panhandle, CSC is a small public school that serves around 3,000 students annually. Originally founded as a teacher’s college, the school serves a large portion of western Nebraska, spanning 30 counties and over 38,000 square miles. Due to its sizable service area, CSC was one of the earliest adopters of distance education in the state, and today students select among several master degree programs online, ranging from business and counseling to education and organizational management. Several of these degrees are available fully online, while others require a blended format featuring some campus classes. CSC’s online courses employ an eight-week accelerated format, allowing students to complete their degree faster and organize course scheduling more easily. Online students pay the same flat tuition rate regardless of their state of residence, making CSC an appealing option for those seeking a cheap, convenient master’s degree.


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7

University of the Cumberlands

Value Score 8.97
Average Tuition $5,670
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 99%
Number of Online Programs 18
Part-time cost per credit hour $315

A private Christian college based in Williamsburg, Kentucky, and affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, UC offers a Christian education to a student body of around 3,300. Established in 1889, the school has produced several notable alumni throughout its 125-year history, including Kentucky state governor Bert T. Combs, folk singer Jean Ritchie, and academic and university president Betty L. Siegel. The school’s core values include commitment, excellence, flexibility, and value, so it’s no surprise that UC offers some of the most affordable online master’s degrees programs in the state. Online offerings focus on practical, professional education, with options including business, nursing, counseling, criminal justice administration, and teaching. All programs are available entirely through online courses, and UC acknowledges the unique circumstances of adult learners, allowing students to complete their degree at their own pace through asynchronous coursework. UC’s tuition ranks as some of the least expensive in the state, and more than 97% of students receive some type of financial aid.


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8

University of Central Arkansas

Value Score 8.96
Average Tuition $4,375
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 62%
Number of Online Programs 7
Part-time cost per credit hour $243

Based in Conway, Arkansas, UCA’s history dates back to 1907, making it one of the oldest colleges in the state. The school’s enrollment of over 12,000 students also makes it one of the largest in Arkansas, though UCA students still enjoy a relatively low student-faculty ration of 17-to-one. UCA’s tuition ranks among the lowest in the region, and the school offers more than a dozen affordable master degree programs online, including unique programs such as library media and information technologies, school leadership and management, community and economic development, and geographic information systems, along with traditional program such as nursing and business. UCA online students receive access to 24/7 tech support for the course management system, ensuring they can complete coursework any time of day. Program coordinators are also available via phone or email to help students with any other online learning issues that arise.


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9

Texas A & M University-Commerce

Value Score 8.94
Average Tuition $3,630
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 81%
Number of Online Programs 13
Part-time cost per credit hour $202

Founded in 1889, A&M-Commerce is one of the oldest colleges in Texas, and today the school serves more than 12,000 students from its main campus in Commerce, located about 70 miles north of Dallas. The college offers more than 20 distinct master degree programs online, available in areas such as business, education and human services, humanities and liberal arts, and science and engineering. Along with popular options such as business administration and education, A&M-Commerce also offers unique degrees such as kinesiology and sports studies, applied linguistics, and applied criminology. Students able to make occasional visits to campus may also be interested in the school’s blended degrees, which requires less than half of their courses to be completed on campus. Hybrid degree options include a master of arts or master of science in English with a concentration in film studies, which requires just one campus class.


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10

The University of Texas at Tyler

Value Score 8.92
Average Tuition $4,662
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 80%
Number of Online Programs 14
Part-time cost per credit hour $50

Part of the prestigious University of Texas System, UT-Tyler occupies a 400-acre suburban campus in the city of Tyler, about 100 miles east of Dallas. The school ranks as one of the fastest growing in the state, having expanded since its 1971 founding to encompass two satellite campuses and an extensive distance education program. Students can choose from more than a dozen fully online master’s degrees programs, including industrial management, reading education, school counseling, and nursing administration. Designed for students with the ability to take campus courses, UT-Tyler offers the HyFlex program, which gives students the freedom to mix and match online and on-campus classes as their availability dictates. HyFlex degrees are useful for students who may not always be able to attend campus courses but also don’t want to commit to a 100% online degree. The school currently offers master’s degrees in public relations, health care administration, and nurse practitioner through the HyFlex program.


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11

Virginia Baptist College

Value Score 8.87
Average Tuition $4,266
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 100%
Number of Online Programs 2
Part-time cost per credit hour $237

Founded in 1984 in Fredericksburg, Virginia, VBC initially only offered theology degrees, but the school has since expanded to offer a range of Christian academic programs of all levels. The college offers three fully online master’s degrees programs: master of ministry, master of biblical studies, and master of Christian education. The 33-credit master of ministry program trains students to enhance their ministry practice, with concentrations available in six areas: pastoral studies, church ministries, biblical counseling, missions and cross-cultural studies, and Bible/theology. The 30-credit master of Christian education program is intended for students already working in educational ministry, emphasizing skills in both teaching and ministry practice. The master of Biblical studies is a comprehensive 60-credit program that prepares students for the highest levels of Bible study, including PhD programs. The degree includes either a language track, focusing on Greek and Hebrew, or a non-language track, which ties together a large selection of electives from both the ministry and Christian education tracks.


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12

Luther Rice University & Seminary

Value Score 8.85
Average Tuition $4,356
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 96%
Number of Online Programs 5
Part-time cost per credit hour $242

Based in Lithonia, Georgia, Luther Rice is a Christian college that has offered online education for over 14 years, and all the school’s master’s programs are available entirely online. Students choose from five unique programs, all available as a master of arts: apologetics, biblical counseling, Christian studies, leadership, and ministry. Students who have more time to dedicate to classes can complete any degree in an accelerated format, which takes just 18 to 24 months. Degrees are also available in a hybrid format for students who prefer a mixture of campus and online courses. The biblical counseling, Christian studies, and leadership tracks all include hands-on practicum courses, which allow students to gain professional experience through supervised work in a religious setting, and online students can work with the college to arrange practicum placements within their own communities. Each degree track requires 36 total credits for graduation, and students can transfer in up to six credits.


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13

University of Nebraska at Kearney

Value Score 8.84
Average Tuition $5,286
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 93%
Number of Online Programs 9
Part-time cost per credit hour $220

One of four members of the University of Nebraska System, UNK serves around 7,000 students from its campus in the city of Kearney. The school’s online learning program ranks among the best in the country, and UNK’s tuition is also so low that even out-of-state students enjoy competitive rates. The college offers more than 20 master degree programs online, ranging from conventional choices such as history, English, and business administration to unique offerings such as instructional technology, music education, and student affairs. All programs are available fully online with the exception of the MBA, which is available in a blended format that features predominantly online courses with some required campus visits. Online students at UNK receive access to a wide selection of campus resources, including library services, technical support, technology tutorials, and academic advising. UNK's career center also helps graduates with job placement, resume revision, and interview training.


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14

Western New Mexico University

Value Score 8.82
Average Tuition $3,026
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 98%
Number of Online Programs 7
Part-time cost per credit hour $168

Founded in 1893 in Silver City, New Mexico, WNMU is a comprehensive rural college that serves a wide area of the state through its main campus, satellite locations, and an online program. WNMU enrolls around 3,500 students annually, and while the college is small, it has produced several notable alumni in the arts, academia, and politics, including poet Kenneth Wayne Brewer, historian Jerry D. Thompson, and New Mexico State senator Howie Morales. The school’s small size also leads to an average student-faculty ratio of just 15-to-one, allowing WNMU students to receive the individualized attention often lacking at larger state schools. The college offers five online master’s degrees programs, including interdisciplinary studies, education, educational leadership, business administration, and social work. Online students who reside in New Mexico receive some of the cheapest tuition rates in the state, and the school guarantees its tuition rate as long as students maintain at least a 3.0 GPA.


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15

University of North Georgia

Value Score 8.83
Average Tuition $4,050
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 58%
Number of Online Programs 4
Part-time cost per credit hour $225

Established in 2013 by the consolidation of two other state colleges, UNG is one of the newest schools in the University System of Georgia and serves more than 16,000 students through a main campus in Dahlonega, secondary campuses in five other Georgia cities, and an extensive online program. Though it’s one of the largest public colleges in Georgia, UNG is known for its affordable online tuition, particularly for in-state students. The school offers six master’s programs online: international affairs, middle grades math and science education, public administration, criminal justice, nursing education, and physical education. Online students gain access to a range of useful, fully online resources, including student disability services, the UNG Library system, and convenient tutoring services. Due to state regulations, UNG’s online programs may not be available to residents of all states. Out-of-state students should contact the school’s online admissions approval office to determine if they are eligible for online study.


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16

Angelo State University

Value Score 8.81
Average Tuition $3,726
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 79%
Number of Online Programs 13
Part-time cost per credit hour $207

Founded in 1928 in the west Texas city of San Angelo, ASU is today the second-largest school in the Texas Tech University System, currently enrolling more than 9,500 students annually. Frequently ranked as one of the top colleges in Texas, ASU boasts alumni such as Grammy Award winner David Trevino and Super Bowl winner Alvin Garrett. The school offers more than a dozen master degree programs online, most of which focus on either education or security practices. Education students choose from programs such as curriculum and instruction, educational administration, and student development and leadership in higher education, while security students have options in criminal justice, homeland security, intelligence studies and analysis, and security studies. Online students can also pursue graduate certificates such in cybersecurity, emergency management, academic advising, and the teaching of psychology, along with Texas state education certifications for principal, school counselor, superintendent, or teacher positions. Online students receive support from disability services, library services, and ASU’s online tutoring service.


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17

Texas Woman's University

Value Score 8.68
Average Tuition $4,380
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 64%
Number of Online Programs 10
Part-time cost per credit hour $243

Denton, Texas is home to TWU, a coeducational institution that’s better known as the largest women’s college in the United States. The school’s enrollment of over 15,000 is comprised mainly of female students, and TWU alumni are leaders in fields from the sciences to athletics, including NASA astronaut Millie Hughes-Fulford, scientist and American Chemical Society President Elizabeth Ann Nalley, and Olympic gymnast Carly Patterson. The college offers dozens of master degree programs online, with both hybrid and fully online options. TWU offers several unique choices for online master’s students, including kinesiology, speech/language pathology, education of the deaf, nutrition, child life, and family studies, along with hybrid programs in popular subjects such as business administration, special education, and nursing practice. Students interested in hybrid programs that combine online learning with some campus courses can typically choose from campus courses in Denton or at TWU’s two satellite locations in Houston and Dallas.


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18

Wayne State College

Value Score 8.66
Average Tuition $3,443
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 75%
Number of Online Programs 5
Part-time cost per credit hour $191

A public college in Wayne, Nebraska, WSU maintains a small rural campus, where it serves around 3,500 students through campus and online programs. WSU students choose from several master’s programs online, including organizational management, education specialist, business administration, and science in education. Learners also pursue graduate endorsements and graduate certificates of achievement, which can open additional career opportunities. Online students at WSU receive an online orientation that helps build familiarity with the online learning platform, and graduate students may also take advantage of academic advising via phone or email. Online advisers help students determine effective academic pathways, make appropriate class selections, and complete their degree on time. While WSU is a small school, it has produced several notable alumni through over a century of operation, including Time editor and political speechwriter James Keogh, Poet Laureate of Nebraska John Neihardt, and writer and Cornell professor Brian Wansink.


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19

East Carolina University

Value Score 8.68
Average Tuition $4,434
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 59%
Number of Online Programs 30
Part-time cost per credit hour $277

A major public research institution in Greenville, North Carolina, ECU boasts a student body that numbers over 28,000, making it one of the largest colleges in the state. The school’s sizable alumni body includes influential figures in the arts, entertainment, and business, such as screenwriter Kevin Williamson and actress Sandra Bullock. ECU offers a wide range of master’s programs online, ranging from popular choices such as business administration, computer science, and education to more specialized programs in construction management, music education, occupational safety, and nutrition. Designed for licensed North Carolina teachers, the school also offers a dozen options for education master’s degrees, including art, instructional technology, adult education, and special education (along with standard subjects like math, science, and reading). Students looking to increase their professional skills and marketability also pursue 36 distinct graduate certificate programs online, encompassing everything from business analytics and hospitality management to trauma counseling and web development.


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20

Georgia Southwestern State University

Value Score 8.66
Average Tuition $3,330
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 98%
Number of Online Programs 3
Part-time cost per credit hour $185

Based in the city of Americus, GSW offers two master’s programs online: a master of science in nursing and a master of science in computer science. Students enrolled in the nursing program choose from four tracks, all available online: nursing education, nursing leadership/management, nursing informatics, and family nurse practitioner. The nurse practitioner track requires students to complete 765 hours of clinical practice, while the other three tracks require completion of a thesis. The computer science degree is also available fully online and covers major principles of information security, operating systems, and database design. All of GSW’s online degrees can be completed within 22 months of full-time study, and the school offers adult students with relevant professional experience the opportunity to earn academic credit through its Prior Learning Assessment Program. Students who document relevant prior learning and relate their experiences to specific course learning goals may earn credit and forgo some online courses. To become eligible for the program, students must first complete a prior learning documentation course.


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21

Emporia State University

Value Score 8.66
Average Tuition $5,640
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 84%
Number of Online Programs 19
Part-time cost per credit hour $235

One of six public college in Kansas, ESU is based in the city of Emporia and serves around 5,800 students annually. ESU consistently ranks as one of the top online colleges in the region, and the school’s selection of master’s programs online includes standards like business administration and education, along with a diverse range of degrees focused on topics such as rehabilitation counseling, earth science, accountancy, and health and physical education. ESU offers a master of library science program that features primarily online courses along with two weekend intensive sessions on campus. Distance students receive a selection of useful academic resources, including the virtual writing center, the mathematics computer lab, and the reading lab. The virtual writing center allows students to work with peer tutors on any type of writing assignment, while reading lab staff help students develop the advanced reading comprehension skills necessary for graduate work. The mathematics computer lab assists students with math, science, and computer science-related tutoring.


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22

Morningside College

Value Score 8.61
Average Tuition $5,400
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 100%
Number of Online Programs 5
Part-time cost per credit hour $225

A private, Methodist-affiliated college in Sioux City, Iowa, Morningside offers two master’s programs online: a master of arts in teaching, available through fully online courses, and a master of science in nursing, available in a hybrid format that includes mostly online courses. The teaching degree offers tracks in professional education and special education. The professional track trains teachers in advanced theories and practices of education, and is available to students regardless of state residence. The special education track focuses on behavior disorders, learning disabilities, and intellectual disabilities, and is only available to licensed Iowa teachers. Students in the special education track also complete an Instructional Strategist endorsement, focused either on K-12 education or learning disabilities. The nursing program features three specialization options: clinical nurse leader, family primary care nurse practitioner, and adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioner. While the degree offers mostly online coursework, students must complete an on-campus residency, though scheduling is flexible enough to meet the needs of working students.


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23

University of North Alabama

Value Score 8.59
Average Tuition $5,382
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 72%
Number of Online Programs 6
Part-time cost per credit hour $299

Based in Florence, Alabama, UNA is the oldest public four-year school in the state, dating back to 1830. Today the school serves around 7,500 students and boasts a body of alumni that includes notable figures in the arts, politics, and sports, including Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Clay Bennett, National Geographic photographer and editor Michael Nichols, and MLB left fielder Josh Willingham. UNA offers several master degree programs online, including criminal justice, family studies, professional studies, history, and elementary education. The school is a member of the Southern Regional Education Board's Electronic Campus, a consortium of Southern colleges that share online resources and courses in order to help online students learn more efficiently. Through the Electronic Campus, online students can select courses not just from UNA, but from numerous regional institutions that all meet the same set of academic standards, allowing students far more variety in their course selections.


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24

Texas A & M University-Central Texas

Value Score 8.58
Average Tuition $3,476
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 61%
Number of Online Programs 6
Part-time cost per credit hour $193

Founded in 1999 in Killeen, Texas, TAMU-CT is one of the newest intuitions in the Texas A&M System. The school offers three fully online master’s degree programs: a master of science in information systems, a master of science in management and leadership, and a master of business administration. TAMU-CT's information systems program prepares students to assume leadership positions in the technology field, developing the skills to design, develop, implement, and manage computer information systems and integrate them into business and other organizational environments. The MBA emphasizes leadership, critical thinking, and decision-making skills in a business context, with specialized concentration options available in areas such as computer information systems, human resource management, and healthcare administration. The management and leadership program is similar to the MBA, but emphasizes fewer technical business skills in favor of more wide-ranging perspectives on the organizational functionality and communication strategies necessary for successful businesses.


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25

Midwestern State University

Value Score 8.59
Average Tuition $3,805
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 61%
Number of Online Programs 7
Part-time cost per credit hour $211

Based in Wichita Falls, Texas, MSU is one of just four independent public colleges in the state and the only public liberal arts college in Texas. Serving around 6,000 students through both campus and online programs, MSU offers several online master’s degrees programs, mostly in professional, career-oriented fields. Students choose from 11 degree programs, including radiologic science, human resource development, business administration, training and development, and nursing. The school also offers post-master’s certificate programs in nursing, including family nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, and nurse educator. MSU is a member of the Southern Regional Education Board's Electronic Campus, which allows students to take eligible online courses through other member institutions, making class selections more convenient. The school also ranks as one of the most affordable in Texas. Around 75% of MSU students receive some sort of financial aid each year.


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26

University of West Alabama

Value Score 8.58
Average Tuition $6,264
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 91%
Number of Online Programs 10
Part-time cost per credit hour $348

Founded in 1835 as a Christian church-affiliated women’s college in Livingston, Alabama, today UWA is a public, coeducational school that enrolls over 5,000 students annually. Dedicated to lifelong and nontraditional learning, UWA is a major proponent of online education. Students choose from several online master’s degrees programs, with options including experimental psychology, conservation biology, adult continuing education, clinical mental health counseling, and business administration. The school also offers several education degrees with options for certification in areas including library media, early childhood development, special education, and physical education. UWA emphasizes community partnerships, and the school maintains the Connect Program with local education and business organizations. The Connect Program allows students from connected organizations to earn tuition scholarships toward graduate education in teaching, business, or other relevant subjects. Coupled with UWA’s already affordable tuition, Connect scholarships helps eligible students save big on graduate education costs.


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27

Henderson State University

Value Score 8.57
Average Tuition $4,572
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 71%
Number of Online Programs 3
Part-time cost per credit hour $254

Based in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, HSU is the only public liberal arts college in the state and the only Arkansas member of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges. Emphasizing the value of a liberal arts education, the school has produced several notable alumni in sports, arts, and politics, from actor Billy Bob Thornton to nationally syndicated radio host Bobby Bones to former Arkansas Governor Sid McMath. HSU offers online master’s degrees programs in education leadership, teacher education, family services, and business, with degree options ranging from special education and developmental therapy to curriculum leadership and business administration. Several of the school’s education programs lead to state licensure, including building-level leadership, district-level leadership, and instructional facilitator. Many of HSU’s online courses employ a synchronous live video format that allows for greater collaboration between students and faculty, though this does mean that students must sometimes adhere to a set class schedule.


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28

Eastern New Mexico University

Value Score 8.54
Average Tuition $3,517
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 96%
Number of Online Programs 5
Part-time cost per credit hour $221

Founded in 1934, ENMU is the newest of New Mexico’s state colleges. The school occupies a main campus in Portales, along with an online education program and satellite locations in Ruidoso and Roswell. ENMU offers more than a dozen online master’s degrees programs, ranging from business administration and secondary education to nursing and sports administration. The school also offers two online graduate certificates in education: alternative licensure in special education and education administration. All courses at ENMU are offered totally online, with most materials available in an asynchronous format that students can access any time of day. However, some courses do include synchronous components that require students to log on at designated times for live class meetings. Distance students receive access to a host of campus resources, including the Online Writing Center, which provides student writing feedback, and ENMU's library, which offers dedicated resources for online students.


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29

The University of Texas of the Permian Basin

Value Score 8.49
Average Tuition $4,029
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 61%
Number of Online Programs 6
Part-time cost per credit hour $168

Based in the West Texas city of Odessa, UTPB was founded in 1973, and today the school ranks among the fastest growing in Texas, recording some of the largest enrollment increases in the state. UTPB is home to around 5,600 students, many of whom take advantage of the school’s quality distance education programs. The college offers nine master’s programs online including programs in ESL education, autism education, business administration finance, public administration, and kinesiology. Online students can also pursue several graduate education certifications and endorsements, including principal certification, superintendency certification, and autism and developmental disabilities in early child certification. Some of UTPB’s online degrees are offered through the University of Texas Online Consortium, which allows students to take relevant courses online through different members of the UT system. This arrangement allows students more flexibility and offers a greater selection of courses each semester.


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30

Dordt College

Value Score 8.47
Average Tuition $5,130
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 100%
Number of Online Programs 3
Part-time cost per credit hour $285

A Christian liberal arts college in Sioux Center, Iowa, Dordt offers just one online master’s program, a master of education, but the degree includes several educational paths. Students can pursue a concentration in either teacher leadership or school leadership. The teacher leadership path requires 30 credits total and trains students to serve as K-12 teacher leaders, making important decisions about curriculum development and instructional practices. Dordt's school leadership track offers two options: a 36-credit administrative concentration or a 33-credit sport leadership concentration. The administrative track prepares students to serve as principals or academic directors, leads to an administrator’s license, and may require a field experience component. The sports leadership track prepares students to serve as educational athletic leaders, such as coaches or athletic directors. In order to develop skills and gain practical knowledge from hands-on experience, this track requires students to complete six credits of practicum. Classes at Dordt are held entirely online except for a required one week long summer session.


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31

Arkansas State University

Value Score 8.47
Average Tuition $4,572
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 72%
Number of Online Programs 12
Part-time cost per credit hour $254

Founded in 1909, A-State is the flagship institution of the Arkansas State University System and the second-largest college in the state, serving more than 14,000 students from its main campus in Jonesboro. Students pursuing a master’s degree online at A-State can choose from 12 options, including engineering management, media management, early childhood services, public administration, and sports administration. Online students at A-State take advantage of some of the lowest tuition rates in the state, and the school charges the same rate to out-of-state students, making many of A-State's programs ideal for learners across the country. (Students interested in education programs should determine whether A-State’s degrees meet their state’s education requirements.) Online students benefit from access to a selection of online resources, including disability services, technology support, and A-State’s online library services, which include thousands of digital journals and many eBooks unavailable at the campus library.


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32

Southeastern Oklahoma State University

Value Score 8.44
Average Tuition $4,139
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 69%
Number of Online Programs 8
Part-time cost per credit hour $230

SOSU is based in Durant, the capital of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and the school is particularly dedicated to educational opportunities for Native American students. The school’s online offerings include three degree programs: a master of business administration, a master of education, and a master of science in Native American leadership. The MBA offers 12 distinct concentration options, all available fully online, including strategic communication, hospitality marketing, healthcare information systems, and Native American leadership (which is separate from the MS degree). SOSU's education program offers nine specializations, including educational technology, administration, educational leadership, math, and English. SOSU’s unique Native American leadership program was designed by tribal leaders to give students the leadership and communication skills necessary to advance tribal careers or develop business ventures through tribal nations. The degree also examines the history and cultural of Native American communications in relation to modern practices of business and leadership.


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33

Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences

Value Score 8.43
Average Tuition $3,528
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 36%
Number of Online Programs 2
Part-time cost per credit hour $196

Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, OSU’s Center for Health Sciences places an emphasis on training physicians, research scientists, and other healthcare workers, with a notable focus on underserved rural populations throughout Oklahoma. The college offers a selection of fully online master’s programs, including options in forensic document examination, forensic science administration, and healthcare administration. Both forensics degrees are professional programs designed to help students develop their careers and move toward leadership positions in the field, developing skills for forensics laboratories, agencies, and organizations. The health care administration program prepares graduates to manage clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities, with available concentrations in leadership, entrepreneurship, or administration. Online students at OSU receive academic support from both program assistants and program coordinators, who help students through applications, enrollment, and degree planning. These online advisers can also help students in different states or time zones arrange the most convenient class schedules.


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34

Texas A & M International University

Value Score 8.41
Average Tuition $3,226
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 59%
Number of Online Programs 4
Part-time cost per credit hour $77

Based near the Mexican border in Laredo, Texas, TAMUI is a globally focused college that emphasizes skills for a rapidly changing world, including bilingual learning and cross-cultural communication. The school offers several options for master’s programs online, including criminal justice, curriculum and instruction, public administration. The school also offers an MBA program with multiple concentration options, including international business, international banking and finance, international trade and logistics, management, and even a foreign language option for Spanish speakers. TAMUI administers two graduate scholarships that are available to online students: the Lamar Bruni Vegara Educational Fund, available to any graduate student enrolled in at least six hours of courses per semester, and the Honor Society Scholarship, available to students in the TAMUI Honor Society. Both scholarships award funding each semester, and the Honor Society Scholarship also includes an initial tuition award.


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35

Wichita State University

Value Score 8.42
Average Tuition $4,927
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 52%
Number of Online Programs 4
Part-time cost per credit hour $274

Wichita, Kansas is home to WSU, the third-largest public college in the state. Nearly 15,000 students pursue courses at the school's main campus, four satellite locations, and through its popular online program. WSU students can choose from five master degree programs online, including aging studies, criminal justice, learning and instructional design, special education, and public administration. For students interested in further professional development, the school also offers graduate certificates in public finance, education technology, and public health. WSU offers some of the least expensive tuition in Kansas, and out-of-state students can also benefit from the school’s low cost, since students pay the same tuition rate regardless of location. Online students receive significant support from the college, including free tutoring from the school's writing center and assistance from the Office of Student Success, including counseling, advising, library services, and any other resources students need.


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36

Adams State University

Value Score 8.40
Average Tuition $4,428
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 79%
Number of Online Programs 8
Part-time cost per credit hour $246

A public liberal arts college in Alamosa, Colorado, ASU has long supported progressive education measures, including distance learning. The school offers an online master of arts in education, available as either a generalized curriculum and instruction degree or with a STEM certificate administered through the US Satellite Lab’s Endeavour STEM program. The generalist degree allows students to use any selection of graduate elective credits to meet degree requirements, while the STEM certificate track includes a required set of courses. Students in both tracks gain skills in curriculum planning, classroom instruction, and organizational training. Both tracks end with a capstone research project, in which students investigate an education topic of their choice, present their findings, and conduct an in-depth seminar with peers and faculty. Intended for working teachers or learners with a strong professional background, ASU's education program offers a flexible schedule and three start dates throughout the school year to maximize student convenience.


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37

Oklahoma State University

Value Score 8.39
Average Tuition $4,704
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 28%
Number of Online Programs 16
Part-time cost per credit hour $196

Founded in 1890 in Stillwater, Oklahoma, OSU is the flagship school of the Oklahoma State University System, serving more than 23,000 students from its main campus. OSU ranks as one of the top public colleges in the region, boasting some of the least expensive tuition rates in Oklahoma. The school also awards more than $250 million in scholarships each year. Students have several options for online master’s degrees programs, including unique choices such as agriculture education, industrial engineering and management, retail merchandising leadership, family financial planning, and information assurance. Students may also pursue various graduate certificates for added professional marketability, including business sustainability, data mining, or marketing analytics. OSU offers several academic support resources for online students, including tits Math Tutoring Center, Writing Center, and the LASSO Center, which provides supplemental instruction, academic success coaching, additional tutoring, and student success workshops.


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38

Kennesaw State University

Value Score 8.38
Average Tuition $4,734
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 51%
Number of Online Programs 16
Part-time cost per credit hour $263

Part of the University System of Georgia, KSU operates its main campus in Kennesaw (about 20 miles outside of Atlanta), a secondary campus in Marietta, several extension centers, and a substantial online program, serving a total of more than 35,000 students annually. The school offers a large selection of master’s programs online, in areas including business, software engineering, education, nursing, and social sciences. One of KSU's more unconventional programs is its master of science in first-year studies program, which focuses on the factors affecting undergraduate college students’ first year experiences and strategies for promoting a successful transition to higher learning. The school offers a range of master’s level certificates for business professionals, including options such as information assurance, applied statistics, and data management and analytics. Educators can also pursue several online endorsement options, including educational leadership preservice, online teaching, and teaching English to speakers of other languages.


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39

Georgia College and State University

Value Score 8.34
Average Tuition $5,184
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 72%
Number of Online Programs 5
Part-time cost per credit hour $288

Based in Milledgeville, Georgia, GCSU is one of the only public liberal arts colleges in the region, serving around 7,000 students through both campus and online programs. The school offers more than a dozen fully online master’s degrees programs, ranging from music therapy and educational technology to logistics and supply chain management. Online students also have three options for professional certifications and endorsements, including library media, instructional technology, and English for speakers of other languages. For students who want to attend some campus courses, GCSU offers several blended degree programs in education, including early childhood education, middle grades education, and special education. Online students at GCSU work alongside designated graduate coordinators, who help with academic decision making and provide advice. Online students also have access to the school's writing center, where peer tutors can help with writing assignments of all levels.


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40

Amberton University

Value Score 8.34
Average Tuition $6,000
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 74%
Number of Online Programs 3
Part-time cost per credit hour $250

A private evangelical Christian college in Garland, Texas (near Dallas/Fort Worth), Amberton’s course offerings are designed specifically for working adult students, and most degree programs are available in both an online and campus format. The college offers a large selection of professionally-focused master degree programs online, including human relations in business, managerial science, family studies, and professional counseling. Students can also pursue an MBA with five available concentrations, including general business, international business, management, project management, and strategic leadership. Mindful of students who may be returning to college after an extended absence, Amberton offers a wide range of academic support services to help students adjust to college work. Students can work with academic coaches who offer both research and study help, gaining a deeper understanding of the research and writing processes. Amberton's academic advisers can also help students better understand program and degree options.


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41

Sam Houston State University

Value Score 8.34
Average Tuition $5,139
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 62%
Number of Online Programs 13
Part-time cost per credit hour $266

Part of the Texas State University System, SHSU maintains a main campus in Huntsville (about an hour north of Houston) along with a robust online program. Enrolling around 20,000 students annually, the school is a major center of education in the region. Some of SHSU’s notable alumni Include film director David Linklater, journalist Dan Rather, and sportswriter Shea Serrano. SHSU was one of the earliest adopters of distance education in Texas, and many of the school’s online degrees rank among the best in the country. SHSU offers more than 20 master’s programs online, including notable options such as digital forensics, homeland security, family and consumer sciences, sustainable agriculture, and victim services management. For new graduate students taking courses fully online, the school offers the 60x30 Scholarship, which is awarded automatically on a first-come, first-serve basis when students apply and are accepted into an online graduate program.


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42

Western Governors University

Value Score 8.32
Average Tuition $6,500
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 100%
Number of Online Programs 24
Part-time cost per credit hour $361

Founded in 1995, WGU adopts a unique approach to education, emphasizing a competency-based curriculum that allows students to make use of prior knowledge and complete courses faster. Students at WGU pay for time, not credit, with a flat fee due every six months, rather than per credit or course. This strategy makes the school ideal for students interested in earning their degree at an accelerated pace, as WGU students are only limited by their availability to complete courses. Students who demonstrate professional competency through the school’s assessment processes can also move through courses faster, skipping over material they already know. WGU operates four distinct colleges, each of which offers a range of master’s programs online: the Teacher’s College, College of Business, College of Information Technology, and College of Health Professions. At WGU, students pursue degrees ranging from cyber security to healthcare management to English language instruction, with all programs available for the same tuition rate regardless of student location.


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43

Shasta Bible College and Graduate School

Value Score 8.30
Average Tuition $6,300
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 86%
Number of Online Programs 5
Part-time cost per credit hour $350

Founded in 1970 in Redding, California, Shasta is a private, Baptist-affiliated college that trains ministers, pastors, and other Christian leaders and educators. The school offers several master degree programs online, including biblical counseling, Christian family life education, military chaplaincy, and curriculum and instruction. Students can also pursue a degree in Christian ministries with four available concentrations: biblical exposition, biblical interpretation, biblical studies, and pastoral ministry. Online courses follow the same schedule as on-campus courses, with 15-week semesters in the fall, spring, and summer. Shasta uses an asynchronous format that allows students to view lectures and complete assignments as their schedule dictates. While assignments have due dates, there are not set class meeting times, giving working students the flexibility to complete assignments on their terms. Students who received their bachelor’s degree from Shasta receive a 10% discount on graduate tuition, making the school’s already inexpensive tuition even cheaper.


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44

Missouri State University-Springfield

Value Score 8.28
Average Tuition $4,590
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 39%
Number of Online Programs 15
Part-time cost per credit hour $255

Based in Springfield, Missouri, MSU is the second-largest college in the state, enrolling more than 22,000 students annually. Students at MSU choose from 13 online master’s programs, including criminology, cybersecurity, education technology, and nurse educator. The school also offers a wide range of professional graduate level certificates online, with options such as conflict and dispute resolution, financial analysis, sports management, and screenwriting for television and film. MSU is notable for offering the same tuition rate to out-of-state and in-state online students. Combined with the school’s highly affordable base tuition rate, this makes MSU a practical choice for students around the country. However, due to state regulations, students residing in Massachusetts are not currently allowed to enroll in any MSU online program requiring a clinical component. Students from most other U.S. states can enroll in any of MSU’s program.


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45

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

Value Score 8.24
Average Tuition $4,050
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 42%
Number of Online Programs 4
Part-time cost per credit hour $230

Rapid City, South Dakota is home to SDSM&T, a professional public college that emphasizes education in engineering and sciences. The school enrolls around 2,800 students annually, and its master’s programs are intended for students who already possess bachelor’s degrees in science or engineering. SDSM&T offers three specialized graduate programs online: construction, engineering management, and mining. The construction program combines advanced technical skills and management practices, training students to serve as leaders in the construction field. The engineering management degree emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach to management and leadership, combining advanced knowledge in operations research, engineering, and management. The mining engineering program trains students to serve as mining engineers, with available emphases in either management or technical engineering. The engineering and mining programs both require 32 total credits, while the construction program requires 33. Students can complete each program entirely online or through a combination of online and campus courses.


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46

University of North Carolina Wilmington

Value Score 8.22
Average Tuition $4,329
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 41%
Number of Online Programs 5
Part-time cost per credit hour $269

Part of the University of North Carolina System, UNCW is home to over 15,000 students enrolled through both online programs and campus courses. UNCW offers online master’s degrees programs in subjects including chemistry, teaching, clinical research, history for educators, and liberal studies. Students interested in programs that require internships, practicums, or other experience-based components should check with UNCW to determine if their state provides authorization for distance education. (Some states, such as Maryland, Indiana, and Nevada, allow students to earn online degrees under the condition that they are not required to complete field experiences, whereas other states, including Minnesota, Montana, and New Mexico, don’t allow students to earn online degrees through UNCW at all.) For online students able to enroll, UNCW offers a host of academic resources, including PERCH, the office of Nontraditional Student Services. PERCH offers support for adult and grad students, including educational opportunities and community development.


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47

Texas Tech University

Value Score 8.20
Average Tuition $4,858
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 36%
Number of Online Programs 14
Part-time cost per credit hour $270

Founded in 1923 in Lubbock, Texas, TTU is the flagship school of the Texas Tech University System and a major education center in the Southwest, serving more than 36,000 students annually. TTU has a longstanding history of distance education that dates back to the 1960s, when distance courses were delivered through closed circuit television. Today the school offers a range of distance and blended programs, available both online and through regional education sites in Waco, El Paso, Fredericksburg, Highland Lakes, and Junction. Students at TTU choose from a generous selection of online master’s programs, including notable options such as civil engineering, agricultural communications, horticulture, human development and family studies, and plant and soil science. Several of TTU’s online programs also offer optional campus components at the school’s regional education sites, making it possible for students to combine online and campus courses.


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48

Montana State University-Billings

Value Score 8.19
Average Tuition $5,276
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 75%
Number of Online Programs 5
Part-time cost per credit hour $220

Based in scenic downtown Billings, Montana State University Billings has served students in the Big Sky state's largest city since 1927. Today the school reaches learners far beyond the region: the school administers more online courses than any other educational institution in the state. In addition to a variety of certifications and undergraduate programs, MSUB currently offers a total of six in-demand online master's degree programs: online instructional technologies (MEd), health administration (MHA), public relations (MSPR), special education advanced, special education generalist, and rehabilitation and mental health counseling. MSUB's designs its online courses to be highly flexible, allowing students to pursue advanced degrees around busy schedules and prior commitments. Some courses require weekly live lectures, chats, or discussions. Factors such as deadlines vary from course to course. In addition to tailoring each course for maximum student convenience, the school offers highly competitive tuition rates.


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49

New Mexico State University

Value Score 8.17
Average Tuition $4,088
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 41%
Number of Online Programs 9
Part-time cost per credit hour $227

Founded in 1888 in Las Cruces, New Mexico, NMSU is both the oldest college in the state and one of the largest, enrolling over 18,000 students annually through several campuses, extension centers, and online programs. NMSU’s living alumni number more than 120,000, including notables such as Pixar co-founded Alvy Ray Smith and audio engineer Paul Klipsch. The school’s online graduate options include programs in business, education, arts and sciences, engineering, and human services, ranging from music education to electrical engineering to public health. The school also offers online graduate certificates in areas including online teaching and learning, special education alternative licensure, systems engineering, and information technology coordinator. Many NMSU programs can be completed entirely online, though some may require occasional campus visits. Certain programs, such as education and nursing, may also include field work that must be completed in an approved professional location. NMSU advisers typically help online students find field placements within their own community.


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50

Utah State University

Value Score 8.16
Average Tuition $5,143
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 51%
Number of Online Programs 6
Part-time cost per credit hour $247

One of the largest colleges in Utah, USU serves more than 28,000 students from its main campus in Logan (a town about 80 miles north of Salt Lake City). As a major center of education in the state, USU boasts several famous alumni, including Nobel Prize winner Lars Peter Hansen, poet May Swenson, and NASA astronaut Mary L. Cleave. The school offers nine online graduate degrees, including options in dietetics administration, horticulture, natural resources, and rehabilitation counseling. USU’s online learning system is highly flexible and designed to accommodate working students by way of, for example, start dates in the fall, spring, and summer. Online students receive access to several academic resources and support services, including tutoring, academic advising, career services, USU's disability resource center, and the school's center for women and gender. USU offers software discounts for online students, allowing them to access necessary computer programs at an affordable price.


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Accredited Online Master’s Degrees

Perhaps the most important issue to consider in your online master’s degree search is the program’s accreditation. Accreditation is the process that colleges must meet to ensure their offerings adhere to standards for quality. Accreditation can be regional or national, and is especially important to consider if your intended career requires licensure or if you plan to transfer. Regional accreditation is more common and generally granted to non-profit institutions; national accreditation is usually granted to for-profit and career-oriented vocational schools. You can find a list of accreditation organizations recognized by the United States Department of Education (DOE) and the non-governmental Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) here.

Programmatic Accreditation

Many fields of study have accreditation for individual academic programs within a college or university. These are independent accrediting agencies that ensure programs meet industry standards in the field, and many of the most popular graduate degree programs may carry such accreditation, including business, healthcare, education, law, engineering, architecture and public administration. Graduating from a program with this kind of accreditation is a sign of its rigor and quality, and is highly valued in many industries. The CHEA has a database of recognized program-specific accrediting agencies, which you can find here.

The Cost of a Master’s Degree

How much will you have to pay for your education? There are several factors to consider. One major factor is the type of institution you select — public vs. private, for-profit vs. nonprofit. Below is the average cost for master’s degrees based on the type of school:

Average Cost for Graduate Degrees
School Type Yearly Tuition Cost + Fees
Public institutions $10,979
Private nonprofit institutions $25,171
Private for-profit institutions $14,265
https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d15/tables/dt15_330.50.asp

Online vs. On-Campus Master’s Degrees

Studying online is often much cheaper than studying on campus. According to the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, more than half of all distance-learners avoid the extensive fees their on-campus counterparts are forced to pay, such as technology and other general student fees.

It is also important to consider that online learning offers other savings, such as relocation costs, parking fees, and childcare. Many public colleges also offer the same tuition prices for both in-state and out-of-state online students, further reducing the financial burden on students.

How Long Will it Take to Earn My Online Master’s Degree?

Typically, a traditional on-campus master’s degree program is 30-45 semester credits, which a full-time student usually completes in two years (or four semesters). Online master’s degree programs may operate on that schedule, too, but with notable exceptions. Some programs offer credit for previous work and life experience, allow students to study at their own pace, or offer classes in the summer. This can make it possible to complete your degree in less than two years. Many programs also offer an accelerated format, which can further reduce the time it takes to complete a degree.

Part-Time vs. Full-Time Programs: Many master’s programs allow students to attend full-time or part-time. A full-time student typically finishes in about two years, while a part-time degree will take longer — anywhere from three to six years, depending upon the pace of the student. Part-time programs are terrific options for students with work and family commitments because they are offered in many different formats. Courses may be run asynchronously, and/or offered in the evenings, on weekends, or in the summer.

Accelerated Programs: Many colleges offer accelerated master’s degree programs online that can significantly reduce the time it takes to complete a degree — often by as much as 30%. In this format, students begin a new class every five-to-eight weeks year-round, rather than adhering to a strict semester or quarter schedule. This option may not be right for everyone, however: the pace and format of accelerated master’s degree programs requires students possess exceptional self-discipline and time management skills.

Upgrading From a Bachelor’s Degree

Earning a master’s degree is usually a big financial and time commitment — is it worth it? A master’s degree improves your career opportunities, while also teaching advanced, specialized skills for specific fields and careers. A master’s degree may also make you a more attractive job applicant in fields where an advanced degree is not always required (e.g. business or engineering). Some career paths (e.g. healthcare or education) will require an advanced degree to get hired, while careers that require a licensure or certification may also require a master’s degree.

You can also expect a master’s degree to have a positive impact on your salary. The specialized skills, advanced knowledge, and broader opportunities offered by a master’s degree generally lead to higher salaries over time. According to a study by Georgetown University, graduate degree holders earn, on average, 23%-63% more than those with only a bachelor’s degree.

Graduate Degree Wage Premium for College-Educated Workers (Highest)
Field Wage Premium
Biology and Life Sciences 63.3%
Physical Sciences 50.0%
Social Sciences 44.6%
Humanities & Liberal Arts 34.2%
Computer Science 33.3%
Business 33.3%
Education 33.3%
Based on 2013 data collected from Payscale.com
Graduate Degree Wage Premium for College-Educated Workers (Lowest)
Field Wage Premium
Computers, Statistics, & Mathematics 25.6%
Communications and Journalism 25.5%
Industrial Arts Consumer Services & Recreation 25.4%
Architecture & Engineering 25.0%
Arts 22.9%
Based on 2013 data collected from Payscale.com

Choosing an Online Master’s Program

Types of Master’s Degrees

The guide below explores the most popular types of master’s degrees. There are several smaller, industry-specific master’s degrees available, such as a master’s in education (MEd), a master’s in library science (MLS), and a master’s in social work (MSW). However, the main master’s degrees are as follows:

  • Master of Arts (MA): MA programs can cover nearly any academic discipline, but are most commonly reserved for humanities or social science degrees. Requirements for MA programs can vary widely, and may include the research and writing of a culminating thesis.
  • Master of Science (MS): These programs are generally more science-based, but can also cover disciplines in the liberal arts and humanities. An MS will usually have a technical or career-oriented bias.
  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA): These programs are usually creative, terminal degree programs in the fine arts, writing, music, theater, film, and dance. An MFA requires significant studio, workshop, and/or performance components, and will feature less emphasis on interacting with the scholarship of the discipline.
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA): An MBA is a professional, terminal business degree. It may be a general study of business, or, occasionally, a more specialized business degree program.

Popular Master’s Degree Programs

There is an enormous variety of master’s degree programs, leading to an even bigger variety of careers and salaries! However, below you will find some of the most common master’s degrees, their related career tracks, and the anticipated job market graduates may expect. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list, but instead is indicative of broader industry and educational trends.

Programs

Business Administration

Summary Business administration is a broad and flexible field, usually involved with helping an organization meet its financial goals through management, finance, accounting, marketing, or more.

A master’s degree demonstrates a specialized skill-set, which can be particularly attractive to potential employers. A master’s may also be required for advancement in the field.

Career Options Management consultant, financial advisor, entrepreneur, marketing manager, financial analyst
Job Growth 12% growth for financial analysts
Average Salary $81,760 for financial analysts

Education

Summary

The field of education involves planning curricula, teaching, and working with students and parents. People in this field may run schools, work at a museum or after-school program, or counsel students outside of class.

Teachers with a master’s degree usually begin, and continue, their careers on a higher pay scale than than those with only a bachelor’s degree.

Some states and districts may require a master’s degree for certain specialities, and some may require a master’s for all teachers. Administrators typically need a master’s degree.

Career Options Elementary/middle school teacher, high school teacher, school administrator, school counselor, museum educator
Job Growth 6% growth rate for high school teachers
Average Salary $58,030 for high school teachers

Healthcare Professions

Summary

Healthcare professionals help treat, manage, and prevent illnesses, diseases, and injuries in patients.

Many high-paying healthcare careers require a master’s degree for licensure, including certified registered nurse anesthetists, physician assistants, and advanced practice registered nurses.

Career Options Advanced practice registered nurse, physician assistant, certified registered nurse anesthetist, speech pathologist, healthcare services manager
Job Growth 31% growth for nurse anesthetists and nurse practitioners
Average Salary $107,640 average for nurse anesthetists and nurse practitioners

Engineering

Summary

Engineers design, implement, and analyze structures, materials, machines, and more. They can work on projects as diverse as bridges to computers.

A master’s degree in engineering gives candidates an edge in the job market. Their advanced knowledge and skill-set often leads to higher pay.

Career Options Computer scientist/engineer, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, civil engineer, chemical engineer
Job Growth 8% for civil engineers
Average Salary $83,540 for civil engineers

Public Administration/Social Services

Summary

Graduates of public administration and social service master’s programs typically work in federal, state, or local governments, nonprofits, or the private sector. A master’s degree is preparation for a broad set of careers, including social workers, firefighters, state agency officials, city planners, and many others.

Many of these positions require a master’s degree; for others, a master’s often leads to higher pay.

Career Options City/state/federal government administrator, nonprofit administrator, human resource manager, healthcare administrator, social worker
Job Growth 9% for human resource managers
Average Salary $106,910 for human resource managers

The Highest Paying Master’s Degrees

Salaries for those earning master’s degrees will vary considerably, and depends upon your degree and career. The table below shows the five highest paying jobs available to those with a master’s. This is just a small sample of potential careers:

Potential Careers
Degree Early Career Salary Mid-Career Salary
Nurse Anesthesia $140,000 $156,000
Computer Science (CS) & Engineering $95,900 $134,000
Operations Research $80,800 $130,000
Electrical & Electronics Engineering (EEE) $79,500 $129,000
Taxation $61,100 $129,000
Data accessed 7/2017: Payscale.com

Financing Your Online Master’s Degree

While most online master’s degree programs are typically cheaper than their on-campus equivalents, many students may still need financial assistance to pay for school. Many colleges offer similar financial aid packages to online and on-campus master’s degree students. The kind of aid schools offer varies widely, but may include federal and/or private loans, work-study, grants, and scholarships. Financial aid may be provided by the college or distributed by private organizations.

The first step is to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid). This quick form helps students find suitable options to pay for your online master’s degree. However, aid granted is only available to online students that attend a program accredited by a federally recognized accreditation agency.

Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans $50,000

This is a fellowship program for immigrants and the children of immigrants pursuing a graduate degree in the United States.

Scholarship Deadline: November 1, 2017

Eligibility Requirements: Open to students planning to enroll full-time in graduate school. Applicants must be immigrants or first generation Americans and 30 or under at the time of the application deadline.

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Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Scholarship Program $5,000

Scholarship for students of Latino heritage. No GPA or major requirement, but students must demonstrate strong writing skills.

Scholarship Deadline: April

Eligibility Requirements: Full-time enrollment, demonstrated financial need, community involvement, U.S. citizenship, permanent residency or employment authorization.

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American Foundation for the Blind Scholarship $1,000-$2,500

The foundation offers four different scholarships for students who are legally blind.

Scholarship Deadline: April 1, 2017

Eligibility Requirements: Proof of legal blindness.

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National Collegiate Athletic Association Postgraduate Scholarship $7,500

Current and former undergraduate athletes at NCAA-member colleges can be nominated for this scholarship by their undergraduate college’s faculty athletic representative.

Scholarship Deadline: Three nomination periods annually that correspond with the student’s athletic season.

Eligibility Requirements: Minimum 3.2 undergraduate GPA. Distinguished varsity athlete.

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Visit our Affordability Center to learn more about financial aid and to view our extensive catalogue of scholarships.

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