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Online Master's Degrees & Programs

Obtaining a master’s degree online has many benefits when compared with attending traditional classes at a college or university. Affordability, convenience and the ability to approach course content with personalized learning styles all make the pursuit of the online master’s increasingly popular. More and more often, schools are beginning to offer courses that are entirely online, or that are a hybrid of online and onsite learning.

A cursory search of available online master’s programs, however, can be a confusing field to navigate. Knowing where to look to find legitimate information is half the battle. The information presented on this page can help point students in the right direction, and can guide them toward a program that meet most or all of their educational and professional needs. Find online master’s degrees by subject, see the top programs in the country, and use the proprietary search tool to identify advanced educational opportunities according to personalized criteria. Selecting an online master’s degree program is a major undertaking, but a little research and know-how can make the process more manageable, and the outcome more rewarding.

Narrowing Your Search: Online Master’s by Subject

Online master’s degrees come in so many shapes and sizes that it can be difficult to find just the right one. Maybe you have a bachelor’s in business administration but want to explore a more specialized degree to increase chances of promotion in a current career. Or, perhaps you have a bachelor’s in finance but want to earn an online master’s in accounting to become a certified public accountant (CPA). Use the following links to narrow down your online master’s degree search:

Rise of the Online Master's Degree

Many of today's top industries change incredibly rapidly, particularly healthcare, education, and certain fields of engineering such as nanotechnology and bio-medical engineering. Keeping even the most promising employees up-to-date with the latest advances, skills and knowledge may seem daunting - and expensive - for any employer. As such, many students who decide to pursue graduate level degrees are already working in their desired professions, and have been encouraged by their employers to obtain their master's - even if they weren't previously considering higher education.

In order to stay on tip of their game, many of today's professionals will need to juggle their master's degree courses along with family life and work. According to the 2012 Survey of Online Learning by the Babson Survey Research Group, more than 6.7 million students are solving that dilemma by taking at least one class through an online format. In a press release dated January 2013 regarding the survey's results, Todd Hitchcock, Senior Vice President of Online Solutions for Pearson Learning Solutions, stated that "the growth of online learning underscores this need for quality, flexible education programs that meet the demands of our 21st-century workforce."

Distance learning, through either an occasional online course or a comprehensive online program, has made it possible for students to keep all of the plates spinning while getting a master's degree. Flexibility is the biggest advantage of an online master's program, especially when considering 24/7 accessibility, time taken to program completion and the blending of online courses with onsite, hands-on learning experiences.

Online Master's by the Numbers

As online master's degree programs become more widely offered by highly respected colleges and universities, the degrees earned from such institutions are beginning to command more respect in the job market. In the last decade, enrollment in online graduate programs has continually gained momentum. Thanks to the growing prevalence of accredited online master's programs, employers now often view online master's degrees to be as credible as those earned in brick and mortar institutions.

83%

of business leaders surveyed strongly believe degrees earned via online programs to be at credible as those earned in a campus-based environment

22%

2,910,715
Students enrolled exclusively in distance education courses at the graduate level: 2,910,715 (22%)

7.8%

227,467
Students enrolled in some but not all distance education courses at the graduate level: 227,467 (7.8%)
60%

of institutions offered college-level credit-granting online, hybrid online/onsite, or other distance course at the graduate level

52%

offered graduate courses online

27%

offered hybrid courses

20%

offered other distance programs

2,349,900

Total number of enrollments in online/distance programs at the graduate level

18%

of institutions offered distance education courses at the graduate level

12%

of institutions offered programs designed to be completed totally through distance learning at the graduate level

Types of Online Master's Degrees

The popularity of earning a master's degree online, especially for non-traditional students-including professionals already working in their field of study and who have current job responsibilities - highlights the need for flexibility in these distance-learning programs. To accommodate the diverse needs of master's degree students, different schools offer a variety of formats for earning a master's degree online, from self-paced to real-time and hybrid programs. In general, regardless of the format of an online program, students choosing this method of study must be self-disciplined, well-organized and comfortable using and troubleshooting a computer and/or laptop and its related software.

Self-paced programs

This approach to earning a master's degree online is the most popular. Some programs allow students to complete their studies without any deadlines, while others may have a preset length of time within which the student must finish. The self-paced study approach allows master's degree students to move quickly through course material they know from previous and current work experience, while spending more time on any unfamiliar topics. Self-paced programs work best for students who not only like working independently, but are able to stay motivated without set deadlines. The ideal student of a self-paced program has had experience with self-directed education previously and is confident in this learning environment.

Real-time programs

This type of online program most closely mimics the on-campus experience. Class lectures are attended online, but synchronously - in real time - as they are being presented live, rather than by accessing a recorded presentation of the same lecture at a later time or date. Some programs offer a combination of real-time and asynchronous activities depending on the class and the instructor. Programs requiring real-time attendance may be more of a challenge to working professionals and non-traditional students due to conflicts with other responsibilities, but students fresh from an on-campus bachelor's degree program may not find it a stretch to participate.

Hybrid programs

A hybrid program combines the flexibility of online education with the on-campus experience. In certain fields of study, students can only receive necessary hands-on training onsite; for example, in a classroom, laboratory or via face-to-face meeting. Hybrid programs can involve any combination of online and onsite learning: students may attend all classes for some courses online and take classes for other courses in the same program onsite.Other hybrid programs may involve taking most courses fully online and attending on-campus meetings periodically, such as on weekends or at other, less frequent but still regular, intervals.

Online Master's Degree Spotlights

Arizona State University

Arizona State University offers 41 different online master's programs, from Master of Education in Early Childhood Education to Master of Science Biomedical Diagnostics. Students will complete their classes via LearningStudio, which gives them access to all course materials, quizzes and assignments. All classes run in 7.5 week sessions and are peer reviewed to ensure continued quality.

New students must meet all of the University's general admission requirements, and will attend a virtual student orientation as an introduction to the online learning environment. Online courses at ASU are highly interactive and engaging, and students will experience the collaboration and faculty interaction that are traditionally only seen in on-campus environments.

Those enrolled in a master's program at ASU will receive support every step of the way, with help from enrollment counselors, academic advisors and success coaches.

University of Southern California

The master's programs included in USC's online graduate school maintain the university's high standards, while offering a global audience of students the chance to experience the academics the university is known for.

Financial aid resources are available to the online student, and the university features a host of online master's programs like engineering management and regulatory sciences. Students of USC's online master's programs must meet all of the enrollment requirements that they would to attend traditional on-campus programs.

The university's online master's program is an excellent fit for those looking for a change in careers or who would like to advance further along their current career paths. The university prides itself on its support of those currently in the United States Military and its veterans, allowing them to take part in USC's technologically and academically innovative programs from anywhere in the world.

Student Profiles: Who Earns an Online Master's Degree?

Online master's programs are especially well suited to those looking to go back to school to continue their educations. People with a variety of backgrounds may choose an online school for a number of different reasons, and they'll all have different challenges and schedules they'll have to juggle, along with their classwork.

Diverse people, professions, and goals, one commonality: online master's programs fit into their busy lives:

The Career Changer

On average, people change careers several times during their lives, for a variety of reasons. Online master's programs can help facilitate this change.

Career Changers might have gone into their current fields expecting they'd be content with their chosen professions, only to find that their opinions changed once they really got down to it. Some Career Changers may similarly be experiencing burnout in their current working environments, while others have seen the potential for growth in their markets plummet.

Online master's programs allow someone looking to change fields - whatever the reason - the chance to earn the degree to make it possible, all while continuing to hold down their current job. Those whose current line of work requires travel will also find online programs to be a particularly good fit, as they can study anytime, and anywhere, they may be.

The Go-Getter

Typically "eternal students," Go Getters have a thirst for knowledge that will lead them to pursue educational advancements.

Because technology moves at such a rapid rate, certain fields require continuing education to stay current with advances. Go Getters are those who possess an innate drive to learn, and who will look to master's programs as a way to continue their quest for knowledge.

Go Getters will seek out higher education in the form of master's programs to forward their growth in their chosen fields, and will find that the convenience of online programs allows them to do so while maintaining their regular lives.

The Remote Student

Otherwise unable to attend a traditional university due to geographic constraints, online master's programs allow remote students to pursue their academic dreams.

Remote students might live in rural areas, overseas or even be active military members who, while they desire to earn their master's degree, cannot physically make it to classes. Online programs are the perfect fit for these students; thanks to virtual classrooms and online coursework, Remote Students can bring the university to them, wherever they may be.

From Learners to Earners: Do Master's Holders Earn More?

Many people considering a master's degree, whether online or on-campus, focus on the economics. They ask themselves questions such as "Will I make more money?" "Will the return be worth the investment?" "Will a master's translate to increased job security?" While all master's degrees come with different salary expectations and ROIs, some general numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) can shed a little light on the financial gains often experienced by those who go beyond the bachelor's:

Degree Level Average Salary Unemployment Rate
High School Diploma $33,852 7.5%
Some College Credit $37,804 7.0%
Associate Degree $40,404 5.4%
Bachelor's Degree $57,616 4.0%
Master's Degree $69,108 3.4%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013

Government wage data clearly shows an overall salary increase for master's degree holders. But do master's earners in all industries earn more after completing an advanced degree? According to Georgetown University's study "What's It Worth? The Economic Value of College Majors", the answer is yes, although the size of the increase can vary widely. Here's a look at three industries where master's degrees have the largest financial impact:

Conclusion

Obtaining a master's degree online will allow students to tackle coursework in their own way, easily adapt the classes to their busy schedules and still obtain top-of-the-line educations while doing so. Thanks to the upswing in popularity of online programs, earning a master's is more attainable than ever before.