Around one-third of adults in the United States graduated college, one of the reasons more workers are considering going to graduate school (Chamorro-Premuzic, 2020). The job market is getting competitive and workers need to stand out. One way to do it is by getting more higher education credentials. That means going to graduate school. And, this idea is getting more popular. In 2019 alone, 140,212 students earned a master’s degree (NACE, 2021). In the fall semester of 2020, graduate school enrollment increased by 3.4%. The increase continued into the spring semester of 2021 to 5.2% (NSCRC, 2021). Graduate school, however, can last for years. So, people who want a quicker path pick tend to choose short-term programs for the same credentials. Hence, many are looking for the best 1 year master’s degree programs online to take.
With the growing number of college graduates, a master’s degree is the new bachelor’s. According to the Census Bureau (2019), since the year 2000, the number of people over the age of 25 with a master’s has doubled to 21 million in 2019. Pursuing postgraduate studies has become one of the strategies for career advancement. Some, however, pursue a master’s degree for a career change.
The online master’s programs being offered by colleges and universities made the pursuit of an advanced degree more accessible. An online master’s program provides access to the same curriculum and faculty as their on-campus counterparts. Online master’s programs also make it possible for students to study at some of the world’s best universities without the need to relocate. Since online programs are not restricted to a fixed schedule, students often find that they are able to handle a heavier load, thus completing their degree in less time.
This article will identify the online master’s programs that can be completed in 1 year. Concerns on the validity of a 1 year master’s program and the perception of employers will also be addressed. Also in the discussion are the factors that you have to take into account when choosing a 1 year online master’s degree program.
Getting a master’s degree typically takes 18 to 24 months of study. Today, colleges and universities offer 1 year programs to those who want to pursue postgraduate studies in the shortest time possible. The online format has made this more accessible. For some who want to pursue master’s studies while working, the 1 year master’s program online is the preferred route.
A typical master’s program requires 36 credit hours. For a master’s degree, most courses require either three or four credits, which means that a standard full-time study load is 30 credit hours per year. If you add one three- or four-credit load per term, you will be able to finish a master’s program in one year. For master’s programs that require more than 40 credit hours, coursework can be completed in less than two years.
While 1 year master’s programs are often intensive and fast-paced, the key lies in proper time management. Programs that offer 1 year completion are very similar to the accelerated programs that require more credits per term. Some students are able to make arrangements with their employers on their work schedule while taking up the 1 year online master’s program. Other students, however, prefer to take a study leave if available or take a career break while pursuing their 1 year master’s degree.
The 1 year online master’s degree program is more intense and will require more study time compared to the regular master’s program. The 1 year master’s program is employment friendly, which means that you have a higher chance of keeping your job if you would be gone for only a year, compared to a longer period. The 1 year online master’s degree program would also cost less, overall, compared to the regular master’s program.
The 1 year master’s degree, however, would afford fewer networking opportunities due to the shorter length of the program. The significantly faster pace would mean that students will have less time absorbing material and engaging with the coursework, thus individual learning styles would need some adjustments to maximize learning.
The 1 year master’s degree program is different from the accelerated master’s program. The former is purely a master’s study while the latter is a program that allows undergraduate students to concurrently earn their bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
With the accelerated master’s degree program, the student selects a master’s program that is eligible for acceleration. After choosing a program, the student begins taking the required undergraduate classes. The authorized graduate courses will be taken as electives to satisfy the requirements of the accelerated degree. The program structure is typically the same for both on-campus and online students.
Accelerated master’s degree programs provide significant cost and time savings. These programs allow the student to work towards two degrees with the possibility of completing both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in five years.
Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers
The validity of 1 year online master’s programs depends on accreditation. Employers are more particular with whether the program is accredited, and not the duration of the program. In most cases, the ability to finish a master’s degree in 1 year reflects exceptional time management skills, including a high level of motivation and self-regulation.
In the last five years, 33% of employers are hiring workers with master’s degrees for positions that had been primarily held by those with bachelor’s degrees (Career Builder, 2021). Asked about their preference for master’s degree holders, 61% of employers revealed that skills requirements have evolved, which consequently require a higher base level of education. Raising the education requirements has resulted in higher work quality, productivity, innovation, communication, revenue, employee retention, and customer loyalty.
The following is a list of the best 1 year online master’s programs with the highest employment rate and career outcomes as compiled by the NACE. Schools that offer the identified best 1 year online master’s programs are also included.
The 1 year online master’s in business administration program covers a range of topics and learning experiences. This fast-paced program includes coursework that typically takes two years to learn. The core courses and electives are covered in three terms—fall, spring, and summer—all on a full-time schedule. In 2019, there were 22, 419 master’s graduates set to get ahead in their business administration careers (NACE, 2021).
Students may take the following concentrations under the M.B.A. program:
Schools offering 1 year Master’s in Business Administration:
The online M.B.A. program of the Kellogg School of Management allows students to bypass core classes and directly immerse themselves into customized advanced studies based on their career goals. This 1 year M.B.A. program is designed to build upon the student’s fundamental knowledge and experiences. The rigorous curriculum and world-class faculty prepare the student to get back into the workforce with new skills and enhanced leadership capabilities.
American University’s Kogod School of Business in Washington DC offers a degree track that is designed for students who have the drive and motivation to complete rigorous business education. The Kogod School of Business 1 year M.B.A. online is designed for professionals with a solid foundation in business.
Babson’s M.B.A. curriculum is focused on balancing experimentation and analysis in problem-solving. Students are provided access to both one-year and two-year format programs. Babson’s 1 year online M.B.A. also allows students to choose electives that are aligned with their career goals.
Most enrollees in the master’s in education (M.Ed.) program are candidates for leadership roles. The courses in this program teach students advanced skills in assessing and evaluating curriculum elements, school operations management, and managing teachers and students.
Students of M.Ed. may focus on the following concentrations:
Schools offering 1 year Master’s in Education:
Located in South Carolina, the 1 year master’s in education (M.Ed.) program of Anderson University has a special focus on administration and supervision. The university has a long-standing reputation for producing well-prepared educators with a curriculum that provides foundational knowledge towards becoming an outstanding educational institution administrator.
The master’s in education (M.Ed.) in curriculum and instruction at California State University in Bakersfield is designed for K-12 teachers. This 1 year master’s degree emphasizes the core concepts of equity and educational technology integration. Through self-reflective and systematic scholarly inquiry, the course trains students to formulate meaningful research questions and design appropriate action plans to improve current practice.
The Western Governors University offers a total of 12 fully-online 1 year master’s degrees in education, including those in the areas of curriculum and instruction, special education, educational leadership, English language learning, and instructional design, among others.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Management roles in the healthcare administration career path require a master’s degree, such as the master of health administration (M.H.A.). Based on NACE (2021) data, there were 14,376 master’s in healthcare administration graduates in 2019.
The following concentrations are offered under the 1 year M.H.A. program:
Schools offering 1 year Master’s in Healthcare Administration:
Louisiana State University-Shreveport offers the most affordable online master’s in healthcare administration, requiring only 10 courses to earn the degree. This online master’s in healthcare administration program is ranked second in the U.S. and is accredited by the Association of Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
Arizona State University’s online 1 year master of international health management (MIHM) program offers four specializations: hospital management, health informatics, health economics, and quality improvement in healthcare. This program is offered in partnership with the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.
The Capella University 1 year online master of health administration program offers three specializations in health care—leadership, operations, and informatics. The M.H.A. program is competency-based and is offered in flexible learning paths.
Earning a master’s in computer science (M.S.C.S.) typically leads to above-average earnings and high employment rates, primarily due to the widespread demand for computing technology. The resulting high demand for professionals in this field makes the master’s in computer science 1 year online program a wise choice for junior and middle management professionals.
The concentrations in this program include:
Schools offering 1 year master’s in computer science:
The University of Illinois Grainger College of Engineering offers 1 year master’s in computer science online which, provides coursework in the core areas of artificial intelligence, databases, human-computer interaction, software engineering, scientific computing, and high-performance computing.
The online 1 year master of science in computer and information science offered by the University of Michigan is ideal for students looking for a quick and flexible master’s program. The program includes a 30-credit hour curriculum, consisting of required core courses and technical electives. Concentration areas include computer graphics, geometric modeling and game design, computer networks and security, database management and analytics, software engineering, systems software, and web computing.
The master of science in computer and information science program of the University of Illinois – Springfield is oriented toward software and is ideal for candidates that have an interest in the design, analysis, and implementation of software programs. The degree is designed to enhance professional practice and strengthen the practice of research in the computing field.
High-level nursing professions, such as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), midwives, nurse anesthetists, and nurse practitioners require at least a master’s degree. From being a registered nurse (RN), the 1 year online master of science in nursing degree program allows most RNs to earn their master’s, which covers pharmacology, physiology, and patient care, along with health policies, laws, and ethics. The program also includes courses related to APRN licensure. The 1 year RN-to-MSN programs require 100-1,000 hours of supervised clinical training.
Some of the common specializations that MSN students pursue are:
Schools offering 1 year Master’s in Nursing:
The master of science in nursing as offered by the A.T. Still University in California equips nursing professionals with management and administrative skills for a variety of settings. The program’s goal is to provide comprehensive and relevant health management knowledge through innovative online education.
The master’s degree in nursing of the University of Alabama Capstone College of Nursing is focused on the area of administration. Students are trained to become thought leaders to be able to provide healthcare leadership to patients and practitioners. Graduates have the opportunity to pursue specializations and serve as mentors to new nurses.
The master of science in nursing – clinical nurse leader (MSN-CNL) offering by the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine is comprised of 16 courses separated by distinct domains that build upon the foundations of nursing practice. The master’s program prepares registered nurses to tackle the complexities of healthcare delivery systems by achieving the curricular competencies and expectations of a clinical nurse leader.
The 1 year master’s in psychology program equips the student to gain a comprehensive understanding and a strategic focus in the context of one’s professional practice. The program also provides practice-oriented, up-to-date specialist knowledge to every practitioner. The program is offered as master of arts, which has a greater focus on the liberal arts, or master of science with a focus on research and sciences.
Some of the study concentrations useful for future psychology careers include:
Schools offering 1 year Master’s in Psychology:
The master of arts in psychology program of Pepperdine University combines online courses and in-person volunteer work. This non-licensure program includes the study of psychotherapy techniques, multicultural counseling, and career development.
The master of arts in psychology program of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology may be earned in as little as one year by full-time students. Concentration areas include social & community psychology, organizational leadership, forensic psychology, and theory and practice.
The master of science in psychology program of Tiffin University takes an interdisciplinary approach, with courses taught by faculty across the fields of both mental health and criminal justice. This non-licensure program focuses on scientific and experimental psychology, with study areas in social psychology, cognitive psychology, and neuropsychology.
The 1 year master’s in public health program consists of online courses that are focused on the foundational knowledge and competency areas related to public health. Some programs may require a capstone project or participation in field training.
Students can choose from the following concentrations:
Schools offering 1 year Master’s in Public Health:
The master of public health degree program of the University of Florida includes core courses such as principles of epidemiology in public health, introduction to the U.S. health care system, and environmental health concepts in public health. Concentrations include public health practice and social and behavioral sciences.
George Washington University’s online master of public health program is ideal for practitioners that want to enhance their careers through an added degree in public health. This fast-paced and intensive program is equal to the traditional on-campus and online regular MPH programs.
The online, 1 year master of public health degree offered by the Kerk School of Medicine is the ideal choice for medical school applicants, or those completing residencies. Concentrations include biostatistics, epidemiology, health services, community, and global health.
The 1 year online master of science in information technology degree program aims to develop a deeper knowledge of the relationship between technology and 21st-century business. The program weds technical and management skills for the effective implementation of IT strategies in organizations.
Students of master’s in information technology may choose to focus on the following areas:
Schools offering 1 year Master’s in Information Technology:
The master of science in information technology program of the California Lutheran University is accredited by the ACBSP and provides students with a forward-thinking technical foundation used to effectively plan, design, secure, and manage IT systems. Aside from earning a general master of science in information technology degree, students may also concentrate on cybersecurity, data analytics, or information technology management.
The master of science in information technology and management offered by the University of Texas is a program designed for students that want to pursue a specialization in information technology and management. The coursework prepares students to develop innovative solutions to business problems by drawing upon both emerging and mature information technologies.
The master of science in information technology management of the Kelley School of Business is designed for working professionals who are looking to accelerate their careers. This program meets the growing demand of IT leaders, with a curriculum that prepares students with both business and IT backgrounds to meet current market needs.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
The 1 year online master in finance program is an advanced degree that focuses on investment, financial management and accounting, and managerial accounting. Graduates of this program can find middle management opportunities in insurance, business, professional services, and government.
Some areas of concentration include:
Schools offering 1 year Master’s in Finance:
The Drew University master of science in finance is a rigorous 30 credit immersion program that focuses on the quantitative and analytical methods and tools used throughout the financial sector. Internships are a key component of the degree in partnership with the school’s Wall Street program.
The master of finance program is designed for professionals in the field of finance that are seeking the tools, knowledge, and analytical skills required for analysis, decision making, and effective business administration. Skills and mastery that can be gained in this program can be applied to a variety of organizations, including banks, insurance companies, non-financial corporations, investment firms, and government units.
The online master of science in finance program of the Harbert College of Business offers a curriculum that covers topics on corporate finance, investments, and financial institutions and markets. Students enrolled in the online MS finance degree have access to the same lectures, and have the same professors, assessments, and projects as the on-campus program.
The 1 year online master’s in management program is ideal for professionals who manage, direct, or lead organizations in the public or private sectors. The program enables students to acquire higher-level management skills, including leadership and management courses in the area of human resources and ethics.
Concentrations for this program may be in the following areas:
Schools offering 1 year Master’s in Management:
The 1 year online master of science in management is open to non-business majors and provides valuable business knowledge and strengthens transferable skills towards advancement opportunities not just within the business sector, but across any type of organization. The master of science in management program offered by the Warrington College of Business offers students flexibility in tailoring their program with elective choices.
The master of arts in management and leadership of Maryville University is designed to help students establish a strong foundation in business and organizational management. Regardless of one’s academic or professional background, this master’s program focuses on developing in-demand leadership skills and qualities like communication, team-building, critical thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving.
Wake Forest University’s master of science in management degree is designed for non-business majors and business minors who want to stay competitive in today’s business environment. This program lasts for 10 months and is offered through Wake Forest’s School of Business. The master of science in management degree is a highly-ranked program in graduate business education, with a curriculum that builds on the skills and knowledge gained in undergraduate studies.
It is possible to work full-time while pursuing 1 year online master’s program. The outcome, however, will depend on your time management skills. A 1 year master’s program demands total commitment to your coursework, so you have to identify your current responsibilities, including your lifestyle, and determine which roles and activities can be put on hold, or at least take the back seat, for at least a year while you study. Some schools, however, require students not to be employed once enrolled in a full-time, 1 year master’s program.
Pursuing graduate studies can be a real challenge, but rewarding at the same time. Borrego et al. (2018) in their work “Pursuing Graduate Study: Factors Underlying Undergraduate Engineering Students’ Decisions” explored student perceptions of undergraduate study, and how these perceptions impact their decisions. Published in the Research Journal for Engineering Education, the authors found that self-efficacy most strongly influenced graduate school intention. “Self‐efficacy most strongly influenced graduate school intention. For every one‐unit increase in students’ self‐efficacy, they were over 8 times more likely to plan to enroll in a master’s program and 13 times more likely to enroll in a Ph.D. program, relative to not attending graduate school,” the authors reported.
Not all 1 year master’s degree programs are the same. With the proliferation of offerings, it would be wise to know a few guideposts as you choose the program that is right for you depending on your career objectives.
As with all education credentials, accreditation is the most important as it will determine the validity of the program. In the U.S., the Department of Education (ED) charters six regional accreditation agencies. Each agency evaluates postsecondary schools in a certain geographic area. Online programs are also accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). DEAC ensures that online programs offer the same educational experience as the equivalent on-campus programs. An accreditation from DEAC signals to employers that the candidate received high-quality education from the 1 year online master’s program.
In addition, some 1 year master’s degree programs have programmatic accreditation. This type of accreditation signifies that completers of the program earned the most current and in-demand knowledge and skills. The accreditation status of institutions can be checked on the Council for Higher Education Accreditation website.
Not all 1 year master’s programs have the same curriculum design. Some programs require a capstone project, which might stretch the time you have allotted for your master’s degree. There is also the graduate record examinations (GRE) requirement, which is a standardized test designed to measure overall academic readiness for graduate school. There are graduate programs that require a GRE, but not all. Look for 1 year master’s programs no GRE if you prefer programs that do not require GRE.
The coursework should also be flexible enough for you to schedule your study time around your job and family responsibilities. Check for specialized courses and concentrations that would let you focus on core subjects that are also aligned with your career objectives.
The fast-paced 1 year master’s degree program requires quality materials to facilitate effective learning. Choose a program that provides study materials that are aligned with the expected outcomes of the program. Research has shown that the quality of learning materials can make a big difference in learning. Your level of engagement with the program would also largely depend on the quality of the study materials.
One vital part of the success of any academic program is student support services. Online learning requires access to support services to overcome possible obstacles in pursuing and completing your 1 year online master’s degree program online. Using the learning management system as well as other online platforms requires assistance that can be provided by the support services team, including accessing other study materials.
While the general perception is that online programs, especially accelerated ones, can deliver significant cost savings, it is still important to determine the overall cost of your 1 year online master’s degree program. Determining the overall cost should encompass the total cost of the master’s degree, the cost of your career break if you will be taking a year off, including other hidden costs that you might incur in committing one entire year to your master’s program.
The best online 1 year master’s programs are designed to deliver quality learning while at the same time equipping the student for career advancement. The program reinforces the workplace experience gained by the student and challenges long-held beliefs so as to produce a learned person that is capable of sound management and leadership.
Taking postgraduate studies delivers significant benefits. In today’s evolving workplace, employers are raising the level of education required for organizations to thrive in the digital economy. While micro-credentials are also gaining momentum in the reskilling and upskilling of the 21st-century workforce, the value of a degree from an accredited institution is still perceived as a higher form of learning. As institutions for knowledge creation, higher education institutions instill a different level of scholarship and discipline. The rigorous curricula are designed not just for students to gain knowledge, but also to develop their entire being as a contributor to the advancement of society.