With the help of current educational innovations, continuing your education online is already possible. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics discloses that an advanced education opens the doors to high-earning jobs (Wintemute, 2021).
The possibility of earning a higher degree while employed or tending to family makes for a compelling reason for degree-seekers to enroll in online master’s degree programs. Students enjoy the flexibility and convenience of online programs while hiring authorities perceive them as equally beneficial as traditional programs (Wintemute, 2021).
Whether you are aiming for a career change, job promotion, or new goals, this article ranks the 10 most affordable online master’s degree programs that may suit your personal or professional needs.
Yes, online master’s degree programs use the same mediums as traditional programs and are taught by the same professors teaching on-campus. Online master’s students also receive the same diploma as traditional students.
The article “Challenges to Online Medical Education During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” which was authored by Mohammad H. Rajab et al. in 2020 and published in Cureus, explores the effect of COVID-19 on the distance education programs of the College of Medicine (COM) of Alfaisal University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. “Master’s and medical students gave positive feedback regarding online teaching and even suggested a post-pandemic blended strategy. They believed that online instruction is superior to face-to-face instruction.” However, some students gave a negative feedback about online learning. Others also stated that comprehensive training is a must for online teaching.
Accredited online degree programs assure students, employers, and schools of quality in education. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognizes different bodies that accredit schools meeting the highest standards in their academic area. Regional accreditation is what employment, federal financial assistance, licensure, and transfer credits rely on.
Programmatic accreditation may also be mandated for licensure in specific fields while being recommended in other fields at the same time. National accreditation may be encountered in for-profit schools as well, which can help students find quality schools. However, credits may not be transferred between nationally accredited and regionally accredited schools (Wintemute, 2021).
Source: Online Schools Center
Almost all traditional schools now offer online degree courses, whether hybrid or completely online. As online learning has become more rampant, employers are also realizing its full potential and that it is just as effective as on-campus learning.
Nevertheless, there is no need to disclose how you earned your degree during job applications. Should the interviewer ask about it, talk honestly about your decision. After all, school reputation, program quality, and proven knowledge and skills will be more important than where you earned your degree (Alder, n.d.).
There are many advantages that come with online degrees. To help you weigh your options for this new type of learning, here are some key points for you to ponder.
Online master’s degrees do not require the physical presence of students. Classes, answering tests and exams, and conducting activities can be taken entirely online (Best Value Schools, 2021).
Unlike in traditional programs where flexibility is very little to none as students need to finish them in two to four rigorous years, study time in online programs can be reduced or fast-tracked. Online degree students can choose their own study time, balancing both their studies and work or family life. Hence, they can graduate within a few months or about a year (Best Value Schools, 2021).
According to Peterson’s, the average annual tuition of a master’s degree is nearly $30,000 at public schools and almost $40,000 at private schools (Tretina, 2020). Students can find many cheap tuition rates for master’s degrees online.
Below is a list of the colleges and universities offering the most affordable online master’s degree programs. Information on the general coursework, costs, and accreditation status of each school are also included in the list.
Tuition: $32,439 for out-of-state students, $1,544 per credit hour for part-time students
The University of Washington‘s online master’s degree programs come with library access, student discounts, support services, and other necessary resources. Some specialty areas for online master’s students are library and information science, infrastructure planning, and aerospace engineering.
The University of Washington has regional accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Tuition: $425 – $864 per credit hour
The University of Florida has 13 colleges offering master’s degree programs to online learners. More than 80 of these programs equip students to become successful in their prospective fields. Available degrees include a master of engineering, a master of arts, and a master of science. Particular programs include sustainable design, fire and emergency sciences, and aerospace engineering. The university also offers concentration areas with the curriculum, including a master of education with a specialization in education technology.
The University of Florida has regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Carolina at Chapel Hill offers 12 online master’s degree programs. Options are pharmacy, business, information and library science, government, media and journalism, and public health. Particular degree options are a master’s in health administration in public health policy and management, a master of arts in digital communication, and a professional science master’s in biomedical and health information.
The University of Carolina at Chapel Hill has regional accreditation from the Southern Association of College and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Tuition: $9,992 for Indiana residents; $28,794 for out-of-state residents
Purdue University has three campuses, all of which are offering hybrid and full-time online classes. These online master’s degrees are in more than 40 program offerings and in different subjects, such as agriculture, aviation and aerospace, health and human services, engineering, and education.
Classes may be synchronous or asynchronous, depending on the program. Coursework is immersive and many of the programs start during the fall and spring.
Purdue University has regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
Tuition: $1,380 per credit
Indiana University-Bloomington has more than 50 master’s degree program offerings to online students. Fields in these online degrees are education, computing technology, business, and applied science.
Particular degrees available in the university are a master of liberal studies, a master of science in nursing, a master of library and information science, a master of science in recreation, and a master of science in technology. Some of these programs may require occasional on-campus visitation.
Indiana University-Bloomington has regional accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission.
Tuition: $877 per credit
The University of South Florida has almost 40 online master’s degree programs in fields, such as public health, medicine, engineering, education, and business. However, some programs oblige personal components, such as internships and/or clinical visitations.
Programs delve into certain disciplines, including cybersecurity, engineering management, and education. Other programs center on public health administration, global disaster management and humanitarian relief, and pharmaceutical nanotechnology.
The University of South Florida has regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Tuition: $28,613 for in-state residents, $41,939 for out-of-state residents
The University of Wisconsin-Madison offers 17 online master’s degree programs. Online students are guided by an enrollment coach to choose which areas in health, library and information studies, education, engineering, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical studies to specialize in. Certificate options are also available to accompany their studies.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison has regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
Tuition: $6,517 for in-state residents; $21,683 for out-of-state residents
Florida State University offers nearly 20 various online master’s degree programs, some of which are from the colleges of communication and information, law, education, business, applied studies, social work, and engineering. The university has academic program specialists who are ready to guide students in their distance education search and tuition inquiries.
Florida State University has regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Tuition: $7,602 for in-state residents; $19,482 for out-of-state residents
California State University-Stanislaus has two master’s degree programs that can also be accomplished through distance learning. A master of business administration, for instance, can be taken fully online. Students can also choose to enroll in hybrid academic programs.
California State University-Stanislaus has regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.
Tuition: $3,198 for in-state residents, $11,100 for out-of-state residents
Appalachian State University has a wide variety of online degree options, which include a master of library science, a master of science in nursing, and a master of health administration. Two hybrid options are also available, a master of arts in reading education and a master of social work.
Appalachian State University has regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Source: BLS, 2021
School and program type, method of delivery, facilities, and support services determine the overall cost of a master’s degree. But prices do not usually account for extra costs. Consider textbooks, campus and internship travel, meal, and room and board expenses, too. Other considerations are technology, graduation, and assessment costs.
The best advice is to look for schools offering fixed online tuition or in-state tuition for out-of-state residents. Asynchronous programs may also offer discounts since lessons do not mandate real-time classes. Additionally, accelerated options can lessen academic costs (Wintemute, 2021).
A bachelor’s degree taken from an accredited school is one of the basic requirements to get you into an online master’s degree program (Great Value Colleges, 2021). You should also be ready to submit other requirements, such as:
Science-centered or technical programs may mandate the accomplishment of certain courses. Some programs may also require the presentation of a thesis or capstone project or passing an examination (CollegeChoice, 2021).
In the modern job atmosphere, graduates with advanced education are usually sought after for a broad range of positions. For those striving to stand out in their respective fields, a master’s degree can speed up promotions. A pay raise is a huge possibility as well (PremiumSchools.org, n.d.).
Schools offering affordable online master’s degree programs are everywhere. But at the end of the day, earning a graduate degree is still more of a personal choice as it can be a significant time and budget sink.