Once, a bachelor’s degree was more than enough to secure a respectable, professional career. That time is in the past; the more common the bachelor’s degree becomes, the more important it becomes to go farther to distinguish yourself on the job market. That means, in most professional fields, a master’s degree has become a necessity for advancement.
Some students of traditional college age may go straight from undergrad to graduate school, putting off employment for the chance to start out at a higher position than entry level. But it’s become quite common now for non-traditional students, already placed in their career, to return to school and earn higher education credentials to move up in status and pay. For professional adults who want to continue working while they build their educational resume, or workers who see a graduate degree as a ticket from unstable jobs to stable careers, online graduate degrees make a lot of sense. Online programs allow flexible schedules that working adults can negotiate, and convenient content-delivery at home means not add driving to a campus to your daily commute.
That doesn’t mean that any graduate degree will do. You don’t want to fall for a predatory, fly-by-night scam that’s going to take your money and leave you with a worthless degree they threw together on a dot-matrix printer. You need a real degree – accredited, respected, and quality. You also need an affordable degree with a strong return on investment (ROI). Here at ValueColleges.com we have ranked 50 of the best online graduate programs available using reputable sources such as the 2015 U.S. News & World Report’s Best Online Graduate Programs ranking, statistics from Payscale.com’s 2014 College ROI Report as well as published tuition cost averages for online graduate programs as reported on each institutions website.
All of our top 50 schools met the following criteria:
- Nationally or Regionally accredited/U.S. schools only
- at least 3 online graduate programs offered
- transparent reports of ROI and tuition data
Southern Polytechnic State University
Southern Poly, or SPSU, is our top choice for online graduate degree values. Located in Marietta, GA, a suburb of Atlanta, Southern Poly is known as “Georgia’s Technology University,” and its impressive online offerings reflect that focus. Even their liberal arts degrees are technology-directed, with master’s degrees such as Information Design and Communication. There are also many degrees in tech fields such as Systems Engineering and Computer Science, as well as less common degrees such as Construction Management and Quality Assurance. All of these reasonably-priced options, as well as a high ROI of well over $450,000 makes Southern Poly a top graduate education value.
A degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a degree worth toasting. Located in the twin cities of Urbana-Champaign (of course), UI is a highly-ranked Public Ivy (a public university with the quality of an Ivy League institution) with very high research activity according to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. UI Online offers more than 40 online master’s degrees in Education, Computer Science, Public Administration, and many others. As a Public Ivy, UI has a high ROI, over $540,000, plus the reasonable tuition rates of a public university – a combination that reliably means a good investment.
Texas A&M is the largest university in Texas, and considering Texas’ reputation, that of course makes A&M one of the largest universities anywhere. With its roots in agricultural and mechanical education (that’s where the A and the M come from), Texas A&M is a major research university with land, sea, and space grants, federal funding for research in those fields. A&M may be best known for their pioneering experiments in animal cloning. For students who want to pursue a graduate degree online, A&M offers around 30 master’s and doctorate degrees in numerous education, agriculture, and engineering majors.
Pace is an urban, metropolitan university in the heart of New York City, walking distance from Wall Street, City Hall, and the World Trade Center (where part of the university was once housed in the former North Tower). Pace is best known for its schools of Law, Nursing, and Business, as well as the Actor’s Studio MFA program. Pace offers several online graduate degrees in competitive fields, such as Executive MBA, MA in Nursing Education, and Management for Public Safety and Homeland Security. Pace’s ROI is significant, and unusual degree offerings such as Doctorate of Professional Studies in Computing give Pace an advantage in online education.
Iowa State University
Iowa State (full name: Iowa State University of Science and Technology) has the distinction of being the very first land-grant university in the US, and its excellence in technology, agriculture, veterinary medicine, and engineering puts it on distinguished lists such as those from US New and World Report and The National Science Foundation. Students wanting to pursue higher degrees in science or technology fields can turn to one of Iowa State’s more than 25 master’s degrees, including ten different engineering degrees such as Aerospace, Computer, and Civil Engineering. It’s basically the online destination for an engineering master’s.
For fans of the American version of The Office, Scranton is a familiar place. But make no mistake: the University of Scranton is no joke. A private Jesuit university, the University of Scranton has been consistently ranked by US News & World Report for the quality of its master’s programs, and its online master’s degrees are no different. The University of Scranton Online offers an acclaimed, accredited MBA degree in numerous specializations such as Accounting, Healthcare Management, and International Business, with a solid ROI and the good name of Scranton to recommend it.
Since Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University is way too much to chant at a football game, everyone knows it as Virginia Tech. A large public university in Blacksburg, VA, Virginia Tech is considered one of the top public universities in the US and a center of research in science and technology, especially their highly-ranked colleges of Engineering and Agriculture. For a master’s degree in technology or engineering, Virginia Tech is a sure bet, with a strong ROI and reasonable tuition rates.
NC State, a highly-ranked public research university in Raleigh, NC, has a long history of excellence in agriculture, engineering, and textiles, and an unusually high ROI for a public university, over $450,000. Students who want to take advantage of this prestigious degree, but who don’t want to leave their jobs or homes to do it, can obtain master’s degrees in more than 45 programs, including many offerings in engineering and life sciences.
The University of Houston is a first-tier urban research university in Houston, TX. UH is known for its highly ranked law and business schools, but their online program is also impressive, with unique offerings such as a Master of Science in Foresight (helping clients anticipate changes and challenges in the future) and Subsea Engineering (the only master’s program specializing in underwater engineering for the petroleum industry). As a public university, UH’s tuition is affordable, and its ROI is a healthy $400,000, making the University of Houston a top ten online graduate value.
What prominent private university is able to count both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and radio shock jock Howard Stern among its notable alumni? Only Boston University. BU is a high-level research institution with an astonishing history of Nobel, Pulitzer, Academy Award, and MacArthur “genius grant” winners in its alumni and faculty, one of the most accomplished universities in the world. And you can earn a master’s degree completely online, in areas you can’t find in many other places, such as Music Education, Computer Information Systems, and Taxation Law.
University of Denver
Pursuing your Master’s degree at University of Denver is all about convenience. Named for mellow folk singer John Denver – no, for its location in Denver, CO – the University of Denver is a private institution in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. The university offers many online master’s degrees, in diverse fields including Healthcare Leadership, Security Management, and Environmental Policy and Management.
University of Alabama
The University of Alabama has a collection of nicknames and abbreviations: UA, ‘Bama, Crimson Tide. But whatever you call this fine institution, you will have plenty of online graduate programs to choose from. From MA, MS, MSW, MLS to EdD, you can earn your advanced degree at UA from the comfort of home while you continue working your current job or maintain family obligations. UA is a public research university located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and is the flagship of the University of Alabama system. With a per credit cost of $334, UA proves to be light on your pockets, all without forfeiting excellence, as seen in its consistent ranking as a Top 50 public university in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
Johns Hopkins offers online graduate study in an assortment of majors. As a leading institution in Science and Technology it’s not surprising many of their offerings are through an MS or MA degree. From Biotechnology to Geographic Information to Science Writing, prospective students will find exciting opportunities to enhance their current career paths. JHU, the first research university in the Western Hemisphere, is ranked among the most prestigious universities world-wide, a leader in higher education. A degree from Johns Hopkins also carries a high $550,000 20-year ROI for its alumni.
University of Missouri - Kansas City
A PharmD online? Yes, that’s an option at UMKC. The online graduate programs at UMKC are designed for high participation and community involvement between online students. Courses may have required online discussions in forums or chat rooms. Instructors are always available for direct contact to ensure academic success throughout the duration of your chosen program. Voted a Best Value College by Princeton Review in 2014, as well the Top 10 of Online Graduate Nursing programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for 2015, UMKC is a great online graduate school investment.
University of Maryland - Baltimore County
UMBC only offers a few online graduate programs, but the ones they have are well ranked from national publications. They offer a MS in Information Systems ranking #11 in the U.S. News & World Report Best Online Graduate for 2015, and their Online Master program in general ranked in the Top 10 by the Fiske guide on “Best Buy” colleges. Kiplinger also included them in their Top 100 Best College Value list. Completed 100% online from your home, a degree from UMBC will be equally as rewarding as attending their resident programs while saving you the extra costs associated with on-campus graduate programs.
Sam Houston State University
Sam Houston State University is serious about online education. Acquiring awards and rankings from U.S. News & World Report as well as Affordable Colleges Online and Military Friendly School rankings, SHSU Online prides themselves on delivering over 25 degrees acquired fully through their online format. At a low $245 per credit, their affordability alone would be enough them on our list, but a solid education gives them a real advantage.
Missouri S&T is ranked #20 by U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 for their online graduate Engineering program. They are most interested in providing working professionals the technical training they need for career advancement and competitive edge. They have a Learning Management System for all online programs, a portal online students can access at anytime, further emphasizing their effort to promote ease and flexibility for those possibly already working full-time. With a $603,300 20-year ROI, you can count on MST delivering as a financially successful option for your future.
Pennsylvania State University
Popularly called Penn State, Pennsylvania State University offers online students a spot on its World Campus, and your degree administered virtually will be the same as those obtained residentially. A world-class institution offering more than 60 accredited graduate programs, Penn State Online is an excellent choice for those looking for flexible, convenient, yet academically rigorous programming taught by the same accomplished faculty as students experience through the on-campus programs. U.S. News & World Report currently ranks them #4 in Best Online Information Technology Programs for 2015.
University of Massachusetts
With an ROI of over $344,000, UMASS surely can be trusted with concerns to your long term goals of a successful career path. A high ROI coupled with a relatively low cost of attendance (about $750 per credit), UMASS frankly makes a lot of sense when deciding on which online program you should pursue at the graduate level. As beautiful as the New England college towns and cities of Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell and Worcester are, the northeast is typically considered a high cost-of-living area of the country. What could be better than gaining the ROI and reputation of a nationally known and top ranked institution’s degree from the ease of attending from your home!
Most often called just “Auburn”, located in its namesake city, AU is home to more than 25,000 students and 1500 faculty members. Once affiliated with the Methodist Episcopal Church, it went from a small private liberal arts school to a large public institution known for its varied academic program, most notably its architecture and engineering departments. Showing up on U.S. News & World Report’s Top 100 graduate Engineering ranking as well as in Forbes, the Design Intelligence Journal and Peterson’s guide.
Located in West Lafayette, Indiana, Purdue University is the flagship university of its state, boasting 6 state campuses and a global campus encompassing a diversity of students from 126 countries. With cutting-edge majors like MBA for STEM Professionals and a MS in Global Entrepreneurship, it’s obvious Purdue is conscious of successful career options. On top of that, Purdue is reported as having an incredible $440,400 ROI, making this a stable choice for online learners, despite the slightly high cost of attendance (just over $1k per credit).
As an online student at GWU you will have access to more than 200 master’s, doctoral, and certificate programs. Located in our nation’s capital, you may even be tempted to visit the campus as you take in all the cultural richness the D.C. area provides. However, do note that many programs are completed entirely via the web from your personal computer. GWU boasts a 20-year ROI of $370,000 according to payscale.com, a fine investment considering the degree can be attained from much lower cost-of-living areas in the nation.
South Dakota State University
SDSU is a public research university located in Brookings, South Dakota. Founded in 1881 as the states Agricultural College, they soon became the flagship school of South Dakota. With 175 fields of study, according to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, they are classified as a research university with high research activity.
James Madison, known as JMU, has an M.Ed. option for qualifying students. It can be entirely completed online without ever having to step foot in the state of Virginia. However, JMU is situated in the most beautiful western part of the state in a hamlet college town named Harrisonburg. Situated in the Shenandoah Valley, it makes for a lovely visit during season changes, particularly from Summer to Autumn. Online students may want to book a trip and see the Dukes play at some point in their academic career!
Columbia University was originally named Kings College in 1754, and quite fitting as this private Ivy was and always has been a college for the elite of society. The offerings of online graduate programs opens that door slightly wider for those who may not meet the criteria to attend the school in-person. The most appealing aspect of choosing Columbia University for your graduate program, of course, is their incredible return on investment. With a 20 year ROI of $614,300 on the payscale.com statistics, they deliver with confidence a career that pays for itself relatively quickly despite the high cost of attendance.
Mississippi State University
Mississippi State University, commonly known as MSU, has plentiful online graduate programs available to the their students, offering Teaching, Business Administration, and a highly ranked Engineering program, among many other quality choices for an advanced degree. Located in Oktibbeha County, Mississippi, the university began as the Agricultural and Mechanical (A&M) college of the state of Mississippi in 1862. By 1932, they changed their mission to more general studies and dropped the A&M focus.
Also referred to as UNL or just plain Nebraska, the university is located in Lincoln and is the states’s oldest and largest university. UNL is also the flagship university of the entire University of Nebraska system. For curious degrees like Agronomy, German Language Education or Textile History & Quilt Studies, The University of Nebraska truly delivers. UNL helps you complete your graduate degree without having to quit your job; the distance education program works with students in the academic process to successfully finish their chosen degree path.
You can get a degree from UCLA, all while residing on the other end of Interstate 40, nearly 3,000 miles away in a rural, small town in the middle of North Carolina. Really? Yes! UCLA offers full-time or part-time options, flexible class loads and distinguished instructors you can expect from a university of this caliber. Study at the U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 #1 ranked Best Online Engineering master’s program! Or check out one of their unique programs such as Interior Architecture, which is in fact the only online MA of its kind offered anywhere in the US!
Washington State University - Global Campus
WSU is a top research university located in Pullman, Washington. WSU hosts many graduate programs for the online student; from Agriculture to Sport Management, you can find an assortment of offerings paired with top-notch faculty and a student services support system if you encounter any concerns while navigating your educational journey. All students are assigned an advisor and 24/7 tech support.
Arizona State University
Looking for an advanced degree in Homeland Security? How about Sustainable Tourism? ASU has some creative majors for the online learner. They also have an incredible high-quality website defining all they offer; it is obvious they are passionate about raising the bar for online education. The focus for ASU Online is creating an environment that invites the student to participate, coupled with award-winning faculty and courses designed with state-of-the-art technology, providing an advantage for those choosing ASU for their graduate degree. From Enrollment Counselors, Academic Advisors and Success Coaches appointed to every student, the support one gets at ASU Online sounds quite impressive.
NIU offers several graduate programs for the online student. Most notable in their offerings are the Doctorate of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.) and Master of Public Health (MPH). The Education degree also stands out as the U.S. News & World Report featured them in their 2015 ranking; they place #3 on the list. At $650 per course credit they are considered a bargain option for many concerned with the cost of obtaining an advanced degree.
UM‘s online graduate programs’s focus is Engineering. U.S. News & World Report 2016 ranks them #6 in their Best Engineering graduate programs. From Energy Systems to Automotive to Manufacturing, UM uses the convenience of online learning for qualified students to earn a master’s degree from throughout the United States and nearly 50 countries around the world. UM’s online course are taught by the same world-class faculty that their resident programs employ, ensuring quality and cutting edge content. While using the latest online technologies, the global UM student becomes part of the greater learning community at the University of Michigan.
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, also known as A&T is the largest Historically Black university in the nation. A public research university located in Greensboro, NC, A&T provides 3 master’s and 1 doctorate degree. As you can imagine, Science is a large emphasis in their program offerings. They have MS’s in Agricultural Education, Information Technology, and Instructional Technology, and a Phd in Technology Management. U.S. News & World Report ranks their graduate Information program #7 in the nation.
Quinnipiac University offers a range of graduate programs for the online learner. Whether you are interested in Business, Communications, Education or Health Sciences, you will find serious programs designed for working adults both with part-time and full-time options. U.S. News & World Report ranks their Business program #9 nationally in their 2014 ranking, and The Princeton Review features them in their 2014 annual guidebook of the Best 295 Business Schools in the nation.
University of Texas - Dallas
You don’t have to go deep in the heart of Texas to get a degree from the Lone Star state. UT Dallas offers several online graduate programs for the laptop learner. The MBA program is ranked on the U.S. News & World Report as well as being AACSB accredited – that’s the The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. AACB is the longest standing, most recognized form of specialized/professional accreditation an institution and its business programs can earn. So you can count on a degree from UT Dallas to provide a solid education.
Central Michigan University - Global
Central Michigan’s online school is commonly known as CMU-Global and is headquartered at CMU’s main residential campus in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. CMU offers quite a few graduate programs for the online student; most recognized are their MBA and Education programs, both ranked in U.S. News & World Reports 2015 Best Graduate Programs list. At under $500 a credit hour CMU is a low-cost option with plenty of academic study being offered.
Dietetics, Psychology, Gerontology, Nursing, Sociology, Speech Pathology and Exercise Science: these are just some of the graduate online programs offered at UNC Online. The University of Northern Colorado, founded in 1889, has actually been offering distance learning since 1902! The were one of the first adopters of online programs beginning almost 20 years ago at the beginning days of the internet! U.S. News & World Report ranks them 8th in the nation for their online graduate program in Education.
USC Online gives online learners a diversity of degree choices to obtain a higher education. Most known for their highly ranked Engineering program, concentrations in Aerospace, Astronautical, Biomedical, Chemical, Civil, Electrical or Industrial are available. In other words, If you fancy Engineering at the graduate level, USC is the place to be! The best thing is that all of these degrees can be obtained virtually. Not that a couple years in Southern California won’t be tempting!
Saint Xavier University
Saint Xavier, founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1846 in the city of Chicago, holds roots in providing women a place to become educated in a male dominated academic climate. St. Xaiver University also strived to make a difference and serve the diverse socioeconomic landscape of its founding city. St. Xavier’s online graduate program keeps that ethos today and their three offerings for graduate online study are intended to grow agents of change, regardless of gender. They offer a MS in Nursing, with either a concentration in Clinical Leadership or Executive Leadership or a MA in Curriculum and Instruction over in their Education program. The nursing program is ranked in the 2014 U.S. News & World Reports Top Graduate Nursing programs as well as earning notoriety for best Nursing programs for Veterans.
St. Johns University
Now you can study in NYC, without the high rent! St. Johns University is a private Catholic University founded in 1868 by the Vincentian Fathers of the Roman Catholic Church. Following the ideals of St. Vincent de Paul, the patron saint of Christian charity, the school set out to provide education to the poor youth of the city, most specifically the community of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. If you are seeking a graduate program in Education, St. John’s offers quite a selection of degrees, from Master’s in School Building Leadership or School District Leadership to Teaching Children with Disabilities in Childhood Education as well as a MSEd in TESOL. Additionally, St. Johns offers Accounting, Taxation and Global Development degrees. All of their programs are taught through online instruction.
Wikimedia Commons by The Lourdes Grotto
Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit is a Catholic University located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Starting in 1878 as a small college of 40 students and faculty of 6, Duquesne now boasts over 10,000 students within the 49-acre hilltop campus in the city of Pittsburgh, an associate campus in Rome, Italy, and of course its growing number of online students. Famous attenders of Duquesne include the German Filmmaker Werner Herzog, Singer Bobby Vinton, and the first African-American to be drafted into the NBA, Chuck Cooper.
Syracuse University, named for its location in Syracuse, New York, was founded in the mid-1800’s originally as a seminary by the Methodist Episcopal Church of Lima, New York. By 1920, it has identified as nonsectarian, however still maintaining a relationship with the Methodist denomination. With a U.S. News and World Report top ranking Law school, Business school and Library and Information studies graduate program, it’s not hard to see why Syracuse makes our list. With that level of academic excellence however, it is surprising to see that Syracuse still manages to rank 5th in the Princeton Review’s 2014 list of Top Party schools!
Cue Paul Simon. This will be your theme song for the next 2 years of your graduate study! And you don’t even have to literally go there! And while this is not the Memphis, Tennessee Graceland Paul Simon is talking about, it’s still a grand place to accomplish your graduate studies. This Graceland is in Iowa, and the university is named for the graceful slope of hill its campus sits on. Most known for its online graduate Nursing program, students can pursue concentrations at both the Master and Doctorate level for this medical field.
University of West Georgia
UWG is in our top 3 for low cost, at under $300 a credit (MBA is $700). Quite frankly, this is a no-brainer choice for those on a budget. Of course that is, if they have the program you are looking for. UWG offers a variety of online Master’s and Doctorates’s in Education, Business, Nursing and Music. If the idea of 2 years of study in the sweltering state of Georgia scares you, no need to worry; all of UWG’s graduate programs are completed online from your home state.
University of Nevada - Las Vegas
Whats happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Well, not necessarily! One can easily enroll and graduate from UNLV from anywhere. Keep in mind, the degree offerings are mostly medical related: Nursing, Nurse Educator, Nurse Practitioner and Hospital Administration to name a few. However, they also have an array of online graduate courses available for those seeking to ultimately transfer their coursework and attain their degree elsewhere. UNLV gives online learners (living in any state) the opportunity to pick up a prerequisite before applying formally to another institution.
With a plethora of graduate programs varying from Administrative Leadership to Mechanical Engineering to Vocational Rehabilitation, the University of Wisconsin has got you covered. Offering almost 50 Master’s programs completely online through one of their 13 four-year state-wide campuses, your biggest obstacle will be in choosing which field to major in. UW also prides itself in offering one of the most notable Doctorate of Nursing programs in the nation offered though online study.
East Carolina University
East Carolina (also known as ECU) was founded in 1907 as a teacher training school. Today they are the third largest research university in the state of North Carolina. Education remains high on their academic strengths, although now probably second to the vast array of medical field offerings available in their Health Science program. ECU offers other graduate program opportunities too, from Software Engineering to Library Science, and all from the comforts of your own home. However, do keep in mind that their Master of Arts in Education concentrations require applicants to hold a North Carolina teaching license.
With over 20 graduate programs offered online, FSU deserves careful consideration. Florida State was established in 1851 and is located in the states capital, Tallahassee. FSU is nicknamed “Budget Ivy” by a Fiske college guide, and boasts its high rankings in U.S.News & World Report as well as other notable national ranking publications. You no longer have to live in the Seminole state to acquire the prestige FSU offers; a computer will provide the means you need to further your graduate education.
IUB currently has over 40,000 students. Indiana’s flagship university was first established in 1820 as the “State Seminary”. A few decades later they went from “college” to “university” status and soon became the largest university in the state of Indiana. The benefit of a large public research institution are many, but most importantly for our readers is that IUB Online offers over 30 graduate programs for the digital student. And you will never have to step foot in Indiana! Just think, you can cheer on the Hoosiers from an armchair in New Jersey!
Okay if you’re wondering why Temple is dead last on our list, its cost per credit of $1,296 is the main culprit. Temple has a solid ROI of $229,600, so you’ll still fare well in the long run, and do keep in mind, if you have Pennsylvania residency your cost will go down considerably. Temple Online offers an MBA, Doctorate of both Physical and Occupational Therapy, and an ED.M. of Educational Psychology. One unusual degree offering is their MS in QUARA: Quality Assurance/Regulatory Affairs as related for the booming Pharmaceutical Industry. This is one of the few colleges in the nation offering this cutting edge program and yes, it is entirely conducted in “real time” online.