Guide to Online Masters Programs

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A master’s program is a way to further your studies and take them to the level where students are moving more into policymaking or getting into the research field of their profession. Also, a master’s degree propels your earning potential and hence allows you to pursue other interests as well. In summary, a master’s degree has huge benefits, and it brings immense opportunities to get into the higher echelons of your chosen profession. In this article, we are going to investigate them and discuss what we need to be cautious about when choosing a master’s and see how it may benefit the students to the maximum. This article will also detail the requirements of a master’s program and the prerequisites for getting into one. It also tries to give a fair idea to students of the costs involved and time required to complete a master’s degree.


What is an Online Masters

A master’s degree program being pursued online meaning off-campus is considered an online master’s program. Students might wonder what the benefits of an online master’s degree program vs a conventional one. Well, we have described a few as below:

  • Enrolling from the convenience of a student’s location: Online postgraduate degrees are a great compromise, allowing students to pursue their education and deepen their knowledge no matter where they are. All you need is a computer or a portable device (laptop, tablet) and a stable internet connection.
  • Students can take charge of their schedule: You can study when you want. It doesn’t matter if you’re a night owl or an early bird, you can make your schedule. You will also have more time for volunteering, internships, or passions (e.g., learning how to play an instrument, preparing to launch a business/start-up).
  • Advancing your career while pursuing your master’s: Career advancement is one of the most important reasons why people choose online master’s programs. They want to keep working and use their spare time to develop new skills or learn the latest practices and strategies in their field.
  • Choose any master’s discipline online: Distance learning has come a long way! Nowadays, you can study almost any discipline or subject online. From Computer Science to Business & Management, from Engineering to Medicine, there are thousands of online master’s courses designed for the needs of the modern student.
  • Online masters have lesser admission requirements: Many online master’s degrees have rolling admission. This means you can apply at any time, and the university staff will evaluate your application. As soon as they finish, they’ll send an answer and you’ll be able to complete the final steps and begin your online studies.
  • An online master is cheaper: Choosing an online master’s degree can be a better option for students who have a limited budget. Online programs are usually much cheaper than on-campus courses because they require fewer resources to organize. You will also save up all the money you’d need to travel, find accommodation, on-campus parking, etc.

Why get an Online Masters

Well, students might have their doubts about a master’s degree and might ask why get into an online master’s program? The answer to that would be an emphatic ‘yes’.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with just a high school degree earn $746 per week on average while college graduates earn closer to 1,248 per week, and workers with master’s degrees earn nearly $1,500 per week. And workers with advanced degrees have been significantly less impacted by the economic fallout caused by the pandemic. Pew Research Center found that since the pandemic began, highly educated workers are significantly less likely to have lost health insurance or to have struggled to pay bills. And federal reserve data indicates the unemployment rate is two times higher for high school graduates than it is for those with a master’s degree

Online Masters Programs Vs On-Campus
Masters Programs

While traditional on-campus masters have their charm and significance, off-late online masters have come to the fore and are being considered more and more when deciding on a master’s program. Below we detail a few points of difference between the two forms so that students can make an informed decision when pursuing a master’s degree.

Online On-Campus
Location NeutralStudents can pursue a master’s degree on their laptops from the comfort of their homes.You must travel to the campus, stay on location, and attend classes physically to pursue an on-campus master’s.
Career AdvancementOne of the most important reasons why students take up an online master’s is because students can keep working while also pursuing a master’s program.But when pursuing an on-campus master’s does not give you the flexibility to pursue any other engagements while studying full-time on-campus.
FlexibleOnline courses can be asynchronous- meaning you can “attend” class at any time by watching recorded lectures at your convenience and hence more flexible. This works great for working professionals and working parents whose time is at a premium and they can work according to their available time.Traditional on-campus courses are subject to strict timelines. Though it has its benefits like it’s very interactive and students can learn from discussions in the classroom, they are not very flexible per the students’ requirements.
Discussion ForumsStudents have an online forum of online degrees, which can pull in information across the globe and can cut across working professionals,  full-time students etc., which in turn brings in a lot of different perspectives.On-campus courses would be a bit binding to the class and its student teacher’s forum as these are general classes of just full-time students.
TimeOnline classes cut that commute time to zero. If mobility or transportation is a challenge for you, going to school online completely removes this obstacle—plus it significantly increases your choices for where to go to school.You could live on-campus or outside, and it takes time for you to commute and attend classes.
Cost In online courses, you just pay for tuition, which keeps the cost significantly lower.On-campus courses have a lot of cost components like lodging in dorms, parking, gym subscription (even if you don’t use them), etc. These are significant costs as much if not more than tuition. This shoots up the cost of your degree.
College libraryDigital libraries are helpful when you need peer-reviewed articles for your research paper. But libraries can get complicated too—there’s an entire field of library science dedicated to organizing massive amounts of information. If you get stuck online and have trouble finding something, It is difficult to navigate if you do not have technical support, which is rare for schools to have. Physical libraries have a few big benefits you won’t get from the comfort of your computer:
1. People who can direct you to the exact resources you need.
2. Books and resources that only exist in print.
3. The ability to borrow textbooks you need for class instead of buying them.
Quiet places to study.
Course selectionTo make a fair point for online courses, nowadays, more and more courses are available online. And the only hindrance would be to get them accredited by authorities.The courses available will always be more than the ones available online. The primary reason being all online courses need to be filmed and put up online. There is a huge cost component to it. The second reason is, some STEM courses need lab time, which is not available online hence that is one hindrance as well.
Teaching StaffIn online courses, students don’t have direct physical access to teachers. Also, online courses might have different instructors than the same on-campus course.You get the best of the faculties on-campus. They are at your disposal physically in the classes as well as online like in class chat rooms and emails. So, the accessibility of teaching staff is great.
Group ProjectsOnline courses lack the facility of group projects. Students have their own time to work on their course and they work on projects on their own as well.The on-campus course has the advantage where you can take up student group projects, wherein students form a group, and they have a teacher who guides them till the completion of the project. This gives a lot of exposure to teamwork coordination and networking skills.
NetworkingOnline courses have subject forums, but they lack the networking community required to connect for jobs and opportunities.On-campus courses allow students to network with the subject community and make thew contacts and links which helps beyond one imagination.

How long is an Online Masters

An online master’s degree takes anywhere between one to three years to complete. A master’s degree would typically take between eighteen months to two years of full-time study, but several factors can increase or decrease the time required to attain a master’s degree.

The main factor that determines the time required to complete an online degree is primarily the program curriculum. In most cases, a master’s program requires a student to take thirty to sixty credit hours of coursework.  Some might ask even around seventy-two credit hours.

There are some master’s programs like accelerated programs which would be an integrated master’s program wherein students will earn both a bachelor’s as well as a master’s in a consolidated way which can be completed in five years.

There are some dual degree programs wherein students pursue two master’s degrees simultaneously, this might have a few common courses which will save students some credit hours and will be faster than if done independently. Combinations could include a law degree and an MBA or a Master of Public Health and a Doctor of Pharmacy. 

How to choose Online Masters

In the past 40 years, the U.S. Department of Education found the demand for master’s degrees across the United States has grown greatly, with a majority conferred in business and education.Graduate degrees have almost become a necessity to succeed in many of today’s jobs. Also, earning potential post a master’s degree increases may fold. For many students, it’s not a matter of if they will get a master’s degree. The question has become how. The proliferation of online education opportunities has made the matter of how to choose the best online master’s degree program much easier for working adults with outside responsibilities.

Graduate degrees have almost become a necessity for success in many professions. The proliferation of online education opportunities has made postgraduate learning more flexible for working adults. Students may consider these steps before committing:

1. Define a career path: Students need to understand what they are looking for, if they are looking to advance their career, increase earnings, or enhance job satisfaction. Set goals and make plans for your degree. Below are typical career options a master’s graduate might consider pursuing:

Master’s ProgramCareer Options
BusinessCEO, Manager, Consultant
HealthcareHospital Administrator, Nurse Practitioner, Health Services Manager.
Computer ScienceManager, Analyst, Engineer.
EducationProfessor, Director, Principle.

2. Find Your Master’s Program: In deciding which graduate program to attend, students need to consider factors that may affect their professional and personal lives. The factors to consider would be:

  • Accreditation: Verify that the program is accredited by recognized accreditation agencies. National Accreditation Board (ANAB) is a good place to start.
  • Credits: Review your undergraduate transcripts and speak with a graduate advisor to ensure all eligible credits appropriately transfer.
  • Opportunities: Determine if the program offers preparation for employment or career advancement. 
  • Workload: Examine the program requirements to ensure the workload fits into your schedule.

3. Consider the Benefits:

  • Accessibility: Online programs allow students to complete coursework from anywhere with their own devices.
  • Flexibility: Online classes offered in asynchronous formats provide flexibility for students to finish coursework on their schedule within provided time frames each week.
  • Affordability: Online degrees can offer a high return on investment, often allowing students to realize cost savings on travel and on-campus room and board.

How to apply for Online Masters

Applying for a distance learning bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree, Ph.D., or short course is not that much different from applying for an on-campus program. You will follow the same steps and provide similar documents.

However, a big plus for online degrees is that you can apply anytime, so you won’t be constrained by a deadline. Also, application requirements for an online program are generally more flexible compared to on-campus degrees. Below we detail stepwise requirements for application to an online master’s program:

1.Select the universities and programs you want to apply to

As any smart student, you know better than to put all your eggs in the same basket. Make a list of at least three universities and online programs you want to apply to so that you increase your chances of getting accepted. 

2.Check admission deadlines

While for a traditional master’s program, for example, there are usually two admission sessions per year (if not only one!), for a distance learning master’s there maybe four or five submission deadlines per academic year.

For some programs, you may even enroll all year round! This, of course, increases your chances of admission and makes the application procedure more flexible. 

3.Complete the online application

Complete an online application form, which will probably require you to set up an account that includes some personal information. This will also involve uploading the electronic versions of the following documents:

  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Copies of your previous qualifications like bachelor’s degree and transcript of records
  • Motivation Letter/Personal statement (focus on your reasons for applying for the course, how your knowledge and experience link to the course)
  • Recommendations (from former professors or employers or both)
  • Any other documents specific to the study program you’re choosing or to your education level

4.Prepare for the admission interview

Certain universities or programs may require an interview, which can be conducted over the phone or online, on Skype or Zoom.

An online interview is pretty much the same as a traditional one. Make sure your laptop/computer camera works well and you have a good internet connection. Set up a clear and plain background as much as possible, and dress formally, like you would for a normal interview.

Cost of Online Masters

According to the National Center for Education Statistics average cost of a 2-year on-campus degree is $15,700 in public institutions, $34,000 for private nonprofit institutions, and $32,400 for private for-profit institutions. Compare that to a 2-year online degree is around $14,900 for public universities, $42,200 for private non-profit universities, and $24,700 for private for-profit universities.

As you can see from the above, on average online master’s programs are cheaper than on-campus degrees because students don’t have to pay for accommodation, on-campus parking, etc. Other costs that students might want to keep in mind would be technology and infrastructure costs and any lab costs if they are pursuing any STEM degree.

As an example, let us take the example of a Master of Arts in Law, Justice, & Culture ‐ Online, Ohio University.

2021/2022 Tuition Schedule
College of Arts and Sciences Master of Arts in Law, Justice, & Culture ‐ Online
Charge Description Per Credit Hour

Charge Description
Per Credit Hour
Instructional Fee
General Fee
Program Fee
Specialized Services and Materials Fee
Student Info System/Network Fee (capped at $33)
Technology Fee (if applicable)
Ohio Resident Total
Non‐Resident Fee
Out‐of‐State Resident Total 
36 credit hours total

As you can see the total cost for a 36-credit online master’s program comes to around $18432.00.  Apart from that, a student would incur the technology fee if they were talking up STEM degrees which have been not considered in our example.

Financial Aid for Online
Masters Programs

One of the major reasons students think twice before getting into a master’s program is because of the costs associated with it. In the above section, we have spoken about it, in this section, we would discuss how students can minimize the financial burden of a master’s and how they can take the benefits of scholarships and financial aid to reduce the burden cost of an online master.

Today, the average tuition-and-fees cost exceeds $10,000 per year for in-state students at public institutions — and out-of-state students can end up paying triple what in-state students pay.

It’s easy to be intimidated by hefty tuition fees but paying for school is not an impossible feat. Careful planning and access to the right resources can help minimize student debt. There are billions of dollars given each year in financial aid to make college more affordable. One simply needs to find them.

Funding for higher education can come in many different forms. The most common types are grants, scholarships, federal work-study, and loans.


Scholarships can be based on need or merit and do not need to be repaid. In addition to scholarships given out by the U.S. Department of Education and universities themselves, thousands of scholarships are awarded each academic year by private organizations to students who have special skills, participate in extracurricular activities, have a financial need, or have specific career goals. Scholarships are a good option for out-of-state and international students who may not qualify for federal or state grants.


Often included as part of a federal financial aid package for both undergraduate and graduate students, work-study is a government program that pays students to work for their university part-time. Some online schools offer work-study positions for online students on their campuses or with community partners. Students who qualify should check with their school’s financial aid office to see if there are positions available.


Federal and state grants usually don’t have to be repaid if the recipient meets minimum academic requirements. Students can use grant dollars to pay for anything academically related, including tuition, fees, books, or housing costs.


Federal and private student loans are generally the least popular of the financial aid options because borrowers must repay them. Interest rates and repayment rules vary depending on the lender, and federally funded loans are typically the most popular for students because of their low-interest rates and flexible repayment schedules. Although several private lenders offer education loans as well, students usually see these as the less favorable option.


Eligibility for federal financial aid is determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. Some colleges and states also use information from the FAFSA to award their aid. Students enrolled in online courses must be careful to meet other requirements for federal financial aid such as being a citizen or an eligible noncitizen and maintaining satisfactory academic progress. To receive most financial aid, experts say, students must be degree-seeking or certificate-seeking and meet the institution’s minimum enrollment requirements.

Careers and Pay for Online Masters
Program Graduates

A master’s degree opens many career options and well-paying jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a master’s degree would pay around $1545 up from 1305 from a bachelor’s.  Also, a master’s degree makes students far more employable, and the unemployment rate goes down from 5.5 to 4.1 from a bachelor’s to a master’s degree respectively. Hence one might see the advantages of pursuing a master’s degree.

Below we detail a few occupations to post a master’s program and their corresponding careers and pay and their job description.

Degree OccupationMedian Annual SalaryJob Growth (2018-2028) Job Description
Master’s in Science in EducationInstructional Coordinators$66,97010%Instructional coordinators oversee school curriculums and teaching standards. They develop educational material, implement it with teachers and principals, and assess its effectiveness. Instructional coordinators, also known as curriculum specialists, evaluate the effectiveness of curriculums and teaching techniques established by school boards, states, or federal regulations. They observe teachers in the classroom, review student test data, and discuss the curriculum with the school staff. Based on their research, they may recommend changes in curriculums to the school board.
Master’s in PsychologySchool and Career Counselors and Advisors$58,12011%School counselors help students develop academic and social skills and plans for after graduation. Career counselors and advisors help students and other clients develop skills, explore an occupation, or choose an educational program that will lead to a career. High school counselors advise students in making academic and career plans. Many help students overcome personal issues that interfere with their academic development. They help students choose classes and plan for their lives after graduation. Counselors provide information about choosing and applying for colleges, training programs, financial aid, internships, and apprenticeships. They may present career lessons to help students learn how to search and apply for jobs.
Master of Science in MarketingPublic Relations and Fundraising Managers$118,43013%Public relations managers plan and direct the creation of material that will enhance the public image of their employer or client. Fundraising managers coordinate campaigns that bring in donations for their organization. Public relations managers help clarify their organization’s point of view to its main audience through media releases and interviews. They monitor social, economic, and political trends that might affect their organization, and they recommend ways to enhance the firm’s image based on those trends. For example, in response to concern about damage to the environment, the public relations manager for an oil company may create a campaign to publicize its efforts to develop cleaner fuels.
Master of Science in FinanceFinancial Managers$134,18017% Financial managers are responsible for the financial health of an organization. They create financial reports, direct investment activities, and develop plans for the long-term financial goals of their organization. Financial managers must know about the topics, tax laws, and regulations that are specific to their organization or industry. For example, government financial managers must be experts on appropriations and budgeting processes; healthcare financial managers must understand billing, reimbursement, and other business matters related to healthcare.
Master of Social WorkSocial Workers$51,76012% Financial managers are responsible for the financial health of an organization. They create financial reports, direct investment activities, and develop plans for the long-term financial goals of their organization. Financial managers must know about the topics, tax laws, and regulations that are specific to their organization or industry. For example, government financial managers must be experts on appropriations and budgeting processes; healthcare financial managers must understand billing, reimbursement, and other business matters related to healthcare.

FAQs about Online Masters

Do you need a GRE for a master’s?

The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is a graduate-entry test used for a wide range of subjects (though the GMAT is more common for Business and Management programs). It tests your critical thinking, literacy, and numeracy skills to assess how prepared you are for postgraduate study. Though there are a lot of master’s programs where a GRE score is required, a lot of online masters these days don’t require any GRE score.

How long does it take to complete a master’s degree?

Does the master’s degree require a thesis?

Can I pursue a master’s program part-time?

As a master’s student, am I eligible for any teaching/research assistantships?

Can I apply if I have not yet completed my bachelor’s degree?

Is an online master worth the same?

Is a 1-year master’s degree worth it?

Additional Resources for Online Masters
Program Students

Post an online bachelor’s degree, students can further their careers with alliance and accreditation through professional organizations in their chosen field of profession. Professional organizations give students a pedestal into their chosen field of profession as well as a forum to connect, discuss, and brainstorm contemporary and industry-relevant issues. Some professions would also have licensing requirements to practice the craft. Below we give some examples of such professional organizations.

Organization/Certification Description
International Society of Technology in EducationThe educator section of the ISTE Standards provides a road map to helping students become empowered learners. These standards will deepen your practice, promote collaboration with peers, challenge you to rethink traditional approaches, and prepare students to drive their learning. Learn how to use the standards in the classroom with the ISTE Standards for Educators eBook.
American Accounting AssociationThe American Accounting Association is the largest community of accountants in academia. Founded in 1916, we have a rich and reputable history built on leading-edge research and publications. The diversity of our membership creates a fertile environment for collaboration and innovation. Collectively, we shape the future of accounting through teaching, research, and a powerful network, ensuring our position as thought leaders in accounting.
Oklahoma State license to practice OTThe Oklahoma Occupational Therapists Committee is responsible for regulating and licensing the occupational therapy profession in this state. There are two levels of licensure in Oklahoma the Occupational Therapy Assistant and the Occupational Therapist. While you are waiting to sit for your examination you can apply for a temporary license to practice at either level. Temporary licenses require that you work under the direct supervision of a licensed Occupational Therapist who has a minimum of one year of licensure with the state.
Occupational Therapist RegisteredIn Indiana, the Occupational Therapy Committee is the state agency responsible for issuing and renewing licenses for occupational therapy professionals. There are three levels of licensure in Indiana the Occupational Therapy Aide, the Occupational Therapy Assistant, and the Occupational Therapist. While you are waiting to sit for your examination you can apply for a temporary license to practice at either level.
Data Science Council of America (DASCA)The Data Science Council of America (DASCA) is a global independent, third-party association for credentialing Big Data professionals. The Data Science Council of America (DASCA) has developed platform-independent Data Science knowledge frameworks, standards, and credentials. It certifies people who are starting or working across the range of emerging Data Science professions.