Pursuing a graduate program is a smart fiscal decision in many disciplines. Graduate schools bestow master’s, specialist, and doctoral degrees upon motivated learners who exhibit advanced skills for leadership. Graduate programs give students greater management opportunities, credibility, and industry experience. Many professions, such as family therapy, nurse anesthesia, anthropology, law, school administration, and pharmacy, require holding at least a master’s degree. Investing in graduate training can also reward you with a significant salary increase. According to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, advanced degrees provide a median annual income of $73,100. That’s 30 percent more than bachelor’s-level professionals make yearly!
Earning a graduate degree online lets you further your knowledge without disrupting a full-time job. Below we’ve ranked the 15 Best accredited Online Graduate Schools for 2016. We narrowed down the hundreds of options to respected, high-quality U.S. universities with regional and professional accreditations. Prospective schools had to have at least five graduate programs available 100 percent online. Then, research was conducted using the U.S. News and World Report survey. Nationally ranked universities had to land in the Top 10 for one or more online program categories. With the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) College Navigator, we nixed any expensive programs with average annual graduate tuition above $40,000. Other factors were class size, learning technology, faculty credentials, and teaching awards.
The National Center for Education Statistics predicts that post-baccalaureate enrollment will skyrocket by 20 percent to 3.5 million students by 2024. Therefore, earning a graduate degree will become more necessary for a competitive edge in the job market. Online graduate schools make it simpler to attend classes 24/7 from anywhere while fulfilling work and family obligations. Advance your career by enrolling in flexible programs at these 15 top accredited online graduate schools.
1. University of Southern California
Endowed for $4.7 billion, the University of Southern California is a selective, private sea-grant institution with “very high research activity” in Los Angeles. The U.S. News ranked USC as America’s 23rd best university with the #1 best online computer/IT degrees. More than 7,700 students are enrolled the 80 online graduate programs. Available online degrees include the Master of Social Work, M.S. in Gerontology, M.S. in Cyber Security Engineering, or M.Ed. in Teacher Leadership.
2. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Founded in 1867, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is the state’s oldest public, land-grant institution serving over 44,000 students yearly. With the seventh best online graduate teaching programs, UIUC is ranked 41st nationally by the U.S. News. It also earned the UPCEA Excellence in Teaching Award. Online learners can select from 51 accredited master’s degrees, including an M.S. in Agricultural Education, M.S. in Data Science, and iMBA.
Tuition: $15,023 (in-state) or $28,213 (out-of-state)
3. Pennsylvania State University
Named a “Public Ivy,” Pennsylvania State University is a prestigious sun-grant, research university system educating over 97,000 minds. According to the U.S. News, PSU is the country’s 47th top college with the fourth best online graduate engineering programs. The Penn State World Campus offers over 60 accredited master’s and doctoral degrees. Online offerings include an MPS in Homeland Security, MPS in Enterprise Architecture, Master of Project Management, and Doctor of Nursing Practice.
4. University of Florida
Located in sunny Gainesville, the University of Florida is an accredited public land-grant, research-intensive institution enrolling more than 49,000 students. The U.S. News ranks UF 47th nationally with the #1 best online graduate education programs. Through the SREB Electronic Campus, students can pursue 77 master’s, three specialist, and 10 doctoral programs. Popular online options are the M.S. in Sport Management, M.S. in Aerospace Engineering, Ed.S. in Special Education, and PharmD.
Tuition: $10,770 (in-state) or $27,335 (out-of-state)
5. Ohio State University
Elected into the elite AAU, Ohio State University is a public, space-grant research institution giving over 58,000 students STEM-based education from Columbus. As America’s 52nd best university, OSU has the fourth best online graduate nursing programs according to U.S. News. Buckeyes choose from 11 fully online, accredited graduate degrees. Notable programs are the M.S. in Welding Engineering, M.S. in Dental Hygiene, Master of Art Education, and DNP.
Tuition: $11,560 (in-state) or $31,032 (out-of-state)
6. George Washington University
Chartered by President James Monroe in 1821, George Washington University is a private, non-sectarian research institution educating over 21,400 students from the DC Metro. GWU is the 57th best university with the ninth best online graduate teaching degrees nationwide. The same world-class faculty offers GWU’s 42 master’s and 11 doctoral programs online. Distance students could pursue the M.S. in Government Contracts, M.A. in Rehabilitation Counseling, MSN in Nurse-Midwifery, or Ph.D. in Engineering Management.
7. University of Connecticut
Enrolling over 31,000, the University of Connecticut is a flagship public, research institution operating six locations and an eCampus from Storrs. Since 1881, UConn has become the country’s 57th top college with the second best online graduate business degrees. The eCampus offers six master’s and 15 graduate certificates online following Quality Matters standards. Accredited programs include the M.S. in Accounting, MSN in Neonatal Nursing, and M.A. in Educational Technology.
Tuition: $13,026 (in-state) or $33,812 (out-of-state)
8. University of Georgia
Noted for America’s fourth best salary return, the University of Georgia is a flagship public, land-grant institution in Athens serving over 35,000 students. Ranked 61st nationally, UGA has the third top online graduate teaching degrees according to U.S. News. The Online Learning Division confers 15 master’s programs. Graduates could earn the M.Ed. in Reading Education, Master of Food Technology, M.S. in Financial Planning, or Master of Avian Health.
Tuition: $8,492 (in-state) or $24,090 (out-of-state)
9. Purdue University-West Lafayette
Featuring over 400 research labs, Purdue University is Indiana’s second largest public school enlightening 39,400 students from West Lafayette. The USNWR ranks Purdue as the 61st best university with the fifth best online graduate engineering programs. Accredited by the HLC-NCA, Purdue Online grants 19 master’s degrees. Online students may pursue the M.S. in Industrial Engineering, MBA in Agricultural Economics, M.S. in Communications, or M.S.Ed. in Special Education.
Tuition: $9,208 (in-state) or $28,010 (out-of-state)
10. Virginia Tech University
Initially a military institute, Virginia Tech University is a public, land-grant RU/VH college comprised of 30,600 students in Blacksburg. According to the U.S. News, Virginia Tech is our nation’s 70th best university with the second best online graduate IT programs. It’s possible for Hokies to earn 14 master’s programs 100 percent online. Remote offerings include the M.S. in Ocean Engineering, M.A. in Political Science, and Master of Natural Resources.
Tuition: $12,127 (in-state) or $24,388 (out-of-state)
11. Auburn University
Auburn University is a public, polytechnic sea-grant research university serving over 27,200 students from Alabama’s largest metro. For 2016, the U.S. News crowned Auburn the 102nd best college with the seventh best online graduate education programs nationally. Auburn Online conveniently delivers 26 master’s degrees in small class sizes. Available programs include the M.Ed. in Elementary Education, Master of Real Estate Development, M.S. in Nutrition, and M.S. in Information Systems.
Tuition: $8,802 (in-state) or $26,406 (out-of-state)
12. University of South Carolina
Established in 1801, the University of South Carolina is a flagship public, up-and-coming research institution based in Columbia to train nearly 34,000 students. Carolina is ranked the 108th best national university with the #1 top online graduate nursing degrees. There are six master’s and two doctoral programs available online. The most popular are the Master of Public Health, MSN in Nursing Administration, and Master of Education in Teaching.
Tuition: $12,384 (in-state) or $26,532 (out-of-state)
13. Arizona State University
Based in Tempe, Arizona State University is an innovative public, metropolitan RU/VH institution engaging over 50,200 campus and 13,700 online students yearly. The U.S. News distinguished ASU as America’s 129th top university with the second best online criminal justice programs. Online learners can select from 53 graduate degrees, such as the Master of Public Safety Leadership, Master of Engineering, Master of Legal Studies, and Doctor of Behavioral Health.
Tuition: $10,610 (in-state) or $22,580 (out-of-state)
14. Mississippi State University
Mississippi State University is a public, doctoral-granting research institution located in rural Starkville to educate over 20,800 pupils. The U.S. News recognized MSU as the 161st best national university with the seventh best online graduate engineering programs. The Center for Distance Education is accredited for 21 master’s degrees and seven doctorates. All students pay in-state tuition for online programs like the M.S. in Forestry, MBA, M.S. in Geosciences, and Ph.D. in Computational Engineering.
15. University of Louisville
West of the Allegheny Mountains, the University of Louisville stands as a preeminent, fast-growing public research institution serving over 22,300 bright minds. Ranked 168th nationally, Louisville houses America’s ninth best online graduate criminal justice programs. UofL’s Online Learning Division confers 10 accredited degrees and three graduate certificates. Online offerings include the M.S. in Social Work, M.S. in Civil Engineering, M.A. in Higher Education Administration, and M.Ed. in Special Education.
Tuition: $11,664 (in-state) or $24,274 (out-of-state)