Pursuing a graduate program is a smart decision on many fronts. Graduate degree-holders are likely to make more money. A graduate degree often qualifies you for more jobs, too. Adding to your knowledge and understanding of your specialty is yet another advantage of going to graduate school.

An online graduate school might offer master’s, specialist, and doctoral degrees. Usually, you need to complete a master’s degree or specialist degree before beginning a separate doctoral program. But, some online master’s degree programs allow you to get your master’s and doctorate as part of one large program.

Getting a doctorate isn’t always necessary to meet your career goals. Yet, some careers need at least a master’s degree or specialist degree. For example, if you want to be a counselor or therapist, a master’s degree in psychology or a related field is required. Other careers that need at least a master’s degree include:

  • Nurse anesthesia
  • Anthropology
  • Law
  • School administration
  • Pharmacy

As mentioned earlier, investing in graduate training can reward you with a significant salary increase. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, a graduate degree can mean as much as an 86.5 percent difference in yearly income over having a bachelor’s degree!

Another advantage of a graduate degree online is that it lets you further your knowledge without disrupting a full-time job. So, if you have a bachelor’s degree and want to advance your education, you can do so in your free time and according to your schedule with an online education.

Below we’ve ranked the 15 best accredited online masters programs. Our methodology includes many steps to determine the best options for you.

We began with hundreds of online schools. The list was then narrowed down to respected U.S. universities with regional accreditation.

Prospective schools had to have at least three graduate programs available 100 percent online. Then, using the U.S. News and World Report survey, we chose nationally-ranked universities with at least three online graduate programs in the top 100.

Using the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) College Navigator, we removed any expensive programs with average annual graduate tuition rates above $45,000. Other factors we used to determine this list are:

  • Class size
  • Learning technology
  • Faculty credentials
  • Teaching awards

The result of using these criteria is a diverse list of the best online grad school options available today.

The National Center for Education Statistics notes that post-baccalaureate enrollment jumped by eight percent between 2009 and 2019. This is a trend that’s expected to continue. 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 the best online graduate universities.

See Also: Top 30 Accredited Online Accounting College Degree Programs

Rankings for the Best Online Graduate School

1. University of Southern California

penn state world campus diploma mill
The University of Southern California is a selective, private sea-grant School and is the best online graduate school. It has an endowment of $8.12 billion, and is a “very high research activity” university in Los Angeles.

U.S. News and World Report regards USC very highly as an online graduate school. The school ranks first for online business degrees. This includes its online master of business administration. USC also ranks fourth in the nation for its online computer information technology master’s program.

Other top online graduate programs at USC include:

  • 5th in online master’s in engineering programs
  • 7th in online finance MBA programs
  • 10th in online business analytics MBA programs
  • 11th in online general management MBA programs

Furthermore, USC ranks as America’s 27th best national university and 46th among the most innovative schools.

USC has a wide selection of online master’s programs. In fact, online students can choose from nearly 100 different master’s programs. Some popular choices include:

  • Master of Science in Financial Engineering
  • Master of Science in Computer Science
  • Master of Arts in Teaching
  • Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering
  • Master of Science in Civil Engineering

There are many dual-degree graduate programs as well, mostly in the school of engineering. These programs allow you to work on two master’s degrees at the same time. Some options include:

  • Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering and Master of Science in Engineering Management
  • Master of Science in Electrical Engineering and Master of Science in Engineering Management
  • Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Master of Science in Engineering Management

No matter which online graduate degree you pursue at USC, you will get an education from a respected school and world-renown faculty.

Tuition: $42,740 per year (for full-time students)

For more about the University of Southern California’s Accredited Online Graduate Programs, go here.

2. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

ucilla
Next on our list of the best online graduate schools is the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The university was founded in 1867. It’s the state’s oldest public, land-grant school. It’s also a very large school with more than 53,000 students.

UIUC gets high marks in a number of areas. For example, the school’s online master’s program in education ranks third nationally. There are several other top-10 online master’s programs at Illinois, including:

  • 1st in Online Master’s in Civil Engineering Programs
  • 2nd in Online Master’s in Mechanical Engineering Programs
  • 4th in Online Master’s in Electrical Engineering Programs
  • 6th in Online Master’s in Engineering Programs
  • 7th in Online Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Programs

As a result of this, U.S. News and World Report ranks the University of Illinois as the 47th-best national university. The school also ranks 15th among public universities.

You can select from nearly 70 online master’s programs at UIUC. Popular options include:

  • Master of Science in Data Analytics
  • Master of Science in Healthcare Informatics
  • Master of Social Work
  • Master of Arts in Legal Studies
  • Master of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering

You can continue your education even further by pursuing one of five online doctoral degrees. There are also nearly 100 online certificate programs available.

Tuition: $13,176 per year (base rate for in-state students) or $28,464 per year (base rate for out-of-state and international students)

For more about the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Accredited Online Graduate Programs, go here.

3. Pennsylvania State University

pennstate
Pennsylvania State University is a prestigious land-grant, research university system. It’s known as a “Public Ivy,” or a public school with a reputation that rivals private Ivy League colleges.

Penn State’s World Campus extends the Penn State brand well beyond State College, where its main campus is  located. In fact, the university’s World Campus has more than 6,000 graduate students worldwide.

According to U.S. News and World Report, Penn State’s World Campus has 26 programs ranked in the top 15. Some of these include:

  • 3rd in Online Master’s in Engineering Programs
  • 3rd in Online Master’s in Engineering Management Programs
  • 7th in Online Master’s in Special Education Programs
  • 8th in Online Master’s in Education Programs
  • 13th in Online Master’s in Computer Information Technology Programs

The school also ranks 10th for its online MBA programs in marketing and 15th for online MBA programs.

PSU World Campus currently offers more than 50 online master’s programs. You can choose from options like:

  • Master of Engineering in Acoustics
  • Master of Finance
  • Master of Education in Higher Education
  • Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering
  • Master of Public Administration

The World Campus also has two doctorate programs online and 66 online graduate certificate programs.

Tuition: $22,796 per year (for full-time students)

For more about Pennslysvania State University’s Accredited Online Graduate Programs, go here.

4. University of Florida

uf
The University of Florida is an accredited public land-grant  research-intensive school in Gainesville. The school has more than 50,000 students. About 16,000 of those students are in graduate school.

UF has such a large graduate school in part because of its reputation as one of the best online colleges. U.S. News and World Report ranks the University of Florida in the top 20 in various categories, including:

  • 1st in Online Master’s in Educational Administration Programs
  • 2nd in Online Master’s in Education Programs
  • 5th in Online MBA Programs
  • 5th in Online MBA Programs in Marketing
  • 12th in Online Master’s in Engineering Programs

Furthermore, UF ranks 28th among national universities and 5th among top public schools.

If you’re not sure what graduate program interests you most, UF has a large selection from which to choose. In fact, there are currently 85 master’s programs online. This includes:

  • Master of Science in Entrepreneurship
  • Master of Science in Sport Management
  • Master of Science in Material Science and Engineering
  • Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Science
  • Master of Business Administration

You can also pursue one of three specialist degrees in education or one of eight online doctoral degree programs.

Tuition: $12,744 per year (for in-state students ) or $30,138 per year (for out-of-state students)

For more about the University of Florida’s Accredited Online Graduate Programs, go here.

5. Ohio State University

ohu
Ohio State University is a public, space-grant research institution. It has more than 61,000 students on its Columbus campus. Students flock to OSU in part because it’s a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU). AAU is an elite organization of top universities that share a dedication to research and scholarship.

Online learners at OSU can choose from a variety of online master’s degrees. This includes:

  • Master of Social Work
  • Master of Science in Welding Engineering
  • Master of Science in Nursing
  • Master of Learning Technologies
  • Master of Dental Hygiene

You can pursue your graduate-level degree at Ohio State knowing that it’s a top-tier university. Some of its top-ranked programs for online students include:

  • 1st in Online Master’s in Nursing Programs
  • 3rd in Online Family Nurse Practitioner Master’s Programs
  • 7th in Online Master’s in Mechanical Engineering Programs
  • 20th in Online Master’s in Engineering Programs
  • 28th in Online Master’s in Education Programs

Ohio State University also ranks as the 17th-best public school and is 49th among national universities. These rankings help make it one of the top online graduate schools.

Tuition: Varies based on program and residency status (a base rate might be $13,200 for full-time in-state students per year and $27,798 for full-time out-of-state students)

For more about Ohio State University’s Accredited Online Graduate Programs, go here.

6. George Washington University

gwu
Chartered by President James Monroe in 1821, George Washington University is a private, non-sectarian research institution. The school is in Washington, D.C., and has about 12,000 undergraduates and 1,500 graduate students.

GWU ranks 63rd among national universities and 113th among best value schools. It’s also considered an excellent school for veterans and ranks 33rd in the nation on that metric.

Many of GWU’s graduate schools also get recognition for excellence. U.S. News and World Report ranks GWU highly for the following:

  • 25th in Law Schools
  • 27th in Graduate Nursing Schools
  • 51st in Graduate Education Schools
  • 55th in Graduate Business Schools
  • 79th in Graduate Engineering Schools

Additionally, GWU ranks 63rd among national universities.

You can choose from more than 50 online graduate programs at George Washington. While other universities might offer a larger number of online degrees, GWU offers degrees in a wide range of areas. This includes:

  • Master of Science in Engineering
  • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership
  • Master of Human Resource Management
  • Master of International Policy and Practice
  • Healthcare Master of Business Administration

Furthermore, GWU has a robust offering of online master’s degrees with a specialization in health sciences. There are no less than 17 options, including multiple dual-degree health sciences master’s programs.

Tuition: Varies based on program and residency status (a base rate might be $24,984 per year)

For more about George Washington University’s Accredited Online Graduate Programs, go here.

7. University of Connecticut

uct
The University of Connecticut is a flagship public research institution. It has six campuses and an eCampus for online learning.

The school got its start in 1881. Since then, UConn has grown into a university system with more than 32,000 undergraduate and post-graduate students.

UConn’s online campus offers 16 master’s degrees, including:

  • Master of Science in Accounting
  • Master of Arts in Educational Technology
  • Master of Engineering
  • Master of Human Resource Management
  • Master of Science in Personalized Nutrition

The school also has a number of online master of science degrees in nursing. You can concentrate on nurse leadership, nurse education, or neonatal nursing, among others. These best online graduate degrees can help you advance in your nursing career.

One of the best features of UConn’s online graduate school is that it ranks so highly in so many different areas. For example, the University ranks in the top 10 in the following areas:

  • 7th in Online Master’s in Business Programs
  • 8th in Online Master’s in Nursing Programs
  • 9th in Online Master’s in Nursing Education Programs
  • 47th in Online Master’s in Engineering Programs

Of course, all of these advanced degree programs (and the other online graduate degrees offered by UConn are accredited).

UConn ranks 23rd among top public schools and 63rd among national universities. It’s also ranked 33rd for best colleges for veterans.

Tuition: $13,026 per year (for in-state students) or $33,812 (for out-of-state students)

For more about the University of Connecticut’s Accredited Online Graduate Programs, go here.

8. University of Georgia

ugeorg

The University of Georgia is a flagship public land-grant institution in Athens. UGA has more than 40,000 students. Of those, about 10,000 are in post-graduate programs.

Distance education at the University of Georgia is easy. You can choose from nearly two-dozen graduate programs, including:

  • Master of Music Education
  • Master of Social Work
  • Master of Food Technology
  • Master of Arts in Journalism & Mass Communication, Emerging Media
  • Master of Education in Workforce Education

As you can see from the list above, the options for choosing your graduate program are quite varied. This is just a partial list, too! This is one reason why Georgia is among the top online graduate schools.

One of the reasons why the University of Georgia is a popular choice for graduate students is because the university is well-respected. U.S. News and World report has UGA on a number of its top rankings, including:

  • 3rd in Online Master’s in Business Programs
  • 3rd in Online Master’s in Education Programs
  • 5th in Online Master’s in Educational/Instructional Media Design Programs
  • 7th in Online Master’s in Special Education Programs
  • 9th in Online Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Programs

The school also gets top marks when compared to other universities. For example, UGA ranks 48th among national universities. It also ranks 16th among public schools and 57th among innovative schools.

Tuition: $10,410 per year (for in-state students) or $26,398 per year (for out-of-state students)

For more about the University of Georgia’s Accredited Online Graduate Programs, go here.

9. Purdue University-West Lafayette

purdue
Purdue University is Indiana’s second-largest public school. The school was founded in 1869, and since then, it has grown to over 400 research labs and nearly 50,000 students. The university is growing in part because it has frozen tuition rates for students.

The rankings from U.S. News and World Report show that Purdue is a premier university. It ranks 17th in the nation among public schools and ranks 49th among national universities. Additionally, Purdue ranks 8th among the most innovative schools and 70th among the best value schools.

This Indiana university has online programs with many accolades as well. This includes:

  • 1st in Online Master’s in Electrical Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Engineering Management, and Mechanical Engineering Programs
  • 8th in Online Master’s in Educational/Instructional Media Design Programs
  • 14th in Online Master’s in Special Education Programs
  • 14th in Online Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Programs
  • 22nd in Online Master’s in Education Programs

Purdue University online graduate programs include a wide variety of options:

  • Master of Science/Master of Business Administration in Food and Agribusiness Management
  • Master of Science in Accounting
  • Master of Science in Education
  • Master of Science in Legal Studies
  • Master of Science in Engineering Technology

In all, there are nearly 70 online master’s programs available from the Purdue University System. Some of these programs are available directly from the main Purdue campus. Others are available from one of Purdue’s regional campuses or Purdue University Global. No matter which campus provides the degree program, it is 100 percent online.

Tuition: $9,992 per year (for in-state students) or $28,794 per year (for out-of-state students)

For more about Purdue University-West Lafayette’s Accredited Online Graduate Programs, go here.

10. Virginia Tech University

vatech
Virginia Tech University is a public, land-grant RU/VH college. Initially, it was a military institute! Today, there are more than 37,000 students in the Virginia Tech system. This includes around 5,500 graduate students.

If you want to get your online graduate degree from Virginia Tech, you can choose from a variety of programs that have different areas of focus. For example, online students can get a degree in:

  • Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering
  • Master of Agricultural and Life Sciences
  • Master of Arts in Foreign Languages, Cultures & Literatures
  • Master of Science in Systems Engineering
  • Master of Arts in Political Science

Virginia Tech also offers an online graduate program in computer information technology. This program ranks 3rd in the nation. Several of Virginia Tech’s online engineering programs rank highly as well. This includes top online graduate degrees in:

  • 2nd in Online Master’s in Industrial Engineering Programs
  • 8th in Online Master’s in Electrical Engineering Programs
  • 14th in Online Master’s in Mechanical Engineering Programs
  • 20th in Online Master’s in Engineering Programs

Virginia Tech also ranks 30th among public schools and 75th among national universities.

Tuition: $8,779.00 per year (for in-state students) or $17,308.50 per year (for out-of-state students)

For more about Virginia Tech University’s Accredited Online Graduate Programs, go here.

11. Auburn University

auburn
Auburn University is a public, polytechnic sea-grant research university. It’s located in Auburn, Alabama. It has around 31,000 students including undergraduates, graduates, and doctoral students.

Auburn’s online offerings include bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and professional credit programs. Eight of Auburn’s colleges offer online graduate degrees. These include coursework in:

  • Master of Science/Master of Agriculture in Agronomy & Soils
  • Master of Accountancy
  • Master of Education in Elementary Education
  • Master of Science in Chemical Engineering
  • Master of Science in Nutrition

There are more options for prospective students from the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Forestry, Wildlife, and Environment. You can choose from a variety of graduate certificates as well.

Auburn has among the most top-ranked programs of any school on this list. Its online master’s in education programs rank 14th in the nation. The online master’s in engineering program at Auburn ranks 17th nationally. Other highly-ranked programs include:

  • 5th in Online Master’s in Civil Engineering Programs
  • 11th in Online Master’s in Mechanical Engineering Programs
  • 31st in Online Master’s in Computer Information Technology Programs
  • 31st in Online Master’s in Business Programs
  • 76th in Online Master’s in Nursing Programs
Overall rankings put Auburn in the top-100 national universities. Auburn also ranks 42nd among public schools.

Tuition: $11,826 per year (for in-state students) or $31,986 per year (for out-of-state students)

For more about Auburn University’s Accredited Online Graduate Programs, go here.

12. University of South Carolina

usc
The University of South Carolina is a flagship public research school. It was founded in 1801 in Columbia. Today, the University of South Carolina system has more than 49,000 students between its eight campuses and online campus.

Compared to other national universities, South Carolina ranks 117th in the nation. It also ranks as the 54th-best public school in the U.S.

At the program level, the University of South Carolina has several high-ranking departments. This includes:

  • 1st in Online Master’s in Nursing Programs
  • 9th in Online Master’s in Nursing Administration Programs
  • 20th in Online Master’s in Education Programs

The U of SC offers various online graduate programs from widely varied schools. For example, you can get a master of science in data and communication or a master of music education. Other options include:

  • Master of Science in Speech Pathology
  • Master of Sport and Entertainment Management
  • Master of Science in Coaching Education
  • Master of Education in Education Administration
  • Master of Science in Computer Science

South Carolina also offers a large selection of online graduate degrees in nursing. You can focus your studies on nursing education, nursing informatics, or adult gerontology, to name but three.

Tuition: $13,734 per year (for in-state students) or $29,760 per year (for out-of-state students)

For more about the University of South Carolina’s Accredited Online Graduate Programs, go here.

13. Arizona State University

azsu
Arizona State University is in Tempe. It’s known as an innovative public metropolitan RU/VH institution. In fact, it has one of the largest offerings of online degrees of any school on this list, making it one of the top online graduate programs in the country.

The robust online degree options have attracted a lot of students to ASU. With over 73,000 students (both undergraduates and graduates), it’s one of the largest universities by enrollment in the United States.

Arizona State University online offers more than 120 distinct online graduate degrees. With this much variety, you can choose some highly specific specialties to study, including:

  • Master of Arts in World War II Studies
  • Master of Science in Sustainable Food Systems
  • Master of Science in Social Justice and Human Rights
  • Master of Science in Political Psychology
  • Master of Legal Studies in Law and Sustainability

Of course, ASU online offers more traditional degrees, too, including communications, education, and computer science.

ASU ranks 1st among innovative schools and 54th among public schools. It also ranks 117th among national universities and 139th among best value schools.

As for its online programs, ASU has many ranked in the top 10:

  • 3rd in Online Finance MBA Programs
  • 3rd in Online Master’s in Special Education Programs
  • 7th in Online Master’s in Business Programs
  • 7th in Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Programs
  • 8th in Online Master’s in Education Programs

Arizona State also has the 2nd-best online master’s in electrical engineering.

Tuition: $543-1,343 per credit hour

For more about Arizona State University’s Online Accredited Graduate Programs, go here.

14. Mississippi State University

missstate
Mississippi State University is a public, doctoral-granting research institution. Its main campus is in rural Starkville, but its online programs extend MSU’s top-tier education worldwide.

MSU has about 23,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The university has experienced consistent growth over the years, including increased enrollment in each of the past seven years.

Mississippi State ranks 99th in the nation among public schools. It also ranks in the top-200 of national universities. As for its individual programs, MSU has several in or near the top-100:

  • 74th in Online Master’s in Engineering Programs
  • 93rd in Online Master’s in Education Programs
  • 105th in Online MBA programs

There are currently 33 online master’s programs available from MSU. There are mainstream options, like an MBA, but there are also less common graduate programs, like:

  • Master of Science in Early Intervention
  • Master of Taxation
  • Master of Science in Workforce Education Leadership
  • Master of Science in Geosciences
  • Master of Science in Cybersecurity and Operations

Mississippi State also offers numerous online doctorate degree programs and certificate programs.

Tuition: $531.25 per credit hour

For more about Mississippi State University’s Online Accredited Graduate Programs, go here.

15. University of Louisville

ulouie
West of the Allegheny Mountains, the University of Louisville stands as a preeminent public research university. The University has almost 24,000 students. This includes around 6,500 graduate students.

Louisville Online offers nearly two-dozen graduate programs. These programs include degrees in the Arts, Sciences, and Education. Some of the popular options include:

  • Master of Science in Biostatistics
  • Master of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Master of Engineering in Engineering Management
  • Master of Social Work
  • Master of Science in Sport Administration

There are also two-dozen online certificate programs. There is an online doctor of social work program as well.

U.S. News and World Report ranks many of Louisville’s online programs in the top-100. This includes:

  • 16th in Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Programs
  • 42nd in Online MBA Programs
  • 51st in Online Master’s in Computer Information Technology Programs
  • 57th in Online Master’s in Engineering Programs
  • 60th in Online Master’s in Education Programs

Furthermore, the University of Louisville ranks 96th among top public schools and 130th among best value schools.

Tuition: $508 per credit hour

For more about the University of Louisville’s Online Accredited Graduate Programs, go here.

See also: Top Online Master’s in Educational Technology

Frequently Asked Questions

Is financial aid available for online graduate students?

Yes, financial aid is available if you’re working towards an online graduate degree.

The types of aid available to prospective students depend on varying factors. For example, financial aid might be based on:

  • Your grades
  • Your financial need
  • Your program of study

Likewise, different types of aid might be available. You can take out loans, apply for grants and scholarships, and offset your educational expenses by working for the university or the department in which you’re studying. For example, you might earn a graduate stipend for working as a teaching assistant.

The point is that there are many methods by which you can finance your education and minimize the cost of your degree.

What are the requirements for being admitted to online master’s degree programs?

The specific requirements for admission to an online graduate degree program vary. Some degrees, for example, require that you have a specific undergraduate degree. Others might require a specific GRE score or a satisfactory score on a different standardized test, like the GMAT.

Usually, graduate schools look at factors like the following to determine admission eligibility:

  • Undergraduate GPA
  • Letters of recommendation from undergraduate professors
  • Personal statement or personal interview
  • Curriculum vitae or resume

Check with the schools that interest you for a specific list of admissions requirements for their individual graduate programs.

Is an online education easier than an on-campus one?

Online master’s programs are usually mirror images of on-campus programs. They are often taught by the same professors and include the same curriculum. So, from this point of view, an online master’s program is really no different from an on-campus program.

However, online classes are often asynchronous and might have start dates at different times of the year. These classes are more flexible and allow you to complete the coursework on your schedule, making an online advanced degree easier and faster to complete. Distance education also negates the need to commute to and from school. From a convenience perspective, online courses can be much easier than attending classes at set times on campus.

Further Reading About Online Programs

Ready to get your graduate degree but want to do so quickly and cheaply? Check out the 30 Cheapest and Easiest Masters Degree Online! Also look for the right online program for your needs by reviewing the Best Nationally Accredited Online Colleges.

See Also: 30 Top Nationally Accredited Online Colleges For Nursing