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Online Master's Degrees

Online master's programs represent the first level of advanced education after a bachelor's degree. Usually two years, they often culminate in a Master of Arts, Master of Science or a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Select a subject to learn more about online master's programs in the field.


Online PhD or doctoral degrees represent the final stop on higher educational path. Depending on the industry, graduates go on to advanced research positions, academia, consulting or other professional areas (law, medicine, psychology). In some areas, a PhD is a "nice-to-have". In others, it's a requirement. See how online doctorates work in the following fields:


Online learning is here to stay. We know that, and employers do, too. More and more top-tier companies are viewing online degrees as equal to their campus-based counterparts. According to Sean Reeves, a graduate of Arizona State's online MBA program,

"During the interview process after graduation, not one person asked if I earned my degree online or on campus. They only cared about my major and my GPA, and that my school had a solid reputation and proper accreditation. I don't think the mode of a program's delivery matters much anymore, as long as you performed well and can show you have the necessary skills and knowledge to do the job."

Explore The Numbers

Why are students going to graduate school online? Everyone has a unique reason for continuing their education, but the numbers paint a clear picture. Online master's and doctorates are growing in popularity, and fast. See how quick enrollments have climbed, and where they're slated to head in 2015 and beyond:

Online graduate degree enrollment
105,000 students
180,000 students
236,000 students
500,000+ students


Graduate programs, whether online or campus-based, require a financial investment. In addition to tuition and related fees, there's the potential opportunity cost of lost income if you're giving up time on the job to attend. While this sounds like a hit to the proverbial pocketbook, for many it's just a short-term setback. After earning an advanced degree, students often go on to earn far more than they were before their online master's or doctorate. In other words, the "return" can outweigh the monetary "investment". Let's take a quick look at the return on investment (ROI):


Of students who completed an online grad program reported receiving a raise, promotion, or both at work as a result of their studies.

Check Salary Potential

Each online graduate program comes with different monetary benefits post-degree. However, when looking at the big picture, the financial pros of going back to school just make sense.

On average, people with graduate degrees earn more money and experience far less unemployment than their undergraduate or non-degree counterparts.

For example, the typical master's degree holder pulls in twice as much as someone with just an associate degree.

Earnings and unemployment rates by educational attainment
Median weekly earnings in 2013 ($) Unemployment rate in 2013 (%)

Doctoral degree


Professional degree


Master's degree


Bachelor's degree


Associate's degree


Some college, no degree


High school diploma


Less than a highschool diploma

All workers: 6.1% All workers: $827

Note: Data are for persons age 25 and over. Earnings are for full-time wage and salary workers. Source: Current Population Survey, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor


Enrolling in an online graduate program can be a great first step toward professional success. However, it's important to look inward as objectively as possible to see if the move makes sense. For some, earning a master's or doctorate online is an easy decision. For others, it may be tougher and require more careful thought. Answer these seven simple questions to see if you're ready to GoGrad.

1Do you know what you want to study?

Earning a graduate degree online can be rewarding in so many ways, but in many cases, having a well-defined college-to-career roadmap is key. Make sure the graduate programs you're considering will pay off once you have diploma in hand.

2Are you prepared to spend 20+ hours per week on coursework?

Online degree programs, especially at the master's and doctoral levels, require a tremendous amount of time and energy. In other words, it's never a breeze and shouldn't be taken lightly. Part-time students should expect to spend at least 20 hours per week on coursework.

3Are you prepared financially?

Many online graduate programs are very affordable. Yet no student should have to scramble for tuition money last-minute. Before enrolling, have a financial plan in place, whether federal aid, grants, scholarships for all of the above.

4Are you comfortable interacting with people via email, chat and phone?

Although some online graduate programs include face-to-face elements, a majority of communication and coursework take place online. This means sending emails, chatting with peers using direct messaging or hopping on the phone or Skype with professors or group members.

5Are you OK spending 2+ years working toward your degree?

Some accelerated programs can be completed in less than two years, yet most go beyond the 24-month barrier. For students with just a bachelor's degree, for example, an online PhD can take 6 or more years to complete. Earning an advanced degree is a commitment that should not be taken lightly.

6Do you have strong time management skills?

Success in an online graduate program requires excellent time management. In self-paced learning environments, time management and self-discipline fall solely on the student. In real-time settings, professors and peers may play a role, although you still need to meet deadlines on your own.

7Will earning a graduate degree make a difference in your current (or desired) field?

In some industry sectors, a graduate degree may not be worth the investment. In many, however, it can be the difference between a moderate salary and six figures. Before going to grad school, make sure it's worth your time and money. And if neither of those matter, that at least you're learning something you enjoy.

While graduate school has a lot to offer, it may not be the best fit for you at this time. Situations evolve, however, and while grad school may not be optimal right this minute, it's a good idea to revisit these questions in a few months to see if your status has changed. In the meantime, if you still have the urge to learn something new or are seeking more education for career development, consider a certificate program or personal enrichment class.

It looks like with some fine tuning, you could be a great candidate for graduate school. Take some time to get organized and focus on the reason you want to attend grad school and what you hope to gain by doing so. Speak with an academic advisor, an admissions counselor and others who can help you nail down the details such as financing, time management, course of study and more.

You seem to be ready and eager to take on graduate school, and you possess most of the key ingredients to be successful. Even if you face a few minor hurdles, it looks like you have the attitude, skills and tools to thrive as a grad student. For elements that may be missing, such as financing, a few adjustments and a bit of legwork now can ensure you're ready to meet the challenge of grad school head on when that new semester begins.

Paying for Graduate School

All college degree programs cost money. Good news is, there's plenty of funding available for students who wish to pursue an advanced education, even online. In addition to student loans - the most common source of monetary help - scholarships, grants and employer-sponsored assistance can defray the various costs. The following chart illustrates where most of the money comes from.

Funding Sources

  • Student loans and other financial aid only
  • Personal funds and employer tuition assistance
  • Personal funds only
  • Employer tuition assistance only
  • Personal funds and loans
  • Other
  • Personal funds, loans and scholarships

For more information on these sources, as well as other vital aspects of higher education funding, read our new guide dedicated to Paying for Your Graduate Degree.