Complete Guide to Online Master's Programs
The two most common types of online master’s degrees are a Master of Arts (M.A.) and a Master of Science (M.S.). Other types of master’s degrees are more specifically named and include the Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Master of Counseling (MC). Graduates of master’s degree programs will possess advanced knowledge of specialized topics, skills in analysis and professional application, the ability to solve complex problems, and the ability to think independently.
When searching for an online master's program, students should look for institutional or programmatic accreditation. Accreditation ensures that a college, university, or program meets established standards. Attending a school that has been accredited ensures that you are receiving a degree that meets or exceeds the quality level set forth by the accrediting agency.
Comprehensive List of Colleges & Universities for an Online Master's Degree
What is an Online Master’s Degree?
A master’s degree is a degree granted to students who have undertaken a higher level of study in a specific field or area of professional practice and usually requires two to three years of coursework, ranging from 30 to 66 credits. A bachelor’s degree is required for admission into a master’s program. Students must submit an application, writing sample or essay, letters of recommendation, GRE or GMAT scores, and resume. Prerequisite courses may also be required depending on your undergraduate degree and the master’s program that you intend to study.
Online master’s degree programs are more flexible than traditional programs, allowing students to complete coursework outside of the classroom and on their own schedule. These programs incorporate diverse online learning technologies to accommodate remote students.
Popular Online Master’s Degree Programs
A Master of Business Administration requires 36-54 credit hours and takes two to three years to complete. Students will study various areas of business such as management, human capital management, business law, organizational leadership, and economics. Examples of classes include accounting and finance, applications of business analytics, mergers and acquisitions, and securities analysis. In addition to their coursework, students will participate in group projects and may have the opportunity to obtain hands-on business experience by participating in an externship and serving as a consultant to a company.
An MBA can lead to a variety of promising careers. Financial managers oversee the financial activities of companies and have a median annual salary of $103,910. High-end management consultants provide focus and direction to companies, ensuring they stay relevant and competitive, and have a median annual salary of $127,000. Investment bankers help companies and government organizations raise money in capital markets. The salary of investment bankers can vary widely, ranging from $100,000 to the millions.
The University of Phoenix’s online Master of Business Administration prepares students in the functional areas of business and allows them to develop managerial skills. Students can select a concentration, granting them expertise in a particular area. Concentrations include accounting, health care management, human resource management, project management, energy management, global management, marketing, and technology management.
Individual degree programs have specific organizations that provide their accreditation. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) provides accreditation to educational institutions and businesses devoted to the advancement of management education.
A Master of Arts in Education is 36-39 credits and generally takes two years to complete. Students completing this program will be able to design challenging learning experiences and employ various instructional practices based on how students learn. Areas of study include assessment and measurement, childhood development, early childhood education, and educational technology leadership. Students will take classes such as instructional strategies for differentiated teaching and learning and cognitive development of infants and young children.
A Master of Arts in Education can lead to a variety of different careers. A professor at a college or university develops lesson plans and gives lectures to their students; an education program director works in schools to develop the curriculum; an executive director asks as a senior manager at an organization or business. Depending on the career track, an M.A. in Education can lead to salaries ranging from $45,000-$75,000.
Walden University offers a Master of Science in Education. Students can choose from 17 different specializations, including adolescent learning and literacy, mathematics (grades K-6), or science (grades K-8). Students of Walden's master's program in Education may earn their degree in as little as 12 months.
The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) provides accreditation to schools, colleges, and departments of education. Attending a school that has been accredited will streamline the teacher licensure process.
A Master of Science in Psychology requires 42-45 credit hours and can be completed in two years. Students completing psychology program will be prepared to apply psychology research and theory in a community agency, healthcare setting, or within the educational and social services systems. Coursework includes applied psychology, child and adolescent development, crisis management and response, and organizational psychology. In addition, students may also gain training by participating in a residency.
A Master of Science in Psychology can lead to a variety of different careers. Counselors work with people on a variety of problems, including marriage, family, and substance abuse issues. Counselors have an average annual salary of $47,530. Clinical psychologists diagnose and treat people with a variety of psychology problems and have an average annual salary of $81,100. Forensic psychologists apply psychology to criminal investigations and law. They have an average annual salary of $59,440.
Capella University offers four different Master of Science programs, including general psychology, industrial/organizational psychology, child and adolescent development, and clinical psychology. In addition to online coursework, students can participate in a residency and clinical training experiences.
The American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation (CoA) evaluates doctoral, internship, and postdoctoral residency programs in professional psychology. While the CoA covers specific programs, regional accrediting bodies are responsible for the accreditation of the actual institution.
A Master of Science in Counseling requires 62 credit hours and takes three years to complete. Students completing this program will gain the knowledge and skills necessary to provide counseling for a variety of psychological, social, emotional, and behavioral issues. State-mandated testing is also required for those wishing to pursue careers as counselors. Examples of courses include professional counseling orientation and ethics, introduction to addiction and substance abuse disorders, and group counseling theory and practice. Students also participate in an internship or practicum to gain real-world experience in a supervised setting.
A Master of Science in Counseling can lead to a variety of careers. Substance abuse and behavioral health counselors work in treatment centers and rehabilitation programs and make an average annual salary of $41,660. Mental health counselors work in schools, hospitals, clinics, and private practices where a qualified therapist is needed. They make an average annual salary of $40,880. Marriage and family therapists often own their own practices and make an average annual salary of $48,220.
Grand Canyon University offers a Master of Science in Professional Counseling. Online courses begin frequently, offering flexibility for students. Small class sizes encourage discussions. Students also participate in a practicum/internship to develop their skills in a supervised setting.
The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) provides accreditation to master’s and doctoral degree programs in counseling. Attending a school that has been accredited streamlines the licensure application process.
The Importance of Accreditation
Two of the largest accrediting agencies are the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, which provides accreditation to colleges and universities in the U.S., and the Distance Education Training Council, which reviews standards for online programs. Schools can be regionally or nationally accredited. In most cases, regional accreditation is considered the most reputable. By attending a school or program that has been accredited, it signals that the education you receive will be respected. Accreditation is also an important factor to consider if you may apply for federal financial aid or consider transferring to another institution.
- Average Salary Outlook for Counselors. MastersinCounseling.Org. Accessed November 7, 2014.http://www.mastersincounseling.org/whats-your-average-salary-with-a-masters-in-counseling.html.
- Information about Accreditation. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Accessed November 7, 2014. http://www.chea.org/public_info/index.asp.
- Master of Business Administration. University of Phoenix. Accessed November 6, 2014. http://www.phoenix.edu/programs/degree-programs/business-and-management/masters/mba.html.
- Master of Science (MS), Education Degree Annual Salary. PayScale. November 7, 2014. http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Degree=Master_of_Science_%28MS%29,_Education/Salary.
- Master of Science in Professional Counseling. Grand Canyon University. Accessed November 7, 2014. http://www.gcu.edu/degree-programs/master-of-science-in-professional-counseling.
- The 10 Best Careers with an MBA. The Best Schools. Accessed November 6, 2014.? http://www.thebestschools.org/blog/2011/12/30/10-careers-mba/.
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