Pursue a master’s degree at a school offering the cheapest online masters degree, and receive the same quality education and services provided to students attending the school in a traditional classroom setting. This potentially surprising information is only one factor for a person to consider when deciding whether to pursue an online master’s degree. Although the cost of pursuing a graduate degree has increased considerably over the past several years, there are schools that offer online master’s degree programs that are comprehensive, yet affordable.
5 Most Affordable Online Master’s Degree Programs
|1||Western Governors University||Salt Lake City, Utah|
|2||Valdosta State University||Valdosta, Georgia|
|3||Fort Hays State University||Hays, Kansas|
|4||Lamar University||Beaumont, Texas|
|5||Louisiana State University – Shreveport||Shreveport, Louisiana|
Career Outlook, published on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) site, explains that if you want to know whether it pays to stay in school, just look at the data. The data from the BLS Current Population Survey indicates that as workers’ educational attainment rises, there is an increase in earnings and a decrease in unemployment. The BLS also reveals that employment at the master’s degree level is expected to grow by approximately 17 percent through 2026. This is considered ‘the fastest of any educational level.’
Reasons to Enroll at a School Offering the Cheapest Online Master’s Degree
Earning a master’s degree helps students develop new knowledge and skills that likely help advance a students’ current career. Completing a master’s degree, including the cheapest online master’s degree options, also likely leads to greater earnings. Students that want to change careers have the potential opportunity to gain the expertise needed to excel in a new career field after completing a master’s degree.
Students that earn their master’s degree online avoid some costs that possibly affect the ability of some people to continue their education. There are no expenses related to on-campus housing costs, regular transportation costs to and from the school, or some other costs normally associated with attending classes at the physical school location.
These affordable master’s degree programs offer a high-quality education with some of the lowest tuition costs. The listed tuition rate includes only the cost of enrolling in the course. It does not include the cost of fees or the cost of any required supplies. Please note that we cannot guarantee the exact tuition costs because schools sometimes change their tuition and other information. Check with a particular school that you wish to apply to for details regarding any potential changes in tuition or other information.
24 Cheapest Online Master’s Degrees
Western Governors University
Western Governors University offers nearly 40 online master’s degree programs. Choose from degree options in education, nursing, health care administration, business, information technology or business.
Enjoy the flexibility, and the strong faculty support offered by the convenient, affordable online master’s degree programs at the university. Start your master’s degree program at the beginning of any month throughout the year.
Valdosta State University
Valdosta State University promotes leadership through best practices, strategic planning, and faculty support. The master’s degree focus areas at the school include communications, business, healthcare, education, criminal justice, ESOL, foreign language education, and public administration.
Fort Hays State University
The affordable, yet comprehensive graduate programs at Fort Hays State University prepares students for a greater future, and potentially allows them to enter a new career. Some graduate students taking a recent exit survey also included the opportunity to prepare for a doctoral program as the reason for earning their master’s degree at the school with nationally recognized programs.
Complete your master’s degree in as little as 16 months when you enroll in a graduate degree program at Lamar University. The school offers online master’s degree programs in business, education, political science, criminal justice, nursing, and health sciences. Benefit from an online program that features rich engagement, high quality faculty, and 100 percent online courses.
Louisiana State University – Shreveport
The Louisiana State University – Shreveport campus invites individuals to earn their master’s degree at the school in an entirely online format. Complete your courses anytime and anywhere, while furthering your intellectual inquiry through study and research.
The school offers 19 master’s degree programs in a 100 percent online format. Choose your degree from business, education, non-profit administration, or healthcare administration program options.
University of the Cumberlands
The University of the Cumberlands accommodates the needs of adult students by offering master’s degree programs in business, education, medical science, counseling, leadership and other programs. Students learn to incorporate the up-to-date technology and developments in their chosen field, while enjoying the flexibility of an online program.
There are a couple of master’s degree programs that may have slightly higher tuition. One example is the MSN – Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program. The tuition for that program is $500 per credit hour.
Arkansas State University
Arkansas State University has been awarding graduate degrees for more than 60 years. Students that want to earn an online master’s degree have the same well-rounded educational experience as graduate students that complete their program in a traditional classroom environment.
The school offers more than a dozen online master’s degree programs, including an MBA program, Master of Public Administration, several master degrees in education concentrations, and several communications degree options. Some students earn a master’s degree in non-traditional programs, such as the Master of Science in Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, or the Master of Science in Media Management.
Fitchburg State University
The Graduate Studies Department at Fitchburg State University invites prospective students to earn their master’s degree on their own time. Online students enjoy the same level of support as graduate students that attend classes on campus.
The school offers more than a dozen online master’s degree programs, including programs in marketing, management, nursing, education, and computer sciences.
Oklahoma State University
Oklahoma State University brings its tradition of excellence to students anywhere across the country through its online master’s degree programs. The school is a Carnegie top-tier research university.
The convenient online classes offer the flexibility needed for many students with busy lives that cannot commit to regularly attending classes on campus. The school offers more than 20 online master’s degrees at an affordable cost.
Columbus State University
Earn your master’s degree completely online at Columbus State University and advance your current career or start a completely new career. The university explains that no matter which program that you choose to enroll in, you will gain the necessary knowledge, skills, connections, and experiences that you need to thrive in your current or future career.
The school offers more than 30 online master’s degrees.
University of Colorado
Prepare for your professional future when you earn an online master’s degree from the University of Colorado. Graduate students likely gain the opportunity to achieve greater earnings potential, as they start or expand their career.
The school indicates that students learn from world-class educators ‘with real-world industry experience.’ Students choose from 25 online master’s programs.
Kennesaw State University
Prospective students have the opportunity to choose from 20 online master’s degree programs when they consider Kennesaw State University. The school indicates that every online program undergoes rigorous evaluation from faculty, as well as the instructional design staff. The purpose of the evaluation is to continuously ensure that the programs are ‘thoughtfully prepared and delivered.’
The school offers affordable master’s degrees in a variety of education concentrations, engineering, nursing, cybersecurity, and other programs.
Baker University offers graduate students the opportunity to earn a master’s degree in an affordable, online format. The flexibility of the online master’s degree programs allows students to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in their chosen field. At Baker, you can earn your MBA in 18 to 20 months. MBA Concentrations focus on finance, health care administration, human resources, strategic management. Baker grads earn the highest average salaries among graduates of universities in Kansas.
Campbellsville University offers 29 master’s degree programs in an entirely online setting. Choose a degree in information technology, education, business, nursing, criminal justice or other options. The school offers the convenience and flexibility of completing classes anytime, and anywhere, while also being a university with some of the cheapest online master’s degree programs.
Minot State University
Minot State University offers in-state tuition rates for all students. Graduate students pursuing an online master’s degree also benefit from the fact that they can earn their degree from anywhere in the country without ever having to set foot on the schools’ North Dakota campus.
Students earning a master’s degree choose from six programs, with some programs offering a variety of concentrations within the graduate degree program.
University of Alabama
The University of Alabama offers ‘Bama by Distance,’ the school’s format for its online programs. The school offers more than 30 online master’s degrees, and a few others in a hybrid format. The innovative and exciting program offerings allow graduate students to continue with their busy life without having to attend classes in a face-to-face format. Enjoy pursuing your master’s degree from a prestigious university without taking classes at the university.
Students choose their affordable online master’s degree from nine focus areas.
Logan University commits to making a health care education within reach of all students with promise, while still offering a ‘world-class education.’
The university offers three online award-winning master’s degree programs. Enroll in your choice of the Master of Health Informatics degree program, the online Master’s in Nutrition & Health Performance, or the online Master’s in Sports Science & Rehabilitation.
Midwestern State University
Midwestern State University invites prospective students to lead, learn, live, explore, and discover. The school, with two campuses located in the State of Texas, also offers several graduate degrees. Consider a Master’s in Health Administration, an MSN degree, a Master of Arts in Human Resources Management, or a master’s degree in counseling, criminal justice, sport management or other program options.
West Texas A&M University
West Texas A&M University offers high-quality online master’s degree programs that are engaging, flexible, and affordable. The online graduate degree programs prepare students for licensure or certification in their chosen field in the State of Texas.
Some online graduate students are potentially eligible for a waiver that significally reduces the cost of tuition.
Wilmington University believes that every student can exceed their potential and become a leader. The online options for earning a master’s degree provides students with the ability to pursue their degree without the rigid schedule of a traditional learning environment.
The university is an award-winning school, including for its e-learning program. The school offers a military discount, and affordable tuition for all students.
Sam Houston State University
Sam Houston State University considers itself a leader in online education. The university places the success of each student as its top priority. Pursue your academic and career goals by earning an affordable master’s degree at an award-winning school. The school offers extensive resources for students, and the benefit of learning from talented, innovative faculty members.
The cost of tuition covers some fees administered by the school.
Cameron University explains that the school prepares students for success in their chosen profession, to make meaningful contributions to a rapidly changing world, and to experience lifelong learning.
Cameron University offers a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership, a Master of Science in Behavioral Sciences – Psychology Track, Master of Education in Reading, and a Master of Business Administration (MBA).
Old Dominion University
Pursuing an online master’s degree at Old Dominion University allows students to experience the same excellent resources afforded to traditional students. Earn your degree by completing course requirements from anywhere, on your own time. Gain the skills and knowledge required for real-world careers when you enroll in one of the more than three dozen master’s degree programs at the school.
Wayne State University
Wayne State University focuses on providing a supportive environment for all graduate students, and provides leadership in advancing academic excellence in its graduate programs. Students that have a minimum undergraduate GPA of at least 2.75 are welcome to apply to a master’s degree program at the school. There are 11 graduate schools and colleges at Wayne State University. Choose your preferred degree from more than 100 programs.
We work diligently to develop our lists of the best and most affordable schools that are based on factors that are most relevant to students. We ranked each of these cheapest online master’s degree programs by assigning a unique score based on tuition. If there was a tie, the school that has the lower tuition cost received the higher ranking.
We always strive to do our best to rank each school on our lists fairly and accurately. We do not allow any school to pay us for a better placement in our rankings. Any sponsored school is kept separate from our ranked schools, and then clearly labeled as SPONSORED.
Cheapest Online Master’s Degree
Advancing your education is one of the best ways to advance in your career and rise up the ranks from the junior, less paid levels to the senior ones with higher pay, and even more perks.
Such an advancement helps you change from a probably stalled and boring position in the corporate world to a higher level with more obligations, expectations, and responsibility. All these can help spice up your career from an otherwise slow and boring one to an exciting, fast-paced, and high-responsibility position. After all, we all want to work where the pressure is higher because, for most people, that’s how we can be the best versions of ourselves.
Getting a master’s degree then becomes one surefire way to seal your prospects for scaling up the corporate ladder. If you have been thinking of enrolling in a graduate program, then you should consider an online master’s program.
Let’s see how, where, why, and what online master’s degree programs you should enroll in.
Types of Master’s Degrees Available Online
There are loads of online master’s degrees that you can choose from as offered by various higher education institutions. The following are the common kinds of master’s degrees you can get online.
An online master’s degree program in accounting from a reputable university helps a graduate student get better prepared for the certified public accountant certification that allows one to scale up to higher levels in the management ladder. Most commonly, online students in an accounting program focus on areas such as business law, corporate finance management, public accounting, advanced auditing, financial reporting, and forensic accounting.
To enhance their educator or administrative roles, professionals in the education industry can further their knowledge by taking up an online master’s program in education. It’s upon the student to choose which of these two areas they want to focus on. Those more passionate about teaching should stick to the educator part while those passionate about leadership should go for the administrative roles.
3. Business Administration
Students looking to rise up the corporate ladder in leadership after completing an undergraduate degree should consider taking an online MBA program. Some of the main focus areas include marketing, business analytics, finance, entrepreneurship, healthcare administration, and human resource management.
Most students wonder if they can join online master’s degree in nursing. The key focus areas in nursing master’s degrees include nursing administration, family nursing, nurse education, and women’s healthcare nursing.
5. Art Studies
Some of the focus areas in an online arts master’s degree include arts administration, museum studies, writing, publishing, culture management, and communication studies.
6. Information and Communication Technology
Master’s degrees in this sector help graduate students take up high-responsibility roles in the ICT world. Some of the key focus areas include artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, computer science, robotics, business informatics, and telecommunications management.
7. Architectural Studies
Students can take up an online architecture master’s degree after successfully completing a bachelor’s degree in the same area. The main focus areas in this category include industrial design, interior design, urban regeneration and rehabilitation, transportation infrastructure, and public spaces design.
Differences Between Traditional Master’s Degree and an Online Master’s Degree
While the course content remains largely the same for both on-campus and online master’s degree programs, the following are some of the main differences that set the two apart.
1. Mode of Attendance
An online master’s degree does not require students to attend classes physically as it happens with the traditional, campus-based learning system. Online students complete their master’s degree program entirely online, attending classes, and doing tests online.
2. Overall Cost
An online master cuts back on the cost of college education. Since students enrolled in an online MBA don’t have to struggle with college housing and transport expenses, they are able to keep the cost of their higher education lower than those in traditional master’s degree programs. Online students only have to pay for tuition and as such, their overall cost remains way lower.
Right from the bachelor’s degree to a graduate degree in the traditional education system, there is very little or no flexibility in the study period and learning modes. Students have to go through four or two rigid years to complete their degree.
In an online degree program, students have the liberty to reduce the study time by fast-tracking the online master to complete it in about a year or just a few months. Online students can choose to study when it’s most appropriate to them so that they balance work and study hours.
How Online Master’s Degrees Work
Every online master’s degree equips students with the required set of skills and knowledge pertaining to that particular line of study in a similar way to that of the traditional education system. This is possible because the coursework and course content remains similar to the on-campus system in most cases.
The one main thing that changes is the teaching or delivery model. In an online master’s degree, students learn fully online through teaching facilities like video conferencing, downloadable PowerPoint material, or podcasts. There are discussion boards in an online program where students and instructors interact and discuss matters related to the degree.
Tests are also done online in the majority of the courses. These tests may be done on a real-time basis and submitted within a set time. Students may also write assignments and tests and send them to their tutors via email. For technical courses, a university may require students to sit the exams in person at school.
Online students rely more on their own motivation to study and complete the online master by reading and working on assignments on their own without the advantage of in-person help from the course instructors. It calls for a high level of discipline.
Online master’s degrees require graduate students to have their own equipment and other necessary learning materials since they cannot access those that on-campus students enjoy. Such equipment differs from course to course. However, there are the most basic ones like computers and secure internet connectivity. Most universities team up with information technology companies to offer online students the required software at discounted rates.
Other learning materials like books that online master’s degree students can access from the school library can be bought or rented from online booksellers and bookshops.
Average Cost of an Online Master’s Degree
There are several factors that determine the cost of an online master’s degree. As such, it gets hard to pin down the cost onto a specific number. The cost depends on the university or college offering it, the state the student takes it from, the subject or focus area, and the nature of the program itself.
Some institutions charge higher than others as they have more traction based on their credibility over the years. For students taking a master’s degree program from another state, the cost usually goes up where the institution adds an out-of-state markup. The key focus area of the online master’s program also determines the cost, with subjects like engineering costing much more. An online MBA in most universities is also priced on the higher end.
Typical Cost of an Online Master’s Degree
Despite this disparity in the pricing models for most online master’s degree programs, the typical cost of an online master’s degree comes between $29,000 and $35,000.
Factors That Can Drive Up the Cost of an Online Master’s Degree
The following factors can push up the cost of an online master’s degree.
1. Out-of-state Charges
Since most universities give first priority to students within the state they are in, some charge a higher tuition rate to online students taking the degree from another state. Where out-of-state students are involved, a master’s degree cost rises to range between $30,000 and $40,000 depending on the institution and focus area.
Graduate programs that involve internships end up costing online students much more in travel fees. Other expenses that come up include housing and relocation costs where students have to shift from their usual place of study to a new area to get closer to the organization or company offering the internship. These are extra costs that need to be factored in before the student enrolls for the master’s degree.
3. Books and Other Supplies
Online students do not enjoy the physical availability of books that on-campus students have. Where the university cannot provide books and other study materials in downloadable forms, students taking the degree online have to buy them from bookshops. This pushes up the cost of the degree further because as they come and depending on the subject, books for higher education lean on the pricier edge. The costs may be lowered if the student opts to rent the book from online booksellers like Amazon, but still, this charge is high considering that the rented book is only available temporarily.
How Online Degree Programs Keep Their Costs Down
For most people, it comes as a surprise to learn that online degree programs cost much less compared to traditional campus-based degree programs. Such becomes the case with a master’s degree where the typical cost is about $48,000 for the usual two years most programs take. This comes in contrast with the typical online master’s degree cost at only $29,000, which might actually be spread out in a period of less than two years of study.
The main reason most online degree programs manage to keep their costs down is that they usually only have to charge students for tuition. Campus boarding and meal costs are inexistent in online programs.
Although other charges like counseling fees, background checks for criminality, transcript fees, and graduation fees may be incurred, these are minor and are usually incorporated in the overall degree cost.
Even for the cheapest master’s degree programs, it’s possible to reduce the costs further by having them online.
One other way that online degree programs cut back on the cost of higher education is the incorporation of financial aid in the form of grants and scholarships. Most universities and colleges team up with the state or federal governments to help every graduate student to access state and federal grants and scholarships to further offset the tuition costs.
Some of the federal grants available for students to lower tuition costs include Pell Grant, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant, and The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant.
Pell Grant is the largest federal student financial aid from the Department of Education. Its main advantage is that students are offered financial assistance based on their financial need and the tuition rate even when they qualify for and receive other aid.
Colleges and universities offer students scholarships mainly based on academic merit and talent. Some may also offer them based on a student’s need for financial assistance.
Since these grants and scholarships are free aid and students don’t have to repay, online graduate programs making use of them are able to keep their costs down during and after the degree program. Unlike loans, online students do not incur the cost of interest but instead enjoy the free aid and complete their online learning with no extra costs.
The only grant that defies the non-repayment protocol is the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant. For this, every graduate student has to agree to work in either a low-income institution or a dire-need focus area for not less than four years in the first eight years after they graduate. Upon failing to fulfill this requirement, the grant becomes a direct unsubsidized loan that attracts the interest accrued during the study period and has to be repaid.
How to Save Money on Your Online Master’s Degree
There are a number of ways to save money on your online master’s degree based on the type of funding you opt for. These are as discussed below.
How to Fund an Online Master’s Degree and Save Money
1. Personal Funding
This is an effective way to save a lot of money on your graduate degree. Unlike taking student loans that accrue interest and have to be repaid, paying for your online courses out of your pocket eliminates any extra costs like interests.
Other students looking to join an online grad school opt to pay for it out of their investment kitty since earning a higher education like a master’s degree is a viable investment that offers high returns within a short time.
You can fund your online master from your own savings that you may have amassed over time for this specific purpose.
If you are a salaried employee or have a business that brings in some constant money, you can opt to regularly pay for your graduate school out of such monies.
2. Student Aid
Regardless of the type of degree a student enrolls for, it’s possible to get financial aid to cut back on the cost of online learning for both local and international students. This financial assistance comes from the state, federal government, or the university in the form of grants.
Federal grants include Pell Grants, Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants, and Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants.
Different state governments have different student aid programs that students can benefit from by contacting the grant agency in their state.
Depending on the college or university a student is joining, several merit, talent, or need-based scholarships are available. It’s upon the student to check the information on scholarships that comes with the offer letter or to enquire directly from the school.
Most Affordable Online Programs for Master’s Degrees
When choosing an online master’s degree program with affordable tuition, the following are some of the factors to consider or avoid for a smooth experience.
What to Look for in an Affordable Online Master’s Degree
A good online master’s degree should be flexible enough to allow you to complete it conveniently without timing and financial struggles. You should check to see if the schedule is open enough to let you study as you continue working. This is important since you need a stable source of income to be able to fund the online graduate program and other crucial aspects of your daily life.
If you want to find the fastest master’s degree, you should go for the one that allows fast-tracking or accelerating the online degree program to enable you to complete it in the shortest time possible.
2. Financial Aid Options
Even with the most affordable online master, a little extra help to offset the tuition fees doesn’t hurt. Students and parents should not only look for affordable online colleges, but also ones that accept payments through financial aid for students through grants, loans, and scholarships. These are some of the benefits from the government that require filling the FAFSA and which students should check if they are incorporated into the distance learning programs they are joining.
3. Extra Services
Other than the tutoring services offered online for the master’s degree, students should check if the degree program offers other extra services like academic advice and career guidance and counseling. These are important and come in handy especially if there are no extra costs for them. If the university provides them, it means you don’t have to look for them elsewhere, which would cost you time and more money.
Be sure to check if the online program you are about to join is accredited by the relevant education bodies in the region or nationally. It would be a waste of resources to sit through a program only to discover later that it can’t secure you better work because it is itself unaccredited or was obtained from an unaccredited online college. It’s one of the many things employers consider when hiring new or promoting existing workers to higher positions.
Accreditation is important as it also ensures the university students in it qualify to receive financial aid.
What to Avoid in an Affordable Online Master’s Program
1. Institutions With Out-of-state Charges
If you can find a suitable online program for your master’s degree in your state, it’s best to take it up and ditch the one that charges you extra fees just because you are not studying from within it. The out-of-state fee is an extra charge that will raise the overall cost of the degree while still offering you the same service, content, and value as an in-state student. It’s thus best for you to go for the graduate program that is within your state or one that will charge you the same amount as an in-state student.
2. Internships That Necessitate Relocating
Given that you are probably balancing between the affordable online master and employment, entrepreneurship, or family matters, it’s advisable to go for a graduate degree that doesn’t have internships that would make relocating a necessity. If there are to be any internships, it’s important to check that these can be conveniently done in your state to avoid the financial struggles and time or work inconveniences that come with relocating.
3. Programs With a Poor Student-to-faculty Ratio
For all good higher education is worth, it’s advisable to avoid any graduate degree program in which the number of students each lecturer serves is too high. A poor student-to-faculty ratio means that you will get less attention if you need extra assistance during or after classes. With a high number of students, lecturers tend to get more exhausted, and their concentration span and willingness to help struggling students keep on dropping.
A poor student-faculty ratio also means that the faculty will most likely be overburdened and may take overly long to respond to any requests for assistance that you may put forward to the staff.
Most online programs have a student-faculty ratio of 13-to-1. This is a reasonable measure since the lecturer can comfortably offer 13 students the crucial attention and support they need on a one-on-one basis without excessively hurting the learning time for other students.
Most Respected Affordable Online Master’s Programs
If you have been longing for the moment when we would roll out a list of some of the most respected and affordable online master’s programs, then this is it.
We will look at several online master’s degree programs across various universities and colleges that offer popular focus areas like healthcare administration, computer science, and other graduate degrees with low tuition fees.
- Concordia University, St. Paul in Minnesota with a 68% graduation rate.
This is a military-friendly institution offering 20 online master’s programs in areas like business, forensic science, education, and many more.
- The University of Louisville, with accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and Commission on Colleges.
This is a public, not-for-profit institution with an average graduate tuition cost of $26,650.
It offers students an online Master of Science in Computer Science.
- The University of Missouri, with accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
Two online master’s degree options are available, one a master of arts and the other a master of science in architectural studies in environmental and behavior studies.
The tuition fees in this public non-profit institution range around $25,350.
- The New Jersey Institute of Technology, ranked by World Report and U.S. News as the 32nd school on a value basis and the 140th best university at the national level.
It offers an online master’s degree in information technology administration and security. The key focus areas in the course include network services administration, wireless networks security, database administration, and systems administration.
- The College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York.
The school offers an online master’s degree in Computer information systems, which is accredited by the National Professional Science Masters Association.
The course focuses on areas like database theory and design, user interface design, advanced programming, and software engineering.