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10 Most Popular Affordable Online Master’s 2021

Are you thinking about going back to school and considering a popular affordable online master’s degree?

If so, that’s a wise choice. 

Earning a master’s degree will expose you to a variety of career opportunities—in most cases, you’ll be able to earn a salary that’s significantly higher and find that it’s much easier to move up the career ladder to a leadership position.

However, it can be hard to justify the high cost of college, especially when you consider that unemployment rates are high and so, too, unfortunately, is student loan debt.

The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to take on a pile of debt in order to earn a degree. You just need to shop wisely. You wouldn’t spend $500 on a pair of shoes when a $50 pair would look just as nice and do the job just as well—so why would you splurge on a fancy diploma without really needing to?

Fortunately, there are all kinds of popular, affordable online master’s degrees out there. Depending on what you want to study, you can find just about any major entirely online. You’ll be able to gain the skills and knowledge you need to pursue a new career or to advance in the one you already have. 

Figuring out the cost of a program, online or not, depends on many factors. These include the school and program type, the program length, the services and facilities available to students, and the delivery method. 

In most cases, choosing a program that offers asynchronous delivery is your best bet. When you choose this type of program, you can study on your own terms without having to worry about how you’ll fit a busy course schedule into your already jam-packed itinerary. These programs also tend to be more affordable because you can complete them in an accelerated fashion, often paying less per course than you would if you spread them out. 

Some schools offer tuition discounts for in-state learners while others might accept transfer credits or prior learning assessments, which will allow you to get course credit for work experience, military service, or other life experiences. This can decrease the number of credits you need to graduate and help you save a ton of money.

Of course, beyond looking at the “sticker” price of a university, you should also consider what kinds of financial aid opportunities are available. Can you apply for scholarships, grants, fellowships, and other types of financial aid? This can dramatically reduce your overall costs so you have little to no debt when you graduate. 

It’s not all just about money, though–so how do you choose the right major? Start by thinking carefully about your professional and personal aspirations. What are your goals and what kind of background do you already have? How can you leverage your existing skills and the ones you’ll acquire through graduate study to propel you into a successful, rewarding career?

While it’s important to consider how much work will go into earning a master’s degree, you should also consider how rewarding the experience will be. Aside from the opportunity to improve your skills and increase your salary potential, earning a master’s degree offers more abstract benefits, too, such as being able to interact and network with alumni, classmates, faculty, and experts in your field. 

So how do you find the perfect program to meet your needs and preferences? Look no further—we have everything you need to find the most popular affordable online master’s degree in this post.

What Are the Best Affordable Online Master’s Degrees?

We know that you have educational goals that you’re itching to pursue, but you may not know where to start. The editors of Master’s Programs Guide utilize a unique ranking methodology based on the following five aspects:

25% Overall Degree Affordability: Average cost of undergraduate and graduate tuition per school

25% Graduation Rate: Number of students who start at the university and actually finish there

20% Earnings Potential: Average mid-career salary of school alumni

20% Selectivity: The number of students who apply versus the number who actually get accepted

10% Online Graduate Offerings: The number of programs offered online in each department

At Master’s Programs Guide, we strive to do our best to guide you and your family toward a fruitful academic career. The pursuit of knowledge is a noble one, and we want to help you reach your goals.

#1. Texas Tech University 

A public university founded in 1923, Texas Tech University is a large research university with a main campus located in Lubbock, TX. It has partnerships with other satellite campuses around the state and also runs a  variety of research centers and institutes. Despite its size, the school maintains a close-knit feel with a student-to-faculty ratio of just 21:1. 

Texas Tech offers a variety of affordable undergraduate programs online, including in-demand degrees in fields like:

  • early child care
  • human sciences
  • restaurant, hotel, and institutional management

However, you’ll also find all kinds of popular and affordable online master’s here. 

Some of the most popular choices include those in computer information technology, engineering, business, and education. The online non-MBA programs ranked 17th in the country by U.S. News & World Report while the computer information technology degree is ranked number 36. 

In total, Texas Tech’s Worldwide eLearning platform offers more than 80 fully online degrees, certification preparation, and certification programs. You’ll have access to on-site tools, technology, and instructors from nine regional teaching sites around the state, including those in:

  • Austin
  • Highland Lakes
  • Hill College
  • Waco
  • Rockwall
  • Junction
  • Fredericksburg
  • Collin
  • El Paso

These degrees are identical to the ones you would earn on campus in Lubbock. You’ll learn from qualified instructors and be able to tap into the same resources you would have access to on-campus, such as career advising and academic support services. 

Plus, you don’t have to worry about paying an arm and a leg. If you plan on taking online classes, you’ll pay resident rates at this public college regardless of your residency (typically less than $12,000 per year, depending on your major and credit load). There are lots of financial aid opportunities available, too, including grants and fellowships. 

#2.  Texas A&M University 

Texas A&M

Texas A&M University is a public university that was founded in 1876. As a student here, you’ll become an Aggie, a nickname that’s borne proudly by hundreds of thousands of Texas A&M graduates, alumni, current students, and faculty. That’s true regardless of whether you choose to study on the main campus in College Station, at one of the school’s other locations (it even has a campus in Qatar!), or online. 

When you study online at Texas A&M University, you can choose to take classes at any of this university’s well-respected graduate schools, including:

  • the College of Nursing
  • the School of Public Health
  • the College of Education and Human Development
  • the College of Engineering.

For the most part, all online degree programs offer the same experience as degrees you might earn on-campus—only the delivery method is different!

Texas A&M University has a number of online programs that are ranked as some of the best in the nation by the U.S. News & World Report. Some of the most popular majors include those in nursing, education and educational administration, curriculum and instruction, civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering, and instructional media. It has also been acclaimed for its programs for veterans.

Tuition and fees for online students will vary depending on the program and your residency. On average, you’ll pay less than $8,000 as a resident student for every nine credit hours of study. You’ll also be able to tap into extensive financial resources such as grants and fellowships. Online course fees include electronic textbooks, too!

#3.  Sam Houston State University

Sam Houston State

Sam Houston State University, founded in 1879, is a public university located in Huntsville, TX. It’s ranked as one of the top public schools and top performers on social mobility by U.S. News & World Report. This second ranking, in particular, is a testament to the progress this university has made in terms of advancing opportunities for distance learners and other traditionally underserved populations. 

This school offers some of the most affordable graduate programs online. You will apply just as you might apply to an on-campus program, with popular master’s degrees including:

  • technical communication
  • victim service management
  • sustainable agriculture and food environments
  • sociology, school leadership

At Sam Houston State, you’ll benefit from small class sizes and around-the-clock support. The university has a unique credits policy in which you accumulate credit by accumulating course credit hours. This is similar to what other schools offer—accept all credits are equal. A credit that you transfer in from another university is identical to a credit that you earn (online or on-campus) at Sam Houston State. 

Your degree won’t say “online,”. All SHSU programs are fully accredited both by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges as well as separate governing professional bodies, in many cases. 

Tuition is affordable, with scholarships available for all student classification levels. You must be accepted to SHSU in order to apply for scholarships, but once you’re in, you can visit the school’s website to access a portal of hundreds of different awards. In fact, all online students receive $1,000 scholarships! 

#4.  University of the Cumberlands

University of the Cumberlands

The University of the Cumberlands, located in Williamsburg, KY, is known for providing graduate programs that are practical and career-oriented. Founded in 1888, this school has graduated scores of successful professionals, including numerous state governors and members of Congress. 

Here, you’ll be able to choose from nearly two dozen fully accredited and fully online degree plans in areas like:

  • counseling
  • criminal justice
  • business
  • health sciences
  • education
  • information technology
  • medical science
  • ministry
  • international executive studies

Many of the programs are taught from a Baptist perspective, reflecting the heritage of the school. These programs have no residency requirement, either. 

You’ll take classes via a cutting-edge e-learning platform that fosters a sense of collaboration between faculty and students. You’ll feel just like you were studying on-campus (minus the commute!). The programs’ curriculum is constantly updated to reflect the latest research and innovations in each respective discipline, making it easy to see why this school’s online degrees are consistently ranked among the best in the nation.

Tuition is highly affordable, with rates starting around $315 per credit hour. Class sizes are small and all programs can be completed at your own pace. Financial aid options include grants, loans, scholarships, and work-study. 

#5.  Fort Hays State University 

FHSU

Located in the heart of Kansas, Fort Hays State University offers some of the most affordable online degree programs. It prides itself on offering programs that are flexible, convenient, and high-quality. 

The school prides itself on being one of the most innovative and “winningest” schools in the nation, having accrued a ton of accolades from ranking publications such as U.S. News & World Report. In fact, it’s regarded as one of the Top Public Schools and Best Regional Universities In the Midwest.

With more than 200 online programs and certificate plans, the school offers 17 different master’s degrees with many additional concentrations and certifications. Some of the most popular affordable online master’s programs here include programs in:

  • special education
  • education
  • health and human performance
  • nursing administration
  • business administration

Tuition is incredibly affordable, with most graduate programs charging tuition at rates less than $300 per credit hour (though you’ll pay slightly more for MBA or DNP programs, something that tends to be true at the vast majority of colleges in the country. You’ll be able to tap into numerous financial aid programs and opportunities here, too, letting your dream of earning a master’s degree without getting into tons of debt become a sweet reality. 

#6.  University of Texas-Arlington

University of Texas Arlington

Another top contender in the Lone Star State is the University of Texas-Arlington. This school is home to a global enrollment of nearly 60,000 students, with many of its learners completing their coursework entirely online. In many cases, you’ll be able to complete your studies in just nine months to two years of study!

Can’t decide what kind of online master’s you want to pursue? Don’t worry—at the University of Texas-Arlington, you’ll have plenty of majors to choose from. This school offers dozens of programs for distance learners, including popular options like:

  • nursing education
  • public administration
  • business administration
  • curriculum and instruction

Without a doubt, this school is one of the best to consider if you’re looking for a popular and affordable online master’s. Don’t believe us? You don’t have to take our word for it. The University of Texas-Arlington has racked up tons of awards from outside organizations. It’s ranked as being home to one of the Best Graduate Schools by U.S. News & World Report (with sixteen separate graduate programs holding this distinction). 

It also was awarded the “R-1 Doctoral Universities-Very High Research Activity” from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, receiving this designation from elite institutions like Harvard and MIT. It’s also ranked number one in the country by Military Times for its veterans’ services.

Of course, you can’t overlook its affordability, either. Tuition rates are low, often coming in at less than $10,000 for an entire program of study (or right around $273 per credit hour). If you complete your program without interruption, you can often lock in your tuition rate for the life of the degree, too. 

#7.  Midwestern State University

MSU Texas

The only public liberal arts school in the state of Texas, Midwestern State University offers a variety of online graduate degrees, all of which are firmly rooted in the school’s proud liberal arts tradition. 

That said, they are also professionally focused, helping you network with peers and industry professionals as you learn the ins and outs of your major. 

All courses here are instructor-led—you’ll always have an expert ready to answer your questions, not just a teaching assistant. The courses are highly interactive and often just six to eight weeks long, letting you move quickly through your curriculum so you can jump into the rewarding career you have always dreamed of. Some popular choices include majors in:

  • nursing
  • radiologic sciences
  • special education
  • sports administration
  • human resource development
  • criminal justice 

As an online student at Midwestern State, you’ll also be able to tap into a variety of career training programs. These are complete online certificate programs with individual modules that can prepare you for a career with a set of related job skills. 

You won’t have to worry about how you’ll fund your studies, either. You can pursue a unique, special tuition rate that’s designed for non-Texas residents, paying right around $450 per credit hour. Many fees, such as the student union fee, are waived for distance learners, too. 

#8.  Lamar University

Lamar University

Lamar University, located in Beaumont, TX, is one of the fastest-growing universities in the state. Although its population is rapidly rising to more than 15,000 students, it prioritizes hands-on learning and a close-knit learning environment. Class sizes are kept intentionally small so that you can work closely with faculty and make the most of your online learning experience. 

If you’re looking for a cheap online master’s degree that offers affordable tuition without risking cut-rate education, look no further than Lamar University. This school has a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees that are available fully online. Most are taught primarily through the Blackboard learning platform. 

In addition to the online master’s degree in school counseling, which is ranked among the nation’s best, Lamar has dozens of other affordable online degrees you can choose from. Many can be completed in an accelerated fashion, letting you earn a degree quickly and efficiently.

Some of the top graduate programs available for distance learners include the Master of Business Administration (which hosts multiple one-of-a-kind concentrations, such as those in criminal justice management, enterprise resource planning, business analytics, and more), nursing, health science education, and political science. 

Tuition rates are low, with the average graduate student paying less than $6,500 per year. 

#9.  Valdosta State University

Valdosta

Located in the heart of Georgia, Valdosta State University is home to a faculty that is dedicated to hands-on research and innovative learning. Class sizes here are small and there are more than 28 different online master’s degrees for you to choose from. 

All of these programs offer flexible scheduling and the ability to take classes anywhere in the world—as long as you have an internet connection! You’ll have access to BlazeVIEW technical support to help you troubleshoot any technical issues you may encounter in your quizzes, assignments, and coursework. 

There are also tutorials and guides available to help you get started with multiple learning platforms. As ano online student, you’ll be able to tap into the same student services as you would as an on-campus learner, such as advising and student transitions resources, academic support, military resources, and disability services access. 

Some of the most popular graduate degrees include majors in:

  • criminal justice
  • education leadership
  • adult and career education
  • public administration
  • library and information science
  • special education

There are numerous hybrid, endorsement, and certification pathways you can pursue, too. 

As a student at Valdosta, you won’t pay a fortune. In-state tuition rates are offered to learners from Georgia, of course, but also students in neighboring states like Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Florida. You’ll typically pay less than $5,000 per year. 

#10.  University of West Georgia

University of West Georgia

A public university founded in 1906, the University of West Georgia has a beautiful campus in rural Carrollton, GA. This school is ranked as one of the top public schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report

The University of West Georgia offers some of the best online master’s programs. These degrees are affordable accredited, meeting the same rigorous academic standards that must be met by traditional on-campus degrees. You can earn credits from prior learning experiences and transfer in previously earned credits, making it easier than ever to make the most of what you already have tucked away. 

Some of the most popular online majors here include those in:

  • applied computer science
  • criminology
  • elementary education
  • instructional technology
  • sport management
  • public administration

There’s a top-rated online MBA here, too. This school also has a unique Move On When Ready/Dual Enrollment pathway. In this, you can earn credits at UWG even as a high school student! 

As a virtual student at the University of West Georgia, you’ll be able to save significant amounts of time and money. Even if you are an out-of-state learner, you will pay low in-state rates of less than $4,500 per year. Plenty of financial aid opportunities are available, too. 

OTHER NOTABLE PROGRAMS 

#11. Georgia College & State University

Location: Milledgeville, GA

Net Price: $20,478

Website

#12. California State University-Dominguez Hills

Location: Carson, CA

Net Price: $4,533

Website

#13. The University of Central Missouri

Location: Warrensburg, MO

Net Price: $12,616

Website

#14. Kennesaw State University

Location: Kennesaw, GA

Net Price: $17,618

Website

#15. Oklahoma State University

Location: Stillwater, OK

Net Price: $15,009

Website

FAQ

Why should I earn a master’s degree online?

Without a doubt, a master’s degree is worth it. There are several benefits associated with pursuing your degree entirely online.

For one, earning a degree online will enable you to complete your degree more quickly, in many cases, since you can take classes whenever it’s convenient for you. You won’t have to worry about rearranging your schedule to accommodate evening or weekend classes since in most cases, online classes are available asynchronously. Simply log in and complete your coursework whenever you find the time.

Most online programs also offer programs that accelerate, allowing you to complete your studies in as little as one or two years. 

Online degrees are often more affordable. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average master’s degree for an on-campus program costs between $12,000 and $26,000 in 2019. However, online versions of these programs typically offer tuition rates that are much lower. Even if tuition is charged at the same rate, you’ll save money because you won’t have to worry about things like room and board, parking, or transportation expenses. 

There was once a stigma that online degrees were not as high-quality as their on-campus counterparts. That is no longer the case. Today’s most popular affordable online masters are often taught by the same quality faculty who teach on campus and lead to the same career outcomes. 

What is the most in-demand master’s degree?

If you’re looking for an in-demand master’s degree, there are a few variables you should consider. First, don’t settle on a program of study just because it’s in-demand. While it’s smart to think about the marketability of your degree, you should also look for a program that will be rewarding and make you happy in the long run. 

It should also leverage the existing skills and education that you already have. There’s no point in pursuing a master’s degree if it’s going to take you lots of time and money to get caught up. 

However, if you’re starting fresh, there are a few in-demand master’s degrees to consider. All of these have excellent job opportunities in most parts of the country and are experiencing a surge in the growth of new positions available.

Look for jobs in fields like business administration, engineering, healthcare administration, nursing (particularly in areas like nursing administration and nurse anesthesia), computer and information sciences, and physician assistant. These are all excellent choices that are sure to help you land a job!

What is the easiest master’s degree to get online?

Easy online master’s degree? To some, that might sound like an oxymoron. After all, navigating the ins and outs of online learning software can be complicated.

However, once you get the hang of things logistically, earning a master’s degree online can sometimes be even easier than earning one on campus. That’s because there are few hoops to jump through and less to worry about in terms of flexibility, accessibility, and affordability.

But if you really want to take it easy on yourself, you’ll want to think about how the school you attend caters to online learners. Does it take advantage of technology that is innovative and user-friendly? How easy is the online learning platform to navigate? Can all of your courses be taken 100% online or do some have hybrid components?

Of course, you’ll also want to think about the support you’ll get from faculty members and student services professionals. With all that said and done, you should consider the schools we have mentioned in this ranking of the most popular affordable online master’s. Universities like Sam Houston State University, the University of West Georgia, and Valdosta State all offer programs that are perfect for online learners. 

Aside from that, other good choices for an easy degree for online learners include:

  • Louisiana State University
  • Prescott College
  • Weber State University
  • Wayland Baptist University

Is a cheap online master’s degree respected?

Although there are some employers who prefer to see degrees from traditional brick-and-mortar universities, the vast majority won’t even know that you got your degree online. For the most part, universities don’t print where a degree was conferred on a diploma, instead just listing out the major and type of degree (master’s, bachelor’s, etc).

So an employer finding out this kind of information will be totally up to you as to whether you decide to disclose it. And when they do find out, chances are, they aren’t going to care. Employers in the technology industry, in particular, are often even more willing to accept an online degree than one earned in the traditional sense. After all, it shows you know your way around a computer!

Just remember that it’s always a good idea to choose a degree offered by an accredited, not-for-profit school. This shows that you’re qualified and have the credentials necessary to be successful in a job position. If your work falls into something that’s a bit more hands-on or requires more extensive interpersonal skills (say, for example, you’re pursuing a job in human resources, where facetime will be invaluable) you may want to look for online programs that will allow you to complete service learning or internship hours close to home. 

That way, you’ll get all the benefits of online education while still gaining the experience you need to be successful. 

What are the most affordable graduate programs?

So how much does one of these degrees cost?

The prices vary, but you can often find quality, affordable graduate programs at both public and private schools. Remember that it’s important to look at factors besides just the tuition expenses at each university. You’ll also have to pay for things like textbooks, so make sure you factor these into your budgeting. 

However, I know that studying online offers quite a significant cost savings. You’ll pay an average of $750 per credit hour less when you study from a distance rather than on campus! Plus, since you can study at your own convenience, you won’t have to worry about the challenges of lost wages.

Compare all costs and hidden fees when you’re comparing graduate programs to help you find the most affordable option. Some good choices to consider, in addition to the long list of options we have told you about above, include:

  • Wayne State College
  • The Holy Apostles College and Seminary
  • The University of Texas of the Permian Basin
  • Georgia Southern University

How can I find the best online master’s programs?

There are a lot of factors that go into finding the right online master’s program, and no two programs will be the perfect fit for everyone. You’ll need to ask yourself several questions before you jump into this decision.

First, what type of online master’s are you looking for? Is it a Master of Education, a Master of Arts, a Master of Business Administration, a Master of Science—or something else entirely? Ask yourself what your priorities are and why you would like to earn an advanced degree. In doing this, think carefully both about your priorities academically and professionally as well as personally. 

Do some thorough research on programs you might be interested in. Reading the ranking we’ve provided you with here is a great start, but dive even deeper! Collect as much information as you can about the various aspects of a degree, including its curriculum, student reviews, and the overall reputation of a university. 

Don’t be afraid to reach out directly to professionals at the university to get more information, either. Even though you won’t be physically stepping foot on campus, when you enroll at a school, you’ll become a part of its fabric—so it’s important to make sure you’re finding the right fit. 

Chat with professors, students, admissions representatives, and student services departments to figure out whether you’re making the right choice and to ask any questions you might have. 

IF YOU ENJOYED THAT THEN CHECK OUT OUR ARTICLES ON THE 50 MOST POPULAR ONLINE MASTER’S DEGREES & TOP 10 REASONS TO EARN YOUR MASTER’S DEGREE!

Michael Templeton
Managing Editor

Kacey Reynolds Schedler
Contributing Editor