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50 Most Popular Online Master’s Degrees 2020

popular master's degrees

In today’s climate, a master’s degree is the new normal when it comes to gaining employment in any specialized field. Furthermore, whereas a bachelor’s degree was what it took to get an edge in the marketplace a generation ago, in order to progress or find that exceptional job now, seekers really need to have a master’s degree. Online learning has become the solution for many looking to advance their career. If that’s the path you choose, you are in good company. Online learning opportunities and the number of students enrolled in online degree programs continue to grow each year. Preparing to get your master’s degree through an online program can be daunting, but we’ve taken the legwork out of it to compile a list of this year’s 50 most popular online master’s programs to help you get started. We looked at the prevalence of each program based on search engine leads, as well as student demand and accessibility of the program online. Each ranking lays out what the degree is and why it lands on our list, and when possible what the job outlook might be for the next five years.

Business & Management

Online Master of Accounting

If you enjoy developing and keeping a budget, and like to help others do the same, you may be destined for a career in accounting. An online MS in Accounting or Master of Professional Accounting is not just for bachelor’s of accounting graduates, although most programs will require that you have some accounting job experience or that you took some foundational courses as an undergrad. A flexible program that can be completed in 15 months to up to three years, this program is geared towards working professionals who wish to become Certified Public Accountants (CPA) . To be a CPA, one must pass an exam from the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and meet continuing education requirements.

Online MBA

This prolific and degree can be found at almost every online grad school–and for good reason. A 2016 survey of corporate recruiters showed that 88% of those who worked with business schools planned on hiring new MBA graduates–up 33% from 2010. Why the demand? During their schooling, MBA’s are imbued with financial savvy, challenged to develop strategic and critical thinking skills, and motivated to design collaborative and teamwork building tools in order to become the best business professionals possible. This rigorous program often begins with a week-long residency on campus to provide a concentrated core of coursework and an opportunity to network with fellow MBA students. Once a graduate, the employment opportunities are plentiful–marketing manager, international organizational specialist, high-end management consultant–just to name a few. In addition to elevating students to become well-rounded business professionals with a wide range of job possibilities, the MBA is one of the highest paying master’s degrees.

Online Master of Economics

Although some economists find entry-level positions with only a bachelor’s degree, the majority will need to have an MA or an MS in Economics or Applied Economics to find substantive work. Whether the desire is to move towards academia or go into government work or the business sector, you will need a master’s to do that. Many programs have multiple curricular offerings to allow students to tailor their coursework to prepare them for their specific career goals. The MA in particular allows a little more flexibility, but both an MS and an MA will broaden and strengthen the student’s analytical and quantitative skills. So if you enjoying analyzing financial data and trends in order to make economic predictions and decisions, this is the degree for you.

Online Master of Science in Finance

The world of finance continues to grow and become more complex. Companies need financial managers and analysts to be on the cutting edge of financial practices and theory. An online MS in Finance is offered in (on average) 30 semester credits. With courses such as financial econometrics, business analytics, and portfolio theory and policy, graduates are prepared to guide the organizations for which they work in making sound, ethical and globally-aware financial decisions. Students have thesis and non-thesis options, and many programs require a on-campus residency in addition to the distance learning classes offered online. This is a moderately growing field, so earning a masters is a good way to ensure your success as a financial professional.

Online Master of Science in Hospitality or Tourism Management

Students wanting to move up the employment chain to become leaders in areas such as the restaurant industry, hotels and resorts, or convention services will find this fast-paced, business-focused degree a great option. Offered at various institutions in as short a time as an accelerated one-year program to a 24 month investment, a Master of Science in Hospitality Management (MSHM) or Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM) can be a relatively fast way to advance in the hospitality field. Offering courses in accounting, human resources, marketing, and risk management (in addition to the expected courses in topics like tourism and food service) this degree can be useful in many other careers as well as day-to-day life.

Online Master of Professional Studies in Human Resources

Human Resource professionals are experiencing a changing and increasingly complex business world. Overseeing hiring details, intricate benefit plans, and legal requirements in workplace ethics and diversity relations, companies need highly-trained managers to expertly guide them and their employees. Earning a Master of Professional Studies in Human Resources is a great investment if you are interested in this field–one can move up the employment chain from a job as an HR specialist to an HR manager, and this move can nearly double the salary earning potential. Look for programs that are aligned with the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) or the HR Certificate Institute in order to work towards certification, which can open up even more advanced job opportunities.

Online Master of International Relations

It’s not hard to imagine that being savvy in negotiating international relations would be a huge boon for today’s professional. Studying in areas such as diplomacy, conflict resolution, or global health, an MS or and MA in International Relations prepares graduates to work in almost any sector—government, non-profits, major corporations, just to name a few. And it really is crucial to have that master’s if you want to work in the field of international relations. Just as crucial is picking your specific concentration and the school that will best prepare you for your goals. Salaries and job outlook range widely since the job possibilities with this degree are pretty vast.

Online Master of Science in Nonprofit Management

If bettering the world is your mission in life, then a master’s degree in Nonprofit Management would be a good fit. An MS will prepare you to orchestrate positive and sustainable social change in a wide-range of fields. Taking courses in fundraising and marketing, volunteer and human resources, and financial management lead to savvy business sense, but these courses are taught through a nonprofit lens. This nonprofit worldview translates into leadership in organizations that focus on issues across the board—from human rights to the arts to faith-based charities. It’s true that the average median salary for a skilled nonprofit manager is not as high as someone in the corporate world, but many in this field are drawn to it for the higher purpose rather than the money.

Online Master of Organizational Leadership

A rigorous program that gives prominence to a skills-based approach of creating the world’s future leaders, the Master of Arts or Master of Science in Organizational Leadership is a broad degree that opens up an abundance of job opportunities. Through research and practice, students hone their personal talents to become leaders well-versed in ethics, technology, teamwork, and organizational motivation. With many programs offering rolling admission and only taking between 15 to 20 months to complete, this is a quickly-achieved degree that can get graduates out into the field to become corporate recruiters, education administrators, health services managers, CEOs, or a myriad of other exciting possibilities.

Online Master of Science in Project Management

Just as one would expect, an MS in Project Management means a graduate is prepared to efficiently manage project timelines, deadlines, and budgets for companies and corporations large or small. As more and more companies are moving to a model of viewing employee production as projects, the demand for managers to provide oversight is increasing. Students learn valuable tools in problem-solving, critical thought, ethics, and innovative processes.  Look for accreditation by one of two accreditation agencies: the Project Management Institute (PMI) (PMI also provides recognition of schools as a “Registered Education Provider”) or AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) if your program is more business/economics leaning.

Online Master of Science in Public Relations

 With public image for companies both big and small only a click away, the field of Public Relations is increasingly popular. The Master of Public Relations enables graduates to move into more managerial positions than a bachelor’s degree alone would allow. This is important, because even though social media and organizational image management are growing and driving the employment factor, PR managers will have a more competitive edge in the job search. As a plus, the MS in Public Relations can serve just as valuable for someone seeking to change their career to public relations as for someone already working in the field and desiring to advance.

Computers & Technology

Online Master of Computer Science

The Master of Computer Science (MCS) degree is for the computer science professional who wants to advance his or her career solving today’s technology problems. Thinking through the complex systems that make everyday computer usage work and devising solutions to make things run even more smoothly–that’s what computer science professionals do. Most programs desire their applicants to have at least a strong computer science background; many actually require a bachelor’s degree in computer science.  This is an ever-changing, constantly expanding field, and students find themselves in high demand upon graduation with a wide array of employers–employers such as software companies, aerospace corporations, and governmental agencies.

Online Master of Information Technology

A fast-growing profession (projected to grow much faster than average over the next few years), Information Technology (IT) managers are in high demand. Not just for mathematicians, engineers or those who studied computers as undergrads, the field of IT is marketed by many schools as an area in which students can come from many educational and professional backgrounds. An MS in Information Technology or a Master of Information Technology (MIT) usually offers different modules (areas of studies) or specializations to make it accessible and tailor-made for each student’s particular career path. Choosing modules such as security, networking, software development, and analytics & business intelligence will prepare students to lead and manage the computer needs of a variety of businesses and corporations.

Online Master of Software Engineering

 A Master of Software Engineering (MSwE) degree is often a relatively quick (average of two years), completely online program teaching the complex basics of software design and implementation. Even with the coursework 100% online, students do need to be prepared to complete a final software design project utilizing what they have learned. Once the degree has been obtained, software engineers can work in a multitude of fields as the computer industry continues to grow rapidly, and they can often command salaries in the six figures. The job outlook is extremely positive, estimated to be growing at 24% through 2024, which is much faster than average.

Criminal Justice & Legal

Online Master of Criminal Justice

Wanting to understand why crime occurs, helping to put safeguards in place to protect the population, and following up to see that justice is served–these are all reasons to pursue a degree in criminal justice. A Master of Criminal Justice (MCJ) is available online both for professionals who want to advance and for those who wish to switch careers and enter the field. Taking on average a year and a half for full time students to three years for part time, the program can be tailored to each students’ needs. Concentrations are also available to enhance the particular career goals of students. Many will go on to leadership positions in the government or law enforcement, some use this degree as a bridge to law school, and others opt to go on to teach.

 Online Master of Science in Cyber Security

Many programs require a background in engineering or computer science in order to be admitted into their online Master of Science in Cyber Security. A fast growing field, cyber security professionals protect online information from cyber attacks and prevent hackers from harming millions of people. Able to work for private companies or the government, demand for trained cybersecurity techs continues to increase. Programs offer specializations in focus areas such as intelligence, computer forensics, network security, and malware analytics. Capstone projects are often the culmination of the program.

Online Master of Science in Forensic Science

Ideal for individuals already working in law enforcement, crime laboratories or medical examination, an MS in Forensic Science enables graduates to focus on very specialized areas in their field, such as toxicology, death scene investigation, or arson and explosives examination. Providing a flexible schedule to students who are actively working, programs can take as few as two to as many as seven years to complete, depending on the needs of the student. Rolling admission makes it easy to start when the time is right for each individual. Even though the job outlook is growing at a much higher rate than average, this is a very competitive field, so earning a Master’s might just give you the edge you need to land that specialized job.

Online Master of Homeland Security

Safeguarding the U.S. against terror attacks is a grim, necessary reality in today’s world. To earn an MA in Homeland Security or a Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security means graduates become equipped to deal with the worst that could happen on U.S. soil. Not just for those already employed in intelligence or law enforcement, courses cover such topics as social psychology, public health preparedness, geospatial intelligence, threats, hazards and security, and agricultural biosecurity. Jobs can be found in both the private and public sector, and having an MA opens up more managerial and leadership opportunities.

Online Master of Law

The Master of Laws (LLM) is for U.S. law school graduates who have their JD but want to become more specialized in a specific area of law (such as taxation, child and family, or estate planning) or for international attorneys who want to become more familiar with American law and seek a shorter path to taking the bar exam and practicing in the States. A short program, often completed in under a year when pursued full-time, this is a great option to really hone one’s skills in a particular area and can broaden and enhance job prospects.

Education & Teaching

Online Master of Education

A general online Master of Education (MEd) degree is extremely versatile and can be tailored to each student’s focus area.  For current educators who want to perfect their teaching approach or move into more specialized areas of education, the MEd can be obtained in as little as a year part time. Often accessible completely online, students can maintain their current teaching positions while advancing themselves quickly and efficiently.  Keep in mind though that even though classes are usually 100% online, if you are not already licensed as a teacher you will most likely have to complete an internship or student teaching assignment to seek licensure. Look for programs with the seal of approval from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) through the CAEP Accreditation System.

Online Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction

The online MEd in Curriculum and Instruction degree allows students to focus on the instructional coordination side of education, often with a further choice of emphasis available in such specializations as early childhood, mathematics, health science, children’s literature, STEM education, or technology. One of the faster growing education professions according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teachers with an advanced degree in curriculum and instruction can enjoy a projected 11% job growth over the next decade. Often offered 100% online in the cohort format, the online MEd in Curriculum and Instruction also provides an opportunity for peer networking and a slower, part-time pace.

Online Master of Education K-12

An online MEd degree in K-12 education is ideal for teachers who love working with the youngest students up to the point of higher education. A pivotal person in many young school-aged student’s life, the elementary, middle, or high school teacher gains a deepening of the skills they learned in their undergraduate program in the online MEd program. An advanced degree can mean pay increases in addition to better preparation for the classroom, and many teachers are pursuing the degree online in order not to disrupt their current school job commitments. These soon-to-be leaders become poised through their online education for more advancement than their peers who have not obtained an advanced degree.

Online Master of Education in Educational Administration

Specifically designed for teachers or educators who are interested in moving into administration or post-secondary school leadership, the online MEd in Educational Administration is a must to acheive those career goals. Gaining the degree can allow for salaries nearing six digits according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the job growth is projected at faster than average rate at 10% over the next decade. Geared towards students who are currently working, the MEd in Educational Administration degree is often fully online, and most programs offer a level of customization with specialization options.

Online Master of Education in Educational Leadership

Leading the institutions that guide young people is a worthy calling. To become a post-secondary administrator or a school principal, one must earn a Master of Education (MEd) in Educational Leadership. A relatively quick and affordable degree (programs can be as short as 15 months and tuition as low as under $15,000), this master’s degree has a high return financially– average salaries typically are just under six figures.  A high salary is not the only reason people choose this field, however. The positive social return is also high–many educational leaders desire to affect change on a larger scale than just through one classroom at a time. In order to initiate this kind of change, make sure that the school you pick prepares you to get your licensure or certification–a requirement to become a principal or administrator.

Online Master of Education in Special Education

The Master of Education (MEd) in Special Education is for established educators who are passionate about bringing different methods of learning to students who, for various reasons, need approaches other than conventional models of teaching. As more is being understood about the way the brains work in youth and children who are labeled differently-abled, more schools are offering programs to help train the trainer to best be able to reach these young people. Offering emphases in areas such as autism spectrum disorder, applied behavior analysis (ABA), and intense intervention licensure, students can focus on the particular area in which they want to make a difference. Some schools offer tracks that help students work towards their license or teaching certification, but others do not. Make sure you pick the school that will help you achieve what you need to best serve these special children.

Online Master of Health Education

Helping the public achieve health and wellness through education and demonstration is the goal of health educators. As many health education jobs require a masters or even a doctorate degree, many students are going online to earn their MS or Master of Arts in Education (MAEd) in Health Education. Programs range from one to several years, and there are both thesis and non-thesis options. Most graduates will go through the exam process to gain the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential, which is provided by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC). This credential is a requirement to advance in many jobs, and it requires 75 hours of continuing education every five years.

Online Master of School Counseling

Helping students of all ages is what draws many people to this field.  And as there will always be students, there will always be the need for an advocate to guide students to meet their potential. Depending on your background and strengths, you have your choice of pursuing an MS, an MA, or a Master of Education (MEd) in School Counseling. This is one of the shortest degree programs in the counseling field, often taking no more than two years to complete, but many will lengthen the program by combining it with another program to get a dual degree. It’s important to know the licensing and certification requirements for your state to make sure your program will appropriately prepare you to practice. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is the source of accreditation for school counseling programs, so look for their acronym when searching for schools.

Engineering, Math & Science

Online Master of Biomedical Engineering

A Master of Engineering (ME) with a Biomedical Engineering Specialization or a Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering will give students who already have a science background the depth of engineering to solve biological and medical issues. And as the population continues to age and develop more complex health problems, a degree in this field has a promising job outlook. There are options for special focus areas within the degree, and since it’s a practice-based approach to problem-solving, often a thesis is not required. Degree program opportunities include some online-only coursework programs, but many programs require lab work, design intensives and clinical work at a teaching hospital in addition to online coursework. For this reason, an online degree in Biomedical Engineering is a great pushing-off point.

Online Master of Civil Engineering

For those who already hold a bachelor’s degree in engineering, the Master of Civil Engineering (MCE) is for students who wish to move up to managerial positions in designing and building infrastructure. Most degree programs offer areas of concentration that include construction management, geotechnical engineering, water and environmental resources, structures, and transportation systems. Programs generally don’t require a thesis, but the expectation is that graduates with this advanced degree will get licensure. Make sure your program is accredited by ABET, otherwise your program will not enable you to get your professional engineering (PE) license, and senior positions will not be an option.

Online Master of Science in Electrical Engineering

Being key players in the development and implementation of industrial infrastructures as diverse as major and complex systems down to small and sophisticated devices that fit in the palm of your hand, electrical engineers keep the world running smoothly. Earning an MS in Electrical Engineering welcomes graduates into a very popular and high-paying field. Job growth, however, is not expected to increase much over the next few years. Still, with technology changing every day, highly-skilled electrical engineers are very sought after—so getting that MS might make you that much more attractive to employers.

Online Master of Science in Engineering Management

The Master of Science in Engineering Management (MSEM) degree is comparable to an MBA for engineers. Learning business basics and managerial techniques through the lens of the engineering industry, graduates are prepared to work as managers in both technical and business settings. Requiring about 30 credits to graduate, this program is not exceptionally long. Keep in mind though, this is a highly competitive field, and job growth is slower than average. Earning a master’s not only gives you an edge—it is your best chance of landing a job as an engineering manager.

Online Master of Science in Environmental Science

The Master of Science in Environmental Science gives graduates the scientific skills to study the impact of human harm on the environment and design ways of lessening the gravity of environmental damage, with the intent of promoting healthy humankind. Most programs are entirely online, needing only around 30 credits to graduate. A background in environmental science or a science-related bachelor’s degree is usually required for admission. Many jobs in state and local government are available, but even more jobs are opening up in private consulting firms that help organizations stay in compliance with environmental regulations. The outlook is good–an 11% increase over the next few years is projected, which is higher than average.

Online Master of Industrial Engineering

An Industrial Engineer utilizes the methods of engineering, along with mathematics and science-based approaches, in order to streamline complex systems and promote efficiency. There is a degree of creativity required, as many programs culminate in capstone projects. Companies hiring industrial engineers can run the gamut from the expected, such as a manufacturing firm to the perhaps unexpected. Pursuing an MS degree can be critical, as the job market has stayed the same over the past few years without increase.

Online Master of Science in Mathematics

The MS in Mathematics is a highly-adaptable program. One can of course use the degree to go on to teach, but choosing a focus such as statistics, applied mathematics, or analysis usually means the student is geared more towards business than academia. And as a master’s degree is a must to become a mathematician for the government or in the field of research, finding a solid program is a good investment in future employment. The job outlook is very positive, with a 33% growth projected through 2024 due to the ever-increasing need for data analysis.

Online Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering

An often very flexible, fully-online program, offered with the option of thesis or non-thesis tracks, the Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering is attractive to working professionals seeking to broaden their career options while continuing to work full-time. The most diverse of all engineering professions, mechanical engineers build anything with moving parts—from robotic arms to motorcycles to air conditioning units. This makes them an asset able to work in many different fields—which is important since the job outlook is slightly faster than average in engineering.

Online Master of Engineering in Systems Engineering

Combining elements of specialized engineering and management, a systems engineer is the liaison between all the moving parts of engineers, management, production and client. Complex  systems demand key players who are trained and skilled to oversee and implement the intricate details–leading to an increased interest in the Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) in Systems Engineering.  Often fully online and able to complete within three years, the degree program is ideal for current engineers who want to advance to bigger picture positions.

Healthcare & Nursing

Online Master of Emergency Management

If you find yourself questioning the hero’s choices in the latest Hollywood disaster-action film and determining better solutions to address the impending disaster and save lives, you may find a career in emergency management very fulfilling. With a Master of Professional Studies in Emergency & Disaster Management or a Master of Science in Emergency Management, graduates become leaders who proactively plan, prepare and respond when disasters, both natural and man-made, occur. Coursework covers such topics as human behavior, disaster response and recovery, risk perception, and humanitarian disasters. Since natural disasters and the human psyche cannot be controlled, there will always be the risk of emergency situations—getting an advanced degree in emergency management means you will have the skills to prevent or contain possible damage.

Online Master of Healthcare Administration

Earning a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) or Master of Science in Health Care Management will enable students to address the needs of both patients and healthcare providers by efficiently and expertly managing medical organizations. And because of new technologies that are being implemented every day and our aging population, the job outlook in the healthcare administration field is growing rapidly with expected growth of 20%–much faster than the national average. With many schools offering full or part-time programs, both completely and partially online, this degree is an attractive option to many students wishing to advance in the field of healthcare management.

Online Master of Science in Nursing

Choosing to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) can be a tough decision if one is already a registered nurse. Already a high-paid profession, the pay-scale doesn’t show a huge difference between RN’s with bachelor’s degrees and those with master’s. However, those who decide to be advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), such as nurse practitioners or midwives, must go on to earn a master’s degree.  And the benefits of earning that degree are very evident by the high demand for APRNs and six figure salaries for new graduates.

Online Master of Public Health

A more policy and data-based approach to healthcare than the direct service and educational component in a program for health educators, the Master of Public Health (MPH) degree shapes professionals who create and implement solutions to local and global health issues. Offered in around two years and studying topics such as epidemiology, biostatisics, social and behavioral sciences, and principles of environmental health, the MPH prepares students to analyze data and advocate for policies to fix problems with both current healthcare issues and projected health needs of the growing population.  Graduates find work in healthcare organizations, NGO’s, national research agencies and public health agencies.

Liberal Arts & Humanities

Online Master of Communications

An MS or an MA in Communications is all about strategy–knowing your talents and genre, marketing your skills and making your mark on today’s world. Many programs are fast-paced, as is the climate in the communications world. Earning a degree in about 20 months means you get in and get out fairly quickly so that you can get into the market. You can strategically choose your concentration to further enhance the particular skills you wish to use. Concentrations range from public relations to global audiences to analysis of social media. Although you have your pick of job titles with this degree such as Marketing Manager, Communications Director or Event Planner, this is a competitive field, so be prepared to really use your degree to market yourself first and foremost.

Online Master of Arts in English

There a several primary reasons one would want to get an MA in English. For some it is a stepping stone to continue their schooling—most often either going on for a PhD in literature or a law degree. For others the degree is their way to become a teacher in secondary schools or community colleges. And lastly, there are those who want to work as professional writers. And because of classes that place an emphasis on developing critical thinking and writing skills, one with this degree can also find work in other areas such as public relations, marketing, publishing, or editing and research. For whatever reason you choose to get an MA in English, as one should expect, be prepared to submit a writing sample for admission and a thesis for graduation.

Online Master of Arts in History

For people who enjoy gaining insight into the modern world by examining and analyzing historical events, the MA in History is an absolute necessity to gain employment in any kind of history-based career. Historians work as educators in high schools and community colleges (a PhD is required to teach at the university level), curators or archivists in museums, and as researchers. A very competitive and slow-growing field, the job outlook for historians is only expected to grow at an average 6% over the next several years. Nevertheless, this is a very popular degree, and lends itself in particular to online learning. Programs range in focus areas, but many programs offer two primary tracks: World History and American History. Most programs require a capstone project to complete the degree.

Online Master of Library Science

If you love books and helping readers find their next great adventure, a Master of Library Science (MLS) or Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree might be for you. Starting salaries for librarians are not high compared to other professions in which a masters degree is required, so this is a job for those who truly have a passion for literature. Graduates can of course work in public libraries, but also universities, K-12 schools, and private, specialized libraries–such as law or archive libraries. Look for programs with accreditation awarded by the American Library Association (ALA).

Online Master of Liberal Studies

For those who relish broadening their minds and sharpening their critical thinking skills without picking a specialization, the Master of Liberal Studies (MLS) degree is the perfect fit. A degree that offers higher learning without limiting the classes in which one can participate, the MLS lets students pick what interests them the most. Some programs have basic core class requirements to serve as a foundation, but this still allows for a wealth of flexibility within the degree. So if you are intellectually open to continued learning but don’t know how it fits into you career goals, or if you are curious about many topics and just can’t limit yourself to one area–this is your degree. Understandably, the MLS doesn’t prepare graduates for a specific career, but it does serve to enhance the skills that make you extremely marketable to employers. As the employment options are almost limitless with this degree, the salary possibilities also vary greatly.

Online Master of Religious Studies

Whether your goals are faith and ministry based, spiritual, or more comparative and cultural, a Religious Studies degree can be an interesting and fulfilling pursuit. Just as there are many different faith traditions, there are many options within a religious studies degree. If ministry and direct service is your desire, you could obtain a Master of Divinity (MDiv) or an MA in Theology. These degrees lead to work as pastor, chaplain, youth minister, or faith-based counselor. Master of Arts in Comparative Religions or Religious Studies would be broader degrees that could serve to advance you academically or globally.

Public Service, Psychology & Counseling

Online Master of Arts in Counseling

A broad degree area with lots of specialization options, the MA in Counseling is for those who wish to make a positive change in the world by helping individuals. Focus areas such as clinical mental health, human services and school counseling dominate the offerings, but there are even more distinct and specialized areas. Specializations such as Marriage and Family Therapy, Substance Abuse, and Christian counseling are available as stand alone program focus areas at some schools. As with number 43 on our list, accreditation comes from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP), and it’s important to understand the licensing requirements for your state in order to get the most out of your online program.

Online Master of Public Administration

A Master in Public Administration (MPA) is easily likened to the MBA for the public sector. Courses teach core leadership values, management skills, and finance principles through a public perspective (as opposed to through the lens of a business-only, privatized focus). Aiming to work for non-profits, at any level of the government, or in the private sector, public administration students benefit from an interdisciplinary approach with class offerings ranging from policy analysis to human resource management to criminal justice to fiscal decision making. With an emphasis on implementing programs, managing projects, and solving problems, the public administration career path is active and involved. Accreditation is granted by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA).

Online Master of Science in Psychology

Ideal for students who want to work with the public as an organizational or industrial psychologist rather than as a psychologist who provides counseling services to individuals. An online MS in Psychology focuses more on research methods and theoretical principles and will not provide the clinical training which is necessary to gain a license to practice as a counselor. Industrial psychologists work with companies to ensure healthy, functioning workplaces, applying psychological methods to help deal with conflicts when they arise and promote efficiency. This is a fast growing field, projected to grow at 14%, but jobs are incredibly competitive. Make sure to give yourself every advantage in the job market by earning this popular degree.

Online Master of Social Work

If justice and empowerment for the marginalized and impoverished is your soapbox, the Master of Social Work (MSW) degree will help you make a positive difference in society. There are generally two options when pursuing an MSW, the clinical track or the macro track. The clinical path is for the traditional social worker who wishes to work directly with individuals, such as children or those with drug addiction or mental health issues. After a one or two year clinical program (some programs only require one year if you already possess a Bachelor of Social Work degree), graduates must work for at least two more years  in an internship or supervised clinical setting before passing a clinical exam to gain licensure. Job outlook is particularly positive for licensed social worker with MSW degrees. The macro focus is also considered to have a good job outlook however. Most graduates with the macro focus find jobs concentrating on changing systemic injustices and large-scale community improvement, and do not necessarily need to pursue licensure.

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Michael Templeton
Managing Editor

Kacey Reynolds Schedler
Contributing Editor