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Inside the Best Online Master’s Programs in Illinois (IL)

Empower your journey to success with flexible and affordable online master’s programs in Illinois. See which schools top our list and why.

Author: James Mielke

Editor: Staff Editor

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Panoramic view of cloud gate, also known as "the bean," a mirrored sculpture reflecting chicago's skyline, set against a clear blue sky in millennium park.

Are you an ambitious professional in Illinois interested in pursuing a master’s degree to enhance your skills and elevate your career options? If so, an online master’s program in Illinois is a solid choice. The power of online education is that it offers you the freedom to tackle a graduate-level program while maintaining your personal and professional responsibilities.

As a graduate student in Illinois, you’ll be in good company. At the University of Illinois Chicago, for example, there are 100 graduate programs with 7,798 students enrolled. Whether you’re a nurse looking for an accelerated path toward a master’s degree or a business professional looking to leverage an MBA into a C-suite position, online programs can help you achieve your goals through flexible learning without sacrificing quality.

We’ll dive deep into some of the top online master’s programs Illinois offers. From spotlighting top online master’s programs to digging into how a graduate degree can impact your earning potential, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to learn about online master’s programs in Illinois and see what these flexible academic options can do for you.

Top-Rated Online Master’s Programs in Illinois for 2024

Online master’s programs in Illinois offer flexible, accessible, and affordable options for students pursuing an advanced education. Typically, they complete coursework according to their schedules, engaging with course materials and participating in discussions via online platforms. Course content and requirements vary between programs, with some allowing students to complete their degrees online.

Still, other online options might require occasional in-person attendance for labs, workshops, and networking events. However, many standout online master’s programs in Illinois are entirely virtual, allowing you to complete course requirements on your own time and at your own pace.

Online programs are widely available in Illinois, catering to diverse fields of study, with students benefiting from the flexibility needed to keep up with the obligations of school, work, and home. While online programs can expand access to higher education, these programs are best for self-starting, dedicated students. Challenges such as time management, limited face-to-face interactions, and the need for self-discipline can impact whether an online program is right for you.

Continue reading as we spotlight three top Illinois schools that offer quality online programming at a reasonable price.

Established in 1867, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the state’s flagship public institution and serves over 50,000 students yearly. Renowned for its academic excellence, this public institution offers a diverse range of online master’s programs that combine rigorous academics with a flexible, interactive platform that fosters an engaging virtual learning experience.

With a broad catalog of academic options, Illinois has over 40 online master’s degrees, allowing students to pursue their educational and career goals while keeping up with personal and professional obligations. Some of the school’s online master’s programs cover topics such as accounting, business, engineering, journalism, library science, and social work.

Admission requirements for master’s students vary by program, but applicants can expect to submit an online application with academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a personal essay. Tuition rates may vary by program, but online learners pay the same price regardless of residency status.

Based in suburban Chicago and founded in 1920, the University of St. Francis is a private Catholic institution offering multiple online master’s programs. Online learners can anticipate a flexible delivery through Canvas while accessing essential student services, including tutoring, counseling, career training, and networking opportunities.

Even though St. Francis has a smaller enrollment than other schools in Illinois, prospective students can access a long list of online master’s degrees in areas such as educational leadership, education, health administration, nursing education, and social work. Students pursuing an online MBA can choose from specializations from accounting to supply chain management. Additionally, St. Francis offers a standout and flexible online RN-to-MSN pathway.

While admission requirements vary between programs, applicants typically need a minimum 2.75 undergraduate GPA, including a personal essay and two letters of recommendation. St. Francis is especially affordable for online grad students, with a tuition cost of $599-$798 per credit. You can review your financial aid options at the university’s graduate financial assistance page.

Whether online or on campus, Chicago’s Northwestern University stands out as a premier choice among Illinois schools, offering exceptional online master’s programs that combine flexibility with academic excellence. Long recognized for rigorous academics, Northwestern blends innovative virtual classrooms and engaging course content, fostering a dynamic online learning experience that matches the school’s reputation.

Northwestern’s diverse catalog of online master’s programs has something for everyone. From counseling and marriage and family therapy to data science and health informatics, graduates benefit from quality instruction and this elite private institution’s expansive network of graduates. Other popular online master’s options include sports administration, literature, and an MFA in creative writing.

As an online learner at Northwestern, you can access the school’s long list of student services. Academic support, career services, and health and wellness resources are all available to distance learners. While a graduate degree from an elite institution like Northwestern has high tuition rates, students pursuing an online master’s have access to various financial aid opportunities.

Types of Online Master’s Programs Available in Illinois

Just because a program is advertised as online doesn’t mean all online master’s programs in Illinois are the same. From part-time pathways to accelerated options that allow you to earn a degree in just one year, finding the right program means enrolling in a program that aligns with your scheduling needs. Below, we highlight several types of Illinois online master’s programs so you can find one that is right for you.

Full-Time Online Master’s Programs in IL

Full-time online master’s programs in Illinois offer a traditional timeline toward graduation. These programs are designed for students who can juggle a full academic schedule while still leaning on the flexibility of remote study. When seeking online programs, prospective students should ensure they can manage a full course load while keeping up with personal and professional obligations. Graduate-level study is intensive—if you’re concerned about the time commitment, contact a school’s admissions office for some knowledgeable advice. We highlight two full-time online master’s in Illinois below.

Part-Time Online Master’s Programs in IL

For those balancing education with existing commitments, the enhanced flexibility of a part-time online master’s program in Illinois suits you. Whether you’re a working professional, a parent, or someone seeking a more gradual academic path, these programs offer the convenience of remote learning while allowing you to keep up with personal and professional obligations. Ideal for those looking to develop new skills, transition careers, or deepen expertise, part-time online master’s programs provide a balanced approach to advancing your education and career. Check out two part-time online options below.

No-GRE Online Master’s Programs in IL

It’s becoming more common for schools to forgo GRE requirements for graduate school admission and to expand access to graduate-level education. Perfect for those seeking convenience, career advancement, or a career change, the absence of GRE requirements widens access for a diverse range of applicants. As a result, past academic performance, professional experience, and individual attributes are considered in the admission process. We highlight some no-GRE master’s programs below.

Accelerated Online Master’s Programs in IL

For ambitious students wanting to complete their online master’s in Illinois as quickly as possible—often in just one year— an accelerated program is a solid choice. Designed to condense coursework without compromising quality, these programs cater to students aiming to expedite career growth or transition into something new. These programs are ideal for those with a solid educational foundation and anyone eager to maximize their career options in a shorter timeframe. Check out two quality accelerated online programs in Illinois below.

In-demand Online Master’s Degree in Illinois

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

An online MBA is designed for experienced working professionals seeking to enhance their business knowledge and career prospects without impacting work and home responsibilities. These programs offer students the flexibility they depend on to balance work, life, and education more effectively.

The demand for online MBAs in Illinois is driven by a thriving business ecosystem, including industries like finance, technology, and healthcare. Similarly, online MBA students can choose from specializations in areas such as information technology, data analytics, human resources, marketing, and finance.

Quality Examples of Online Programs

MS in Computer Science

An online master’s in computer science caters to Illinois tech professionals aiming to advance their expertise and career options while taking advantage of the flexibility of online delivery. In Illinois and beyond, skilled tech workers play a vital role in the modern economy, and an online computer science master’s can lead to high-paying leadership roles. Alongside core computer science courses, students often choose between specialized areas, including artificial intelligence, data science, cybersecurity, software engineering, and game development.

Master of Education (MEd)

Whether you’re a career changer or a current teacher, an online master’s in education is ideal for educators aiming to advance their careers, develop specialized skills, or transition into administrative roles. Online enrollment offers flexibility and convenience, enabling students to learn independently. In Illinois, the demand for graduate-level education grads is fueled by the state’s diverse education landscape, with educators seeking advanced credentials to enhance teaching methods, curriculum development, and educational policy.

MS in Nursing (MSN)

An online master’s in nursing offers a practical pathway for registered nurses wanting to elevate their careers by becoming nurse practitioners, nurse educators, or healthcare leaders. Additionally, the online format accommodates the active schedules of busy nurses while expanding access to higher education and career advancement. Specializations can vary by online program, but options include nurse practitioner, nurse administrator, nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, and public health.

MFA in Creative Writing

Whether you’re interested in a writing career or working in higher education, an online MFA in creative writing caters to individuals seeking to refine their craft while offering maximum flexibility. In an online creative writing MFA, you’ll learn advanced techniques in storytelling and prose across various genres. Students gain feedback on their work, engage in peer critiques, explore literary theory, and develop a comprehensive portfolio showcasing their writing skills.

How Much Does an Online Masters in Illinois Cost?

Understanding the total financial commitments of pursuing an online master’s degree in Illinois is crucial before deciding on the best program and enrolling. Tuition costs, fees, materials, and living expenses all impact how much your master’s degree will cost. As a result, developing a thoughtful plan for covering these costs, whether through personal savings, loans, or scholarships, is vital when trying to mitigate financial stress.

As you compile your list of prospective schools, open a dialogue with financial aid pros and explore available financial aid options, including grants, fellowships, and work-study programs. Effective planning and financial aid can supply the confidence you need to pursue academic goals without carrying the hefty burden of unforeseen financial challenges.

Learn more about how much various Illinois master’s programs cost and how you can pay for your degree below.

School Name No. of Credits Cost/Credit Est. Tuition Cost



$10,624- $40,932







Illinois’s Master’s Degree Funding Opportunities

Master’s students in Illinois have access to various financial aid opportunities to help cut costs and cover rising tuition rates. Learn about some standard options below.

Various institutions, both public and private, offer merit and need-based scholarships and grants. These financial awards vary in size and often significantly take a sizeable bit out of tuition costs. Meanwhile, fellowships are prestigious awards provide financial support, often with added benefits like research opportunities, networking, and mentorship.

Work-study programs are yet another financial aid opportunity that allow students to work part-time on campus in approved off-campus roles, providing steady income to contribute toward education expenses. Students can also work alongside faculty on research projects, gaining valuable experience while receiving a stipend — and even tuition waivers — with graduate research assistantships.

When seeking out financial aid opportunities, be sure to take the time to thoroughly research options and give yourself ample time to submit the best applications possible. The academic side of your master’s degree is stressful enough, and combining different sources of financial aid can substantially lower costs, making your investment in higher education less burdensome.

Top Earning Careers with a Master’s in Illinois

Professionals who complete master’s degrees are often rewarded with higher pay increases than those given to their counterparts with bachelor’s degrees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly earnings for master’s degree holders are higher than those with bachelor’s degrees. There’s a direct correlation between your level of education, earnings, and unemployment rate.

In addition to enhancing earning potential, Illinois is home to several rapidly growing careers that often rely on graduate-level training. Jobs for agents, nurse practitioners, and statisticians are all projected to grow by at least 35% over the next decade.

Below, we highlight the potential earnings for popular careers that typically require a master’s degree. These figures underscore the significant financial benefits of investing in advanced education, which include opening doors to higher-paying professional roles. Read on to see which Illinois careers stand out.

Nurse Practitioner

A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse who diagnoses, treats, and manages patient health. A master’s degree equips NPs with specialized knowledge, clinical competencies, and leadership skills. This advanced education helps coach the next generation of healthcare leaders while enhancing patient outcomes.

State Median Annual Pay National Job Outlook Related Master’s Degree
$124,840 38% Master’s in Nursing

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022

Computer and Information Systems Manager

These professionals oversee an organization’s tech operations and often hold a master’s degree in computer science-related fields. A master’s degree equips these tech leaders with advanced technology, management, and strategic planning skills. Graduate-level training prepares them to lead IT teams, make informed decisions, and implement innovative tech solutions.

State Median Annual Pay National Job Outlook Related Master’s Degree
$159,100 15% MS in Computer Science

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022

Human Resources Manager

Human resources managers use advanced training to oversee an organization’s workforce and policies. Competent in areas like labor law, organizational behavior, and strategic management, a master’s in human resources prepares these workers to lead HR teams, implement best practices, and foster a productive work environment.

State Median Annual Pay National Job Outlook Related Master’s Degree
$128,330 5% MS in Human Resources

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022

Marketing Manager

Marketing managers oversee an organization’s promotional efforts and lean on skills in specialized areas like market analysis, consumer behavior, and strategic planning. A master’s in marketing or an MBA prepares graduates to lead marketing campaigns, adapt to evolving trends, and drive business growth.

State Median Annual Pay National Job Outlook Related Master’s Degree
$130,010 7% MBA

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022


Statisticians are data experts who gather, analyze, and interpret information to aid decision-making. Earning a master’s degree equips these professionals with advanced analytical techniques and research skills, enhances their abilities to solve complex problems, and offers vital contributions to various industries.

State Median Annual Pay National Job Outlook Related Master’s Degree
$99,670 32% MS in Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022