A master’s degree can advance your career by enhancing your resume and deepening your skillset. However, taking a year or two off to attend a full-time program is a sacrifice few can make, so many people choose to complete their master’s degree online while working full time. With an online master’s degree program, you can advance your career from the comfort of your own home. In some cases, it is possible to complete an online master’s degree in one year or less, depending on the program, your time commitment, and what previous schooling or experience you bring to the table.
Since not all online master’s programs are created equal, this guide helps you find a top-quality program that suits your lifestyle. Not only does it profile top-ranked programs in the U.S., but it also discusses the types of online 1-year master’s degree programs available as well as what factors you should consider before applying. Advice from a one-year master’s program graduate rounds out the discussion.
1-Year Online Master’s Degree Programs
A one-year online master’s degree is one of the fastest ways to further your education and advance your career. When looking for a program, make sure it has the curriculum, resources, and opportunities to advance your career goals. If you want to work full-time while completing your program, make sure the one you select is flexible and allows you to take classes outside of working hours.
Finding a flexible program to meet your educational needs can be difficult. The following list of accredited one-year online master’s degree programs should provide you with a solid starting point in your search. Schools are listed alphabetically, so be sure to click the tabs to see them all and compare options.
Why Consider a 1-Year Master’s Online?
There are a variety of advantages to one-year online master’s programs, from flexibility and increased earning potential, to saving time and money. For many, a one-year program that is also online provides the quickest and easiest way to career advancement. When compared to longer or in-person programs, though, there are some disadvantages such as increased intensity and tighter timelines. Considering the pros and cons of a one-year online master’s program can help you know if it’s the right approach for you or if a two-year program and/or in-person program better suits your needs.
Pros of a 1-Year Online Master’s Program:
Take less time to complete
With other programs taking two to three years, the program completion time is substantially less. You’d also save commuting time and be able to devote more time to studying and other commitments.
Improve your chances for promotion
Getting a master’s degree is a fantastic way to accelerate your career. It shows commitment to your profession and provides additional resources and knowledge you might not be able to get otherwise.
Increase your earning potential
Individuals with master’s degrees earn $20,000 more a year on average than those with only bachelor’s degrees. Employers are willing to pay more for your increased knowledge and skills.
Improve your opportunity for a new career
A one-year master’s degree provides a quicker way to start a new career. If you currently work on the editorial staff of a publishing company but want to join the supply chain operations team, for example, an MBA can help you pivot your career.
Gain new knowledge related to your current profession
Combining a full-time career with continued education provides new knowledge that allows you to better thrive in your current role. Many employers reward employees who decide to upskill through higher education.
Learn new skills to stand out above co-workers or for personal interest
Whether you’re looking to stand out from the competition or want to advance your education for personal development, a one-year program provides a streamlined way to learn the new skills you desire.
Condensed programs sometimes have a lower price tag, though not always, than traditional master’s programs. Other areas of money savings include not having travel costs and being able to advance and earn a higher salary an entire year sooner.
Cons of a 1-Year Online Master’s Program:
Program intensity may not align with your lifestyle or commitments
While you will get your degree faster, the program will be more intense than a longer program. This could significantly strain your lifestyle and leave less time for other interests and commitments.
Balancing work and school may be tough
Juggling work and school assignments may also be difficult, especially since the program is accelerated. A one-year program may require a lot of late nights after an already long day of work.
Tighter timelines and deadlines for assignments
Most one-year programs have extremely tight timelines. This makes deadlines for assignments harder to meet as you try to comprehend the more advanced information that makes up any quality master’s program.
May offer fewer networking opportunities
Longer programs and especially in-person ones have more built-in networking opportunities. Because one-year programs are so intense and because the coursework is all online, connecting with others in your program becomes more difficult.
May not provide as in-depth knowledge of subjects
Professors may have to cut some of their usual curricula to suit a shorter online format. This means the information you receive might not be as in-depth as in longer or in-person programs.
11 Popular 1-Year Online Master’s Degrees
Some master’s degrees are easier and more popular to get online than others. Generally, programs that don’t require hands-on experience are easier to earn online. In addition, career fields like accounting and administration require a master’s to advance professionally, so these fields often have popular online programs to suit the increased demand.
Below are the top disciplines with one-year online master’s programs. We’ve also information on some of the job and advancement opportunities available along with information on potential income.
Online Master’s in Business Administration (MBA)
An MBA is one of the most popular online programs as well as one of the most flexible, and most business fields have a corresponding MBA. Depending on the type of MBA, career choices include:
- International business
- Supply chain management
- Product development
While an MBA is not a requirement to advance a career in business, it does increase earning potential by helping you qualify for higher-paying jobs. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that some of the highest wages among all occupations exist for individuals with a master’s in business. And, getting an online MBA is easier than ever before with many schools converting their high-quality programs to virtual platforms.
Online Master’s in Accounting
A master’s in accounting is often required to advance as an accountant. Some programs are also tailored to meet the standards to become a certified financial planner (CFP), wealth advisor, or other specialized jobs within the disciplines of finance and accounting. With this master’s, you can become a:
- Certified accountant
- Private wealth advisor
- Hedge fund manager
- Public accountant
While many accounting-related jobs only require a bachelor’s degree, some employers prefer hiring individuals with master’s degrees that concentrate on accounting. Getting an online Master’s Degree in Accounting is now easier than ever before.
Online Master’s in Education
A master’s degree is becoming a more common requirement for career advancement in education. Some states even have funds set aside for teachers to continue their education and stay up to date on the most effective teaching practices. While being a teacher is the most obvious career choice for those with a master’s in education, other options include:
- Education administration
- Leadership positions in school settings
- Curriculum development
- Educational nonprofit management
Not only does earning an advanced degree, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality, exist as the foundation for how school districts increase teacher pay, but it also opens doors to administrative and ancillary positions in education. Learn more about earning your Master’s in Education online here.
Online Master’s in Criminal Justice
For those passionate about preventing crime and improving their communities, an online master’s degree in criminal justice gives them the knowledge they need for advancement. Individuals with this degree often work for local and state governmental bodies as private investigators, corrections officers, and detectives. At the federal level, positions include those with organizations like the State Department or FBI dealing with national and international crime. Individuals with a master of arts in criminal justice have an average base salary of $61,000 a year, according to Payscale, with some positions passing $100,000.
Online Master’s in Health Sciences
The health sciences are one of the fastest-growing fields in the U.S., and earning an online master’s in health science master’s is a great way to advance your career in the medical field. Common career paths include:
- Occupational health specialist
- Healthcare administrator
- Athletic trainer
- Medical researcher
With a faster than average growth rate for all occupations, according to the BLS, healthcare occupations offer a slew of specialty choices. Individuals with a master’s degree in health sciences often earn around $80,000 or more per year in starting pay.
Online Master’s in Management
Similar to an MBA, a master’s in management opens more opportunities for leadership roles. Unlike an MBA, however, management opportunities exist in virtually every field, including:
- Software development
- All business fields
This is a versatile degree beneficial to anyone wanting a leadership role, whether that includes managing a team or working as a project manager across teams. In addition to commanding a higher salary, individuals with a master’s in management also have more opportunities for growth into higher-level positions. Individuals with this degree, according to Glassdoor, make an average of $68,000 per year, but salaries can exceed $400,000.
Online Master’s in Communication
While a master’s is not a common requirement to further a career in communications, it is helpful for those looking for a promotion or to break into especially competitive areas of the field. Possible jobs for individuals with this degree include those as a(n):
- Editor for a media company
- Public relations manager
- Social media manager
- Internal communications specialist
An online master’s degree in communication could also benefit anyone looking to better understand messaging strategies and how to advocate for their goals within professional settings. Those with a master’s in communication make approximately $69,000 annually.
Online Master’s in Public Health
This master’s degree is a great option for anyone looking to work for nonprofit, governmental, or private organizations focused on improving public health standards. Common career paths include:
- Healthcare administration
- Nutritional sciences
- Health information
Master’s degrees in public health are common and often preferred for many public health jobs. Some, like epidemiology, require it to even enter the profession. According to Indeed, this degree also opens doors for work in other fields such as education, sanitation, nutrition, and climate change.
Online Master’s in Psychology
A master’s in psychology comes in many different specialties, most commonly clinical, experimental, and applied psychology. A master’s in psychology is often required to become a licensed mental health practitioner, which often comes with educational and clinical hour requirements specific to the state in which you will practice. This means finding a program that meets state requirements is essential. While a doctoral degree is needed to practice as a psychologist, individuals with an online master’s degree in psychology can work as psychologist assistants in a variety of settings, including marriage and family therapy and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling. According to the BLS, counselors with a master’s in psychology can make close to $80,000 a year, while those working as industrial-organizational psychologists could potentially make over $100,000 a year.
Online Master’s in Computer Science
Software development and computer science are two of the fastest-growing fields in the U.S. with rapidly growing salaries to match. Depending on where you work, salaries for those with a master’s in computer science range from $80,000 to $500,000 a year and have an average starting salary of $99,000 annually. Common careers with this master’s degree include:
- Software engineer
- Cybersecurity specialist
- Front-end developer
- Software developer
While you can work in computer science without a master’s degree, you’ll need one to advance into specialty and management areas as well as to make yourself stand out in this highly-competitive and ever-changing field. Learn more about earning an online master’s degree in computer science here.
Online Master’s in Social Work
An online master’s degree in social work is a requirement to enter the social work field and can be helpful to other career paths as well. This degree can open up a variety of professional opportunities for those passionate about helping their community. Examples include:
- Mental health specialist
- Nonprofit director
Salaries vary greatly, though most with this degree make around $45,000 to 60,000 a year. The National Association of Social Workers emphasizes that advancing beyond a bachelor’s in social work results in a significantly higher income.
What to Look For in a 1-year Online Master’s Degree Program
Knowing the options available in one-year online master’s degree programs is a great starting point, but it’s also important to determine which programs are right for you. Finding a program that suits your lifestyle and career goals is a multifaceted process with many considerations. Factors to consider when choosing a program include accreditation, cost, curriculum, resources, learning style, and graduation rate. These categories will not only guide your search for the perfect program, but they can also help you compare one program to another.
Make sure the master’s program you choose is accredited. Depending on your career path, also make sure the program meets your state’s requirements. For example, accountants and mental health practitioners often need special accreditation to practice in their state. For fields like these, a master’s program meeting your state’s and any professional governing body’s licensure requirements is essential in choosing a program that will help you reach your career goals.
2. Costs, Scholarship Opportunities, and Financial Aid
While cost is a significant consideration for most students, don’t look only at the price of the program. Also consider scholarship opportunities and financial aid since these can make a school with higher tuition actually cost the same and sometimes less than one with lower tuition. Programs usually provide financial information on their websites, but you can also reach out to program directors to learn more. Additionally, consider scholarship opportunities outside of your institution of choice to offset the cost of your master’s program.
No two master’s programs are alike, so research what the curriculum is like for a specific program of interest to determine if it will help you meet your career goals. This is especially true for broad degrees like a master’s in health sciences, for example, since some health science programs are tailored toward medical research roles while others prepare students for careers in healthcare administration. Make sure to choose a program tailored to your ideal career path.
4. Student Resources
Beyond the curriculum, you’ll also want to explore the resources available to you as a student. As an online learner, pay particular attention to the online resources. If there’s a writing center at your institution but it only provides in-person services, it won’t help you improve your accounting term paper if you learn remotely and can’t go to campus. Also consider whether a program offers networking opportunities since success in many fields also depends on making professional connections.
5. Learning Formats
When considering the learning format, look at a program’s experience with online instruction and your personal preferences. Programs experienced in online education often have better learning formats because they have spent years perfecting their online curricula. Also make sure a program suits your specific learning preferences. For example, if you enjoy a hands-on program with lots of activities or prefer a lecture-heavy program with exams, there’s likely a master’s program available in that format.
6. Graduation Rate
The goal of a master’s program isn’t just to learn but to graduate, so investigate the graduation rate for different programs you’re considering. A school with a higher graduation rate often has systems in place to provide the educational assistance and resources needed to tackle even the most difficult course in the program. Ones with low graduation rates may have great marketing but little substance.
Tips and Advice from a 1-Year Master’s Program Graduate
When deciding on a one-year master’s degree program, talking with past students to get their perspectives can be invaluable. That’s why we sat down with Kentucky Morrow to discover insider tips to help you ensure success in your online master’s program. After majoring in economics at Emory University, Kentucky Morrow decided to get a one-year online master’s in healthcare management from John Hopkins University. Here’s what he had to say about his master’s degree and how it gave him the skills necessary to serve as a VP of Finance and later as a co-founder of Ralli Alcohol Health.
What did you consider when choosing your specific program?
I joined the Johns Hopkins Healthcare Management program to both get a deep understanding of healthcare, where I previously had limited experience, and because of the brand name. Whenever people ask where I went to school, the Hopkins name always stands out.
Looking back after completing your degree, what advice would you give to yourself when applying to programs?
I would focus more on opportunities outside the classroom. Initially, I really focused on academics, which is important, but the clubs, internships, and networking opportunities are what have stuck with me the most.
What was the main reason you wanted to complete a master’s program?
The program was really helpful for me in transitioning my career trajectory. It let me position myself from academia to industry while also helping me get hands-on experience to discuss in interviews.
After getting your master’s degree, how did your career trajectory change?
My courses and the opportunities in my program were instrumental in helping me go from an entry-level investment banker to vice president in four years and subsequently launching a startup.
What are the most important skills you developed in your master’s program?
The program at Hopkins was great because it was interdisciplinary. I was able to use my skills in financial economics from undergraduate studies to understand the financial aspects of investment banking, but the industry experience of a healthcare management background let me really understand the strategic and operational challenges faced by the CEOs of the healthcare companies we were advising. That similarly translated to launching Ralli where understanding the clinical and regulatory challenges of an alcohol health company was just as important as building a brand.