Online Graduate Degrees – Behind the Numbers

online graduate degrees
Graduate school students are more likely to be working professionals. As a result there is a big interest in online options for grad school in order to fit going to school within a professional’s schedule.

To give you a good understanding of the landscape of online graduate degree programs I reached out to my friend Michelle Tufford with Her website provides a searchable database of degree programs for those that want to start their research on their own. Here’s a quick overview of what’s happening currently in the world of online graduate programs here in the US.

Scale and Scope

There are up to about 7800 online graduate degree programs (and growing) being currently offered. I say “up to” because there’s inconsistency in how the programs are counted.

For example, the University of Nebraska has an online MBA program with concentrations in Business Analytics, Finance, International Business, Marketing and Supply Chain Management. Is that a single program or 5?

Considering that each concentration is a choice for the consumer, we’re going to count each option individually.

Something for just about everyone

The top five master’s degree programs (most common degrees) online are:

  1. Business Administration & Management, General (MBA) – Over 520 online master’s programs
  2. Educational Leadership and Administration, General – Over 230 programs
  3. Curriculum and Instruction – Over 170 programs
  4. Educational/Instructional Technology – Over 160 programs
  5. Health/Health Care Administration/Management – Over 150 programs

Keep in mind that some programs are the same in all but name. There are 70 online degree programs in the field of healthcare informatics, and they have names that include “MS in Health Informatics”, “Biomedical and Health Informatics” and “MS in BioInformatics”. Different programs with different names but essentially the same.

Looking at it that way, Michelle points out the following counts when consolidating them into larger categories:

  1. Education master’s degrees – Over 2,020 online master’s programs
  2. Business, Management, Marketing & Related Support Services – Over 1,540
  3. Health Professions & Related Programs – Over 1,160
  4. Engineering – Over 410
  5. Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services – Over 360

But remember one of the great beauties of online education – there’s probably a program for just about anyone! You have access to really interesting options on the other end of the spectrum from the commonality of an MBA.

The five least common online master’s disciplines in her database are:

  1. Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics – at least 25 programs
  2. Architecture and Related Services – 19
  3. Transportation and Materials Moving – 14
  4. Area, Ethnic, Cultural, Gender, and Group Studies – 13
  5. Military Technologies and Applied Sciences – 12
At Montclair State University you can get even get an Online MFA in Dance!

You probably know someone with an online degree.

Now that we know the supply of degree programs, let’s get a sense of how many people are out there with online grad degrees. Here’s a ranking of online degrees conferred by category as of 2017:

  • Business Administration and Management, General – 105,400
  • Social Work – 27,883
  • Education, General – 20,969
  • Educational Leadership and Administration, General – 18,536
  • Registered Nursing/Registered Nurse – 16,090
  • Curriculum and Instruction – 15,778
  • Computer Science – 14,673
  • Public Administration – 12,597
  • Electrical and Electronics Engineering – 12,430
  • Computer and Information Sciences, General – 11,551

When people ask me if an online degree program is respected, my response is it’s inevitable. Why? Because eventually there will be a big enough concentration of people doing the hiring who’ve had online education experience themselves.

How much?

The cost for an online degree program is usually going to be in line with what the school is offering for on ground students. In fact, the majority of schools are giving in-state tuition to out-of-state students attending online.

With online programs there is a wide range of costs to consider. I mentioned earlier that there are over 70 online Master’s degrees in the area of Healthcare Informatics. Those degrees range from a low of $16,200 to a high of nearly $80,000.

Not surprisingly, Michelle indicates that the highest average price for an online grad degree is an MBA with an average of cost of $28,972 between 513 programs.

The lowest average is a Masters in Education (M.Ed) with a $20,200 average in a bit over 200 programs.

You can get an online MBA or M.Ed for as little as just under $8,000. But if you want to spend a lot of money you certainly can! The MBA at Carnegie Mellon is $132,000, the program at UNC is $124,345.32 and GW’s online program is $101,000.

These are just a few of the data points around an online graduate degree. If you’re interested in an MBA, getting a Master’s in Dance or spending from four figures or even up to six figures on a degree, you’ve got all the choices you could ever want in online education!

If you’ve got the time and expertise to do your own research, check out Michelle’s database. But if you need a guide to work with you to find the right degree for your specific needs, you’ve come to the right place!

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