Many working professionals are going back to school online for an advanced degree. But is it worth your time? Let’s take a look at some of the best online graduate degree programs and where you can start your journey toward a higher pay grade.

online graduate degree programs

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Benefits of a Graduate Degree

Average annual salary by highest education level (1)

Master’s: $68,000

Bachelor’s: $56,000


Year when many medical degrees (like nurse practitioner and physician assistant programs) will require graduate work, as opposed to simply a bachelor’s (2)

Graduate premiums by industry (1,2)

Industry: Average salary with BA/BS: Average salary with MA/MS

Biology: $40,400: $50,200

Business administration: $45,800: $55,600

Computer science: $63,100: $81,200

Elementary education: $34,300: $39,700

Mathematics: $52,400: $63,100

Mechanical engineering: $62,500: $71,600

Nursing: $56,600: $82,000

Psychology: $37,600: $45,200

Popular Versus Profitable

Getting a master’s in medieval literature might seem fun, but it isn’t the most practical choice for graduate work. Here are some of the best, and some of the worst, graduate degrees in terms of financial returns. (3,4)
Master’s degree: Mid-career salary: Growth projection: Low stress


Computer science: $125,700: 12.7%: 49%

Software engineering: $118,900: 11.9%: 51%

Information sciences: $116,100: 11.2%: 48%

Statistics: $112,000: 14%: 58%

Occupational therapy: $81,300: 16%: 30%


Fine arts: $46,600: 3.5%: 43%

Early childhood education: $48,700: 5.4%: 36%

English literature: $69,500: 6.2%: 33%

Social work: $59,700: 10%: 27%

Criminal justice: $63,600: 7%: 36%

MBAs (5)

An MBA is one of the most popular online graduate degree programs in the U.S. However, there are several concentrations, and some are more lucrative than others. Almost all have the potential to put you in the six-figure range.

MBA concentration: Average mid-career salary

Strategy: $149,000

Entrepreneurship: $139,000

Corporate finance: $138,000

Finance: $130,000

Marketing: $123,000

Information technology (IT): $123,000

International business: $121,000

Top Online Graduate Degree Programs

Here are some of the best online schools for seeking your master’s degree online:

1. North Carolina State University-Distance Education

Annual tuition: $7,623 in-state and $21,311 out-of-state

Number of graduate degree programs: 45

Most popular programs: statistics, aerospace engineering, animal science, civil engineering, computer science

2. University of Illinois Online

Annual tuition: $7,782 in-state and $27,435 out-of-state

Number of graduate degree programs: 45

Most popular programs: agricultural education, computer science, environmental studies

3. University of Missouri-Mizzou Online

Annual tuition: $8,335

Number of graduate degree programs: 44

Most popular programs: architectural studies, interactive media, nursing education, health communication

4. Liberty University Online

Annual tuition: $9,360

Number of graduate degree programs: 140

Most popular programs: MBA, communications, professional counseling, cyber security

5. University of Memphis-U of M Online

Annual tuition: online only programs are $100/credit hour

Number of graduate degree programs: 20

Most popular programs: MBA, journalism, history, public health, nursing, applied computer science

online graduate degree programs