How to choose the best online master’s degree

close up bachelor's degree certificate on laptop with book in the library for online learning graduation concept
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Jan 12, 2024

Are you thinking about studying a master’s degree? Want to take your pick from the best online master’s degrees out there?

With so many to choose from, it can be tricky to know which online programme is right for you. We’re here to help you decide if a master’s degree is right for you, if online learning might suit you best, how to narrow your search for the right course, and what you should factor into your decision.

What are the benefits of gaining a master’s degree?

People choose to study for master’s-level qualifications for a number of reasons. They might be looking to:

  • improve their employment prospects – in-depth subject knowledge and improved professional and personal skills can help boost employability and career advancement. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ‘employment in master’s-level occupations is projected to grow by almost 17% from 2016 to 2026 – the fastest of any occupation level.’
  • meet job requirements – some roles require study or specialisation at higher education level, whether undergraduate, postgraduate, or doctoral, such as certain healthcare, criminal justice, and architectural roles. For others, postgraduate study may be beneficial but not specifically required, such as certain human resource management, social work, and educational leadership roles.
  • improve their earning prospects – according to the UK government’s Graduate Labour Market Statistics 2022, those with a master’s-level graduate education consistently outearn both non-graduates and those with bachelor’s degrees.
  • change their career – master’s conversion courses can open up new job roles and opportunities in different industries and disciplines for graduate students looking to change career paths.
  • follow personal interests – studying is not always linked to employment. Choosing to study a postgraduate-level degree can fulfil a personal interest or separate purpose.

What are the advantages of studying a master’s degree online?

Online graduate programmes tend to be more flexible, accessible, and cost-effective than traditional, in-person, campus-based degree courses.

Online learning can be a gamechanger for individuals who need their studies to fit around their existing commitments and lifestyle – from family or caring responsibilities to professional obligations. This is particularly useful as many master’s students are mature students or career-changers with established personal lives and schedules. Study is often asynchronous and self-directed, meaning there are no fixed class timetables and students are free to work through modules or coursework in their own time. Depending on the master’s programme, students may also have the option to only select the modules that are most relevant to their needs.

On-campus learning can present barriers to entry for some students. Online education removes many of these barriers, allowing students to study in ways and at times that suit them – as course content and resources can be accessed at any time – and from wherever they are in the world, meaning location doesn’t necessarily have to factor into the decision.

While any master’s degree is a significant investment, online tuition rates can be more affordable than those charged for traditional programmes as many of the costs associated with bricks-and-mortar settings are removed. Plus, learners stand to make savings on other hidden costs of education, such as accommodation and travel.

How do I find the right online master’s course?

There are a number of key questions prospective students should ask themselves before embarking on an online master’s journey.

  1. Why do you want to pursue an online master’s degree? The reasons for deciding to pursue a master’s-level graduate degree will influence your search. If career progression in your field is linked to achieving certain professional standards, you might prioritise courses with accreditation. In contrast, if you’re pursuing an interest or passion that isn’t linked to career goals, you can select courses depending on whether their modules feature the topics and areas you most want to learn more about.
  2. Which institutions offer relevant online courses? Once you know why you’re studying a master’s – and what field of study or discipline you’re interested in – you can begin to think seriously about which university, business school or graduate school you’d like to join. You might want to consider university subject rankings, research interests and output of academics, and industry connections and partnerships.
  3. What are the entry criteria? Enrolment and admission requirements vary according to the programme and institution to which you’re applying. For example, you may be required to complete a Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) to secure a place on certain business and management graduate programmes, while other courses will require applicants to have an undergraduate degree in a specific discipline, meet English language requirements, or have completed work experience in the field.
  4. What’s the online learning experience like? The virtual learning environment (VLE) is an important consideration: after all, you’ll be using it every time you access lectures, chat to your tutors and course mates, and submit assignments.
  5. What are the teaching and learning options? Finding the right online course for you depends on a range of factors. Are you looking for full-time, part-time, or flexible study? What assessment types are used – and which play to your strengths? How much contact time is offered? Is the course content set or can you pay per module according to your needs? What support services are offered to online students?
  6. What is the cost? Programme costs are a critically important factor when choosing an online master’s degree to make sure you get the most for your money, time and effort.

How much do online master’s programmes cost?

Tuition fees vary between educational providers and programmes of study. For example, the cost of an online MA (Master of Arts) degree will be considerably cheaper than an online MBA (Master of Business Administration). An online MSc (Master of Science) degree is likely to be somewhere between the two, depending on the specific programme content.

It’s also well worth researching whether you would be eligible for any student loans, scholarships, bursaries and financial aid, or alumni discounts to support your online master’s.

What master’s-level online degrees and qualifications are available at Abertay University?

At Abertay, we offer a wide range of online master’s degree programmes within two disciplines: business, management and leadership, and computer science.

All of our online master’s degrees are highly flexible, 100%-online, and designed to equip you with the skills to excel in your chosen career. You’ll graduate with transferable skills applicable to any number of industries, from supply chain management, public health and international e-commerce, to engineering management, informatics, public relations and more.

Our online MBA programmes are the ultimate in professional business degrees. You’ll learn how to lead and manage complex organisations in fast-paced, challenging, and ever-evolving global environments, and develop highly attuned critical thinking, strategic decision-making, and operations management skills.

Our online MBA courses include:

  • MBA
  • MBA with Cybersecurity
  • MBA with Fintech
  • MBA with Data Analytics
  • MBA with Entrepreneurship
  • MBA with Project Management.

Designed for individuals with a background in any discipline, our online MSc Computer Science programmes do not require prior knowledge of computing or information systems. You’ll gain specialist, in-demand skills and expertise needed to meet the information technology demands of modern businesses – from cybersecurity to data science and business analytics to programming – and have the opportunity to specialise according to your specific interests and career aspirations.

Our MSc Computer Science courses include:

  • MSc Computer Science
  • MSc Computer Science with Artificial Intelligence
  • MSc Computer Science with Cybersecurity
  • MSc Computer Science with Data Analytics
  • MSc Computer Science with Software Engineering.