What is the Average Cost of an Online Master’s Degree?

The average cost of online master’s degree varies depending on the type of university and the specific program you are considering. The first major component of the cost is tuition, which is often billed by credit hour. The average credit hour cost for master’s degrees in education, for example, was $612 per credit in 2015-2016, according to U.S. News & World Report. For a 32-credit program, this would add up to $19,584. Of course, that average includes some universities which charge close to $200 per credit hour and some which charge nearly $2,000. When you are considering how much you will need to pay for your degree, you should start by looking at tuition costs, but also be aware that they are not the only costs for which you need to budget.


Tuition costs are usually similar for online and traditional classes. Many public universities offer lower rates to in-state students and may charge higher rates to out-of-state students and the highest rates to international students. Tuition costs can also vary depending on the number of credits you are taking per term, with lower per-credit-hour costs if you take more hours per term. An additional factor to consider is that many scholarships are restricted to students studying full time in traditional programs, and thus it may be harder to get financial assistance if you are earning your degree online. Another issue is that while most traditional course credits at established universities will transfer if you decide to change programs, with online courses, this is an issue you might want to research carefully.


Even though online students do not use campus facilities such as student centers and sports facilities, that doesn’t mean that online students are exempt from student fees. As you calculate the cost of an online master’s program, you can’t just look at tuition. You need to factor in activity fees, graduation fees, technology fees, and other miscellaneous charges.

Campus Visits

Although online programs are conducted, as their name suggests, primarily over the internet, some programs do require you to travel to campus for certain activities such as hands-on training or laboratory sessions. You should budget for the cost of travel and accommodations (if needed) for any such sessions.

Miscellaneous Expenses

In addition to the fees charged by the university, you should be prepared for miscellaneous expenses. Since you will be working extensively online, you will need reliable, high-speed internet. You also need a computer capable of running the required modules for your coursework. An older or slower computer system may not be compatible with the course software being used by the university. Finally, textbooks can be a major expense. According to a recent study, you should budget approximately $1,000 for the textbooks for a 32-credit program.

An online master’s degree is an investment in your future that will usually pay back its costs. However, as it will take several years to pay back the initial investment, you should budget carefully, planning for the full cost of your degree, not just tuition. While the average cost of an online master’s degree is less than that of a traditional degree and can be spread out over several years, it is still a major investment.

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Cheapest Online Colleges for Master’s Degrees