Top One-Year Online Master's Degree Programs

It can take as little as one year to complete a master's degree program online. There are a variety of programs to consider, as well as information about common courses, admissions requirements, accreditation, and online learning.

Best Master's Degree Programs That Can Be Completed in One Year Online

There are a few ways to complete a master's degree online in only one year. One way is to apply to a program that offers graduate credit for life or professional experience, while another way is to earn the master's degree in combination with a bachelor's degree in a five-year program. A third way is to participate in a program that takes a competency-based approach to learning that allows students to move at their own pace, using their previous knowledge and experience, and proving their competency at each level as soon as they are ready without having to wait for other learners. We chose the following schools for our list because of the ways they have implemented these one-year routes, among other considerations like affordability, flexibility and academic rigor.

1. Western Governors University

LocationTuition (in-state)
Salt Lake City, UT$7,790

Western Governors University offers numerous online master's degrees. Its four colleges boast a wide range of completely online programs in business, education, information technology, and healthcare professions. The majority of these programs take a competency-based learning approach, making it possible for students to complete the programs in a year if they put forth the necessary effort and are successful in demonstrating their competency. Available programs include a Master of Business Administration, a Master of Science in Accounting and a Master of Arts in Teaching.

2. Mercy College

LocationTuition (in-state)
Dobbs Ferry, Manhattan, Bronx, Yorktown Heights, NY$16,338

There are five schools of study at Mercy College: Business, Education, Health and Natural Science, Liberal Arts, and Social and Behavioral Science. Of the 24 master's degrees offered online at Mercy College, the computer science and organization leadership programs can be completed in one year. Mercy College also offers several combined bachelor's/master's degree programs that allow students to earn both their bachelor's and master's degrees in five years.

3. Northeastern University

LocationTuition (in-state)
Boston, MA$24,309

Northeastern University in Boston, MA, offers six online master's degrees that can be completed in one year: corporate and organizational communication, criminology and criminal justice, higher education administration, Master of Laws, public administration, and urban informatics. An internship or waiver is required in the public administration program. Some of these programs, such as the criminology and criminal justice program, offer concentrations or alternative paths of study.

4. University of Southern Mississippi

LocationTuition (in-state)
Hattiesburg and Long Beach, MS$8,624

The University of Southern Mississippi offers a fully online master's degree in logistics, trade, and transportation that can be completed in one year. This interdisciplinary curriculum is 30-credit hours, divided into 18 credit hours of core courses and 12 credit hours of electives. To complete the program in one year, students must take 12 credit hours in the fall and spring terms and six credit hours in the summer.

5. Ball State University

LocationTuition (in-state)
Muncie, IN$9,392

Ball State University has an online master's degree program in business education that is one year in length. There are nine tracks of either 30 credits or 36 credits. The 30-credit tracks include adult education, business and industry trainer, curriculum and instruction, a customizable path, educational technology, master educator, and special education. The 36-credit tracks are community college and dual credit path. Ball State also boasts a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio and some of the lowest tuition in Mid-American Conference.

RankingSchoolLocationTuition and Fees (in-state)
6University of North TexasDenton, TX$7,338
7Arkansas State University-Main CampusJonesboro, AR$6,210
8Indiana Wesleyan University-National & GlobalMarion, IN$11,563
9The University of Texas Rio Grande ValleyEdinburg and Brownsville, TX$6,889
10University of North Carolina WilmingtonWilmington, NC$7,367
11Central Washington UniversityEllensburg, WA$11,116
12Campbellsville UniversityCampbellsburg, KY$10,380
13Lamar UniversityBeaumont, TX$8,174
14California Baptist UniversityRiverside, CA$14,130
15Azusa Pacific UniversityAzusa, CA$17,362
16Southeastern Oklahoma State UniversityDurant, OK$5,022
17University of North AlabamaFlorence, AL$7,112
18Wright State University-Main CampusDayton, OH$14,298
19Western Carolina UniversityCullowhee, NC$7,361
20Fontbonne UniversitySt. Louis, MO$13,896
21Lasell CollegeNewton, MA$10,960
22Texas A & M University-Corpus ChristiCorpus Christi, TX$7,328
23St. Thomas UniversityMiami Gardens, FL$10,596
24University of MiamiCoral Gables, FL$37,624
25Our Lady of the Lake UniversitySan Antonio, TX$17,142
26Anderson UniversityAnderson, SC$9,309
27Benedictine UniversityLisle, IL$18,986
28Albertus Magnus CollegeNew Haven, CT$20,296
29The University of Texas of the Permian BasinOdessa, TX$5,085
30Thomas Jefferson UniversityPhiladelphia, PA$21,600

All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition based on 2018-2019 school year.'s school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Program Overview for One-Year Online Master's Degree Programs

Some one-year online programs are designed to be completed in that timeframe by full-time students. Others can be completed in one year if the student has transfer credit, which is sometimes called advanced standing.

Required Credits

Many online master's degree programs require 30 to 36 semester credits, although some schools operate on a quarter or accelerated schedule. On a quarterly basis, the degree could be made up of 45 quarter hours but be completed in the same amount of time as it would take to complete on a semester basis. In accelerated schedules, the number of credits may be 30, 36, or 45, but the time it will take to complete the degree depends on how long the terms are and how many terms are offered each year. As a general rule, full-time students take two or three courses per term, while part-time students typically take only one course per term.


It is common for graduate programs to have a certain number of required courses, which usually make up the majority of the curriculum, and a few electives. Many programs offer specializations that students can select via electives or as part of a specific curriculum for that specialization.

Final Projects

Some master's degree programs require a thesis as a final project. In that scenario, the student may be asked to present the thesis to a group of faculty members. However, there are many non-thesis options that may allow students to take one or more extra courses, complete another type of integrative project, or pass a comprehensive examination to demonstrate their learning.

Common Master's Degree Courses

The courses you'll take in your one-year master's program will vary greatly depending on the school and the degree. However, we can look at some courses for some of the most common master's degree programs including business, education, and criminal justice:

Business Courses

  • Business Finance - Finance courses cover the development, creation, and interpretation of financial statements and documents in an organization.
  • Organizational Leadership - Organizational leadership courses cover topics such as team building and developing strategic initiatives.
  • Marketing - Marketing courses help students recognize where they can promote their businesses, develop the types of materials and campaigns that will be most effective, and identify their target audiences
  • Business Accounting - Accounting courses cover topics such as bookkeeping, taxation, profit, loss, assets, debt, and credit and how all of these impact a business's success.

Educational Leadership Courses

  • Curriculum Development and Implementation - Courses in curriculum development and implementation help educators identify educational goals for programs and courses and how to best reach those goals.
  • School Leadership - Leadership courses for educators are not very different from those offered in a business curriculum, and they help educational administrators learn how to develop effective teams across a broad spectrum of departments and roles.
  • Educational Finance - Educational finance courses provide the same information as other finance courses, but they are aimed specifically at schools as non-profit entities that are accountable to their employees, students, and district residents.

Criminal Justice Courses

  • Criminal Justice Policy - Some of the topics covered in criminal justice policy courses include racial profiling, use of deadly force, and community policing.
  • Research Methodologies - Research methods courses train students to recognize ethical issues in research, data analysis, and experimentation.
  • Criminological Theory - Courses in criminological theory cover potential reasons for criminal behavior, how justice agencies handle crime, and how crime is distributed based upon different variables.

Average Cost for Online Graduate Degree Programs

The tuition for graduate degree programs is typically presented on a per-credit-hour, per-term, or per-degree basis. It is reasonable to expect per-hour tuition to range from $450 to $1100 per credit hour, whereas the cost per term may be $3,200 to $7,500. When the cost is presented per degree, it could be in the range of $29,500 to over $43,000. Of course, all of these numbers vary greatly from school to school, and there may be a different tuition rate for out-of-state students, which can be at least twice that for in-state residents.

Typical Fees and Other Costs

Colleges and universities typically have a variety of fees for online students including technology fees, online course fees and more. These fees can add anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 or more per term (though some schools are much cheaper). Some courses also have lab fees, which could also be a consideration in programs such as nursing and information technology.

The fees above do not include any extra money the student would need to spend to access online classes. For example, online students need an up-to-date computer with fast, reliable internet access. They may also need video conferencing software or other applications required to meet synchronously with other students and the instructor, depending upon the design of the course.

Common Graduate School Admissions Requirements

There are usually several steps prospective graduate school students must complete in order to be accepted into a graduate program.

  • Submit an application - Often this can often be done online. It is common to pay an application fee upon submission.
  • Official transcripts - It's important to request official transcripts from all colleges or universities attended to prove the award of a bachelor's degree and grade point average. The graduate school almost always expects the transcripts to come from accredited institutions.
  • Admissions Tests - Some graduate programs require applicants to submit Graduate Records Examinations (GRE) or Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) scores to demonstrate the applicant meets any minimum test score requirements. Some schools will waive this requirement if the applicant has significant professional experience or meets grade point average or other requirements. Also, applicants who do not speak English or for whom English is not their native language, it may be necessary to take an English proficiency test and submit those scores.
  • Essay - It is common for graduate schools to expect applicants to submit a writing sample. Usually, the school provides a prompt or topic and determines the length required.
  • Resume or curriculum vitae - A resume or curriculum vitae is used by the graduate school to learn more about an applicant's professional experience, prior educational background, and specific skills and interests.
  • Letters of recommendation - Most graduate schools expect two or three letters of recommendation from an applicant's personal, professional, and/or educational contacts. Like the resume or curriculum vitae, letters of recommendation help schools get to know applicants but from an outside source rather than from the applicant him/herself.

Accreditation and Why It's Important

Accreditation is a process by which an outside agency or educational organization conducts a review of a school's processes, procedures, culture, mission, academic standards, faculty, and staff to ensure that they meet established criteria and high standards.

There are two types of accreditation.

  • Institutional accreditation - This type of accreditation looks at the entire school and how every department contributes to meeting the school's goals. There are six regional and numerous national institutional accreditors. Public, private, and non-profit colleges and universities are often regionally accredited, while for-profit schools that are focused on the trades or on specific careers may be nationally accredited.
  • Programmatic or specialized accreditation - Often programmatic or specialized accreditation is pursued after a school has already been awarded institutional accreditation. This type of accreditation looks at specific departments or programs. Some of the common programmatic or specialization accreditations are seen in nursing, social work, and education, to name a few.

Schools are accredited for a specific length of time, and there is a monitoring period after accreditation to make sure the school is continuing to meet the criteria and standards established by the accrediting agency. Schools are re-evaluated at the end of every approval period.

Not only is accreditation important to establish a school's commitment to high academic standards, but it can also make the difference for students needing financial aid. Schools must be accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education in order to take part in federal financial aid programs.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Learning

Probably the biggest advantage of online learning is the flexibility it gives students to take courses around their work schedules and family responsibilities. Another advantage is that students can access course materials from any place that has an Internet connection. They also have the opportunity to study with others from all over the world. Online learning also saves money and time since there is no need to commute to a campus, pay for a meal plan or rent a place.

As for disadvantages, some online learners may miss the regular contact with their peers. For instance, some students might miss the learning opportunities and camaraderies that come from the 'college experience.' Also, there can be technical issues or problems with timely feedback since the students aren't always meeting with their instructors at specific times.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

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