It is 2023, and we live in interesting times. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage on, and it may well be more than a while before normalcy is restored; when on-campus graduate schools can resume operations. Although there was already a steady move towards online education, particularly in online master’s programs, well before the pandemic, the average cost of education, including that of a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree, was always on the rise and continues to be so. Rising degree level tuition and fees puts tremendous pressure on students pursuing an online master’s program, with private school and graduate programs already costing thousands of dollars.

So, how much does a master’s degree cost? To put everything in perspective, experts at have created this guide to answer the question of how much online master’s degree programs cost. The in-depth information provided here will help students understand the cost of online master’s degrees versus traditional on-campus ones, and help them make an informed choice between the two.

Getting A Master’s Degree Online

Students can earn an affordable online master’s degree in a variety of subjects. Learners can take classes online while undergoing practical training at a place near them, even in programs with a lot of clinical or research components. More than 1.2 million graduate students take online programs, with over 900,000 of them studying fully online, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Degree seekers pick affordable online master’s programs for a variety of reasons, but one of the most important ones is the flexibility to earn a degree and enhance their careers while working. Another compelling reason to opt for online education is that in most cases, learners receive the same benefits as on-campus students, including access to libraries, student discounts, student support services, and other resources.

Choosing a Graduate School for Online Degrees

Choosing a good grad school and suitable online masters is quite an arduous process. Students must consider several factors before zeroing in on a particular program for their online education. A good grad school should

  • offer flexible degree programs
  • demonstrate academic excellence
  • have online master’s degree program on par with on-campus graduate degrees
  • support both in-state students and out of state students
  • preferably feature in any reputed school rankings
  • exhibit recent research excellence framework

Factors Influencing the Cost of a Graduate Degree

Master’s programs focus on providing students with advanced knowledge and skills, to take on challenging careers in their chosen field. But graduate schools (especially private schools and for-profit schools) have several overheads to bear when imparting education and have to also invest in infrastructure and faculty training, to improve their offerings and reputation. These, and other factors, directly affect tuition and graduate school-cost for both on-campus and online programs. Some determinants of cost include, but are not limited to:

  • School rankings and reputation
  • Location of the college
  • Accreditation of programs and/or the college
  • Qualifications and the experience of faculty and staff
  • Infrastructure and research facilities
  • General upkeep of the institution
  • Trusted partner programs (if any)
  • Number of students enrolled in a program

The Cost of Graduate School – Analyzed

The cost of a graduate degree and graduate school depends on many factors such as the subject & program, the university, the state in which the student is enrolled, etc. While the cost of a master’s degree varies, according to Peterson’s, the average tuition and fees for a master’s degree are between $30,000 and $40,000. When it comes to master’s degree programs, public schools are the more affordable alternative for in-state students. Graduate students frequently live off-campus, while individuals obtaining a graduate degree after establishing a career typically continue to live in their apartment or home while attending school, translating into reduced costs.

Here are all the larger expenses involved when pursuing online master’s programs:


The most significant expense is annual tuition and fees. Directly affecting annual tuition is the duration of the program. A typical graduate degree requires a 2-year course of study but, depending on the subject, the program may be anywhere from 18 months to three years long. If the student takes only one course at a time, some online schools charge more per credit hour than if several courses are taken at the same time. In other words, the per-credit rate decreases when a student enrolls in more credit hours per semester. Of the 25 most affordable online schools offering master’s degree programs, the cost per credit hour will be in the range of $500 to $625. This brings the average annual tuition (of the 25 most affordable online schools) to approximately $5,362 per year.

(Note: Tuition varies for in-state students and out-of-state students.)


Unfortunately, tuition may not be the only cost that a university charges. There will probably be a host of other fees (dependent on how many credits one takes for that semester). Some such fees include:

  • Per Credit Fees
  • Technology / Tech Support Fees
  • Counseling Fees
  • Assessments for Course-Level Placement
  • Laboratory Fees
  • Criminal Background Checks
  • Research Courses
  • Trusted Partner Programs Fee
  • Exam Proctoring
  • Official Transcript Fee
  • Graduation Fee

The backbone of an online master’s is, of course, technology. Technology-related costs typically run into thousands of dollars but are inevitable. The following items are mandated for an online master’s, some of which are also required for a traditional on-campus master’s program:

  • A good laptop or desktop computer
  • Computer accessories or peripherals (headphones, speakers, etc.)
  • Broadband Modem and Wireless Router
  • Broadband Connection or Wireless Internet Service (recurring monthly)
Other Costs for a Graduate Degree

Most master’s degree programs require an internship, and this may hold true for some online master’s programs as well, adding to the overall cost. Prospective students are also advised to conduct a school search to see if there is travel involved or other program requirements that may have a bearing on the cost. Additionally, books, educational supplies, and living expenses can add up to hundreds of dollars, which one must consider.

Tuition vs Overall Cost

Tuition is not a rip-off, but it is also not exactly transparent. One of the most common complaints among college students is that it is difficult to know how much something costs until one gets the bill. And when one does get the bill, it is difficult to determine what has been paid for. While some colleges do list the overall program cost on their websites, these institutions are few and far between.

Financial Aid for Graduate Students

Southern New Hampshire University

PROGRAM: Online Masters Degrees

Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with more than 3,000 on-campus students and over 60,000 online students, making us one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. Founded in 1932, we’ve been relentlessly reinventing higher education ever since and have gained national recognition for our dedication to helping students transform their lives and the lives of those around them.

We’re proud to provide affordable, accessible education that students can pursue on our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH, over our innovative online platform or at our regional centers in Manchester, Nashua, Portsmouth and Salem, NH, and Brunswick, ME.

SNHU has earned the Best Buy and Best of Business – Best Online Degree awards and is consistently ranked as a top Military Friendly® School by G.I Jobs®.

Average Cost of a Master’s Degree

Cost of an Online Master’s Degree

Cost Comparison: Online School Vs. On-Campus School

How to Pay for Master’s Degrees

Return on Investment



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