Today's Top 5 Online Graduate Schools

Earning a graduate degree can be difficult when trying to balance a career, family and other commitments. However, online graduate schools can provide education-seekers with the flexibility needed to pursue a graduate degree. Our editors evaluated flexibility, along with six other factors, to determine our top five online graduate schools.

What Makes a Top Graduate School?

In order to determine the top five online graduate schools, we took a look at seven factors: experience teaching online, flexibility and convenience, learning environment, program diversity, program and class availability, student support and scholarship opportunities. Keep reading to find out why these factors are important when selecting an online graduate school.

Experience Teaching Online

We looked for schools that had an established history of successfully providing online degree programs to students. Our picks are accredited and have recognizable brands. They are known for investing in the top technologies that students need to be able to successfully learn online. Another advantage of selecting schools with a lot of experience teaching online is that they have larger alumni networks, which we took notice of since it's a benefit to career-seeking students.

Flexibility & Convenience

The flexibility and convenience offered by online education draws many students into these programs. We prioritized schools on our list that make things as flexible and convenient as possible for students. Some of the ways they're doing this is by having open enrollment policies, allowing students to create their own class schedules and not having set days/times for lectures and exams. We paid attention to schools with mobile learning options and to schools with flexible start dates, since those also add to the flexibility and convenience of a school.

Learning Environment

Our five top online graduate schools have all created learning environments that promote student success while making it as easy as possible for students to earn their degrees. One of the main benefits of their learning environments is the ability to access lectures and coursework anytime, anywhere. Rather than be constrained to a class schedule, you can pursue your degree when it best fits your schedule.

Program Diversity

Schools that have a wide variety of fields of study are able to provide you with many more subjects to explore. It also means that, should your interests change, you might be able to find another program without having to change schools. And, if you find a school with a variety of degree levels, you could pick one school to pursue your master's and doctorate.

Program & Class Availability

The schools on our list also make it easy for students to take classes when they're ready without the risk of getting locked out due to lack of space. We favored schools that have high availability for their programs and classes.

Student Support

It's important for online students to have support so that they can succeed in an online learning environment. We looked out for schools that not only provide technical support but provide 24/7 technical support. Many of our schools also give additional support, like access to an academic support team.

Scholarship Opportunities

Earning a degree can be a significant financial investment, but many schools out there provide scholarships to make it more affordable for students. In making our selections we paid attention to which schools have scholarship opportunities available to a variety of students.

Top 5 Online Graduate Schools

Now it's time to reveal our picks for the top five online graduate schools. The five schools below can offer you flexibility while earning a graduate degree and also provide you with support services to help you be successful.

1. Northcentral University

Northcentral University is an entirely online university that offers four master's programs and seven doctoral degrees, in addition to several graduate certificates. The university's one-to-one instructional model enables online students to get direct attention from their instructors, creating a personalized learning experience. Additionally, Northcentral is fully accredited and provides students with many convenient online resources to ease the student online experience, such as accessible academic advising and an 'Ask a Researcher' feature. When it comes to establishing a personalized student experience, Northcentral stood out in terms of accessibility between its students and faculty.

2. Colorado State University - Global Campus

We chose Colorado State University's Global Campus for its focus on working adults. Online classes at this university feature instructors trained specifically in distance education for adults. Courses start every four weeks, so you can choose to earn your degree when it fits your schedule. The university has a tuition guarantee program for online students, so that you won't need to worry about your tuition increasing as long as you're actively enrolled in classes and earning a degree. The university features an innovative online platform with a virtual library, virtual instructor office hours and an online help desk.

3. Strayer University

Strayer University offers students a quality graduate education that's affordable, convenient, and supportive. The university's flexible programs make it possible for you to earn a competitive graduate degree on your schedule, without interrupting your personal or professional life. Students can attend classes at times that fit their schedule, on campus or online and learn from qualified faculty who bring relevant theoretical and practical knowledge to the classroom. The university also provides comprehensive career information, job referrals, and resume assistance to help students reach their educational and career goals.

4. Kaplan University

The online master's degree programs offered by Kaplan University can be customized to meet your specific career goals, which many students will appreciate. Kaplan also offers flexibility and the chance to create a class schedule that works for you. Online classes are taught by professors who have real-world experience and knowledge. Kaplan has created an interactive online learning environment where you can communicate with professors and classmates or access web field trips and student services. Technical support is offered via phone, email or live chat. We also think it's worth noting that Kaplan's career services that can be accessed by current students or even by alumni. Scholarships could be available to eligible students.

5. Herzing University

With a focus on programs for working adults, Herzing University offers online graduate degree programs in nursing and business designed to provide students with real-world skills. Students can choose from three Master of Science in Nursing degree concentrations and eight Master of Business Administration specializations. Flexible online scheduling allows students complete their program while balancing work and family commitments.

Disclosure: Some or all of the schools listed may be partners of

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