Online Degree Database™

Decision Guide: Questions to Consider Before Using Our Interactive Tool

What is the total amount you are willing to spend on tuition for this degree?

The total tuition for a master's degree can be less than $10,000 or as much as $145,000. Students pay a premium to attend highly ranked programs and universities. Our tool provides a ‘total tuition’ drop-down choice to select online programs that meet your financial requirements.

Can you get tuition assistance from your employer for a graduate degree? What are the employer's requirements for tuition reimbursement?

Your direct supervisor or HR staff will be able to help answer this question. Be sure to ask! Even a small percent of support can mean a big difference in how much it will cost you to earn your graduate degree.

Many online programs are now offering scholarship dollars for well-qualified candidates. This is especially true for highly ranked programs that come with higher price tags.

What was your undergraduate grade point average?

Most online graduate programs have a minimum grade point average requirement. Many, however, offer conditional admission to students with lower GPAs (below 3.0) or accept applications from low GPA students promising a full review of all of their application materials before making an offer for admission. If you have a GPA under 3.0, don’t worry! There are many universities that believe there are other ways to determine your likelihood for success in a graduate program. You can use our tool to select online programs based on the undergraduate GPA requirements listed on the university’s program websites. That way you can narrow your search to include only those programs that align with your specific context.

Did you earn a higher grade point average in your college major classes (usually the last 60 hours of your undergraduate degree)?

If your overall undergraduate GPA is low, you should know that many schools will look at your GPA for the last 60 hours of your degree, for the courses that comprised your major, to make a final decision on meeting their minimum GPA requirement for admission. This level of program detail is available in the Basic Plus package. It gives you exactly the type of information you’ll need to decide on programs from your personalized list of programs.

Is professional accreditation of an online master's program important? What is this?

Professional accreditation is a formal, third party evaluation that assesses a degree program's ability to perform for students in areas, such as teaching, student learning, course development, and research. This type of accreditation is different from regional accreditation (see details on Regional Accreditation below). Professional accreditation is generally awarded to units within the institution (to a business or nursing school or a degree program within that school); regional accreditation is awarded at the institutional level (to colleges or universities). Both are important indicators of an entity’s willingness to meet quality standards.

For business master's programs, there are three different professional accrediting bodies: AACSB, ACBSP, and IACBE. Each has a different set of standards used to evaluate and award accreditation to programs. Seeking this accreditation is completely voluntary for the university and program. And, many business master's programs are not professionally accredited.

You must decide if attending a professionally accredited program is best for you. Visit the websites of each of these accrediting bodies for more details. Other voluntary professional accrediting bodies that are found in the Online Degree Database's online programs are NASPAA (for Public Administration programs), CAHME (Healthcare Administration), and CACREP (Counseling and Human Services).

Our tool allows you to select online programs for your personalized list based on professional accreditation, if this is important to you.

Have you taken the GRE or GMAT exam in the past five years?

Programs requiring GMAT or GRE scores often state on their websites that the test results must be from the last five years. Many programs, however, do not require standardized test results or will waive them based on your work history, other graduate degrees you have completed, or having a high undergraduate GPA. Each university’s admissions committee develops its own method for determining the student profile that is likely to be most successful in their program.

There is considerable debate in the academic community on whether standardized tests have ‘predictive validity’. This means that they are questioning whether standardized test results to a good job predicting who is likely to be successful in their first year of graduate study. This is true especially for online students, who tend to be a little older and more demographically diverse than on campus students. Many admissions committees have eliminated standardized test requirements and have implemented other admissions requirements such as years of work experience, professional references, or closer examination of the institution where a student completed their bachelor’s degree.

Our interactive tool allows you to select programs based on standarized test requirements so you can find programs with admissions requirements that meet your needs.

Are you looking for an online program that is 100% online, or are you open to going to campus for some part of the graduate program?

Many online graduate programs are offered 100% online, and you never have to go to campus to complete any of the degree requirements. Some, however, have on campus components, such as a week at the beginning of the first semester for orientation or a week at the end of the program where you would work with your classmates to complete a capstone project. It depends entirely on the program and the academic outcomes set by faculty for the program.

If you do not want to travel to campus for any part of the program (aside, perhaps from attending graduation!), you should select 100% online programs when using our tool (listed under “On Campus Requirements”).

Did you complete a bachelor's degree at a regionally accredited university?

This is a basic requirement for most graduate programs in the U.S. Regional accreditation is the educational accreditation of colleges and universities by one of seven regional accrediting agencies (organized geographically). Regional accreditation is a voluntary process and how colleges demonstrate that their credits and degrees meet minimum standards. Regional accreditation enforces self-regulation in the higher education industry.

While it might seem that national accreditation would be more important than regional accreditation, this is not the case. Regional accreditation is much older, and more rigorous and prestigious than national accreditation. Most non-profit institutions are regionally, not nationally, accredited. If you received your bachelor’s degree from an institution that is nationally accredited by DETC, ACICS, or ACCSC, you will likely need to complete a significant number of prerequisite courses before you’ll be academically prepared to enter a regionally accredited institution.

How many years has it been since you completed your bachelor's degree?

Returning to college after a few years off requires good planning skills and a good support network (friends, family and work). If it has been more than a few years since you graduated, take a MOOC or a class at a local community college to rebuild your confidence and refresh your study and test taking skills. Many online graduate programs offer ‘boot camps’ or other activities to help returning students booster their academic skills. Once you narrow down your specialized list of programs, it’s a good idea to ask all of your finalist programs about the support they provide to online students. Not all online programs offer the kind of support you need! See our Questions to Ask section for more ideas on the kinds of questions you’ll want to ask of programs on your finalist program list.

What was your undergraduate major?

Some master's degree programs have prerequisite classes or work experience requirements. Some MBA programs, for example, require that students’ complete undergraduate courses in accounting, economics, financial management, or statistics/quantitative courses before applying to their program.

Other MBA programs do not have prerequisite requirements and are a better fit for students who don’t have a bachelor’s degree in business. If your undergraduate degree is in a field that is different from the master's degree field you are interested in pursuing, be sure that you look carefully at the prerequisite requirements when selecting an online program that is best suited to your context. Prerequisite course information is provided in the Basic Plus package option, so that you’ll have this information for the online programs you select from the database.

Did you graduate with an undergraduate business degree from an AACSB-accredited program?

There are 170 online MBA programs in our database (out of over 400 total online MBAs) that are AACSB-accredited (see section above on Professional Accreditation). Applying to these programs is easier for students that completed their bachelor's degree from an AACSB-accredited business program.

If you didn't complete an undergraduate degree in business, but want to pursue an online MBA at an AACSB-accredited program, you may have to meet prerequisite requirements, such as completing courses in accounting, financial management, economics and statistics, prior to admissions consideration.

Have you thought about who you would ask for professional / academic references?

Most programs require up to three references as part of the admissions process. Think about the people who know your academic and work performances best, and talk with them about their willingness to provide a reference if needed. Many programs have a specific form that they want your references to complete. You’ll want to be sure to follow the reference process the program requires so that your application is completed quickly and efficiently.

Have you earned graduate credit hours from another institution that might be applied to a master's degree?

Many programs review earned graduate credits to determine if they may apply to your program of interest; only credits that were not part of another graduate degree are generally accepted to apply to a graduate degree's requirements.

Do you want to stay in your current field / industry or change careers? If you plan to use your degree to change careers, have you selected your new career?

Many graduate programs provide the credentials needed to enter a new field / industry. According to a survey by the Graduate Management Admissions Council in 2015*, a majority of graduates agree their education improved their chances of finding a job that met their expectations (86%), gave them an advantage in the job market (85%), and prepared them to meet the challenges of today's job market. Most also agree their graduate education gave them control over their employment outcomes (82%) and exposed them to new career opportunities (78%). *2015 Global Management Education Graduate Survey (GMAC)

Have you worked in a field related to your undergraduate major?

Some graduate degrees require that applicants have one to several years of work experience prior to applying.