Mason’s Online Master’s Programs Rise in Ranks

Photo Courtesy of Ashley Kwon

Multiple programs have risen in rankings since 2019


The Mason online master’s program has received its highest ranking yet, according to the U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 rankings.

The U.S. News & World Report’s criteria for ranking universities’ programs is based on engagement, services and technologies, faculty credentials and training, as well as expert opinions from surveys of high-ranking academic officials.

Quite a few of Mason’s master’s programs have climbed in rankings, including special education, accounting, engineering, education, industrial/systems engineering and education administration.

Mason’s Director of the Master of Science in Accounting Program Scott Broshears spoke about focusing on adaptability when creating curriculum for the accounting program. 

“We get input from the industry … You wouldn’t think of the accounting industry as changing but it does,” Broshears said. 

He continued, “We added something called accounting analytics and government and forensics accounting programs … This is something that all the big firms are calling for and so we’ve adapted to fit that.”

The master’s program in accounting rose from 39th to 19th nationally since 2019.

Broshears spoke of the similarities in the traditional master’s setting versus an online education, saying, “We try to make them as similar as possible. The difference between an online and face-to-face classes you think of interaction … We have group projects, if it’s an online class we have video presentations, we have them do Blackboard comments on other student’s presentations.” 

The masters accounting program offers an eight-week class that only meets one night a week and provides half of the material online as a hybrid class in an effort to cater to the needs of working students and as a way to design flexibility into the program. 

Broshears emphasized the advantages of pursuing a master’s degree. “There may be a hundred people applying [for a job] and here’s a stack of resumes but only ten of them include a master’s degree, they’re going to be the ones looked at first,” he explained.

Director of Mason Engineering Online Daniel Garrison spoke about the importance of cohesiveness when developing online curriculum.

“Our programs in the engineering school follow our ground-based programs and so that allows students to switch between programs, between semesters … So if they’re doing the on-ground thing and the situation changes and they have to go online or the other way around, it’s an easy transition for them,” said Garrison.

The MSA IT program within the engineering masters has remained in the top 25 national rankings for three years. Garrison stated that even though their program is successful and receiving high rankings, that doesn’t mean the department isn’t striving for improvement.

“The MSA IT program next month will be going through a complete redevelopment of the online curriculum just to freshen it all up, and we suspect that will continue to help the rankings,” he explained.

He added, “We have been a top 25 program in the nation three years in a row now with that program but nevertheless we’re not going to just sit on that and hope for the best.”

When asked about the structure of an online master’s within the engineering program, Garrison detailed their use of an asynchronous mode of study. This means that all material is constructed ahead of time to allow edits and improvements so that the educational material is as effective as possible. 

Garrison adds that this style is inclusive to all students, “It allows us to pull in students from around the world, or students who may be traveling for the semester.” 

He continued, “They have the flexibility to do it when they want to — it allows them to also hit pause, rewind, and go back and review something they may have missed,” 

Mason’s special education online master’s program ranked 10th nationally. Pamela Baker, the director of the Division of Special Education and Disability Research, emphasized the work the special education department has done to make sure that no matter the format, graduate students receive the exact same education and quality of presentation.

“Here at Mason, there’s no difference. Same degree, the same classes, same syllabus, same fabulous faculty, and I think that is the part that makes this [program] good. I think that’s why we’ve been recognized as offering a quality program because the only difference is the delivery,” said Baker.

The special education program rose from 16th in 2019 to their current ranking of 10th in 2020. When asked about this considerable improvement and the department’s reaction, Baker said, “We’re so proud of the spread of the good news. I think that we’ve been doing good work, and the fact that people now know we’re doing good work is really exciting. 

She continued, “And, I think in a lot of ways it’s the students we’re producing that make that happen.” The special education program, as of fall 2019, now offers an undergraduate program.

Mason’s online MBA has made an impressive leap to being ranked 123 out of 335 considered programs, after being unranked in 2019. Other programs included in the 2020 rankings include computer information technology and education instruction and curriculum.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the fall of 2017 around three million students were enrolled in online master’s, doctoral; and professional doctoral programs.

As more and more people opt for online post-Baccalaureate programs Mason will continue to offer accredited master’s courses and create a successful space for themselves in the online academic field.