Making the decision to pursue an advanced degree is not one to be taken lightly. Not only is it a serious financial investment, it’s a choice that can affect your future career and pay grade as well. Although the best graduate school for you may depend on a host of factors including your chosen area of study, it’s a good idea to be aware of the graduate schools that stand out as the most prestigious. The following schools have made that cut based on the rating and ranking methodology explained at the end of the article.
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These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online graduate degree programs. Figuring out where to apply? Consider one of these online Master’s or PhD programs.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers more than 80 graduate programs, several of which are highly ranked by multiple publications. Outside of teaching students, the university's main goal is to improve society by doing research and making university resources and knowledge available to the public. UNC is one of the top universities in the U.S. in research funding, and this is reflected in the high quality research carried out by students and faculty. Students' participation in meaningful research and public service give them the experience they need to become leaders in their fields.
The University of California, Los Angeles boasts an atmosphere of optimism, community, and diversity that compels students to pursue knowledge. Its location in Los Angeles, the second largest city in the U.S., allows it to provide students with many unique resources, connections, and opportunities. Graduate students at UCLA are known for their leadership and contributions to their fields of study. Several of UCLA's graduate and professional programs are highly ranked, and the university is well-respected around the world.
Graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania are connected with their peers across the university's 12 schools to create a close-knit community and take part in interdisciplinary research. Penn's student body is diverse, with more than one-third of graduate students coming from other countries. Students also have access to the university's more than 170 institutes and research centers, including the Nanotechnology Institute, the Center for Public Health Initiatives, and the Center for Neuroscience and Society.
Graduate research and studies are held to the highest standard at New York University. Professors and instructors are from the top of their fields and have valuable experience that they integrate into their classrooms. The university's location also benefits students, giving them ample resources and connections to potential employers. More than 17,000 students come from around the world to take advantage of NYU's diverse and creative learning environment. Almost every field of study has an advanced degree available, including public affairs, fine arts, engineering, law, and social sciences.
The University of Southern California is a major center for arts, communication, technology, and health services. Students participate in and are exposed to the rigorous atmosphere and research that the faculty at a prominent research university undertakes. They also take part in career path preparation, interdisciplinary programs, and communication development to prepare them for a professional environment. USC's location in Los Angeles creates a diverse environment and gives students connections to academic and cultural resources, as well as connections to potential employers.
Northwestern University offers its graduate students a demanding but nurturing environment that encourages them to find a healthy work-life balance. Diversity, engagement, and service are highly valued and a key part of graduate education at the university. Master's and doctoral degree programs are available in over 70 disciplines, and students are encouraged to collaborate across disciplines through interdisciplinary clusters and certificates. Graduate students also have the opportunity to participate in more than 100 international programs.
Yale University boasts all of the resources of a large university with the benefits of a small school. Students come from several different countries and every state in the U.S. to study in Yale's graduate programs. Master's and Doctoral degrees are available in subjects such as architecture, engineering, drama, and nursing. The degree programs are flexible and supportive, but rigorous enough to make students competitive in their fields. Students have ample opportunities to participate in research and public service alongside faculty.
Harvard University is the oldest institution of higher education in the country. The university's three graduate schools offer a variety of master's and doctoral degrees in education, the arts and sciences, and design. A rigorous curriculum challenges students and prepares them to attain high positions in their chosen career paths. Students are taught by experts, and they work alongside a diverse group of peers who share their passion for learning. These talented students work closely with highly qualified faculty in exploring the most significant issues in their fields.
The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor immerses its students in a community of peers and faculty who they can collaborate with in research and other academic pursuits. Advancement of knowledge, new discoveries, and production of leaders are priorities at the university. Students can choose from over 200 advanced degrees in a variety of fields, and several on-campus resources are available to graduate students. Students are supported throughout their time at the university by both faculty and other students.
Columbia University is an Ivy League research university and the oldest higher learning institution in the state of New York. The school is one of the most selective universities in the U.S., and it consistently produces students who are experts in their fields. The university uses its location to its advantage, connecting students to the many resources available in New York City. Hands-on experience and research are prioritized, especially in the graduate programs. Several scientific breakthroughs have been made by Columbia faculty, including lasers, atomic fission, and many medical discoveries.
Vanderbilt University strategically recruits its graduate students and invests in them to create a diverse and successful student body. The university encourages a balance between schoolwork and other interests, and several resources are available to help students achieve this balance, including mentoring and recreation facilities. Vanderbilt promotes collaboration rather than competition between fields of study, especially in research. The National Center of on School Choice and Vanderbilt University Medical Center are two of the university's centers where this multidisciplinary research takes place.
The University of Virginia offers doctoral and master's degrees in several subjects, including medicine, commerce, architecture, and law. Students are encouraged to be both inquisitive and creative during lectures, seminars, and experiential learning activities. Research is a major part of education across all of UVA's eleven schools and is supported by over 300 million dollars in funding. Diversity is actively promoted through partnerships with institutions that serve minorities as well as mentoring programs designed for underserved students.
The University of Miami offers students a rich and fulfilling educational experience. The graduate student body represents more than 125 countries, bringing several fresh perspectives into research and discussion. The available programs are also diverse. Advanced degrees are available in human development, engineering, marine and atmospheric science, and several other fields. UM actively promotes depth in its research and courses in order to attract more talented students and advance knowledge. Faculty members are committed to improving the university for the benefit of both current and future students.
Stanford University actively works to make sure each graduate student receives the best possible education by advancing diversity, promoting innovation, and providing students with resources. Advanced degrees are available in a wide variety of fields, including engineering, medicine, business, and education. Stanford also participates in exchange programs with other schools to allow students to take courses not available at the university. Students are encouraged to collaborate and take part in programs that help them develop leadership skills and apply their knowledge to their careers.
Tulane University's graduate students have access to the resources of a large research university without giving up the university's personal, small-school atmosphere. Tulane's specialized centers and research labs provide an optimal environment for collaboration between students and faculty, and students also have opportunities to gain hands-on experience off campus in the community. There are several graduate workshops and seminars held at the Tulane throughout the year. Students go on to apply their knowledge to advance to high positions in their careers.
Made up of nine academic divisions, Johns Hopkins University emphasizes the importance of research and hands-on experience in teaching. These experiences aren't just restricted to the university's main campus. Instead, research and educational activities are conducted in over 150 countries around the world. Engaging classes train students to find creative solutions to challenges they will face and try new approaches to complex issues. State-of-the-art facilities on campus give students an ideal environment for research and collaboration.
The University of Chicago encourages its students to be creative and find original solutions to prominent issues. Graduate students receive ample support at the university from faculty, alumni, and peers. They are connected to resources in the Chicago area, and have opportunities to participate in professional development programs. Three affiliated laboratories and more than 140 centers allow students to collaborate across disciplines, and the diverse student body brings many unique perspectives to research.
Community engagement and personalized learning are emphasized at the University of South Florida. Local and global partnerships with outside organizations give students several diverse opportunities to gain valuable experience. Global programs and curricula prepare students for an international professional environment. Classes are small, and the university's environment is strategically designed to promote innovation and student success. USF works to make the graduate programs competitive by increasing the quality of life for its graduate students and making resources available to ensure students are successful.
The youngest member of the Association of American Universities, the University of California, Irvine works with experts from around the world to provide its graduate students with the best possible education. Faculty members actively work to improve the quality of their programs, and they add new degree programs each year. UCI's location between Los Angeles and San Diego give students access to diverse cultural, recreational, and educational resources. Students at the university become academic and business leaders and apply their education to make a difference in the world.
The University of California, Berkeley offers students a diverse and supportive community of talented peers where they can advance knowledge in their fields. Graduate students have access to the university's many on-campus labs, museums, and institutes, including the Space Sciences Laboratory and the Center for Pure and Applied Mathematics. They also have the opportunity to take their ideas and research from the lab to the marketplace with the help of faculty and the school's network of biotech labs.
The University of Rochester considers graduate education to be a key component in their plans for the university. Students work closely with faculty on groundbreaking research to not only increase their own knowledge, but also create new knowledge for the school and surrounding community. Admission is selective in order to create a community of the brightest students. Rochester makes its state-of-the-art labs available to promising students, including the Institute of Optics and the Omega Laser Facility. It also boasts an inclusive community, a sustainable campus, and support of entrepreneurship.
Washington University in St. Louis attracts talented graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries, giving students a diverse environment of exceptional peers to interact with. All seven of the university's schools offer advanced diplomas. Washington University is known for awarding hundreds of diplomas and having a large graduate student body at any given time. It is also home to the world's largest medical scientist MD/PhD program. Students have access to institutes and centers in a wide variety of disciplines, including law, medicine, engineering, and social work.
Case Western Reserve University's graduate programs benefit from its diverse faculty, student body, and community. The community surrounding CWRU boasts an impressive amount of cultural and educational institutions within walking distance of the university, including the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cleveland Botanical gardens. Students benefit from CWRU's connections to these outside institutions through the many enriching educational opportunities they offer. Several supplemental resources are also available to graduate students on campus. The university's values include diversity, transparency, and stewardship of resources.
Georgetown University is an international institution that not only invites students from around the world, but also actively collaborates with prominent global institutions. Diversity, global perspective, and cross-disciplinary programs produce well-rounded students who are prepared to move forward in their fields. Georgetown's location in the Washington, D.C. area gives students ample resources and opportunities to gain more experience in political science, economics, and other areas of study. It also allows students to engage in projects that improve the world.
Tufts University gives its students an environment that promotes curiosity and innovation. Graduate students at Tufts enjoy support from a close-knit network of students and faculty. The university makes students competitive in the job market by giving them numerous opportunities to participate and collaborate in fieldwork across fields of study. Students are engaged in research alongside faculty members who mentor them as they work. Master's and doctoral degrees are available in arts and sciences, medicine, biomedical sciences, nutrition science, and international relations.
Northeastern University strives to create and maintain a community of talented and passionate scholars. Research is a major part of graduate education. Thus, several cutting-edge facilities provide the settings and technology needed for significant interdisciplinary research. Experiential learning isn't reserved just for research, but also includes cooperative education, service projects, and educational opportunities in over 100 countries. Entrepreneurship is also encouraged and facilitated by Northeastern. The university consistently improves and adds new programs to keep up with students' needs and modern industry demands.
Emory University's seven on-campus graduate and professional schools offer degrees in a wide range subjects, including social sciences, nursing, business, and natural science. Students gain relevant, hands-on experience through close ties to the community. All seven schools share libraries and labs, creating an ideal setting for interdisciplinary collaboration. Emory has received high rankings from many publications for its research, values, and sustainability, and many professors have been recognized for their research and achievements.
The University of Notre Dame is highly selective and produces students who gain positions at prestigious universities and companies all over the country. Graduate programs are demanding, but several resources are available to nurture and support students outside of the classroom. Notre Dame fosters collaborative activities between students of diverse educational, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds. Students also participate in many professional activities that prepare them for what they will experience in their careers. Financial support is readily available for these activities, as Notre Dame consistently receives several million dollars in research awards each year.
Though it is one of the youngest prominent research universities in the U.S., Duke University consistently receives recognition for its programs and diversity. The university's graduate school offers over 70 programs of study and departments as well as more than 30 certificate programs. Duke works to keep classes small and make its programs flexible. Students work closely with faculty in a variety of settings to gain a deep knowledge in their discipline. They also have the opportunity to collaborate with major universities and institutes other than Duke.
Brown University is an Ivy League institution and a leading research university. The school is consistently recognized for its community service, global reach, and diverse cultural events. Students come not only from all 50 states, but also over 115 countries. Brown also actively works to promote communication and preservation of knowledge. The university's Graduate School is highly selective and offers many interdisciplinary opportunities, flexibility, and workshops. Graduate programs use analysis, research, publication, and debate to prepare students for distinguished careers.
Dartmouth College's graduate programs train students to pursue new breakthroughs in knowledge by connecting the arts and sciences with medicine and engineering. Dartmouth is selective, aiming to find the most dedicated and talented students who will go on to excel in their careers. Several interdisciplinary programs are available, and doctoral students have the opportunity to gain knowledge from other fields that they can apply to their own field of study. Many students supplement their departmental coursework with courses from one of the college's three professional schools.
California State University, Long Beach offers graduate programs in over 65 areas. Degrees are available for both part-time and full-time graduate students. The curriculum is designed to engage students and expose them to new ideas, perspectives, and cultures. Professors are highly qualified and integrate their research and real-world experience into their lessons. While the university's main purpose is to produce leaders who are successful in their careers, CSULB also works to enrich the community and benefit society.
Located in Houston, Texas, Rice University gives students access to several academic and cultural resources. Students have plenty of opportunities to work alongside faculty and study abroad. Rice University is also diverse, with ethnic minorities making up over half of the student body. The school strives to foster innovation and make significant contributions to current knowledge. Graduate students are a major part of accomplishing this goal. Many take part in groundbreaking interdisciplinary research at one or more of the university's many high-quality facilities.
Carnegie Mellon University uses an emphasis on research and hands-on experience to produce excellent students in computer science, fine arts, engineering, business administration, and other disciplines. Graduate students have access to many programs and resources to help them succeed including professional development seminars and conference funding. Carnegie Mellon also values diversity and works to make it a priority in both research and the student population. Students are expected to develop leadership, communication, and problem solving skills during their time at the university.
Students at Princeton University's graduate school can pursue advanced degrees in natural sciences, humanities, engineering, and social sciences. Master's and doctoral programs are designed to give students thorough training in a short period of time. Princeton has developed partnerships with other schools and organizations to provide students with exchange and research opportunities both within the U.S. and abroad. Students are encouraged to take advantage of these opportunities and other available programs to enrich their education. The university also has several on-campus resources available to support graduate students.
Graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology play a key role in the school as instructors, research assistants, and teaching assistants. As the majority of the MIT student body, graduate students are leaders and earn experience serving the rest of the student body. MIT offers rigorous interdepartmental programs that allow students to collaborate with students and faculty from several diverse fields of study. Students undertake research in a variety of fields such as cancer, robotics, oceanography, and energy.
Boston College's graduate programs are small, but have the resources to prepare students for top positions in their fields. Students from all 50 states and over 80 countries come to study at the college. BC strives to use research and education to produce leaders, influence society, and promote social justice. A demanding curriculum and hands-on experience make BC's students competitive in the job market and help students develop the traits employers are looking for.
Brandeis University is a relatively young private research university that works to advance knowledge and pass it on to future generations. Four on-campus schools serve graduate students and offer doctoral and master's degrees in arts and sciences, business, social sciences, and public affairs. Students approach relevant issues from unique and diverse perspectives with the help of a passionate faculty and an international student body. Faculty and staff are committed to student success and take advantage of small class sizes to reap the benefits of one-on-one instruction.
Andrews University is culturally diverse and globally engaged. While at the university, students learn to communicate, think critically, promote change, and demonstrate moral integrity. Small classes allow students to connect to faculty who are as passionate as they are about learning and research. The university is made up of six schools and it offers 70 graduate majors in areas including education, business, and architecture. Students are encouraged to study abroad during their time at Andrews in one of nine locations around the world.
Pepperdine University offers a quality graduate education in business, education, law, public policy, and psychology. These graduate programs and the faculty who are a part of them are respected for their excellence and positive influence. Each of Pepperdine's five schools work together to give students a thorough and multidisciplinary education. Classes are scheduled to accommodate students' needs, and many classes are held online. Pepperdine not only prepares students for their careers, but also prepares them to use their knowledge to serve their community.
The California Institute of Technology works to investigate problems in technology and science to expand human knowledge. The school boasts an impressive four to one graduate student-to-faculty ratio, innovative collaboration between disciplines, and comprehensive off-campus facilities. The integration of research with education is one of the school's priorities. For instance, Caltech has many high-tech research facilities, including a NASA jet propulsion laboratory, several observatories, and a nanoscience institute. One-third of Caltech's students participate in research during the academic year, and research opportunities are also available over the summer.
Graduate studies programs at Wesleyan University are small and vary depending on the needs of the students and fields of study. Advanced degrees are offered in many subjects such as astronomy, math and computer sciences, and molecular biology. Students also have the unique opportunity to create their own courses and study one-on-one with faculty. This flexibility allows the university's graduate students to take the courses that will benefit them the most. Wesleyan also promotes sustainability, and it encourages its students to adopt sustainable habits through student groups and programs.
Liberty University offers a diverse range of master's and doctoral programs both on campus and online, including biomedical sciences, criminal justice, and education. The school is home to several high-quality facilities for education, recreation, and research, and is currently undergoing construction to better meet the needs of programs and students. Liberty faculty members are committed to education and student success, and graduate students also have the opportunity to work with students and professors from other disciplines and departments, preparing them for today's collaborative professional environments.
Dedicated to education, development of character, and multiculturalism, Hampton University has a rich history and offers students a high-quality education as well as opportunities to gain valuable experience. Students have the chance to interact closely with faculty who are dedicated to student success. Conferences, internships, and paid research positions are also available. The surrounding city contains the NASA Langley Research Center, the Virginia Air and Space Center, many historical sites, and several opportunities for entertainment and recreation.
A senior liberal arts college, Lehman College is a cultural and intellectual hub for the Bronx. One of Lehman's main values is community service. Students connect with organizations both nearby and around the world to better society. Graduate students are also actively engaged in research and professional development. The graduate program is flexible and affordable to account for the needs of its working students. Lehman offers over 40 master's programs in a wide variety of fields as well as doctoral programs in many diverse disciplines.
Washington and Lee University's School of Law is one of the smallest highly-rated law schools in America. Small classes engage students and thoroughly prepare them for their careers. The school's unique and rigorous curriculum gives students a clear progression that leads up to not only simulated experiences but also real-world experiences. The School of Law is well-known for its innovation and influence in legal education, as well as its diversity. It works to produce leaders and professionals who apply their unique education to local, national, and international law.
Originally established to enrich Jewish heritage, Touro College offers courses in several fields, including business, social work, education, and technology both in a residential format and online. Graduate programs are student-centered and flexible to accommodate working students. Fieldwork and hands-on experience is a major part of every program, and students are prepared to apply their knowledge to their career. Touro is a supportive environment, with faculty members who are committed to student success and act as mentors.
Middlebury College teaches students to think independently and become leaders as world citizens by embracing diversity, collaboration, and community service. Students at Middlebury enjoy small classes, state-of-the-art science facilities, and meaningful interactions with faculty. Graduate programs are available in English, other languages, and international studies. Middlebury also works to make its research, buildings, academics, and study abroad programs sustainable. In fact, the school plans to be carbon neutral by 2016 with the help of students and use of its biomass plant.
Babson College uses its unique Entrepreneurial Thought and Action methodology to give its students a high-quality education in entrepreneurship. Students have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience, connect with professionals, and participate in forums and projects. Babson students are successful after graduation with 99 percent of graduates employed within six months after they leave school. Diversity, collaboration, and sustainability are highly valued. Babson has also received recognition from several publications for features such as teaching quality, student satisfaction, and its undergraduate business programs.
Chicago State University's School of Graduate and Professional Studies provides students with high-quality instruction and a research-based learning environment. The university takes into account the needs and interests of its students and consistently develops new initiatives that benefit the graduate programs. Faculty members are highly qualified and possess many research and publication credits. Meaningful interaction between faculty and students in multiple settings is common and considered an important part of education at Chicago State. Graduate programs are available in the arts and sciences, education, and health sciences.
Although there are many ways to evaluate graduate schools, for our list of the best graduate schools, we decided to focus on a number of factors including class size, level of degree awarded, prestige of the faculty, and program rankings. We present the following 50 schools here in descending order according to the number of points awarded. Please note that in some cases, two or more schools received the same ranking. In order to break the tie, we took the school’s graduate tuition into consideration and awarded the higher ranking to the more affordable school.
Rating and Ranking Methodology
Less than 10 to 1 – 2 points
Less than 15 to 1 – 1 point
Graduate Degree Programs Offered
Presence of Doctoral Program(s) – 2 points
Presence of Master’s Program(s)– 1 point
U.S. News & World Report Best Grad School Rankings – 1 point per area of study ranked
Nobel Laureate or Pulitzer Prize Winner Alumni or Faculty – 2 points
1 point awarded per program or feature that “wowed” us