Methodology and Data Sources for Our Rankings

Methodology and Data Sources for Our Rankings

The Fast Online Masters analytics team use the most up-to-date, accurate data we can find. Our methodology is designed to help you find the best school for you.

FOM Analytics Team 

To be sure our rankings are free of editorial influence, the Analytics Team operates independently from our editorial team.

Data Collection

We pull current publicly available data from NCES to design our rankings.

If schools do not have data for our key factors, or lack significant data, they are excluded.

Our analysts consider factors that include academic quality, the cost of attendance, and online programming.

Data Sources

Guiding principles for our rankings include academic quality, affordability, and also online competency. Additionally, rankings are grounded in statistical analysis and based on publicly available data.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes many datasets that we use.

  • Occupation Employment Statistics (OES)
  • Wage Data by Area and Occupation

The core of our college academic data comes from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). This branch of the United States Department of Education (DOE) is the nation’s premier research, evaluation, and statistics source. The DOE helps educators, policymakers, and stakeholders improve student outcomes. Most DOE college data comes from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)
  • Institute of Education Sciences (IES)
  • National Center for Education Statistics (NCES
  • DOE College Scorecard data (College Scorecard)
  • National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS).
  • United States Department of Labor (DOL
  • O*NET Database Database

Minimum Requirements for Schools

Each school:

  • must be an accredited public, private, or nonprofit institution.
  • must offer either an online master’s degree program in the given subject or an online postgraduate certificate program in field.
  • must submit annual reports to the National Center for Education Statistics.
  • must also offer the degree program in the given subject for the ranking.

Ranking Factors

Our school rankings aim to assess the quality of online master’s programs objectively. They are based on academic outcomes, affordability, and the breadth and depth of online learning opportunities.

1. Academic Quality

Certain factors determine academic quality. Comparing a school’s admission rate to its enrollment rate, for examples, shows the school’s competitiveness. Secondly, graduation rates imply how well students are supported in their degree program.

2. Affordability 

We consider the program’s cost, the percentage of students borrowing or taking out loans, and the default rate, which shows whether students are finding employment to pay back their loans. 

3. Online Offerings 

Finally, we take into account how many programs are offered online, and how many students are enrolled. This suggests the school’s overall commitment to online education. Schools also earn more credit for exceptional online student services.