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Masters Degree Programs in Alabama

Overview of Master's Education in Alabama

According to the Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ache.alabama.gov, 2013), the state is home to 15 four-year public universities and 14 private independent colleges. The Lumina Foundation reports that 8.5 percent of Alabama residents aged 25 to 64 hold a graduate or professional degree based on 2011 U.S. Census data, lower than the national average (luminafoundation.com, 2013).

A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for entry into Alabama masters programs. In some cases, hybrid programs that combine bachelor's and master's studies are options for students in Alabama colleges and universities. Taking the Graduate Records Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Admission Test (for business programs) are common requirements for admissions. A student's undergraduate GPA often factors into the admissions process as well, but some schools weight this more heavily than others.

Popular Master's Degrees in Alabama

Computer Science Master's Degree in Alabama

The Alabama Department of Labor has published a list of 40 occupations it believes will be in high demand from 2010 to 2020. Many are computer related, including software developers, computer systems analysts, and network and computer system administrators (www2.dir.state.al.us, 2013). Though these positions typically require a bachelor's degree, some employers favor candidates with a master's degree according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A master's in computer science is a common degree choice for careers like these, but others, such as a master's in computer engineering or an MBA in information systems, may be more suitable depending on the position one is seeking (bls.gov/ooh, 2012).

Nursing Master's Degree in Alabama

The Alabama State Nurses Association points out that in addition to a general nursing shortage in the state, there is also a scarcity of nursing faculty to train new talent (alabamanurses.org, 2012). Though there are diploma, associate and bachelor's degree programs that can lead to a registered nursing career, those who wish to pursue an advanced practice role, such as a nurse practitioner, must earn a master's or higher. Those interested in becoming nurse educators also typically earn at least a master's, and several universities in Alabama offer a Master of Science in Nursing with a specialization in nursing education.

Popular Schools in Alabama for Earning a Master's Degree

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (nces.ed.gov, 2013), the three most popular schools in the state for graduate education are the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University of Alabama, and Troy University. At all three of these schools in Alabama, online programs are available. In addition, several Alabama schools have been ranked by U.S. News & World Report (usnews.com, 2013).

The University of Alabama at Birmingham's graduate health care management program ranks fifth nationally while its nursing programs rank 21st. The online graduate engineering program at UAB is also highly regarded, finishing 27th in the rankings. The University of Alabama's online graduate business program ranks 77th in the nation and the university as a whole ranks 32nd among all public universities. Auburn University scores even higher for its online graduate programs, with the second best for education, sixth best for engineering and seventh best for both IT and business.

Other notable institutions that offer master's degrees in Alabama include Samford University in Birmingham, which is ranked as the South's fourth best university, Spring Hill College in Mobile, ranked 17th, and University of Montvallo, ranked 37th.

Note: Most current rankings as of August 2013

Employment Outlook in Alabama

As of June 2013, Alabama had an unemployment rate of 6.5 percent, the lowest rate since November 2008. Top economic growth over the previous 12 months occurred with a 5.6 percent boost in leisure and hospitality services, 1.6 percent in professional and business services, and 1.4 percent in manufacturing (bls.gov/eag, 2013).

According to the Alabama Department of Labor, employment of registered nurses is expected to grow by 28 percent from 2010 to 2020, twice as fast as the average occupation in Alabama (www2.dir.state.al.us, 2013). Meanwhile, employment of systems software and application software developers is expected to grow 42 and 41 percent, respectively. Computer systems analysts should see employment growth of 28 percent while network and computer system administrator jobs are expected to jump 33 percent.

In terms of salary, registered nurses in Alabama earned a mean annual salary of $55,270 in May 2012. Advanced practice nurses fared better, on average, with nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists earning mean annual salaries of $87,430 and $140,070, respectively. Among the computer-related professions mentioned above, mean annual salaries ranged from $68,440 for network and computer systems administrators to $95,810 for systems software developers (bls.gov/oes, 2013).

Sources:
Alabama Department of Labor, Alabama Workforce, http://www2.dir.state.al.us/Projections/Occupational/Proj2020/Statewide/default.aspx
Alabama Commission on Higher Education, Directory of Alabama Colleges and Universities, http://www.ache.alabama.gov/Colleges&Universities/Directory.htm
Alabama State Nurses Association, Current Critical Issues, 2012, http://www.alabamanurses.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=6
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Economy at a Glance: Alabama, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.al.htm
Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2012 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Alabama, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_al.htm#00-0000
Lumina Foundation, A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, Alabama, June 2013, http://www.luminafoundation.org/stronger_nation/report/#alabama
National Center for Education Statistics, IPEDs Data Center, Accessed Aug. 22, 2013, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/datacenter/
U.S. News & World Report, University of Alabama Rankings, Accessed Aug. 22, 2013, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/the-university-of-alabama-100751/overall-rankings
U.S. News & World Report, Auburn University Rankings, Accessed Aug. 22, 2013, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/auburn-university-main-campus-100858/overall-rankings
U.S. News & World Report, University of Alabama at Birmingham Rankings, Accessed Aug. 22, 2013, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/university-of-alabama-at-birmingham-100663/overall-rankings
U.S. News & World Report, Regional University South Rankings, 2013, Accessed Aug. 22, 2013, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/rankings/regional-universities-south/data

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