50 Best Online Colleges [2020 Guide]

We’ve identified the 50 best online colleges. Compare top schools, types of colleges, and online learning platforms to see what type of online program will work best for you.

Best Online Colleges

The best online schools will enable you to take charge of your life and get the education that you need to succeed. You don’t have to run around a campus to learn new things and build new skills. In the 21st century, you can do it all through online schools.

Why Go to College Online?

According to research, around one-third of college students are taking classes online. It’s getting more and more popular as a way of learning, and that trend is expected to grow as colleges continue to expand their online degree programs.

Why do students like online colleges? What benefits can they offer you?

Flexible Schedules

This is one of the most common reasons why students take online classes. Between work, family, and social obligations, it can be challenging to arrange your schedule around “traditional” classes, and online ones are much more flexible. In fact, there are several ways that you can take them:

  • “Asynchronous” courses are self-paced classes where you can access the materials at any time and complete the assignments on your own schedule.
  • “Synchronous” classes are done in real-time, but you can participate from any location as long as you have an Internet connection. You can take them while on the go or even lying in bed.
  • “Open schedule” classes are entirely independent classes. As long as you meet the deadlines, you control the speed of your learning.

You can’t get this kind of flexibility from campus courses.

Different Methods of Learning

In a classroom, you listen to a lecture and take notes. Online, you can listen to lectures, watch videos, download podcasts, participate in chatrooms, post on discussion boards, and engage with others on social media.

These things might not apply to every class, of course. Different teachers have different methods of delivering information to their students.

However, if you’re the type of person who feels stifled in a lecture hall, online classes can offer fresh, exciting ways to learn. They can incorporate different techniques that speak to different learning styles.

Whether you’re an audio, visual, or kinesthetic learner, online classes can offer a blend that just isn’t seen in typical classrooms.

Faster Degrees

Without the barrier of having to be physically present for certain classes at certain times, it’s easy to fast-track your degree. Some colleges make it even easier by offering accelerated programs that will put you through the program faster.

You might earn more credits per semester, or you might qualify for special classes that are only offered online. In most cases, you can also transfer credits that you’ve already completed at other colleges and apply them towards your new degree.

Lower Costs

Getting your degree online is usually cheaper than getting one the old-fashioned way.

For starters, you aren’t paying to live on campus, so you’re free from dorm costs and cafeteria costs. You’ll also avoid “student fees” that cover things like parking, computer use, lab use, and on-campus healthcare.

Tuition is often reduced as well. Some colleges even waive their residency rules for online students; whether you’re in-state or out-of-state, you’ll pay the same tuition rate for online classes.

Not every online program is cheaper, however, and some online programs only qualify for a limited amount of financial aid. You should definitely read the fine print before you commit to anything.

How Do Online College Programs Work?

How Do Online College Programs Work

Every school is different, but the basics of their online degree programs are usually the same.

The central hub is a learning management system (LMS). This is your headquarters as an online student. It’s where you’ll sign in, get your assignments, access your course materials, review your grades, and contact your professors.

As for the learning itself, it can take several different forms. You might live-stream your lectures or read textbooks online; you might watch videos, join teleconferences, or participate in student chatrooms.

Lab work is a bit trickier. Sometimes, you can do what you need to do through simulations or recorded experiments at home.

Other times, the school will want you to complete the lab work at an approved facility near you, so there’ll still be an “in-person” component to your education.

A lot of your digital learning experience will depend on what kinds of classes you’re taking. For example, if you’re in synchronous, fixed-time courses, you’ll need to follow a specific schedule. Your attendance will be recorded; your progress will be monitored.

With asynchronous classes, on the other hand, the supervision will be minimal. You’ll be allowed to complete your assignments at your own pace. There’s usually a digital library where you can access the course materials at any time.

If you have any questions about how a college handles its online degree programs, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask. The average school gets hundreds of inquiries per year. You won’t be alone in wondering how things are done.

How to Choose the Best Online Colleges: Step 1 – Choose Your Degree

How to Choose the Best Online Colleges

Before you start diving into the world of online learning, you should think about which degree you want. There’s no point in researching two-year colleges if you’re interested in obtaining a four-year degree.

Additionally, the sooner that you start narrowing down your options, the faster that you’ll be on your way to earning your degree and joining the workforce as a qualified professional.

Here are the credentials that you can earn online:

Certificates

Professional certifications are usually acquired through short-term, skill-based programs. They won’t replace a degree, but they’ll give you a title to put on your resume, and they can give you valuable knowledge and experience for your future career.

If you’re studying human resources, for example, you can become a Human Resources Business Professional (HRBP) or a Professional in Human Resources (PHR).

If you’re interested in public relations, you can take a course that prepares you for the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) exam.

Requirements for these certifications can vary. Some will only ask you to pay a fee and sit for an exam, so no university enrollment is necessary. Others will take months of study from a real, certified university program, so registration is a must.

Associate Degree

An associate degree usually takes two years to complete. Depending on your industry, it might be all that you need to get a job, or it might just be a stepping stone for further educational advancement.

For example, if you’re interested in addiction counseling, an associate degree is usually enough to get a job in rehabs, prisons, hospitals, and social offices.

If you’re studying finance, however, an associate degree will only qualify you for entry-level employment. The high-paying careers will be reserved for advanced degree holders.

One thing to note is that an associate degree can often be applied toward a bachelor’s degree. In other words, if you get an associate degree and decide to go back to school for a bachelor’s degree, you don’t have to start all over.

You can apply the credits that you’ve already earned towards your new area of interest.

Bachelor’s Degree

It usually takes four years to earn a bachelor’s degree. There are ways to speed up the process, especially if you’re taking online classes, but four years is the average.

The average starting salary for a bachelor’s degree holder is $50,944 per year. However, this is the average across all occupations. Your actual starting salary will depend on your industry:

  • Computer science – $71,411
  • Engineering – $66,638
  • Business – $52,040
  • Social science – $46,797

Keep in mind that this is just a starting salary, too. Experienced professionals can expect their salaries to climb over the years. For example, the top earners in computer science take home more than $100,000 per year.

Master’s Degree

A master’s degree can take anywhere from 1 – 3 years to complete. It’s also possible to enroll in a dual degree program where you earn your bachelor’s and master’s at the same time; these programs usually put you on track to earn both degrees in as little as five years.

Financially speaking, it’s worth the effort to get a master’s degree. You’ll earn more than $20,000 – $30,000 per year than people who only hold a bachelor’s degree.

However, master’s degrees are usually about specialization. If your field doesn’t require it, it can be an investment of time and money that isn’t strictly necessary. You’ll need to weigh these things carefully before you come to any decisions about obtaining a master’s degree.

Doctorate Degree

A doctorate degree is the highest degree that you can earn. A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is the most common, but you can also get a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD), Doctor of Education (EdD), Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), and many others.

Getting a doctorate is definitely a commitment. It will require anywhere from 4 – 8 years of schooling, and that’s on top of the 4 – 6 years that it’ll take to get your bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

The silver lining is that you can make big bucks with a doctorate degree. On average, doctorate degree holders earn more than any other degree type, and they also have the most extensive range of job opportunities thanks to their advanced education.

Step 2: Choose a Major and Specialization

Choose a Major and Specialization

Picking a major is one of the most critical parts of your college career. While some students like to languish as an “undeclared,” it’s best to choose your major early so that you can fully commit yourself to your chosen career and its educational requirements.

Which major is right for you? It’s a question that many college students grapple with, and at the end of the day, you’re the only one who knows the answer.

However, if you’re hoping to make the smartest decision possible, there are a few things to consider about majors:

Job options. General degrees can open doors in many different fields. Specialized degrees can prepare you for specific jobs straight out of graduation.

Salary potential. Which degrees lead to the highest-paying careers? Which ones have a good return on investment for the amount that they cost? A cheap degree might have a great ROI, even if the starting salary isn’t that high.

Industry growth. Some industries are on the decline. They’re losing jobs, so there will be fewer positions and fiercer competition when you graduate. On the other hand, some industries are very in demand.

They’re adding thousands of jobs every year, or they’re experiencing shortages that are prompting employers to qualify new workers in a hurry. These industries have the best opportunities for new grads.

Personal passion. Do you love the subject? Could you spend the rest of your life working with it? Don’t underestimate the value of enthusiasm when it comes to pursuing a college degree.

Another thing to consider about your college major is whether you want to specialize. This could mean getting a minor or just having a concentration or emphasis within your degree program. There are both pros and cons to specializing:

Pros: You’ll be qualified for niche jobs, including high-paying niche jobs that are only available to people with specialized knowledge. You’ll have credits that can be applied to other degree programs if you ever choose to go back to school.

When competing against job applicants without a specialization, your advanced knowledge might give you the edge.

Cons: If your field is small, you might wind up competing with other highly-qualified applicants for the same limited jobs. You’ll also have less job security if you specialize in something that becomes obsolete. You might get the dreaded “overqualified” label if you’re ever job-hunting beneath your skill level.

Specialization isn’t something to take lightly. You’ll need to think about it from every angle before you make any commitments.

Step 3: Determine What Type of Online Program Works Best for You

Type of Online Program

Online classes can take many different formats, so if you have a learning style that needs to be accommodated by a particular kind of course, you’ll want to research the different types and see which one is right for you.

Synchronous

Synchronous classes happen in real-time. They take place online, but the teachers and students are logged in together, and they’re interacting with each other just like they would be in a real classroom.

There are several ways to hold synchronous classes. The most common is a live-streamed lecture from the professor with an accompanying chatroom for the students, but other methods include webinars, podcasts, video conferences, and even social media interaction.

The most significant benefit of synchronous classes is the instant communication between yourself and others.

You can ask questions, get answers, make clarifications, start debates, or request study sessions, and you won’t have to wait hours and hours for people to respond to your emails.

A drawback of synchronous classes is that you’re bound to a set schedule. You have to “show up” to these classes just like real ones, so you won’t enjoy the flexible, learn-as-you-go format of other online degrees.

Asynchronous

Asynchronous classes are done on your own schedule. The materials are uploaded to a digital library that can be accessed at any time, and you watch lectures, complete assignments, and take tests within a certain time frame.

It isn’t a free-for-all. You’ll be expected to check in every so often, and your professor will monitor your progress through your homework. You can pass or fail just like a regular class.

If you’re a busy person with a lot of demands on your time, however, asynchronous classes will allow you to fit lessons into the free moments of your schedule. They’re also ideal if you work at a faster or slower pace than your peers. You can go through the material at your own speed.

The downside of asynchronous classes is that you’ll be somewhat isolated from your peers and professors. There won’t be chats and live discussions, and if you have a question about something, you’ll need to send an email and wait for a reply.

These classes also require self-discipline. You’ll need to stay on track even without engagement, feedback, and supervision. Some students find this difficult.

Open Schedule

Open schedule classes will give you the most freedom as an online student. They’re a lot like asynchronous classes, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but there can also be critical differences in their formats.

The most significant difference is that asynchronous classes usually follow a schedule. Even if you’re completing assignments at your own pace, there are still check-ins and deadlines, and you can fall behind on the syllabus if you aren’t studying regularly.

With open schedule classes, there might not be any deadlines at all, or the deadlines might be flexible. You’ll still need to complete the assignments and pass the tests, but you can do it at an entirely self-directed pace.

Open schedule classes aren’t for everyone, but they can be a lifesaver for particular kinds of students. Don’t be afraid to explore this option if you need it.

Fixed-Time Online Courses

Fixed-time classes are a type of synchronous class. They follow a set schedule, and you’ll be expected to be in the chatroom or logged into the live-stream at a particular hour.

Not all synchronous classes are fixed-time classes, however. Some of them have more lenient rules.

For example, you might only be asked to “attend” a certain number of lectures each week, or you might be allowed to contact other students on your own time instead of participating in live debates.

Fixed-time classes are the stricter option. If you need a guided classroom environment to stay on track and not fall victim to procrastination, they might be an option worth considering.

Hybrid Online Courses

Also known as “blended” courses, hybrid courses are a mix of online and classroom-based learning.

You might attend lectures on campus but submit all of your assignments online, or you might watch lectures online but gather with your classmates for labs, projects, discussions, and exams.

The good thing about hybrid courses is that they offer the best of both worlds when it comes to learning. You’ll enjoy real-world feedback and communication with others, but you’ll also be able to use online materials for self-paced study.


The bad thing about hybrid courses is that you might struggle with the format. You might not enjoy the classroom experience, or you might not adapt well to the online platform.

Since hybrid classes use both, you’ll be out of luck if you decide that you don’t like one. It’s like ordering two flavors of ice cream in the same bowl only to realize that one of them isn’t to your tastes.

Step 4: Select the Type of College to Attend

Type of College to Attend

Once you’ve decided on the class type that suits you, it’s time to figure out which schools offer them. You’ll have several options depending on the degree level that you’re hoping to achieve.

Community Colleges

Community colleges are two-year schools that offer certifications and associate’s degrees. They’re known for being smaller and more affordable than four-year universities, but the flip side is that their degree programs are limited.

The good news is that many community colleges have articulation agreements with other schools in their state. This means that if you complete two years of core classes at community college, you can enter an approved four-year university as a junior.

Thanks to the articulation agreement, your credits will transfer, and they’ll count towards your bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Another nice thing about community colleges is that their tuition rates are lower. The average two-year institution costs $3,440 per year, while the average four-year institution costs $9,410.

If you’re looking to save money on your degree, a community college could put thousands of dollars back into your pocket.

Professional and Career Colleges

Also known as “vocational schools” or “technical schools,” career colleges will teach you a particular set of skills that are designed to prepare you for the workforce. Rather than studying a broad, general subject, you’ll be on track for a specific career or a particular industry.

You’ve probably heard of automotive schools and cosmetology schools. However, you can also find schools devoted to art, fashion, real estate, cooking, nursing, electrical work, and information technology (I.T.).

Different schools will offer different credentials. For example, while some career colleges offer associate degrees, others only give out diplomas and certificates. Make sure that your chosen school will grant you the credentials that you need to get started with your career.

Public Colleges

Public colleges are probably what you think about when you think about college. They’re big, four-year institutions that offer a wide range of subjects and degrees, and everyone is welcome to apply, though not everyone will gain admittance.

The “public” part refers to the fact that they’re funded by state taxes. This is why in-state students are charged less tuition than out-of-state students; they’re feeding back into the school just by paying their taxes.

Public colleges shouldn’t be confused with state schools. State schools have names like the University of Michigan and the University of California, and they are public, but there are also public colleges without any particular affiliation to their state.

An example would be Rowan University in New Jersey.

Private, Not-for-Profit Colleges and Universities

Private universities aren’t funded by taxpayers. They run on donations, investments, endowments, and tuition payments from students. This freedom allows them to be more selective with things like admission and curriculum.

Ivy League colleges are private. If you have your eye on Harvard or Stanford, you’re looking at a private college.

Religious colleges are also private. Places like Liberty University, Brigham Young University, and the University of Notre Dame are all private.

Step 5: Check Accreditation of the Online Colleges You Apply To

logos of seven regional accreditation boards

We’ve talked a lot about accreditation, but why is it important?

Accreditation is basically a review process for colleges. It’s conducted by objective, third-party organizations, and it verifies that the school meets specific educational standards. One way to avoid the diploma mills is to look for accreditation.

Getting accredited is voluntary, so some schools don’t do it. However, since it’s a requirement to receive federal financial aid, most schools want it.

There are three types of accreditation: national, regional, and programmatic.

National Accreditation

While regional accreditation can be sought by all public and private schools within a region, national accreditation is mostly applied to technical and vocational schools as well as “non-traditional” schools for religion or distance learning.

For example, there are several faith-based national accrediting boards offered by the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) and the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). There’s also the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) for online universities.

If you need help determining if your technical school has been nationally accredited, look for lists.

Regional Accreditation

Regional accreditation is the most common kind. It extends to both public and private universities, and as its name suggests, it divides the U.S. into regions. Here are the big six:

As you can see, regional accreditation will come from a different organization in Florida than in Nebraska. However, all six of these accrediting boards have equal weight and status in the eyes of the educational industry.

Programmatic Accreditation

Programmatic accreditation is for specific fields and industries. It isn’t as widespread as regional or national accreditation, so don’t panic if your degree program doesn’t have it, but it can help you find high-value programs if you’re still looking.

One of the most well-known programmatic accrediting boards is the American Bar Association. It offers accreditation to law schools and legal degree programs.

Another well-known organization is the American Library Association that accredits library science programs.

Some of the more obscure accreditation programs come from the American Podiatric Medical Association Council, the American Board of Funeral Service Education, and the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board.

However, they’re all equally recognized as accrediting boards, so they’re all legitimate.

Step 6: Apply for Financial Aid for a College Degree Online

screenshot of FAFSA website

Financial aid might seem intimidating from the outside, but once you break it down, it’s actually quite simple.

The first step is applying for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It won’t cost you anything to submit the paperwork, and depending on your family’s circumstances, you could qualify for several types of aid:

  • Grants are essentially free money that you don’t have to pay back. Most of them are need-based, so you’ll only qualify if you’re under a certain income bracket.
  • Loans come in two types: subsidized and unsubsidized. You’ll need to repay them, but with subsidized loans, the government will take care of the interest while you’re in school. You can also apply for private loans.
  • Work-study programs will arrange a part-time job for you while you’re in school. It’s usually on campus in a service position, but there are other jobs available as well.

If federal aid isn’t enough to cover all of your costs, there are a few other financial aid options that you can look into:

  • Scholarships are another source of free money for college. Many are need- or merit-based, but you can find scholarships for just about everything under the sun, including gender, nationality, degree type, family status, and field of study.
  • Tuition reimbursement is offered by some employers. It’s especially common in skill-based jobs where the company benefits from well-trained, well-educated workers, but it can also be found in companies like Starbucks. You’ll need to pay for your own tuition, but they’ll reimburse the costs later.
  • Institutional aid is financial aid that comes directly from the school. It’s usually funded by alumni or special programs, and it can come in the form of grants, scholarships, work-study opportunities, and more.

Cost doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker when it comes to getting your degree. It might not be easy to pay for school, but with the right financial aid, it doesn’t have to be impossible.

Step 7: Apply to the Online Colleges You Want to Attend

student working on her laptop at home

The college application process might seem intimidating if you aren’t familiar with it, but once you break things down, it’s a lot easier to manage.

Make a List of Deadlines

Your first step should be figuring out all of the deadlines that you’ll face as a prospective college student. Even if your school has rolling admissions that are more flexible than usual, there’s always a cutoff for when students can’t apply anymore.

You should also make a list of deadlines for things like priority applications, online program applications, applying for FAFSA, and taking/retaking the SATs.

Additionally, you should note whether the school operates on a semester or quarter system. With a semester system, there are two periods of learning in the spring and fall.

With a quarter system, the learning periods take place year-round through spring, summer, fall, and winter. These differing schedules can impact your deadlines in a big way.

Think About Applying Early

When applying for colleges, there are two ways to beat other students to the punch:

  • Early decision is when you apply to a school in November and receive an answer by December. It’s a binding choice, meaning that you can’t apply to other schools if and when you’re accepted, and you’re only allowed to apply to one school as an early decision student.
  • Early action is when you apply in November and receive an answer sometime between December – February. It’s non-binding, so you’re free to apply to other schools even after you’re accepted, and you don’t have to make any final decisions until May.

There are both pros and cons to applying early for colleges, so it might or might not be a good decision for you. It’s something to discuss with your parents, teachers, and guidance counselors.

Choose a College Application Platform

You can apply for colleges individually, but it’ll involve a lot of drudge work, and you’ll waste valuable time that could be spent on things like writing essays and gathering recommendation letters.

A better option is to use a college application platform. You can create a centralized application as a sort of template for all of your chosen schools, and you can utilize the platform’s resources to edit and enhance it to perfection.

Here are the most prominent college application platforms:

  • Common Application
  • Coalition Application
  • Universal College Application

There are also state-shared platforms like New York’s SUNY system. Since there are many SUNY schools, their platform will let you apply for multiple ones.

Gather Your Documents

While every school is different, there are a few things that you’ll usually need for college applications:

  • High school transcripts
  • Standardized test scores
  • Personal essays
  • Letters of recommendation

You might need these documents when applying for financial aid or other student resources as well, so keep them close.

Evaluate Their Online Programs

Last but certainly not least, consider the strength of a school’s online programs before you invest time and money in them.

Are the classes synchronous or asynchronous? Do they have an entire “e-campus,” or do they just offer a few courses online? What does their learning management system look like? How do they handle labs and other hands-on work in a virtual degree program?

A school can have great campus classes but terrible online ones. On the flip side, they can have an amazing online program even if their campus isn’t that impressive. You won’t know until you research.

Questions Related to Going to College Online

Here are our answers to a few more questions you might have.

Are Online College Degrees Legitimate?

Online degrees are legitimate. There are fakes and scams out there, so you’ll need to recognize the signs, but it’s entirely possible to earn an online degree that has the same power and prestige as a campus-based one.

Here are some things to look for in an online degree:

  • Accreditation. Has the school been vetted by any regional, national or programmatic accrediting boards?
  • Value. Are the online classes taught by the same teachers as the campus classes? Do they use the same textbooks? Do they require the same labs?
  • Resources. Do they have an e-campus? Do they utilize a learning management system or have other well-developed ways of supporting online students?

If you have any questions about the legitimacy of a school’s online program, don’t be afraid to email them. If they’re real, they should have no problem offering details on their credentials.

What Is the Easiest Degree to Get Online?

The difficulty of an online degree program can depend on a lot of things, including your dedication as a student. However, there are a few factors that can make certain subjects harder than others:

  • Lab work and fieldwork. It’s possible to satisfy these requirements through an online degree program, but you’ll need to make special arrangements. A major like biology is going to require more arrangements than a major like history or literature.
  • Program length. Two-year degrees are easier to obtain than four- and five-year degrees. Additionally, some online degrees might be candidates for things like accelerated schedules while others are not.
  • Area of study. Subjects like computer science are notoriously tricky, and they can be even more difficult when you don’t have access to campus libraries and other resources.
  • Specialization. If you choose to concentrate your studies on something specific, that usually requires more academic involvement than a general, non-specialized degree.

You’ll want to consider all of these factors before committing to an online major.

Which Schools are Affordable Online Colleges?

Tuition is the most significant factor in a school’s affordability. How much do they charge per credit? What’s the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition? Is there a special rate for online students?

Some schools will charge the same rate for online students regardless of residency.

Another factor is financial aid. Some schools offer more funds than others, especially when it comes to online programs. You’ll need to double-check that your grants, loans, and scholarships apply to online classes.

What’s the Best Online University?

Everyone has their own opinions about the “best” colleges to attend. At the end of the day, the decision is up to you, so make sure that you’re doing your homework about college selection:

  • Is the school accredited?
  • Does it offer a robust selection of majors, minors, classes, certificates, and degree options?
  • Does it have plenty of resources for online students?

If you need help getting started, you might consider this list of schools.

What Are the Best Online Colleges for Military?

Online classes are an excellent option for both former and active military personnel. They offer a lot more flexibility than traditional, campus-based courses, and they can even help with your military career through skill-building and resume-boosting.

There are just a few things that you’ll want to think about before enrolling in an online college as a military individual. The first is accreditation. The school needs to be accredited if you want to qualify for federal financial aid like the GI Bill.

Another thing to consider is getting college credit for your military experience. It can shorten the time that you’re in school, so it’s a worthwhile endeavor, but only some colleges will offer the option.

You should contact the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to ask them about approved universities.

List of the Best 50 Online Colleges

Rankings Methodology

We compared accreditation, program offerings, and online platforms to create this list of the 50 best online colleges.

#1  Arizona State University

Arizona State University campus

Arizona State University, a top-ranked research university in the Phoenix metropolitan area, is one of the nation’s largest universities in terms of enrollment.

The university, through its online programs, is dedicated to providing high-quality and flexible education to students across the country and around the world. They offer over 300 online degree and certificate programs that suit the needs of busy working adults.

Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Committee of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges.

#2  Brandman University

Brandman University campus

Brandman University’s online campus offers a flexible format of learning for non-traditional students. It has the goal to support students seamlessly so that they can focus on their academics and fulfill all their requirements for degree completion.

They offer courses at the undergraduate, graduate, and certificate levels across five schools.

Brandman University is accredited by the WSCUC Senior College and University Commission.

#3  Boston University

Boston University campus

Boston University has been offering online programs since 2002. Their outstanding academic programs are aimed at helping students meet their diverse educational needs and exceed expectations.

Each program is designed in collaboration with the Boston University Distance Education office, which consists of a team of experts in instructional designers, support staff, and media producers.

Along with excellent faculty, they make sure that online students undergo the same high-quality and rigorous training as on-campus students.

Boston University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

#4  California Baptist University

California Baptist University campus

California Baptist University is a Christian liberal arts university located in Riverside, California. CBU offers online degree courses at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels.

There are over 40 programs to choose from. These programs are flexible and conveniently allow students to maintain a good balance between their studies and their career.

California Baptist University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

#5  Canisius College

Canisius College campus

Canisius College is a Jesuit college located in Buffalo, New York. Their online learning programs allow students to advance in their career at their own pace, but with the same rigor as traditional classes.

Canisius College offers over 13 high-standard online programs that are anchored on Jesuit values and focused on real-world experiences.

Canisius College is accredited by the Middle States Association Commission on Higher Education.

#6  Case Western Reserve University

case western reserve university campus

Case Western Reserve University, a research university in Cleveland, Ohio, offers fully online and hybrid courses, which are flexible and high-quality.

They offer several classes and programs in the areas of engineering, law, applied sciences, nursing, medicine, management, and entrepreneurship. These programs are offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Case Western Reserve University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#7  Central Michigan University

Central Michigan University campus

Central Michigan University Online Campus offers convenient and high-quality programs that suit everyone’s needs.

Courses from a wide variety of programs are offered entirely online in 6, 8, and 12-week formats. Their excellent support services ensure that students are never alone in their academic journey. Programs are provided for bachelor’s, master’s, specialist, and doctoral degrees.

CMU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#8  City University of Seattle

City University of Seattle campus

City University of Seattle in Washington was established in 1973, with a mission to provide higher education to working adults. The university offers online education to the country and to various countries around the world for over 40 years.

There are around 45 programs available online at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels.

City University of Seattle is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

#9  Colorado State University

Colorado State University campus

Colorado State University is a research university in Collins, Colorado. The university consists of 8 colleges and 55 departments. CSU offers online bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs that allow students to pursue a degree wherever they are.

Tuition fees are the same for everyone, regardless of where they are.

Colorado State is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

#10  Columbia University

Columbia University campus

Columbia University aims to provide professional development and higher education opportunities for working adults through a wide range of online learning programs.

Online courses are offered in the areas of social work, health technology, engineering, applied science, environmental sustainability, and leadership. There are also non-degree certificate programs available online for professional development.

Columbia is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#11  Concordia University – Saint Paul

Concordia University St Paul campus

Concordia University – St. Paul is a Christian liberal arts university, founded in 1893. It offers high-quality online learning education with affordable tuition fees and outstanding faculty support. It has one of the most affordable tuition fees in the state of Minnesota.

Their online programs are career-focused, which means that they are designed to equip students with relevant and marketable job skills.

Concordia University – Saint Paul is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

#12  Creighton University

Creighton University campus

Creighton University is a Catholic Jesuit institution that offers more than 30 online programs in the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Their highly-ranked online programs include healthcare, business, and leadership.

There are more than 2,000 students enrolled in their online and hybrid programs, which are led by almost 100 outstanding teaching staff members.

Creighton University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

#13  CUNY School of Professional Studies

CNUY School of Professional Studies campus

CUNY School of Professional Studies, in New York, offers flexible and convenient online programs for those who want to pursue a certificate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree qualification.

Their online programs allow students to take classes at their own pace and schedules. All programs support classwork and research in any location with access to the internet.

The CUNY School of Professional Studies is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#14  Drexel University

Drexel University campus

Drexel University has been committed to providing innovative education for over 125 years. Their technology-focused programs ensure that graduates get an edge to stand out in the crowded job market.

The university offers over 150 online programs to fit into busy adult schedules wherever they may be in the world. To help students with financial needs, Drexel also offers lower tuition rates for alumni, military, and members of Drexel’s partner organizations.

Drexel University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#15  Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Embry Riddle Aeronautical University campus

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University offers an innovative approach to online learning and has catered quality education to students from different parts of the world for over 25 years. Courses have different start dates sessions that range from nine to twelve weeks.

The university ranked #2 for its online bachelor’s degree programs according to U.S. News & World Report.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#16  Everglades University

Everglades University campus

Everglades University has five campuses and an online campus designed to cater to the educational needs of students in Southern Florida.

Their online programs follow a one-class-at-a-time format, a robust approach that allows learners to concentrate on one subject and master it before moving on to another. Classes are designed to be small with flexible schedules.

Everglades University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#17  Florida State University

Florida State University campus

Distance learning at Florida State University is convenient, flexible, and high-quality. Many of their online courses meet the university-wide graduation and general education requirements.

FSU online campus has all the resources to help students succeed in their academic endeavors. They have virtually everything students need, from distance library services to the career center and counseling center.

Florida State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#18  Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University campus

Grand Canyon University has a wide range of accredited online degree programs. Their programs are based on a values-based curriculum that aims to develop students’ holistic development.

Online students are given access to educational resources, including student services, library, and technical help. Classes are taught by highly trained and qualified faculty committed to supporting students’ success.

Grand Canyon University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#19  Gwynedd Mercy University

Gwynedd Mercy University campus

Gwynedd Mercy University is a Catholic university in Pennsylvania. It offers certificate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate programs which are flexible, innovative, and convenient. Course contents mirror on-campus offerings, but with added flexibility and accelerated class options.

Classes are small and personalized, ensuring everyone’s individual needs are met. Online offerings include courses in the field of business, nursing, counseling, education, and applied psychology.

Gwynedd Mercy University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#20  Illinois Institute of Technology

Illinois Institute of Technology campus

Illinois Institute of Technology began serving students remotely through televised courses in the late 1970s. Since then, it has evolved with the advancement of technology from satellite delivery to online formats.

There are a variety of online degree programs with the same rigorous instruction and world-class faculty as on-campus courses.

Illinois Institute of Technology is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#21  Indiana University – Bloomington

Indiana University Bloomington campus

Indiana University’s online classes offer flexible and high-quality programs that the university is known for. There are hundreds of online courses offered entirely online or with on-campus components.

U.S. News & World Report ranked Indiana University #1 for Online MBA Program in 2019, #1 for Online Graduate Business Program in 2019, and #20 for Online Bachelor’s Program in 2019.

Indiana University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

#22  Liberty University

Liberty University campus

Liberty University is an evangelical liberal arts university in Lynchburg, Virginia. The university started to offer online programs in 1985. There are over 400 programs offered to students all over the world.

The curriculum emphasizes the right balance between theory and hands-on training. Students are trained to do their jobs upholding excellence and high ethical standards.

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#23  Mississippi State University

Mississippi State University campus

Mississippi State University is a land grant research university established in 1878. The university’s center for distance learning offers over 50 degree options at the certificate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels.

Financial aids are available for those who qualify, and tuition rates are the same for everyone regardless of where they are located.

Mississippi State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#24  New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University campus

New Mexico State University offers high-quality, affordable, and flexible, fully online degree programs with over 500 course options to choose from. The university is nationally ranked #20 for Most Affordable Online Colleges.

Some of the courses offered are in the field of business, education, tourism, nursing, engineering, and information technology.

NMSU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#25  Northeastern University

Northeastern University campus

Northeastern University, in Boston, Massachusetts, is a research university with an R1 distinction by The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

The university’s online students have access to over 80 programs offered fully online or in a hybrid format. Classes are built upon experiential learning which equips students with relevant skills they can use in the real world.

Northeastern University is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc.

#26  Northern Arizona University

Northern Arizona University campus

Northern Arizona University offers two innovative and flexible online formats – the Traditional Online Learning and the Competency-based. In the Traditional Online format, students select a semester-based course schedule and pay their tuition based on credit hours.

On the other hand, the Competency-based Online format allows students to choose their own start date and pay a six-month flat subscription rate.

Northern Arizona University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

#27  Ohio State University

Ohio State University campus

Ohio State University is a research university in Columbus, Ohio. The school’s Online Programs are offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

OSU is ranked #1 for Best Undergraduate Programs and #4 Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs, according to U.S. News & World Report. It is also ranked #1 Best College for Veterans.

Ohio State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#28  Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University campus

With over 30 years of experience in providing high-quality online education, Old Dominion University takes pride in its 97% satisfaction rate among its students.

The university offers over 100 online programs designed to fit education into working adults’ busy lives. Some of its courses are in the fields of business, computer science, communication, education, social sciences, and engineering.

Old Dominion University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#29  Oregon State University

Oregon State University campus

Oregon State University is ranked #6 in the nation for Best Online Programs for 2020 as surveyed by U.S. News & World Report.

There are more than 1,300 classes online with over 70 programs and 110 courses to study. Programs are offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels with fully online or hybrid options.

Oregon State University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

#30  Pace University

Pace University campus

Pace University, established in 1906, has its main campus in New York City. The university is committed to providing exceptional academic experience to its students even beyond the traditional classrooms through its wide array of online programs.

There are online programs for undergraduate and graduate levels, including advanced degrees and professional certifications.

Pace University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#31  Penn State World Campus

Penn State World campus

Penn State World Campus takes pride in offering over 150 degrees and certificates online from bachelor’s to doctoral level. The school is also recognized as one of the Top 10 academic institutions that offer the Best Online Programs for 2020 according to U.S. News & World Report.

Online classes are conducted through a centralized learning management system that gives students access to syllabi, course content, grades, announcements, and discussions.

Penn State World Campus is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#32  Regent University

Regent University campus

Regent University, in Virginia, is one of the Top 15 schools which offer the Best Bachelor’s Degree Online Program according to the U.S. News & World Report.

Most of the programs they offer can be accessed fully online or in a hybrid format. Online students receive the same quality training and education as traditional students on campus, with access to extensive research opportunities and resources.

Regent University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

#33  Regis University

Regis University campus

Regis University is a Catholic Jesuit located in Denver, Colorado. The university offers online programs for adult learners, so they can pursue their dreams without putting their lives on hold.

These flexible online programs are also available in accelerated and evening courses, with emphasis on real-world skills to ensure that students learn what they need to succeed.

Regis University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

#34  Rochester Institute of Technology

Rochester Institute of Technology campus

Rochester Institute of Technology has its main campus located in New York. It also has campuses in Dubai, China, Kosovo, and Croatia.

The school offers online programs to allow students from all over the world to expand their opportunities for professional and personal development. RIT Online innovatively creates links with smart and passionate people through social learning tools.

Rochester Institute of Technology is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#35  Saint Joseph’s University

Saint Joseph’s University campus

St. Joseph’s University is a Jesuit university in Philadelphia. It is committed to preparing men and women for success in their professional lives through rigorous Jesuit education.

Online learning at SJU is flexible and convenient. Students have access to a user-friendly online platform, which allows them to easily immerse themselves within the digital environment.

Saint Joseph’s University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#36  Texas Tech University

Texas Tech University campus

Texas Tech University, a research university in Lubbock, Texas, was established in 1923. It is classified by the Carnegie Foundation as one of the universities having the “highest research activity.”

Their online learning programs are flexible, affordable, and are taught by outstanding teaching staff. Online courses are available at the bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and certificate levels.

Texas Tech University is accredited with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#37  University of Alabama

University of Alabama campus

The University of Alabama offers high-quality online education through Bama By Distance. It boasts of its excellent faculty and extensive alumni network, giving it a distinguished reputation not only within the country but around the world.

Innovative and flexible, online programs are available at the undergraduate, graduate, and non-degree levels.

The University of Alabama is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#38  University of Arizona

University of Arizona campus

The University of Arizona offers more than 100 online degree programs with flexible schedules to fit into students’ busy lives. Online classes are taught by the same professors teaching on campus.

U.S. News & World Report has ranked the University of Arizona as #11 Best Online Bachelor’s Program in the Nation for 2020.

The University of Arizona is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#39  University of Central Florida

University of Central Florida campus

The University of Central Florida has been focused on providing innovative education through modern technology for more than 20 years. UCF Online offers nationally-ranked online courses tailored to the needs of busy adults.

There are over 90 degrees to choose from, all of which are available entirely online. When it comes to cost and value, Forbes ranked UCF as one of the nation’s most affordable colleges.

The University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#40  University of Cincinnati

University of Cincinnati campus

The University of Cincinnati allows students to obtain bachelor’s, master’s, and post-masters degrees completely online. With flexible education, adult learners are given opportunities to take their career to a higher level.

With personalized support from faculty, affordable tuition fees, and convenient schedules, the University of Cincinnati garnered a number of distinctions, including #2 University for Innovation, awarded by U.S. News & World Report.

The University of Cincinnati is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#41  University of Denver

University of Denver campus

The University of Denver offers a high-quality online learning experience, with full access to course content, excellent support from instructors, peer discussions.

Online students are given access to course syllabi, lecture videos, discussions, assignments, and grades. They will also be able to connect and engage in meaningful conversations with teachers and classmates.

Courses are also available in a hybrid format, where students work on a course half on-campus and half online.

The University of Denver is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#42  University of Florida

University of Florida campus

The University of Florida is a research university in Gainesville, Florida, and is part of the State University System of Florida. It is one of the leading institutions providing top-quality online education. The university offers over 200 online programs for undergraduate, graduate, and certificate levels.

It was given the distinction as one of the universities with the Best Online Programs for 2020, according to U.S. News & World Report.

The University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

#43  University of Illinois – Chicago

University of Illinois Chicago campus

Online education at the University of Illinois at Chicago provides a rewarding and flexible option for busy working professionals to pursue their academic goals.

The university offers easy-to-use learning software, live technical support, and tutorials to help students navigate through their online environment easily. Courses include business, education, liberal arts and sciences, nursing, public health, applied health sciences, and professional development.

The University of Illinois at Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#44  University of Louisiana – Monroe

University of Louisiana Monroe campus

The University of Louisiana – Monroe takes pride in over 80 years of student success, which now extends to its online classrooms. The university offers 35 degree programs that are available entirely online.

With increased national recognition for its online programs, earning a degree at the University of Louisiana speaks of quality education with the added benefits of flexibility, convenience, and affordability.

The University of Louisiana at Monroe is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#45  University of Minnesota – Crookston

University of Minnesota - Crookston campus

The University of Minnesota – Crookston has 20 years of experience in providing innovative and quality online education. The university takes pride in its personalized online classes, high-quality educational services, and highly-motivated faculty.

Some of the programs offered online include Accounting, Finance, Health Management, Information Technology, Marketing, International Business, and Applied Health.

The University of Minnesota Crookston is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.

#46  University of Missouri

University of Missouri campus

The University of Missouri has a wide range of online degrees and certificate options. There are over 125 programs and more than 1,000 courses available online with the same quality and rigor as the courses taught on campus.

For three consecutive years, the University of Missouri has garnered the Best Online Programs recognition from U.S. News & World Report.

The University of Missouri is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#47  University of New Mexico

The University of New Mexico campus

The University of New Mexico offers top-quality online degrees and courses throughout the country and around the world. A number of degree programs, from the bachelor to doctorate level, are available in a flexible online format.

Some of these programs include Business Administration, Computer Engineering, Dental Hygiene, Liberal Arts, Educational Leadership, Nursing, and Psychology.

The University of New Mexico is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#48  University of Oklahoma

University of Oklahoma campus

The University of Oklahoma continues to provide access to world-class, transformational degrees, certificates, and programs to learners from diverse backgrounds. Since 1961, the university’s extended campus has been delivering quality education to students wherever they are located.

The university takes pride in being in the Top 10 Best Online Colleges for 2019, according to U.S. News & World Report.

The University of Oklahoma is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#49  University of Southern California

University of Southern California campus

As one of the world’s leading research universities, the University of Southern California provides extensive opportunities for collaborative and interdisciplinary study in its curricular offerings.

The university is ranked in the Top 18 in The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education. It offers online programs in Business and Accounting, Communication, Dentistry, Education and Teaching, Engineering, Health and Medicine, Law, Psychology, and many more.

The University of Southern California is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

#50  Washington State University

Washington State University campus

Washington State University Global Campus offers convenient, flexible, and high-quality online education to undergraduate and graduate students.

Courses are taught by prestigious faculty members, who are not only experts in their fields but also received the nation’s highest honor for scientific research. In 2016, the university received the Carnegie Classification, a distinction given to institutions with the “highest research activity.”

Washington State University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Is a College Degree Worth It?

Is a College Degree Worth It

Pound for pound, a college degree is definitely worth it. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average weekly salary climbs higher and higher with every degree level:

  • Less than a high school diploma: $520
  • High school diploma: $712
  • Associate degree: $836
  • Bachelor’s degree: $1,173
  • Master’s degree: $1,401
  • Doctorate degree: $1,743

The average unemployment rate drops, too. While high school dropouts have a 6.5% unemployment rate, people with a bachelor’s degree have a 2.5% rate, and people with a doctorate have a 1.5% rate.

It isn’t easy to get a college degree. However, the numbers don’t lie. If you want a high-quality, high-paying career, your best bet is getting an education and entering the workforce as a skilled and qualified professional.

Joy Cromwelle
WRITTEN BY
Joy Cromwelle
Joy is pursuing her Ph.D. in Public Policy & Foreign Policy and holds a Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management, as well as a Bachelor's in Business Administration. Joy's focus is helping non-traditional students find accelerated degree options and credit for prior learning opportunities.