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Best Online Colleges for Working Adults in 2022

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Best Online Colleges for Working Adults

Going back to school while staying in the workforce is no easy task. Our college experts have found the schools that best meet life’s commitments as you progress through college. Read on to compare schools based on academic quality, convenience, and cost.

There are several ways to complete a college degree. Instead of going straight to college after high school, more and more students are delaying their higher education. There are many reasons for this decision: some travel the world, start a family from the beginning or fight for a career. For others, life may simply get in the way due to commitments that are out of their control, such as a major life event or an illness in the family.

Regardless of the reason, it may not be possible, or necessary, to earn a college degree directly from high school. Fortunately, schools provide resources for non-traditional students, generally defined as college students over the age of 25. Non-traditional student enrollment is more common at some schools than others, but many institutions offer resources, organizations, or special courses designed to meet the needs of non-traditional students.

Non-traditional students face some unique challenges. They often juggle the demands and responsibilities of adulthood, like paying bills and working full time, with the demands and deadlines of college courses. Not all colleges provide the right environment for non-traditional students to thrive. However, the list below identifies institutions that go the extra mile to accept non-traditional students and help them succeed.

Are you an older student thinking about a new degree or perhaps finishing a degree you started earlier? Then there has never been a better time to earn the diploma of your dreams. Technology now allows students to work toward their degree in ways that were previously impossible. And many programs offer asynchronous courses that allow you to complete coursework at your own pace and on your own schedule. In short, studying online means you don’t have to shy away from your commitments to take your career to the next level.

2022 Best Accredited Online Colleges for Working Adults

How We Rate Schools

We believe that a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. Our goal is to help you navigate the college selection process by providing relevant, inclusive, and transparent school rankings.

Our rankings are based on a few guiding principles and use the latest available statistical data from trusted sources. We hope that our approach will help you find the school that is best for you.

#1 Online College in Virginia

Liberty University

School Information

Location: Lynchburg, Virginia

Admission Rate: 51%

Graduation Rate: 47%

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 92%

Avg. Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $390-$455

Undergrad, out of state | $390-$455

Graduate, in state | $565-$615

Graduate, out of state | $565-$615

A Christian university in Virginia, Liberty is home to a strong virtual university. Students pursue one of 450 online programs. Students will find options at all levels: certificate, associate, bachelor’s, and graduate. Specialties cover areas such as criminal justice, education, and health care.

Applicants complete the course at their own pace. By accumulating up to 90 credits, professionals can complete a bachelor’s degree more quickly. Enrollees pay the same affordable tuition regardless of residency status.

Free eTextbooks for all undergraduate classes save students money. High school and college credentials are required for admission to any of the top colleges for working adults.

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#2 Online College in New York

New York University

School Information

Location: New York, New York

Admission Rate: 16%

Graduation Rate: 85%

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 10%

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $23,478/semester

Undergrad, out of state | $23,478/semester

Graduate, in state | $23,584/semester

Graduate, out of state | $23,584/semester

NYU Online Campus Without Borders focuses on professional education. Two graduate programs offer specializations in social sciences and leadership and management studies. Participants customize each degree with one of several concentrations. Students gain practical experience through internships organized by NYU.

Most of NYU’s online programs lead to master’s degrees. Students can complete a Master of Public Health at one of the nation’s top colleges for working adults. Other master’s degrees include consulting, tax, and bioinformatics.

Admission to the degree program requires an associate degree or 45 transferable credits with a 3.3 GPA.

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#3 Online College in California

San Diego State University

School Information

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Location: San Diego, California

Admission Rate: 34%

Graduation Rate: 73%

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 50%

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $431-$531

Undergrad, out of state | $431-$531

Graduated, in good standing | $482-$956

Graduate, Out of State | $482-$956

Founded in 1897, SDSU serves non-traditional students with degrees offered on global campuses. Students can earn a unique bachelor’s degree in Native American Studies online. Other degrees include a bachelor’s degree in communications and a bachelor’s degree in public health. The Bachelor of Child Development and the Bachelor of Civil Engineering offer hybrid formats.

Some participants complete SDSU’s graduate programs in as little as two years. Graduates choose one of eight full online master’s degrees. Admission to one of the top California colleges for working adults requires 60 units and a 2.75 GPA.

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#4 Online College in New Hampshire

Southern New Hampshire University

School Information

Location: Manchester, New Hampshire

Admission Rate: 88%

Graduation Rate: 44%

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 94%

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $320

Undergrad, out of state | $320

Graduate, in state | $627

Graduate, out of state | $627

SNHU enrolls 135,000 students online in career preparation programs. Students choose from over 200 online programs for undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs. A bachelor’s degree from SNHU requires 120 credits. Some of the most popular programs include business and health degrees.

By accumulating up to 90 credits, students can complete a bachelor’s degree more quickly. Working adults also receive recognition for their career and life experiences. Support services include an online wellness center, peer tutoring, and academic guidance. All school transcripts are required for admission to one of the top colleges in the country for working adults.

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#5 Online College in Maryland

University of Maryland Global Campus

School Information

Location: Adelphi, Maryland

Graduation Rate: 15%

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 90%

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $306

Undergrad, out of state | $499

Graduate, in state | $504-$1,087

Graduate, out of state | $659-$1,087

Designed to serve working adults and the military, UMGC specializes in offering degrees in fast-growing fields. Students choose from more than 90 programs offered online and in multiple locations. Bachelor’s and master’s degrees cover areas such as cybersecurity, business and management, computer science and IT.

Support services include mentoring, tutoring, and individual writing assistance. UMGC is one of the cheapest colleges for working adults. Students pay competitive tuition and free digital courseware saves money.

Students can count up to 90 credits towards a bachelor’s degree. Admission requires a high school diploma or GED certificate and a 2.0 GPA to transfer credits.

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#6 Online College in Wisconsin

Bellin College

School Information

Location: Green Bay, Wisconsin

Admission Rate: 100%

Graduation Rate: 86%

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 45%

Avg. Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $324-$998

Undergrad, out of state | $324-$998

Graduate, in state | $755-$800

Graduate, out of state | $755-$800

Located in Green Bay, British Columbia, it offers specialized programs to train health professionals. Students complete the 2-year Junior BSN Hybrid Transfer Path at this college for working adults in healthcare. The Online Diagnostic Cardiac Ultrasound Certificate requires an intensive face-to-face weekend.

MSN offers a hybrid course for family nursing and a full online course for nursing educators. Students can complete the Doctor of Nursing degree in an online cohort model. British Columbia has licensing exam pass rates that consistently exceed the national average. A small student-faculty ratio encourages personalized learning. Admission requires a minimum GPA of 3.0 for transfer students.

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#7 Online College in Virginia

Averett University-Non-Traditional Programs

School Information

Location: Danville, Virginia

Admission Rate: 24%

Graduation Rate: 100%

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 97%

Avg. Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $480-950

Undergrad, out of state | $480-950

Graduate, in state | $565-$655

Graduate, out of state | $565-$655

With 30 years of experience, Averett offers online programs for working adults. Students can earn a bachelor’s degree anywhere in fields such as computer information systems, sociology, and economics. Averett allows students to transfer an AAS to BAS and add a minor.

The Master in Accounting prepares registrants for the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination. Small classes offer personalized learning at one of the best colleges for working adults. Averett charges affordable online tuition fees regardless of college housing. Admission requires all school records and a minimum grade of C to transfer credits.

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#8 Online College in Indiana

Purdue University Global-Indianapolis

School Information

Location: West Lafayette, Indiana

Graduation Rate: 27%

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 99%

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $280/quarter credit

Undergrad, out of state | $315-$371/quarter credit

Graduate, in state | $420-$700 per quarter credit

Graduate, out of state | $420-$700 per quarter credit

Purdue Global develops online programs specifically for working adults. Students earn entirely online degrees in fields such as health sciences, business, and computer science. Non-traditional students can choose competency-based programs to earn degrees faster. This option allows students to transfer college credits and earn credits for work and life experiences.

Academic support for online students includes free tutoring and career planning. Students have access to free eBooks and other publications in the global library. Distance students pay affordable tuition at one of the best colleges for working adults. A high school diploma or GED certificate is required for admission.

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#9 Online College in Pennsylvania

Clarks Summit University

School Information

Location: South Abington Township, Pennsylvania

Admission Rate: 41%

Graduation Rate: 88%

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 64%

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $415

Undergrad, out of state | $415

Graduate, in state | $475-$710

Graduate, out of state | $475-$710

CSU is a Christian university in Pennsylvania and offers accredited bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Students complete online degree programs in fields such as consulting and business administration. A BS at the end of the degree allows students to use 50 elective credits to create their own program.

Graduates earn master’s degrees in areas such as counseling and divinity. Candidates for a bachelor’s degree can accredit up to 90 credits. Online students pay affordable tuition at one of the best colleges for working adults.

Christian workers and Military personnel receive tuition discounts. Admission requires at least a grade of C for transfer credits.

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#10 Online College in Florida

University of Central Florida

School Information

Location: Orlando, Florida

Admission Rate: 44%

Graduation Rate: 72%

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 59%

Avg. Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $179

Undergrad, out of state | $715

Graduate, in state | $327

Graduate, out of state | $1,151

With 25 years of experience in distance education, UCF 100 offers comprehensive online programs. They can start their training with professional qualifications. The bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs cover many different fields.

Some of the most popular college degrees from the school include nursing and psychology. Enrollees earn master’s degrees in in-demand fields such as healthcare administration and engineering.

Affordable tuition and a generous transfer policy make UCF one of the best online colleges for working adults. Admission requires SAT or ACT scores and a minimum GPA of 2.0 to transfer credit.

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Meaning of Non-Traditional Students

Traditional students are generally defined as students who enter college soon after graduating from high school. These students are often enrolled full-time and are typically between the ages of 18 and 24. Although definitions may vary, non-traditional students often meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Older than 24 (or as young as 23 in some cases)
  • Several years after high school
  • May be a parent or have dependents
  • May be married
  • May have a GED instead of a high school diploma
  • May have done military service
  • Financially independent

Depending on the institution, each of these characteristics may correspond to the parameters of a non-traditional student. Additionally, as the number of non-traditional students continues to grow, colleges and universities are finding new and innovative ways to reach these students.

Why Online Programs Are a Great Option for Working Adults

Working adults seeking a college education face a variety of challenges. Earning a college degree alone is tough, and it gets even tougher when you combine the relentless rush of projects, deadlines, and exams with a demanding work schedule.

Fortunately, colleges and universities are increasingly targeting their programs at non-traditional students. For example, online programs are a great option for working adults. They offer the flexibility that working adults need, allowing them to complete their studies within their working hours. Some online programs also offer accelerated degrees, which allow motivated students to graduate much faster than a traditional degree.

Non-traditional Student Enrollment Expected to Rise

Non-traditional students are common in colleges across the country, especially in online programs. In fact, the nonprofit, nonpartisan State Commission on Education says the proportion of nontraditional students entering higher education is likely to increase. While overall enrollment is highest for students under 25, NCES projects that overall enrollment growth rates for older students will outpace growth rates for traditional younger students through 2024.

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How Long are the Online Programs?

Earning a degree online can take anywhere from a few months for a certificate to five years or more for a Ph.D. Associate’s and master’s degrees typically take 2 years, while bachelor’s degrees take about 4 years. The length of the program also depends on how many credits your institution accepts and whether you are studying part-time or full-time. Below is additional information about adult college options, such as accelerated programs, transfer credits, and life experience, as well as scholarships for to non-traditional students.

Accelerated Online Programs

While not all online schools offer an accelerated degree program, they can put working adults on a fast track to their educational goals. Accelerated options use shorter college course deadlines and offer courses throughout the year rather than a set semester schedule.

As long as you already have an associate’s degree, you may be able to complete a bachelor’s degree in as little as a year. Another popular adult accelerated bachelor’s degree program allows students to complete a bachelor’s and master’s degree at the same time. This dual study format can reduce the time and financial expenditure of the students and at the same time give them a competitive advantage on the job market.

In general, accelerated programs cost about the same as traditional degree programs because tuition is tied to the number of course credits a student completes. Explore your prospective school’s websites for detailed information on your accelerated study options.

Credit for Life Experience and Prior Learning

Institutions are increasingly recognizing the value of life experience and prior learning. By providing credit for military service, life experience, or work experience, colleges and universities make earning a degree more accessible and affordable for non-traditional students.

For instance, professionals who have worked in a technology company for several years can have a related course of study credited to their computer science degree without having to complete modules and homework.

While these experience credit programs are a great way to reduce the cost and time commitment of a degree program, the process can be time-consuming and labor-intensive for the student. Schools may require submission of a full work portfolio and/or passing an exam to demonstrate mastery of a subject before credits are awarded.

Transferring Previous College Credits

Prospective students can reduce the costs and time required for their studies by taking advantage of credit transfer options.

For instance, people with an associate degree can complete about half of the credit requirements for a bachelor’s degree by carrying over previous credits. To transfer credits, students submit official transcripts from their old institution to their new institution and work closely with an admissions advisor to ensure eligibility.

However, exceptions and credit transfer issues may arise due to a school’s differing accreditation, core program requirements, or incompatible course equivalences. Check with your future school to see if your previous credits can be carried over.

FAQ About Online Colleges for Working Adults

Are Online Degrees Respected by Employers?

Graduates of online degree programs receive the same degree as their on-campus counterparts. Most employers readily accept an accredited online degree.

How Much Money Can I Make With An Online Degree?

Although college graduates generally earn more than high school graduates, a person’s potential salary depends on their field of study, location, and career choice.

Are Online Degrees Easier than Traditional Programs?

Online courses for adults require the same level of commitment as traditional face-to-face courses. However, distance learning can be even more challenging as many people juggle work and extra commitments at the same time.

Are Online Degrees Cheaper?

Tuition for online degrees usually costs the same as a traditional program. However, students can save a ton of money on tuition by avoiding campus fees, housing, and meal plans.

Are Online Degrees Faster than Traditional Programs?

Accelerated programs allow students to graduate faster than traditional programs. Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree while working full-time may prefer to enroll part-time, which increases the time to graduation.

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