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Top Online Universities and Best Online Colleges 2022

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Top Online Universities and Best Online Colleges

Our college experts have ranked the best online colleges and universities for 2022. Read on to compare schools based on academic quality, flexibility, and affordability. Find your way today.

Why Choose an Online College or University?

Demand is one of the main reasons for the growth of online education and online universities. Online degree programs make college more accessible to a much wider population than traditional on-campus options. Technology allows you to earn a full bachelor’s or master’s degree online while balancing academic commitments with other responsibilities like a full-time job or supporting your family.

How We Rated the Best Online Colleges

We review hundreds of online college programs each year to help students find the best online universities and colleges that meet their needs. Each evaluated school is a fully accredited non-profit entity. Our methodology uses qualitative measures and data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics and our own school surveys.

Use our ranking of the best online colleges and universities to start finding a program that fits your budget, schedule, and learning style. Each school’s profile includes information about available subjects and grades, as well as notable student achievement. We hope our resources will help you find the best school for you.

Best Accredited Online Colleges and Top Online Universities 2022

#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%

Average 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

Liberty awards online associate, undergraduate, and graduate degrees and certificates. As a Christian school, Liberty offers a bachelor’s degree in biblical and theological studies and a master’s degree in religious leadership, among many other college degrees.

Admission to undergraduate studies requires the submission of an application and a high school self-certification form. Transfer students must provide official post-secondary transcripts. Liberty offers scholarship opportunities specifically for online students, as well as online library resources, academic counseling, and technical support.

Learn more about this program

#2 Online College in Florida

Florida International University

School Information

Location: Miami, Florida

Admission Rate: 58%

Graduation Rate: 63%

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 68%

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $229

Undergrad, out of state | $346

Graduate, in state | $479

Graduate, out of state | $1,025

FIU offers online degree and certificate options for undergraduate and graduate degrees. Popular majors include liberal arts and humanities, hotel and tourism management, as well as international business.

Admission requires an application, official transcripts, and ACT or SAT scores for high school or transfer students with fewer than 60 transfer credits. Distance learning students seeking degrees or certificates can apply for scholarships and financial aid. They can also access mentorship and explore opportunities to develop their leadership skills.

Learn more about this program

#3 Online College in Missouri

University of Missouri

School Information

Location: Columbia, Missouri

Admission Rate: 81%

Graduation Rate: 71%

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 32%

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $468

Undergrad, out of state | $560

Graduate, in state | $679

Graduate, out of state | $679

Missouri Online enrollees can choose from more than 300 programs, including undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral options. Flexible and accessible distance learning is supported by access to an online library, tutors and peer advisors, and a writing center.

First-year applicants must have taken high school courses in English, mathematics, science, social studies, foreign languages, and fine arts. Applicants also have the opportunity to submit test results.

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#4 Online College in Oklahoma

Oklahoma State University

School Information

Location: Stillwater, Oklahoma

Admission Rate: 70%

Graduation Rate: 65%

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 42%

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $181

Undergrad, out of state | $698

Graduate, in state | $234

Graduate, out of state | $364

Online degrees at OSU are available in a variety of disciplines, including arts and sciences, business, education and human services, engineering, architecture, and technology. Distance learning bachelor’s and master’s students take flexible courses taught in 16-week sessions.

Distance learning students can apply for scholarships, grants, and work-study opportunities to lower their expenses. For secure admission, freshmen must meet one of the following requirements: at least a 3.0 GPA, an upper class rank of 33.3%, or at least an ACT (21-24) or SAT (1060- 1160).

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#5 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%

SNHU offers more than 200 online programs at the certificate, associate, bachelors, and graduate levels. Students can also enroll in accelerated undergraduate to master’s programs and pay tuition for some of their graduate courses.

Distance learners can access academic and technical support, join online clubs and honor societies, and volunteer for leadership roles by helping other students online.

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#6 Online College in Florida

University of Florida-Online

School Information

Location: Gainesville, Florida

Admission Rate: 32%

Accreditation: Yes

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $129

Undergrad, out of state | $553

Graduate, in state | $350-$1,500

Graduate, out of state | $350-$1,500

UF Online is among the best online schools, offering more than 20 undergraduate programs in fields like business and leadership, public safety, and earth sciences. Master’s and Ph.D. students can also find courses online.

Undergraduate admission requires an application and transcripts, high school diploma or GED certificate, and prerequisite courses in science, math, and English as well as social science. Distance learners can apply for access library resources, financial aid, and speak with an ambassador for wellness and counseling.

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#7 Online College in Michigan

Cleary University

School Information

Location: Howell, Michigan

Admission Rate: 71%

Graduation Rate: 44%

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 53%

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $735

Undergrad, out of state | $735

Graduate, in state | $975

Graduate, out of state | $975

Adult learners (students 24 and older) who enroll in Cleary can complete all of their courses online. This may appeal to students juggling a college education with a full-time job or other family commitments. PhD students can also complete an MBA entirely online at Cleary.

Online students benefit from virtual library resources, computer skills video tutorials, and computer support. All courses are accessible remotely and most students receive financial aid or scholarships.

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#8 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

Graduate, out of state | $659

With programs for working adults, UMGC offers career-focused programs and flexible learning options for undergraduate and graduate students. UMGC is one of the nation’s largest online public schools, providing students with online library resources, e-textbooks, and courses led by industry experts. Alumni have lifetime access to career services.

Students enroll in eight-week sessions, with some programs following a cohort model. Freshmen must have a high school diploma or GED.

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#9 Online College in Florida

The University of West Florida

School Information

Location: Pensacola, Florida

Admission Rate: 31%

Graduation Rate: 46%

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 66%

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $219

Undergrad, out of state | $342-$648

Graduate, in state | $385

Graduate, out of state | $479-$1,044

UWF’s top online programs include degree and certificate options in cybersecurity, instructional design and technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation. UWF Online emphasizes flexibility and affordability for adult learners, with many programs offering multiple start dates throughout the year.

Applicants for undergraduate admission must complete an online application and submit their transcripts. Some programs may require ACT or SAT scores. Online students can access career center resources and apply for financial aid.

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#10 Online College in Florida

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide

School Information

Location: Daytona Beach, Florida

Admission Rate: 62%

Graduation Rate: 28%

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 93%

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $447

Undergrad, out of state | $447

Graduate, in state | $743-$1,269

Graduate, out of state | $743-$1,269

As one of the best online schools, Embry-Riddle’s online and global options offer both synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities. Students can choose from several start dates each year and have access to advice and technical support. Virtual aviation robotics and accident labs simulate flight and accident investigations, and students can connect with classmates around the world on eUnion.

Aeronautics, aviation, business, technology and engineering degrees are highly valued at the bachelor’s and master’s level. Admission requirements vary depending on the student’s age, experience, and education. However, high school diplomas or GED and a minimum GPA of 2.5 are general criteria for prospective students.

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#11 Online College in Indiana

Indiana University-Bloomington

School Information

Location: Bloomington, Indiana

Admission Rate: 78%

Graduation Rate: 79%

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 19%

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $239-$296

Undergrad, out of state | $347-$1,031

Graduate, in state | $317-$1,449

Graduate, out of state | $450-$1,632

IU’s online programs cover a variety of majors at the undergraduate and graduate level. Notable fields include library science, human engineering, parks and recreation, tourism management, and physical education. Classes are asynchronous and are aimed at parents and working adults.

Admission requirements for bachelor’s degree programs vary by department. For instance, some may list 12 to 30 transfer credits, a minimum GPA of 2.5, an associate’s degree, or essays. Distance learning students can access a variety of online support services, including library resources

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#12 Online College in New Jersey

Thomas Edison State University

School Information

Location: Trenton, New Jersey

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 100%

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $399

Undergrad, out of state | $519

Graduate, in state | $668-$905

Graduate, out of state | $668-$905

TESU’s online degree programs include bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration, homeland security and emergency management, as well as nursing. Students can also earn associate and doctoral degrees. Distance learners can choose between asynchronous and synchronous course delivery options.

Students can access financial aid and counseling online. A high school diploma or GED is required for admission to the program. Applicants must generally be at least 20 years old. However, students aged 18 or 19 can apply if they are active duty military or have at least 24 credits and a minimum GPA of 2.0.

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#13 Online College in Georgia

Kennesaw State University

School Information

Location: Kennesaw, Georgia

Admission Rate: 75%

Graduation Rate: 46%

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 49%

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $185

Undergrad, out of state | $185

Graduate, in state | $383

Graduate, out of state | $383

KSU offers many online options for undergraduates, including bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. The school supports distance learners with career planning, educational advising, tutoring, and library access. Some courses are taught 100% online with no on-campus presence required, while others are taught primarily online with occasional visits to campus for orientation and/or exam purposes.

Technology, nursing, engineering, and education make up the majority of master’s degrees offered. Popular bachelor’s degrees include social sciences, computer science, and economics.

Learn more about this program

#14 Online College in Indiana

Purdue University Global

School Information

Location: West Lafayette, Indiana

Graduation Rate: 27%

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 99%

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Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $280

Undergrad, out of state | $371

Graduate, in state | $420-$700

Graduate, out of state | $420-$700

Purdue Global hosts online programs at all levels of study and focuses on the educational needs of working professionals. Distance learning students can try out an undergraduate degree for three weeks free of charge and with no obligation.

Course delivery is asynchronous and students have virtual access to library materials, advising, and career services. The registration process includes creating an online profile, adding prior education information, selecting a program, and selecting financing options. Applicants must submit certificates to see if they are eligible for transfer credits.

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#15 Online College in Colorado

Colorado State University-Global Campus

School Information

Location: Aurora, Colorado

Admission Rate: 99%

Accreditation: Yes

As a leading online university, CSU Global offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in areas such as healthcare administration and management, organizational leadership interdisciplinary, and professional studies.

Personalized and 100% remote learning options allow students to work full-time while attending school. Course delivery follows an accelerated eight-week format.

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#16 Online College in Indiana

Trine University

School Information

Location: Fort Wayne, Indiana

Admission Rate: 24%

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 98%

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $399

Undergrad, out of state | $399

Graduate, in state | $575

Graduate, out of state | $575

TrineOnline offers more than 20 associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Classes are held in 8-week asynchronous learning sessions. Undergraduate students can take their first course for free. Students can also receive credits based on work experience. Student support services include computer help, library services, and tutoring.

Popular study options include business, criminal justice, engineering, health care, technology, and leadership. New undergraduate applicants must submit completed applications and high school transcripts or GED results. Financial support is available for distance learning students.

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#17 Online College in New York

Excelsior College

School Information

Location: Albany, New York

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $510

Undergrad, out of state | $510

Graduate, in state | $695

Graduate, out of state | $695

Through Excelsior’s online options, students can earn degrees in liberal arts, health sciences, business administration, technology, public service, and nursing. The term begins every 8 weeks and participants can apply to transfer credits, licenses and certifications, and training prior to their associate’s, license, or master’s degrees.

Applicants for undergraduate programs must submit their transcripts and some programs may require additional materials. Online students are eligible for financial aid and benefit from career counseling, technical support, and online literacy labs.

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#18 Online College in California

University of Massachusetts Global

School Information

Location: Irvine, California

Admission Rate: 89%

Graduation Rate: 60%

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 96%

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $500

Undergrad, out of state | $500

Graduate, in state | $680-$1,185

Graduate, out of state | $680-$1,185

UMass Global offers college/career orientation and enrollment training. It also supports the 90% of its students who continue to work while in school by offering flexible and distance learning options. Students of all levels can choose programs from four online schools: Business and Professional Studies, Arts and Sciences, Education, and Nursing.

Applicants to the bachelor’s degree program must submit transcripts showing at least 12 eligible credits at the bachelor’s level from a regionally accredited institution and a minimum GPA of 2.0. Individual departments may list other admission criteria.

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#19 Online College in Texas

Texas Tech University

School Information

Location: Lubbock, Texas

Admission Rate: 69%

Graduation Rate: 61%

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 52%

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $395

Undergrad, out of state | $425-$804

Graduate, in state | $476

Graduate, out of state | $885

Texas Tech online students can earn bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Notable fields of study are petroleum engineering, plant and soil sciences, and wind energy. Students can also earn degrees in arts, education, science, and technology. Distance learning students can access support for financial aid, IT, and academic issues.

Texas Tech offers secure undergraduate admissions to applicants in the top 10% of their high school class or applicants with at least a score of 24 to 27 on the ACT or 1180 to 1280 on the SAT.

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#20 Online College in Missouri

Saint Louis University

School Information

Location: Saint Louis, Missouri

Admission Rate: 58%

Graduation Rate: 79%

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 12%

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $650-$1,680

Undergrad, out of state | $650-$1,680

Graduate, in state | $1,220

Graduate, out of state | $1,220

The mission of this Jesuit University SLU is service. SLU’s online branch offers programs for graduates, students, and professionals. Areas of study include technology and cybersecurity, healthcare administration, emergency management, and organizational leadership.

Applicants can get in touch with an admissions counselor and apply for scholarships. New students can apply for Regular Admission, Early Action, or Early Decision. Undergraduate applicants are required to submit transcripts and ACT or SAT scores for review.

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#21 Online College in Arizona

Arizona State University-Skysong

School Information

Location: Scottsdale, Arizona

Admission Rate: 64%

Graduation Rate: 4%

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 98%

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $446

Undergrad, out of state | $541

Graduate, in state | $543

Graduate, out of state | $543

ASU distance learning students can choose from more than 250 undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs. With a focus on school-wide environmental sustainability, popular programs include complex science systems and sustainable tourism and food policies, as well as disciplines such as engineering, digital media and business.

Freshmen must be in the top 25% of their high school class, have at least a 3.0 GPA, or score at least a 22 to 24 on the ACT or 1120 to 1180 on the SAT. Online students can apply for scholarships and financial aid.

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#22 Online College in Georgia

Thomas University

School Information

Location: Thomasville, Georgia

Admission Rate: 38%

Graduation Rate: 47%

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 100%

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $450

Undergrad, out of state | $450

Graduate, in state | $524-$725

Graduate, out of state | $524-$725

TU distance learning students can earn associate, undergraduate, and graduate degrees in areas such as medical laboratory science, computer systems management, supply chain management, and nursing. TU accepts up to 90 transfer credits and also awards advanced internships for military service, law enforcement training, and other learning experiences.

Long-distance applicants can apply for financial aid and scholarships. Admission requires an application, official transcripts, and a GPA of 2.0 or higher. Admitted students can access library services online and participate in tutorial sessions via Zoom.

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#23 Online College in Texas

LeTourneau University

School Information

Location: Longview, Texas

Admission Rate: 45%

Graduation Rate: 63%

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 60%

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $380-$410

Undergrad, out of state | $380-$410

Graduate, in state | $625-$800

Graduate, out of state | $625-$800

LeTourneau, a Christian polytechnic, offers approximately 140 college-level programs and online graduate degrees in areas including arts and sciences, aeronautics and aviation, education, and business. Students can also choose from options such as psychology and counseling, nursing, vocations, and theology.

Distance learning students can study from anywhere in the world and start their studies in spring, summer or fall. Applications and certificates are due 10 days before the start of the course. Applicants are encouraged to speak with admissions counselors before applying.

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#24 Online College in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State University-World Campus

School Information

Location: University Park, Pennsylvania

Admission Rate: 76%

Graduation Rate: 71%

Accreditation: Yes

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $532-$590

Undergrad, out of state | $532-$590

Graduate, in state | $950-$1,236

Graduate, out of state | $950-$1,236

Penn State World Campus offers more than 175 online degree programs that allow students to earn nursing degrees, bachelor’s degrees in law and politics, master’s degrees in business administration, and many other options.

Student services are designed to help students balance school, family and work and include financial support, IT support, and tutoring.

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#25 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%

Average Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $179

Undergrad, out of state | $716

Graduate, in state | $327

Graduate, out of state | $1,152

At UCF, online students can earn bachelor’s degrees in fields such as psychology, nursing, and anthropology. Graduate, master’s, and doctoral certificates are also offered online.

Students can apply online as transfer students to UCF. To do so, they must present post-secondary certificates with a grade point average of at least 2.0. Applicants with fewer than 60 transferable credits must also submit ACT or SAT scores.

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Reasons to Choose Online Learning Options

The 2021 Online Education Trends Report, conducted by our team and surveyed more than 1,800 students, listed COVID-19 restrictions, convenience and flexibility as the top motivators for choosing learning online.

However, the benefits of online degree programs are not limited to a greater sense of flexibility and freedom. Online college courses eliminate the need to travel to a campus, which can save students money. There are various costs associated with traveling to campus, including the cost of gas and parking. Affordability is a major concern for many students: 32 percent of respondents said they have a household income of less than $50,000 per year.

Online Learning versus In-Person Learning

Learning entirely online may not be for everyone, especially if you are easily distracted at home and find it difficult to stay motivated. However, in-person learning cannot compete with the flexibility offered by an online school. Whether you choose to attend school online or on campus, there are many quality accredited colleges and universities to choose from.

Online Learning

Pros of Online Learning

  • Flexibility in scheduling, participation from the comfort of your own home
  • Save money on travel and campus services.
  • Tuition fees can be cheaper.
  • It often includes options for faster completion.
  • Many online school programs offer online student support services and discussion forums.

Cons of Online Learning

  • Lack of personal support, feeling of isolation
  • Lack of access to resources on campus
  • It can be harder to network and make friends
  • Not all courses are available
  • It can be harder to stay engaged and motivated; must have strong self-discipline

In-Person Learning

Pros of In-Person Learning

  • Personal and community interaction.
  • Full access to campus resources.
  • It can be easier to network and make friends.
  • More options for areas of study.
  • You can concentrate more easily.

Cons of In-Person Learning

  • Less control over planning
  • More time and/or money to attend classes or live on campus
  • Higher tuition fees, especially for international students in public schools.
  • May not have as many accelerated program options.
  • Possible increased exposure to diseases.

How to Choose an Online university?

In the world of online education, there is no best online university or best online degree program. But there is a better option for you. To begin your search for the best online colleges and universities for your situation, ask yourself these five questions:

  • What area of ​​study are you interested in?
  • What type of online degree do you need to achieve your goals?
  • What type of institution offers the degree you need?
  • How much flexibility do you need?
  • How much can you afford to spend on an online degree?
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By understanding what to expect from a particular degree, you can make informed decisions about which online universities and colleges have the best chance of giving you a decent return on investment.

To help you get started researching your title options, check out these popular title rankings:

Best Online Master’s in Counseling Programs

Best Online Addiction Counseling Programs

Best Online Psychology Degree Programs

Best Online Master’s in Education Programs

Best Online Healthcare Administration Programs

Choose an Area of Study

As a first step, think about which field of study you would like to pursue in order to achieve your professional goals. Different college majors teach different skills and have different areas of focus.

Browse the different majors offered by a variety of the best online universities related to the field of study that interests you. Find out what specific courses are required in each specialty. Also think about the specific hard and soft skills that will be most useful for the job you want to do.

You can search our collection of college program rankings to learn more about the best online degrees in different fields of study.

Popular Fields of Study after Graduation

ASSOCIATE

  • Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities
  • Health Professions and Related Programs
  • Business, management, marketing and support services

BACHELOR DEGREE

  • Business, management, marketing and related support services
  • Health Professions and Related Programs
  • Social sciences and history

MASTER’S DEGREE

  • Business
  • Education
  • Health Professions and Related Programs

Source: National Center for Education Statistics (undergraduate and postgraduate)

Guide to Online Schools by Degree Level

Once you have decided on an area you are interested in, determine the degrees (degree) you need to achieve your career goals. Be sure to check the prerequisites as well.

Associate

IDEAL FOR: High school graduates who want to quickly acquire practical professional skills.

TYPICAL DURATION: 2 years

MEDIUM ANNUAL SALARY*: $40,000

Bachelor’s Degree

IDEAL FOR: People with a high school diploma or some college credits who want to start a new career or increase their earning potential.

TYPICAL DURATION: 4 years

MEDIUM ANNUAL SALARY*: $55,700

Master’s

IDEAL FOR: People who already have their bachelor’s degree but wish to switch careers, qualify for advanced leadership positions, or enhance their earning potential.

TYPICAL DURATION: 2 to 3 years

MEDIUM ANNUAL SALARY*: $70,000 (for employees with a master’s degree or higher)

Doctorate

IDEAL FOR: People who already have a bachelor’s or master’s degree and are experts in their field or would like to take on positions in research and science.

TYPICAL DURATION: 3 to 6 years

MEDIUM ANNUAL SALARY*: $70,000 (for employees with a master’s degree or higher)

*For full-time, year-round employees aged 25 to 34

Evaluate Online Colleges

There are many factors to consider when assessing the quality of an online program and whether it is a good fit for your educational goals. Take the time to consider each of the aspects below.

Type of Institution

The degree you choose will determine the type of institution you should attend. The most common types of colleges and universities fall into the following categories.

  • Community Colleges: where you can earn an associate degree online.
  • Trade Schools and Vocational Colleges: Here you can develop industry-specific skills for a specific job, e.g. electrical installation or dental hygiene.
  • Public Universities: Traditional public schools where you can earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree online. These are often cheaper than private schools.
  • Private non-profit colleges and universities: These institutions, some of which have a religious affiliation, offer online undergraduate and graduate degrees. These usually cost more than public schools.
  • Private For-Profit Colleges and Universities – While there are reputable for-profit colleges, it is important that you research the accreditation and reputation of these institutions to avoid underperforming schools.

Accreditation

Always check if an online university or college is accredited. University accreditation is important because it sets quality standards designed to ensure online degrees are legitimate and have value. Your college’s accreditation status may also affect your ability to apply for financial aid or transfer credits.

A school’s accreditation status should be mentioned on its official website. Students can also check a school’s status through the Council on Higher Education or the US Department of Education. Both maintain lists of recognized institutional and program accrediting agencies.

Programmatic Accreditation

In certain cases, individual programs may also be accredited by an independent body. One example is the Accreditation Council for Engineering and Technology, which evaluates higher education programs in computer science, applied science, technology, and engineering. Independent agencies evaluate the competence and accuracy of on-campus and online degree programs, giving students confidence that their school’s department offers a respectable curriculum.

Additionally, some state-level professional degrees require students to complete a program with specific programmatic accreditation.

Flexibility

Online college courses come in a variety of formats, such as: synchronous and asynchronous options that allow students to choose the structure that best suits their learning style and lifestyle. Determine what kind of flexibility you need in an online program by considering the common online course formats below.

ONLINE COURSE FORMATS

Synchronous

Students attend classes, watch lectures, participate in group discussions and conversations, and complete assignments according to a predefined schedule or schedule.

Asynchronous

Students have regular deadlines to complete assignments, watch or listen to lectures, and participate in group discussions, but they can always complete these assignments before the due date.

Open Schedule

Students may start classes at any time, regardless of traditional quarter or semester schedules. Students are required to complete assignments at specific times during the course based on their start date and discussion. Interaction with other students is generally minimal or non-existent.

Fixed-Time Online Courses

Students access all academic materials through a computer (an in-person meeting is not required), but must log in to attend classes virtually at certain times.

Hybrid

Most course material and tuition are provided online and can be completed remotely, but students must meet in person one or more times during the course.

Costs

The actual cost of a program can be one of the most important factors in choosing the best online college or university for you. When comparing the costs of online and on-campus programs, many students assume that attending an online university with lower fees is always cheaper.

In a way, that may be true: Online students who don’t want to use on-campus services can usually avoid the costs associated with in-person attendance, including activities, parking, and health care costs. Additionally, some schools pay in-state tuition for all online students, and other fee reductions and waivers may be available for online students.

However, many who choose to take college courses online face specific distance learning costs, such as: certain technology fees. These can be billed at a flat rate or by credit hour.

Location

Although a key advantage of a fully online college or university is that you can take classes anywhere with an Internet connection, most online students actually attend a school within 100 miles of where they live. Online degree programs offer great flexibility, but enrolling in an online degree program near you can give you additional benefits.

If you enroll in an online degree program near you, you can save money by paying in-state tuition. You can also more easily access campus resources (such as libraries, gyms, or in-person consultations with professors and academic advisors) or explore hybrid programs that require you to spend time on campus in addition to taking classes online.

Student Support

Each online program differs in the support it offers students. So make sure you get the resources you need to feel comfortable and confident in your studies. For some, that might mean resources for parents of students, students of color, or undocumented students. Student services can also take the form of writing assistance, training and guidance from a college counselor, and online graduate career services.

How Can You Pay for an Online Degree?

Earning a college degree online usually requires a significant investment. While some students choose to pay for their education out of their own pocket with savings or family contributions, many have to apply for financial aid to make education more affordable.

Some online schools also allow students to pay tuition and housing in monthly installments instead of paying a lump sum for each semester or term. These deferred payment plans may earn little or no interest, but the balance must be paid at the end of each term.

Financial Aid

Financial aid opportunities are available from a variety of sources, including the federal government, non-profit organizations, and private companies, as well as the online university a student attends. Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is necessary to qualify for federal student loans as well as many private scholarships and grants.

FAFSA submission is recommended for qualified undergraduate and graduate students, and students should complete this process each year they are in school. The FAFSA form can be completed and submitted online. It includes questions about the applicant’s financial history, including family income, tax history, and current assets, to determine the amount of financial aid a student may be eligible for.

Loans

Students can apply for college loans from the federal government or from private lending institutions such as banks or credit unions. Federal loans have a fixed interest rate and the interest is tax deductible. Federal loans do not have to be repaid until the student graduates or leaves school. Online graduates who are struggling to repay their loans may defer or reduce their monthly payments.

Loans from private lenders, on the other hand, usually have a variable interest rate, up to 14 percent or more in some cases, and the interest is rarely tax deductible. Students often have to repay these loans while still in school. Private lenders can also impose restrictions on how aid money is spent. However, if you cannot afford the monthly payment on your private student loan, refinancing and consolidation options may be available.

Work-Study Programs

The Federal Work-Study Program is aimed at students with proven financial need. The program allows them to work part-time during their studies. Eligible to participate are students at an online university that participates in the federal part-time degree program. This includes those pursuing a graduate, undergraduate, or professional education. Both part-time and full-time students may be eligible.

Federal Work-Study jobs are often subject-related. On-campus and off-campus positions may be available through the program based on availability. Those who work on campus typically work for the school, while off-campus employees often work for nonprofit organizations or public agencies.

Tuition Reimbursement Programs

According to a 2020 report by the Society of Human Resource Management, about half of private organizations provide tuition assistance to employees seeking a post-secondary degree. These plans are mutually beneficial. Workers who receive support can offset some of their training expenses, and employers bolster their workforce with workers who have training in their field.

However, tuition reimbursement may not cover all student expenses. It is not uncommon for organizations to reimburse between $4,000 and $9,000 in tuition per year, depending on the circumstances. Additionally, the employee may be required to work for the organization for a specific period of time after earning their degree or certificate.

Grants, Fellowships, and Scholarships

A scholarship is a form of financial support awarded to students in the form of a lump sum. For example, the federal government offers Pell Grants to low-income students, and many colleges and universities offer similar grants as well. Scholarships are basically a type of scholarship for students doing independent research. Scholarships are similar to fellowships, but are usually awarded by private organizations. Also, while scholarships are generally based on need, scholarships can be awarded based on variables such as demographic factors, academic merit, or field of study.

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Some scholarships, fellowships, and grants have restrictions on how the money is used. Recipients who do not follow these guidelines may be required to repay part or the entire grant. Otherwise, these forms of financing, unlike loans, do not have to be repaid by online graduates.

Learn about scholarships and funding opportunities for online students.

What Do I Need to Apply to Online College?

Once you have decided on the best online school for you, you will need to take many of the same steps as applying to an on-campus program. Please be aware of important submission dates and deadlines before beginning the process so that you have time to prepare and gather the proper documentation.

What You Will Need?

  • Test results
  • Letter of recommendation
  • Personal statement/essay
  • Official Transcripts

Application

More than 900 schools accept the Common Application. Students who fill out some basic information and answer a few school-specific questions can apply to multiple schools or colleges at the same time. Check that the online school you are applying to accepts this type of application. Otherwise, you can find the admission application on the official website of your destination school.

College Essay

Many applications require a detailed essay that addresses a general theme or creative message. Be sure to write multiple drafts of your essay to ensure it is free of grammatical errors, typos, and ambiguities. If the message is general, be sure to highlight your academic, professional, and extracurricular experiences to prove yourself as a student.

Letter of Recommendation

You will likely need to include at least one letter of recommendation with your application, so try to find some good references to ask. School counselors, teachers, and employers are all valuable contacts.

Test Results and Official Transcripts

College students are often asked to submit high school transcripts and SAT or ACT scores. Alternatively, graduate students may be asked to submit their undergraduate transcripts and GRE or GMAT scores, depending on the field of study and school.

What Can I Expect From Online College Courses?

Although eLearning courses have their own set of expectations, they share many of the same components and goals as traditional classroom courses. Here is what you can expect from online college courses.

Conferences

Specific requirements vary by program, but most online students sign up for their school’s Learning Management System (LMS) to take online courses. Asynchronous learning programs allow students to view lecture recordings at their own pace. Alternatively, synchronous programs may require students to view live lectures. In some cases, synchronous courses have video conferencing components that allow students to ask questions and interact with their classmates and professors.

Peer Interaction

Online courses often have discussion forums where students can communicate through written messages. Video conferencing may also be available, and students can connect by phone, email, or social media to coordinate study sessions or work on group projects. In addition, students who live close to campus can coordinate face-to-face study groups with their peers.

Instructor Interaction

Online private lessons often have a discussion forum where students can ask questions of teachers. Many instructors also provide their personal contact information, including phone, email, and social media, to ensure their students can reach them with questions or concerns.

Tasks and Homework

The tasks and assignments required for online college courses generally mirror on-campus instruction. Depending on the topic, these tasks may include group projects, presentations, and research assignments. Many online courses also require students to participate in group discussions on LMS boards. The LMS will have dedicated mailboxes for individual courses and assignments.

Synchronous classes often follow a tight schedule. In contrast, asynchronous courses can allow more flexibility for assignments, although most still have weekly deadlines. Online college courses can use online platforms such as Pearson MyLab, which organize course content into tutorials, quizzes, and other interactive media.

Presentations

Online courses may include presentation assignments. In most cases, the members of the group communicate and work on their projects through discussion forums, by e-mail or by telephone. Presentations are usually done remotely using web conferencing tools such as Zoom or Blackboard Collaborate. Videos can also be posted on sites like YouTube.

Tests and Exams

Questionnaires for most online college courses are completed using the LMS. Online course tests and exams can be monitored or proctored remotely. Proctored exams generally require attendance at local test centers where candidates are monitored by on-site proctors. In the case of virtually supervised exams, the invigilator can observe the student with a web camera. Some courses also use cheat detection software to monitor student web activity during the exam.

FAQ About Online Degree Programs

How Long Does an Online Degree Take?

An online bachelor’s degree typically consists of 120 credits, which full-time students can complete in about four years. However, the length of the program can vary significantly depending on the training plans available. For instance, schools may offer part-time plans to accommodate working professionals and accelerated options for students interested in accelerating their degree.

Online colleges often offer more flexibility than traditional schools. Many online programs offer asynchronous classes that students can take at times that are most convenient for them. Because asynchronous programs do not rely on live instruction, students are able to take on a higher course load and graduate faster.

Graduates can also shorten their study time in other ways. Online schools may offer credit to students with a prior college education, and some even offer credit to students with some type of work experience. Credit points can sometimes shorten study time by up to 75%.

Do Employers Like Online Degrees?

Employers generally view online degrees as equivalent to on-campus degrees. The online and on-campus programs contain the same material, differing only in teaching methods and time. The best online universities rarely label their online degrees as such, making them indistinguishable from their on-campus counterparts.

Online education can also give students easier access to some of the most recognized and respected schools in the country. This can lead to better job opportunities. As long as the school and/or online program are properly accredited, students and potential employers need not worry that a degree is illegitimate.

Regional accreditation shows that the online university meets rigorous educational standards. Programmatic accreditation identifies programs that meet industry standards and expectations for the field. Students and potential employers can check the status of programs and schools online through the Database of Approved Postsecondary Programs and Institutions (DAPIP).

Is an Online Course as Good as a Conventional Course?

An online degree offers the same level of education as a traditional degree, so both types of degrees should be considered equivalent. Online and on-campus students take the same courses and read the same materials. They often share the same instructors and also perform the same missions.

The main difference comes from the format in which online students view virtual lectures and communicate online with peers and professors. Although online programs may mirror the class schedule, some offer asynchronous options. This allows students to access recorded lectures, which increases flexibility but can reduce classroom interaction.

Students may need to demonstrate different characteristics and study habits to be successful in online programs. Online courses, especially asynchronous courses, require more autonomy and initiative. Motivated and self-disciplined students are probably best suited for online colleges.

Are Online Colleges Worth it?

Online colleges are worthwhile for many students. Online degrees can offer great value to students and lead to many different educational and employment opportunities. According to our Online Education Trends Report, 93% of online students have had or expected a positive return on their education investments.

Top online universities offer students greater schedule flexibility, which can help them maintain a healthier work-study balance. With reduced travel and campus requirements, online schools can be cheaper than traditional schools. Online students can also broaden their search parameters, giving them more options and a chance to get accepted into some of the top universities in the United States.

Online colleges can also offer savings opportunities for students. In addition to lower travel, lodging, and subsistence costs, some online schools even offer tuition discounts for online students, such as: With more online schools and programs to choose from, college applicants can find more affordable study options.

What Can I Do with an Online Degree?

Online graduates have access to the same postgraduate opportunities as traditional graduates. Not only can they seek the same job opportunities after completing their programs, but online students may have an easier time retaining a job while they study.

For this reason, online universities are often effective options for further education. An organization can have its employees improve their education and skills outside of traditional work hours. For these professionals, online degrees can lead to pay increases, more responsibilities, and promotions.

As with traditional graduates, those with an online degree can continue their education. Bachelor graduates who are already experienced in online learning can approach online studies with more confidence. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in 2019, about 33% of graduate students took courses exclusively online, compared to 15% of undergraduate students.

Is it Harder to Get a Job With an Online Degree?

Online school graduates shouldn’t have any more trouble finding employment than traditional graduates. According to a 2018 Northeastern University survey of HR professionals, 61% of executives believed that online degrees were generally equal to or better than traditional degrees. Additionally, 33% of HR leaders believe online learning will outperform classroom training.

Prospective students can improve their employment chances by choosing one of the best online universities and programs with the appropriate programmatic and regional accreditation. Employers can rest assured that online graduates have received proper training from accredited online universities. DAPIP provides a searchable list of approved schools and programs.

Prospective students should also look for online schools that offer quality career services and programs. Access to mentoring programs, job boards, resume building workshops, and interview assistance can make a world of difference to your results.

Are Online College Degrees Legit?

Degrees awarded by accredited online universities are just as legitimate as traditional degrees. Online programs follow the same curriculum and cover the same material. In many cases, online students watch the same lectures as students do on campus, either via live webcasts or recorded video.

According to NCES, more than 7 million students took at least one online course in 2019. And nearly 3.5 million fully participated in online programs, about 18% of the entire student body. Global Market Insights forecasts that the e-learning market will grow by 21% between 2021 and 2027.

In response to the COVID-19 situation, colleges and universities have moved classes online. This prompted many institutions to accelerate the development of their e-learning infrastructures, which could bode well for the future of online learning. Greater investment in online learning should not only increase access to education, but also likely improve effectiveness and technology of the training.

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