A college degree can change your life, but fitting a quality education into your life can be a challenge. An online college degree or certificate can help you get that education on a schedule and budget that fit your needs.
Education Before the Classes Begin
Choosing which college to attend isn’t easy. Think carefully about what kind of education and training will be the most effective for your future career. This upfront work can pay off in the quality of your education and the return you get on your investment. Review the online schools you’re considering, including their reputations, the degree programs they offer, and of course the cost of tuition. Don’t forget to consider fees for applications and registration, as they can add up quickly.
Why National Accreditation is Important
One sign of a school that may be worth your time and money is accreditation. Accreditation means that independent agencies review the school and its curriculum, faculty, and administration to ensure that they meet rigorous academic standards. National accreditation shows that the university maintains its high standards of educational performance on the independent agency’s regular performance evaluations and audits of the college.
What Are the Best Nationally Accredited Online Colleges?
Accredited Online College uses the most recent data from the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Each program is scored individually. It’s then compared to all other universities offering that degree to determine the final score you see by each ranking. Accredited Online College considers the affordability, student-to-faculty ratio, and the number of programs offered on campus and online. To learn more, visit our methodology page for information on how we research and identify the best, most reputable online colleges.
Courses offered at American Public University System are designed to prepare graduates for in-demand careers. Traditional general education courses form the core of the undergraduate degree programs at APUS. Among the most popular programs at ASU, rated our best online university, are the online degrees in Criminal Justice, Business Administration, Management, Intelligence Studies, Homeland Security, Transportation & Logistics Management, and Environmental Science.
APUS works to keep tuition affordable for all budgets. You won’t find the pricy fees and costs that are typical in higher education. At APUS, they’re very low, or even nonexistent — the school charges no admission or registration fees. Active-duty military students qualify for discounted tuition so they won’t have to pay out of pocket for their education.
At Penn State World Campus, students can choose from more than 150 accredited programs, including undergraduate degrees, certificates, and graduate degrees, to help them achieve their career goals. Online courses are taught by faculty who are known and respected in their fields, and many of them teach on campus, as well. At this top ten online college, students can choose from degrees in such areas as Education, Energy and Sustainability, Engineering, or Law and Public Policy.
Schedules are flexible to meet your needs and to fit around your busy life. That way, you can take the courses you need to earn a highly respected degree from Penn State, with the flexibility to study when it works best for you.
Founded in 1996 with an online law school designed to give busy professionals the chance to study part-time, Abraham Lincoln University has since added more degree programs in areas like Business Administration, Criminal Justice, Legal Studies, and General Studies. Students can pursue an associate, bachelor’s, or graduate degree on a flexible schedule that accommodates the needs of working adults.
One of the most affordable online universities in the state of California, Abraham Lincoln University works with students to fit the cost of education into a real-world budget. Affordable monthly payments can help you achieve your educational goals at a reasonable cost.
An online degree from the University of Arizona, another of our top 10 accredited online colleges, comes with the same prestige associated with attending the school in person. Administrators at the university respect that 80% of their students work full time, and that more than half of all students have children to care for at home. That’s why they created remote learning programs designed to fit around their students’ busy lives.
With distance-learning courses at the University of Arizona Online, you don’t have to be on campus for hours every week. Collaborative, interactive courses last for just 7.5 weeks, and there are six start dates per year for maximum flexibility. This flexibility means you don’t have to sacrifice quality of education to achieve your goals on your schedule and your terms.
At number five in our ranking of the best online schools, Grantham University is designed to help students balance the expenses of a professionally relevant degree or certificate with the costs of adult life. With more than 60 years of experience helping adults who are pursuing higher education to get the most benefit from their educational investment, Grantham offers online associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees.
Grantham students can choose from a wide range of subject areas from Accounting to Nursing, Information Systems, and Computer Engineering. Master’s degrees offered at Grantham University include subjects like Health Systems Management, Health Care Administration, and a Master’s of Science in Leadership that can add valuable skills to any career.
Building on the experience and reputation it has earned over a century of delivering higher education, WSU Global Campus has offered distance learning programs since 1992. U.S. News & World Report included three of WSU’s offerings as among the nation’s best online degrees: WSU Global Campus ranked #23 nationally for undergraduate online degree programs, while the online MBA program came in at #18 and the online graduate engineering program was #21.
Students who expect a rigorous and challenging educational experience from a top-tier university will be rewarded while learning from WSU’s many world-renowned academic experts. Options at WSU Global Campus include 20 undergraduate majors, 12 graduate degrees, a Teaching Endorsement, and 13 Certificate Programs.
With a reputation for excellence throughout 20 years of delivering online college degrees, Florida International University Online gives students an opportunity to gain an education and build a solid foundation for their careers. Among the 54,000 learners who are pursuing their futures at FIU Online are busy parents, active duty military, and working professionals.
With students from 33 countries around the world, FIU Online has more than 200,000 alumni who have gone on to build their communities and companies with knowledge they acquired from FIU’s industry experts and academic specialists. The leaders of tomorrow’s industries can earn an education while developing powerful networks of peers and mentors, the building blocks for a strong career.
Texas Tech University offers online degrees and certificates in all kinds of subject areas and specialties, whether you’re in the beginning stages of career development or looking to add skills to your mid-career resume. Bachelor’s degrees are available in many major areas, along with minors to strengthen your academic experience. Online graduate degrees and certificates help working students hone their skills and progress in their careers.
Distance courses at Texas Tech University are taught by the same respected faculty who teach courses on campus. For community college students who plan to finish a degree at Texas Tech, transfer scholarships are offered to make this education more accessible to all learners.
With online degree programs in topics as diverse as Digital Photography, Community Advocacy and Social Policy, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Health Care and Regulations, and Technical Communication, Arizona State University-Skysong offers all the traditional bachelor’s degrees you would expect at a leading university, plus many more. Start dates for the degree programs vary, and they are designed to be flexible around the schedules of busy professionals.
With ASU’s reputation for excellence, you can count on receiving a rigorous and thorough education, delivered by skilled professors who are known and respected in their fields of research and study. The flexible online courses can fit around your responsibilities to family, community, and career as you pursue educational goals.
Remote courses and degree programs at Ottawa University are 100% online, and can be customized around your schedule. With 24/7 access to lectures and coursework, you are free to pursue your education at times that work for you, whether that’s morning, noon, or night.
Featuring an interactive learning management system that includes a virtual classroom with a low ratio of students to teachers, Ottawa University online courses are centered around your learning needs. Classes typically include a range of assignments to practice what you’re learning, and discussions to share ideas and questions with your peers in the course.
Courses last eight weeks, and you don’t have to attend study groups or outside meetings to complete class requirements. Ottawa University lets guests try out an online course before registering to better understand the convenience of the student experience.
Celebrating six straight years of top-10 ranking in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Online Bachelor’s programs, and ranking #5 for 2020, Oregon State University boasts a strong and highly respected academic tradition. With more than 70 programs offering distance learning options, there’s a good chance OSU offers a 100% online or hybrid program that fits your needs.
OSU Online counts more than 24,000 students worldwide. With programs and support designed for active military members, Oregon State University Ecampus allows those who serve to earn a degree from a top-tier school, whether to advance in their military rank or to begin the switch to a civilian career.
As a leader in online Christian colleges, Liberty University holds its values deeply. With a wide array of degree programs available, from certificate and associate degree programs to a diverse range of online bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as doctoral and postgraduate programs, Liberty University offers options to fit your needs.
The nonprofit college follows a mission of achieving better in all things, not for individual gain but for the glory of God. Liberty offers courses in theology and divinity, of course, without sacrificing courses in valuable career areas such as information technology, nursing, aviation, business, and criminal justice.
The University of North Dakota has been a pioneer in remote learning for over a century, beginning in 1911 with mail correspondence courses and advancing to today’s innovative online courses. UND offers more than 120 online degree programs, certificates, and professional development courses.
The wide selection of self-paced courses allows you to enroll and start any day of the year, and you have three to nine months to complete each course for credit. This flexible and customizable academic schedule helps you fit your studies around your life. Online credits will typically transfer to other regionally accredited schools and universities because UND credits are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Offered in a flexible format for busy students, programs at University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Online are equal to the degrees and certificates earned on campus — they typically have the same instructors, curriculum, and program details. Your transcript and diploma will only list your credits and the degree you earned, and won’t mention that you did it all online.
Choose the course format that works best for you, from fully online, mostly online with a brief residency on campus, or partly online (delivered 50 to 80% remotely). UM Online offers dozens of undergraduate and graduate certificates to help you supplement and develop your knowledge and build your career.
All of the degree programs at the University of Central Florida are designed to provide an affordable and accessible educational opportunity for all. Ranked as a Top 20 Online Degree Program by U.S. News & World Report, UCF creates opportunities for students to pursue their passions and improve their lives on a flexible schedule, at a reasonable cost.
At UCF online, students can choose from degree areas including Criminal Justice, Digital Forensics, or Health Care Informatics. A degree from UCF online is ideal for ambitious students and career professionals who are unable to visit the main campus in Orlando or one of 11 Central Florida locations to attend classes.
Courses in Florida Atlantic University’s e-Learning programs are offered in a variety of formats, including fully online, partially online, and hybrid programs. In fully online programs, 100% of required courses, plus the minimum electives for the degree, are available online — perfect for non-local or busy students who wouldn’t be able to make it to campus for regular classes.
Course activities and assessments are delivered through the Learning Management System either synchronously or asynchronously. In synchronous online courses, all students and instructors must be online at the same time. In asynchronous online courses, students interact and engage with the class on their own schedules, pursuing education at their own pace.
Colorado State University-Global Campus degree programs use leading-edge technology that allows you to connect with instructors and peers through interactive lectures, message boards, and emails.
Courses and degree programs at CSU Global are carefully created around the 3P model for maximum student achievement: class lectures and assignments are designed to be Purposeful, Participatory, and Project-based. Blending extensive knowledge with practical experience, educators at CSU Global design curriculum to deliver practical knowledge. They then challenge students to implement their education in practice, with exercises to demonstrate their understanding. It’s tough to get hands-on in an online classroom, but CSU gets pretty close.
Being a land-grant university means that Oklahoma State University is open to all. At its five campuses and online, OSU serves more than 35,000 students from all 50 US states and 120 countries per year. Students learn from renowned faculty and work with assigned advisors to successfully navigate the details of their chosen programs.
Students can begin or complete an undergraduate degree, graduate degree, or a professional certification across a range of specialties from OSU Online.
If you have goals that start with getting a college degree or certificate, but your life and work schedule don’t allow you to go back to campus and attend lectures, online learning at the University of Illinois at Springfield might be the answer.
Tuition is affordable, and any student who is accepted into an online degree program qualifies to pay e-tuition, which is significantly cheaper than out-of-state tuition on campus. With a diverse range of 52 programs offered online, you have many options to choose from. Plus, online courses are taught by instructors who also teach on campus.
Its educational legacy reaches back over the past century, but Baker College has adapted to changing times. With online degree programs in many fields, Baker offers scheduling options that are flexible enough to fit around the demands of your life.
As Michigan’s largest independent and not-for-profit college, Baker has the reputation and experience to provide relevant courses and programs in growing career fields. Consulting with industry leaders, faculty at Baker create courses and interactive experiences to stimulate learning and establish life-long educational principles. As a private college with a mission centered on student growth and achievement, Baker offers a range of financial aid choices to help to keep the cost of tuition affordable.
Aspen University provides online professional certificates and associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees from its School of Nursing, School of Professional Studies, School of Business and Technology, and School of Education.
In its mission to offer all students the chance to earn a degree on a realistic and responsible budget, Aspen features straightforward and transparent pricing. The school’s unique Monthly Payment Plan involves realistic monthly payments as you progress through your program, with zero interest and no down payment, to keep education accessible for more people.
Online degree programs such as Health Sciences, Culinary Arts & Hospitality Management, Computer Science & Information Technology set Stratford University apart. It features a diverse student population of recent high school graduates, international students, and career and military professionals who want to advance in their fields.
Programs include certificates, diplomas, associate’s, bachelor’s, and graduate degrees in high-demand areas. Courses available in an asynchronous format mean that students can interact with course materials whenever works best for them, 24/7. Busy professionals and students with family or community commitments will appreciate the flexibility to complete their class assignments on their own schedules.
Students at Missouri State University-Springfield online appreciate total educational costs that are well below the national average. Plus, they can save money by not having to travel to campus every day.
With fully accredited programs and stimulating classes taught by the same full-time instructors as on campus, MSU is one of the best nationally accredited online colleges. Degree programs include virtual writing and research assistance, and one-to-one tutoring is offered in many courses.
More transfer students choose MSU than any other public college or university in the state. A team of experienced transfer advisors can help you make a smooth transition to MSU Online if you’re bringing credits from another institution.
Thomas Edison State University’s campus in Trenton welcomes some local students for proctored exams or meetings with academic advisors, but most students complete their education at TESU fully online.
Regional accreditation helps the University to accomplish its mission of serving students with a high-quality education leading to an undergraduate or graduate degree in one of the 100+ areas of study. Most students at TESU are career professionals with limited time for school outside of their work and personal obligations, and the online courses are convenient and accessible from anywhere.
In the center of western Oklahoma, Southwestern Oklahoma State University serves residential students at its Weatherford or Sayre campuses. Many students, however, pursue associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees through the University’s distance learning programs.
With advanced technology connecting students to lectures, assignments, and assessments, SWOSU puts a college degree within reach of busy adults juggling work and family life.
The administrators and the financial office at SWOSU proudly distribute $40 million in financial aid to more than 70% of the student population, and the school’s financial advisors work with students to fit the costs of education into their budgets.
Bellevue University offers a traditional study schedule on campus in Bellevue, Nebraska, with degrees in subject areas like Public Service, Safety, Security & Intelligence, Health Care, Nursing, and Business Management. However, many students need to learn around their job and personal responsibilities, so online or hybrid in-class options offer the necessary flexibility.
Many students chose an accelerated online degree program. When you have completed an Associate Degree, or at least 60 credit hours, you can progress to one of 25 highly desirable bachelor’s degree programs in areas such as Computer Science, Psychology, Health Care, Business, and Criminal Justice. Bellevue University is respected as a military-friendly academic institution, with free evaluation of military credits for transfer.
With online learning choices that let you pursue a degree on a flexible schedule in one of seven specialty schools, Rasmussen College serves busy working adults and traditional students who need flexibility in their study schedule. Featuring innovative technology and practical, real-world-based projects and exercises to challenge and stimulate you, Rasmussen prepares students for career success.
The diploma you earn online at Rasmussen is identical to those issued to students who attend courses on campus. With online courses, you do not need to show up to class at a certain time. Students are responsible to keep on schedule with course assignments and to check in to the learning system several times each week for accountability as the course progresses.
As Virginia’s largest public research university, George Mason University benefits from its proximity to the nation’s capital. After over a half-century of growth, Mason has come to be respected for a commitment to accessibility, as well as its diversity and innovation in education. With a remote learning opportunity known as Mason Online, students can complete courses from anywhere, whether that’s home, office, or on military duty.
At George Mason University, many bachelor’s degree programs and undergraduate certificates are available online. Students gain the same top-quality education as in-person students, but with the flexibility of a distance learning schedule.
A public university with a mission to provide excellence in education and community involvement, Minot State University in North Dakota challenges students to achieve academic excellence and to participate actively in community life. Wherever you live and whatever your life schedule, you can earn a degree from MSU Online.
Graduate and undergraduate majors and minors, as well as graduate certificates, are available in a range of specialties. Classes at MSU are designed to deliver a quality education to diverse and multi-generational students, and to prepare students for the evolving challenges in technology and society.
For students who can’t travel to one of its Texas campuses due to their military or career obligations, LeTorneau University offers a range of online degrees in engineering, technology, business, education, and more, as well as master’s degree programs in business and education.
I know I want to get a college education, but I’m not sure how to choose the best major for my college degree. And do I need to pick a minor, too?
A: The choice of a major is one of the most important parts of pursuing higher education. Many students who enter college from high school, or even from community college, are not certain of their career interests or degree needs in their first year. A lot of students earn general education credits that all students are required to take toward a bachelor’s degree as they figure out their major.
If you already have a pretty good idea of the type of work that you are good at and enjoy, and have some job experience in a related field, you may be close to choosing a major in that area. Colleges and universities offer academic advisors to help students decide what degree and classes are right for them. Ask good questions, trust yourself and your family’s good advice, and remember that you can change majors if you need to.
Are online college degrees respected as much as those earned on campus?
A: Many universities print the same transcripts and award the same diplomas for online graduates as for on-campus students. There’s usually no indication that you earned your degree online, so employers may not know. However, the subject may come up in interviews, so it’s worth considering whether there is a substantial difference between the value of an online degree compared to a traditional degree earned on campus.
Modern advances in academic and communications technologies create ideal conditions for remote learning, including interactive class sessions and remote chats and discussion groups. Online students complete identical class assignments, exercises, lab projects, and assessments as their peers in physical classrooms. Modern online degree programs are the same as traditional education options — and maybe even superior in some ways. Self-directed education is often shown to be the most effective for long-term retention of key principles, and the discipline and self-reliance needed to pursue an online degree may encourage this type of learning.
Are financial aid and scholarships valid for online degree programs?
A: Yes, most types of student financial aid can be used to help pay the cost of tuition and school expenses. Generally this includes most scholarships, unless the terms of the award specifically exclude distance learning. Some schools offer additional financial aid options that you can apply for once you are accepted for admission.
Many colleges and universities have reasonable terms for student financing and payments while you are in school. A higher education is likely one of the most significant investments you and your family may make in your future. It is important to analyze your options carefully and choose a school and a degree program that will be useful in your career and life.
It’s especially critical that you analyze the costs of the entire education, including all living expenses and financial responsibilities you will continue to have during the years it takes to earn an undergraduate degree. For example, if you take an online degree, you won’t have to move to a new location or pay for on-campus housing.
Will I have to travel to the school where I’m earning my online degree?
A: In most cases, no. While there are many types of online degrees, and a lot of different styles of remote-learning classes, it is very possible to earn a 100% online degree from most colleges or universities. Some schools offer fully online, partially online with some physical attendance on campus required, and hybrid degrees, with much of the classwork fully online and some of the labs or practical exercises requiring you to visit campus at some point during the semester.
Online programs and degrees vary widely by school and degree type, among other factors, so make sure you do your research to make sure you’re applying to online programs that fit your needs.
For more information on designing a plan for a college degree that fits your needs, check out this list of the best online colleges. Learn more about getting the most for your college tuition by reading the affordable colleges with the highest return on investment.