The Best Online Colleges of 2016

Search Colleges


A college degree is the best way to advance your career and increase your earning potential, but geography, family, or work obligations can make traditional college degree programs feel unattainable. Thanks to technology, however, it’s possible for you to earn a college degree while you work full-time or take care of your family, and more people are opting in to online colleges than ever before. In fact, online degree programs have outpaced traditional degree programs in terms of growth in the last decade, and, according to Babson, 70% of academic leaders say that online learning is now a fundamental part of their postsecondary institution’s long-term growth strategy. In other words, online programs from accredited online colleges now offer the academic quality and the flexibility professionals need.

70% of academic leaders say that online learning is now a fundamental part of their long-term growth strategy.

There have never been more or better choices when it comes to online associate degrees, online bachelor’s degrees, and online master’s degrees. The team at is here to help you find the top online colleges and degree programs that meet your needs.

What are the Best Online Colleges?

It’s more important than ever to pick the right online degree program. That’s why exists – we’ve reviewed thousands of accredited online colleges to help you find the best online college degree program for you. The right online college for you will work with your budget, your schedule, and your learning style to make your goals a reality. Our ranking of the 50 best online colleges gives you a place to begin your search for an online degree program that meets your needs.

We’ve compiled lists of the best online colleges in the country, split between schools offering 4-year and 2-year programs. Assessments were made using qualitative measures and data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics and from individual schools themselves. Each ranked school is fully accredited. Our lists will help you find out which schools offer online degrees in the subjects and majors you are interested in. Each school included in our rankings of the best online colleges is a not-for-profit institution that offers at least three accredited, 100% online degree programs.

Following our top picks for the best online colleges, learn more about choosing a school that fits your unique needs.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

East Carolina University

 2/558.63%Greenville, NC


As a leader in distance education in North Carolina for more than sixty years, East Carolina University earned the top spot on our list of the best online colleges. ECU is proud to offer over 75 online certificate and degree programs. Areas of study include business, education, health care and technology. Full-time traditional ECU students do have the option to attend distance education courses in addition to their regular on-campus schedule, however they will be charged distance education tuition and fees on top of their regular tuition.

Distance education students at ECU have access to their online coursework 24/7, through an easy-to-understand learning management system (aka, Blackboard or Centra). On a weekly basis, coursework and assignments are submitted via e-mail or the class website. The same faculty who teach on-campus courses communicate with their online students using discussion forums and real-time "chat" sessions in virtual classrooms. Students often work in groups, thereby benefitting from collaborating and their peers’ professional experience.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Appalachian State University

 2/569.73%Boone, NC


The online undergraduate programs offered at Appalachian State University are all comprised of upper-division courses ― and these degrees can be earned in two years or less. However, upper-division means that the courses offered are only intended to represent the second half of a bachelor's program ― the more advanced courses. All general ed. and lower-level requirements must have already been completed by prospective students in order to be accepted, making the program ideal for returning students or professionals looking to advance their education.

The 19 bachelor's degree programs cover majors like education, business management, health/nursing, social work and psychology. Other web-based offerings include six professional certificates, 13 master's degrees and three education specialist programs.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

University of Illinois at Springfield

 2/548.68%Springfield, IL


The University of Illinois at Springfield offers its students a variety of online undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as certification programs. Innovative online programs include a BS in healthcare information management, an MA in liberal and integrative studies, and a certificate in child advocacy studies. UIS also has partnerships with colleges across the state that allow students to easily transfer credits and finish their degree at Springfield. As of 2015, UIS had 1,597 students enrolled in its online programs.

UIS uses Blackboard to facilitate its online learning experience, and the program offers students 24/7 access to courses. Instructors use audio, video, chat, and discussion boards to foster peer-to-peer and peer-to-instructor interaction. Classes are small, which encourages students to form relationships with peers and instructors. Some programs may also require students to complete internships or service learning projects.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Eastern Illinois University

 3/559.47%Charleston, IL


Eastern Illinois offers one of the most affordable online programs in Illinois. Undergraduate students can choose from three bachelor online programs; graduate students can pursue one of five master’s programs, including renowned degrees in public policy and public administration. Some of EIU’s online graduate programs are categorized as low-residency, which allows students to complete most coursework online, but requires them to occasionally attend class on campus.

Students enrolled in online programs pay in-state tuition.

Students access their online courses through Brightspace by D2L, an integrated learning platform. All students also have free access to online classes through, which includes over 53,000 video tutorials across a range of subjects. Students from 49 states may pursue an online degree three EIU; distance learners from Alabama are currently ineligible to apply.

Top Three Programs by Enrollment

  • BA in General Studies
  • BS in Organizational and Professional Development
  • RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

University of Florida

 2/587.51%Gainesville, FL


For the second year in a row, the University of Florida earned a spot on our list of the best online colleges with its extensive and inclusive online education portfolio. In addition to five levels of online degrees, including traditional bachelor's, master's and doctoral credentials, students can opt to earn one of three specialist degrees, all of which are related to the field of education. International degrees in construction management, pharmacy and public health are also available. There are several bachelor's degree completion programs that can be earned in two years if applicants already hold an associate's degree.

UF's online students access their classes through e-Learning, powered by the open source learning management system Sakai. Through this platform, students and instructors have access to a number of web-based collaboration and research tools, such as the anti-plagiarism programs Turnitin and iThenticate. Some classes are also accessed through Canvas. Online students have the same support system and services in place as their on-campus counterparts. They can sign up for disability accommodations and remotely access: counseling services, the UF bookstore and library, Career Resource Center and academic advising.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Northern Kentucky University

 2/536.18%Highland Heights, KY

Northern Kentucky's online courses are taught asynchronously. Students can study in one of 10 undergraduate programs, including business informatics, health science, and organizational leadership. NKU also offers four graduate programs, including a nursing degree that is only available to in-state students. The school’s special dual-enrollment program with Gateway Community & Technical College allows students to complete an associate degree at Gateway and then automatically transfer to NKU to complete their bachelor’s online.

Most programs are taught on an accelerated schedule, and can be completed in two years. Distance learners benefit from the same quality support services as residential students, including an online librarian and online writing center. Class materials are available through Blackboard.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Asbury University

 4/567.73%Wilmore, KY

Asbury's bachelor's programs in business, elementary education and ministry education are either taught entirely online, in a hybrid format, through on-campus evening classes or via a degree completion program. Kentucky licensure is received upon completion of any of the online education programs.

Discovery is the name of Asbury’s online campus learning management system platform. Via Discovery, students can access class activities, assessment items, communication tools, courses, their grade book, and message their fellow learning cohorts and instructors.

Interactions are conducted through face-to-face online chat sessions and forums structured within the course schedule. Occasionally, pre-scheduled chat sessions, class presentations, discussions or video web-conferences are conducted synchronously; otherwise, coursework is conducted asynchronously.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Minot State University

 2/539.9%Minot, ND

Minot State has offered online courses for 18 years. Through its Center for Extended Learning, the school offers a growing number of affordable undergraduate and graduate degrees, along with several postgraduate certificates. Popular programs include bachelor’s degrees in management and nursing, and a master’s degree in management information systems. Some programs, such as the RN to BSN, require students to complete a field experience locally.

Online courses are delivered through Blackboard. Most online programs are taught asynchronously, with the exception of the BS in human services degree, which requires students to observe class at scheduled hours. Online students have access to the same academic services as residential students, including online tutoring and essay help through the school’s online writing center. Many courses also use Read&Write GOLD, a comprehensive literacy software program that allows students to complete assignments and take tests online. The software accommodates students from all backgrounds, including those with learning disabilities and students who learned English as a second language.

Top Three Programs by Enrollment

  • BS in Management
  • BSN Completion
  • MS in Management Information Systems
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

 2/555.61%Greensboro, NC

UNCG offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate online programs in the arts and sciences, along with two online doctorate degrees and several postgraduate certificates. Popular programs include:

  • BA in Peace and Conflict Studies
  • MS in Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies
  • EdS in Educational Leadership

UNCG is also a top-rated military-friendly school.

Courses are taught either asynchronously or in real-time, depending on the program. UNCG uses Canvas to deliver their online classes. To study and listen to lectures on the go, students can download Canvas Mobile on all iOS and Android mobile devices. UNCG also provides an online writing center and digital library materials to all distance learners.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

University of Arkansas

 2/5N/AFayetteville, AR

Online degrees at the University of Arkansas are affordable and designed according to standards set forth by the Quality Matters Program, a national service that helps schools create and implement quality online programs. The school offers four undergraduate programs in the arts and sciences, along with a variety of master’s and doctoral programs. Arkansas currently has 1,696 students enrolled entirely online, and nearly 8,000 more taking at least one online course.

Arkansas offers both self-paced and traditional online courses through Blackboard, though no program consists entirely of self-paced courses. Self-paced courses allow students to complete all course requirements on their own schedule, while traditional online courses take place along a predetermined schedule. Traditional courses may be taught asynchronously or synchronously.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Colorado State University – Global Campus

 1/5N/AGreenwood Village, CO

CSU-Global markets itself as the nation’s first 100% online state university. Students can choose from a list of undergraduate and graduate programs in the arts and sciences, including criminal justice and law enforcement, information technology, and organizational leadership. In addition to low tuition rates, CSU’s students benefit from a tuition guarantee that locks their initial tuition rates in place for as long as they’re enrolled.

Online courses are interactive, and can be accessed through Blackboard. Many courses include portfolio projectsb and are designed to help distance learners build skills to complement their professional experience. Students have 24/7 access to live tutors for all subjects through the Smarthinking platform, and they can also use the ask-a-librarian chat service at all hours of the day. All undergraduate courses are taught by instructors with at least a master’s degree in their subject-related field; graduate program instructors have a PhD or terminal degree in their field

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

University of Central Florida

 2/569.7%Orlando, FL

In 1996, UCF became one of the first accredited universities in the country to offer an online degree program; today, the Center for Distributed Learning strives to provide online programs to all interested undergraduate and graduate students. Prospective distance learners at UCF can be certain of a quality education in a flexible environment. The school offers 16 bachelor's and 25 master's degree programs, as well as a number of online minors and graduate certificates. Most courses are taken fully online, but many of the programs include practicum and internship requirements that must be fulfilled in person.

Webcourses@UCF uses the Canvas LMS to give students and instructors access to online course materials including, but not limited to: syllabi, assignments, readings and grades. With the Canvas app, classes can be accessed from any iOS or Android device. Prospective students can tour an online course to familiarize themselves with how delivery works.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Central Washington University

 2/553.41%Ellensburg, WA

CWU is a regional leader in delivering hybrid and online degree programs to both undergraduate and graduate students. Popular bachelor’s programs include a BA in professional and creative writing and a BS in aviation management. Central also offers seven master’s programs, including an MEd in special education and an MS in information technology. CWU is authorized to offer its online degrees in 43 states, though some states do not allow associated internships; students should check their state authorization on CWU’s website and specific degree requirements for more details. All non-resident students enrolled in an online program are eligible for in-state tuition.

CWU offers its online courses through Canvas. Most courses are asynchronous but structured, with scheduled due dates for assignments and exams. The CWU online tutoring center offers writing and math help through Canvas’ tutoring dimension and through Blackboard Collaborate.

Top Three Programs by Enrollment

  • BAS Information Technology & Administrative Management
  • BS Information Technology & Administrative Management
  • BA Psychology
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Arizona State University

 2/563.43%Tempe, AZ

ASU Online offers over 100 degrees and postgraduate certificate programs, along with plenty of minors and exploratory programs. These allow students who haven’t declared a major to start completing general studies requirements while exploring different disciplines. With exclusive tuition rates for online programs and six start dates throughout the year, ASU is an affordable and convenient school for distance learners.

Most online courses are available through MyASU. Professors use video, audio, and other interactive tools to encourage collaboration between faculty and students. Some programs use simulated virtual labs, particularly in the sciences, that measure and adapt to a student’s progress. Students are also given access to Google apps, and many other software programs, at no cost through MyASU. Online classes are taught in accelerated 7.5 week periods.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Florida International University

 2/554.19%Miami, FL

FIU Online offers a number of online undergraduate degrees, with programs in business, healthcare, childhood development, criminal justice and hospitality. Scholarships, such as the First Generation Scholarship, or the Fulbright Scholarship, are available for FIU’s online students, in addition to financial aid. Applying is easy; simply complete the online application, submit the application fee and have official high school transcripts and SAT/ACT test scores sent over.

Using Blackboard along with other technology (like NBC Learn, Respondus Study Mate, Turnitin and ProctorU), faculty and students can collaborate via message boards and virtual classrooms, access grades at any time and post and share course content. At FIU, online courses are not self-paced; all activities, assignments, projects and exams must be completed by their scheduled due dates. The Online Student Orientation is also designed to inform students of information that will help them succeed at FIU Online. A practice course is even available for those who want to try before they buy.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

California State University – Chico

 2/559.26%Chico, CA

With one of the highest graduation rates in the California State University system, Chico State has over 40 years of experience offering distance and online education courses and programs. Chico Distance & Online Education offers five bachelor’s degrees and two master’s programs, including an RN to BSN and an MS in agricultural education. Some programs require field experiences, and students should check placement requirements before applying. Most courses are available entirely online.

The Chico online portal provides students with access to classes and course materials through Blackboard. Distance learners have remote access to the school’s digital library materials and several other resources. These include recordings from on-campus guest speakers and material from student workshops held at the career center, or any other campus hub.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Misericordia University

 4/571.16%Dallas, PA

Misericordia University offers online undergraduate programs in accounting, applied behavioral sciences, business administration, government/law/national security and health care management. The online arm of Misericordia also features three professional undergraduate certificates: addictions counseling, diagnostic medical sonography and picture archiving and communications systems (PARC) administration

Misericordia's online management system is referred to as e-MU, a service that supports online and offline students alike. The program is backed by a student support desk, which can be reached by phone or email.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Buena Vista University

 4/545.79%Storm Lake, IA

Buena Vista began offering postgraduate degrees in 1995, and the school recently added online degrees to its suite of offerings. BVU features both undergraduate and graduate programs, all of which were designed to accommodate a working professional’s busy schedule. The school features 10 graduate programs in education and support services, while undergrads can pursue a variety of bachelor’s programs, including degrees in public administration and health services leadership.

Online class sizes are small and courses are kept engaging with clear instruction and collaborative assignments and discussions. Courses are accelerated and structured in eight week stretches. Many bachelor’s programs can be completed in two years. BVU uses the Canvas learning management system to deliver its courses. Students can access BVU’s digital library and one-on-one online tutoring through the Smartthink platform.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

 3/578.4%Minneapolis, MN

The timeline of distance education at the University of Minnesota begins with correspondence courses in 1906, moves to radio and television classes in the 1930s and 1960s and ends with the Digital Campus today. Featuring more than 50 degree and certificate programs, completely or partially online, prospective bachelor's, master's, doctorate and continuing education students have plenty of options for their educations.

Using the open source, course management system Moodle, distant and on-campus faculty and students can access all online class materials, as well as submit assignments, take tests and quizzes and communicate via forums and discussion boards. UM online students can also access some class lectures on the school's iTunes account.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Indiana University – East

 2/526.8%Richmond, IN

Indiana University-East’s online degree programs follow the same structure as the school’s on-campus programs. Students can choose from 12 undergraduate programs in the arts and sciences, including math, business administration, and psychology. Postgraduate students can sign up for one of four different certification programs. As a recognized military-friendly school, IUE also offers veteran benefits to qualifying non-residents and graduate students.

New students work with a dedicated advisor to create a customized plan of study based on their educational background and interests. Each student gets their own One.IU portal, which connects them to all online tools, including the Canvas learning management system. While most courses are offered online, all bachelor’s programs require students to complete at least 15 credit hours on campus. All students are required to earn a 2.0 GPA in English composition courses.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Old Dominion University

 2/551.58%Norfolk, VA

A pioneer in distance learning, ODU has offered online degree programs for over 30 years. Since launching ODUOnline, this top online school has conferred over 11,000 degrees through its distance learning programs. ODU also maintains partnerships with the Virginia Community College System and other higher education institutions and military bases across the state.

Most online courses follow the same semester schedule on campus, though some (including the school’s MBA program) use an accelerated eight-week format. Programs include both synchronous and asynchronous courses, which are delivered through Blackboard. Most exams are available right on Blackboard; occasionally, professors will require you to take a test under supervision from a proctor.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Clarkson College

 3/559.09%Omaha, NE

With nearly 90% of Clarkson College students enrolled in at least one online course each semester, the quality of online education at Clarkson is rarely in question. Bachelor's in nursing, medical imaging, healthcare management and healthcare administration can be completed through Clarkson’s Online Education. However, some online programs require periodic campus visits in order to conduct skills assessments.

Since 1998, Clarkson online students have used a learning management system to complete their online courses. Once students register for the Clarkson Online Campus, they have access to resources such as the Success Center, which offers tutoring, study skill materials, counseling, tutorials, and writing aids. Using webmail, the Online Campus, virtual classrooms and discussion boards, faculty members convey coursework, assignments, projects and tests to their online students.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Pennsylvania State University

 3/586.11%University Park, PA

From correspondence courses in 1892 to over 100 online undergraduate and graduate degree programs today, Penn State has provided distance education to those without the time to attend classes on campus for over 120 years. The courses and programs are developed and taught by the same experienced and knowledgeable instructors that are found on campus, so online students can be certain they are receiving a high quality education.

Penn State and its World Campus use Blackboard's ANGEL course management system. From its interface, students can take proctored exams, submit homework assignments and keep in touch with professors and classmates. The school is currently working on finding a new CMS as ANGEL will no longer be in service after October 2016. Online students have access to the same support system and services that can be found on-campus, including academic advising, tutoring, counseling and library access.

Top Three Programs by Enrollment

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • BA/BS in Psychology
  • BS in Business
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

University of Memphis

 2/544%Memphis, TN

Memphis offers distance learners a unique opportunity to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree by participating in the Regents Online Campus Collaborative. The collaborative is a statewide partnership between six universities and other higher education institutions that allows students to choose a “home campus” through which to earn their degree. Students can pursue degrees in a variety of subjects, including information technology, health administration, and interdisciplinary studies. Master’s programs are available in strategic leadership, nursing, and and several other subjects.

Online courses are available through the D2L learning management system, which hosts all class materials and communication forums. Some course exams require students to arrange for a proctor at an approved testing site. Distance learners also have access to a virtual bookstore, library, and tutoring services through Smarthinking.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Florida Institute of Technology – Online

 1/5N/AMelbourne, FL

Florida Tech offers working professionals the opportunity to earn their degree from a top technical college. Students can choose from associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degrees in business, computer information systems, liberal arts, and several other disciplines. Students can enroll at any time, with six start times offered throughout the year.

Distance learners are assigned an adviser, who helps students choose and register for courses. All online courses are taught entirely online and delivered through either a dedicated campus learning management system or, for the College of Aeronautics, the Angel learning management system. Each course is structured in eight-week terms, and all major courses can be taken in any order.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

Mitchell Technical Institute

 1/567.5%Mitchell, SD

MTI offers completely online two-year degrees for aspiring administrative office specialists, medical office professionals, office technology specialists and managers of small businesses. Students in the associate-level speech language pathology and advanced medical imaging programs must enroll in a blend of online and in-person courses, with on-campus work required so students can develop hands-on technical skills and perform clinical activities.

Through their MyMTI accounts, students have access to their webmail, their online courses, coursework and assignments from instructors, an events calendar and more. Once registered, all online students must complete the MTI Online orientation, which will introduce them to the MyMTI learning management system.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Alexandria Technical & Community College

 2/558.27%Alexandria, MN

Alexandria College Online offers a total of 12 web-based educational programs. These include associate degrees in liberal arts, business administration and computer information systems. Career-wise, there are programs for aspiring human service practitioners, legal administrative assistants, medical administrative assistants, paralegal and speech-language pathology assistants.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Northwest Iowa Community College

 2/553.91%Sheldon, IA

Students who enroll at Northwest Iowa Community College may earn an online, pre-professional associate degree in seven different fields: accounting, business, criminal justice, early childhood education, education, human resource management and paralegal. Associate of science degrees are also available online in health information technology, agriculture, accounting and powerline technology.

Northwest employs Pearson's eCollege Learning Management System for all online programs. The system supports email and allows instructors to incorporate compatible third party software and media to their online class dashboard, letting students experience highly tailored classes.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Foothill College

 1/555.69%Los Altos Hills, CA

Foothill College conducts 13 different associate programs entirely online; programs in accounting, psychology and sociology, to name a few. The school also identifies a series of online courses that meet general education requirements.

The Foothill's platform is Etudes, a course management system that manages over 450,000 enrollments per year for hundreds of schools. The platform manages collaboration, assessment and live, in-classroom instruction.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Moraine Park Technical College

 1/534.21%Fond du Lac, WI

The online offerings at Moraine Park Technical College include associate degrees in accounting, health information technology, leadership development, information technology and business management. Additionally, blended programs are offered for educational assistants and water quality technology professionals.

Moraine's online platform is eCollege, a Pearson Company creation. The school stresses that their online classes are non self-paced, meaning students must adhere to set deadlines for all course assignments and exams.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Western Wyoming Community College

 1/552.6%Rock Springs, WY

Western Wyoming Community College offers 17 web-based educational programs. Associate degrees are available in majors like accounting, business administration, computer information systems, marketing, criminal justice and sociology.

WWCC's online courses are not self-paced; most online courses share their start date with the on-campus equivalent programs. The school suggests that, for a 3 credit course, remote students need to commit to being online, in class, a minimum of 3 days per week and, outside the class, studying for a minimum of 9 hours a week.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Northeast Community College

 1/546.08%Norfolk, NE

Northeast Community College currently runs 14 online associate programs, including programs in accounting, criminal justice, elementary education and behavioral science. The school also has made a striking commitment to online programs in business, with administration, international business and insurance services all offered as individual programs at the associate level.

Northeast's online system is referred to as "My Sakai." The interface is broken into training materials, courses (divided by type of instruction) and tools, including a calendar, email and file storage. NCC has also committed a sizable amount of resources to support services for online students, be they IT support, career counseling or tutoring.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Olney Central College

 2/548.7%Olney, IL

IECC online courses do not require any campus visits and are conducted 100% online; however, an occasional proctored exam may be required at an approved location in proximity to the distance student. Associate-level programs in accounting and computing are offered online. There is also an online program for aspiring medical office assistants.

Olney Central College (and most of the IECC schools) use the learning management system (LMS) Desire2Learn for online learning. Students log in to their Entrata account and click on the "Online Learning" link to learn how to use their D2L account. Students who aren’t sure if online learning is for them can take the school's Intro to Online Learning course. The course explores a wide range of online learning aspects and transitions students into Angel, the LMS learning management system used by IECC.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College

 1/550.82%Shell Lake, WI

Online associate degrees are available at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in the following fields: accounting, administrative professional services, E-Child (early childhood education), IT-Web/software development and marketing.

WITC's online courses are run through the Blackboard platform, a leader in course management systems since the advent of online education. It should be noted that some programs, such as accounting, require their own separate set of tech requirements that go beyond the basics of Blackboard.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Citrus College

 1/532.85%Glendora, CA

Citrus College offers online associate degrees in the arts and humanities, math and science, social and behavioral sciences, technology and business, administration of justice and business. Classes are typically offered during fall and spring semesters, each lasting 16 weeks. There are, however, other scheduling options as well, including six-week long summer and winter sessions, evening classes, flexible start and end dates and hybrid online formats.

Citrus College uses Blackboard as its primary online course delivery mechanism. Through Blackboard, instructors and students communicate via discussion boards, virtual classrooms and lightweight chat. Exams, tests, projects and assignments are also conveyed through Blackboard and Citrus College email. Once enrolled in distance education, students participate in the online orientation to gain a better understanding of how Citrus College orchestrates online learning.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture

 1/543.53%Curtis, NE

NCTA in Curtis offers four great areas of study: agribusiness management systems, agriculture education and animal science, agronomy and horticulture and veterinary technology. Students choose one of four associate options, within which there are online courses available, such as animal sciences, veterinary technology, agribusiness management courses and general education.

Online courses at NCTA are offered each spring, summer and fall semester through the Blackboard Course Management System. Most distance courses are asynchronous and use social media, discussion boards, videos and online lectures, live chats and email. Students register for them through their MyRed account, and once enrolled can then see details about individual courses.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Santiago Canyon College

 1/538.49%Orange, CA

Associate degrees, with the option to transfer to a California State University, are available both online and as an online and in-person hybrid at SCC. Courses offered cover women’s studies, accounting, marketing, gemology, education, sign language, cosmetology and computer science, just to name a few. Some SCC programs provide students with the skills to immediately enter the workforce, while others serve as the first two years on the path to a bachelor’s degree at a four-year school.

SCC Online students gain access to their online classes using Blackboard 9.1. Tutorials are available for individuals not yet comfortable or familiar with Blackboard. Distance courses with SCC require interaction with your instructor and peers through chat rooms and discussion boards. Instructors deliver electronic lectures and assignments, respond to discussion posts, provide feedback on assignments and generally monitor students’ progress.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Minnesota West Community and Technical College

 2/549.68%Granite Falls, MN

Minnesota West Online makes it possible to complete an associate or applied science degree exclusively online. A typical two-year degree at MW is comprised of 35 core skill credits, with the rest of the program made up of specialty elective credits. For each three-credit class, students spend six to nine hours a week working on coursework. Liberal arts, nursing, energy technical specialist, business management, administrative assistant, computer information and security assurance are just a few of the online two-year degrees offered.

MWTCT uses the Desire2Learn learning management system to deliver its online courses, however, depending on the course, instructors may use additional software and websites. While there are weekly deadlines and assignments, there are no live courses to attend. Courses are typically asynchronous, with date-assigned tests and assignment due dates, so students can make their own schedule. Students complete written assignments, participate in interactive discussions, take quizzes and use email to communicate with instructors.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Seward County Community College and Area Technical School

 1/535.86%Liberal, KS

Via EduKan, which was formed as a cooperative effort between six western Kansas community colleges in the spring of 1999, SCCC/ATS offers those enrolled in the online program coursework that could lead to an associate degree from one of six participating institutions. EduKan consortium community colleges offer the first two years toward a bachelor’s or higher degree through their AS, AA, AGS and AAS degrees. Associate programs SCC/ATS students can enroll in include liberal arts, biology, business administration and chemistry.

Edukan uses Canvas as its primary online learning management system. Once properly registered, students have access to eText or MyLabs courses, online proctoring for tests and exams and more. Students of the fully online programs at SCCC/ATS will have access to the Epworth Allied Health Education Center, a surgical technology skills laboratory, to be used to develop the skills need to provide adequate patient care. Students interact with each other and their instructors via email, web chat or phone.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Kennebec Valley Community College

 1/527.31%Fairfield, ME

While some programs require courses that have in-person meetings or practicums, KVCC offers fully online programs and single online courses. Associate of applied science degrees in pulp and paper technology, mental health and business administration are available online; the school also conducts an associate in arts in liberal studies program online, but some face-to-face instruction is required.

KVCC’s online interface is Blackboard. KVCC recommends online students be comfortable relying on email-based communications and online videos for instruction.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Casa Loma College-Van Nuys

 4/550%Van Nuys, CA

Casa Loma's blended learning programs combine online education with traditional face-to-face classroom instruction. Programs for magnetic resonance imaging, diagnostic medical sonography, vocational nursing, and physical therapy assistance are offered in this blended method. Typically, general education requirements are offered in the form of online courses. While core courses, especially those the medical field, are primarily delivered in a traditional, in-person method to ensure students receive the necessary hands-on experience before entering the workforce.

CLC uses Moodle for online courses; the interface lets students access class documents, communicate with instructors and classmates, participate in discussions and group projects and take quizzes and tests. The majority of coursework can be done asynchronously. The exception to this are scheduled, synchronous weekly chat sessions via web conferencing or chatrooms. Otherwise, online courses are structured into weekly modules organized by the instructor (they are not self-paced).

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Big Bend Community College

 1/532%Moses Lake, WA

Big Bend, in partnership with Washington Online, proudly offers associate degrees, transfer degrees and professional technical degree courses online every summer, fall, winter and spring quarters. Thousands of students successfully transfer to state universities from community colleges like Big Bend every year. There are two modes of distant education technology available to students: online and over the ITV network.

Canvas is BBCC’s online learning management systems of choice. Students have access to online services and multiple resources (databases, libraries, their personal profile with financial aid information and online tutoring) through their BigBend Portal. Every distance learner has an advisor from the start of enrollment through to completion. All students have access to the same superb faculty and high quality instruction that traditional students receive on campus.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Northcentral Technical College

 1/526.1%Wausau, WI

NTC offers nine associate degrees entirely online and ten associate degrees that are largely, but not fully, online. The programs offered vary year to year but generally include: video production, accounting, insurance, human services, marketing and IT. There are also over twenty technical diploma programs offered either fully or partially online.

NTC’s Virtual College uses Blackboard to deliver its online courses, and allows students to start courses when they want, work at their own pace and adjust due dates. Despite the flexible start date, however, students still only have until the end of the semester to complete all coursework. So while courses are instructor-led, students pace themselves within their module. Students have the option to communicate with their instructor face-to-face through Skype, Adobe Connect or HD conferencing.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

North Dakota State College of Science

 1/539.35%Wahpeton, ND

At the North Dakota State College of Science, online students can earn associate degrees in eight departments: architectural drafting/estimating, business administration/management, English/humanities, health information, information/communications technology, liberal arts, pharmacy tech and technical studies. Additionally, nursing students who are licensed practical nurses may enroll in the accelerated "certificate to nursing associate" program.

NDSCS's online courses are run on the Pearson Company's LearningStudio platform. The service is used for exams, coursework and live, in-class learning. The school also makes a concerted effort to pair all online students with an academic advisor, who they can reach out to throughout their program for academic and career support.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

City College of San Francisco

 1/526.63%San Francisco, CA

CCSF offers students the opportunity to complete all major coursework online, with an entirely online catalogue of 8 associate degrees and 12 certificate programs. The online programs offered include anthropology, computer science, early childhood education and studio arts.

CSF’s learning management system, Insight, delivers all online class assignments, quizzes and exams. Since the school’s online courses are not self-paced, assigned coursework has set deadlines, and the class follows the regular semester schedule. As of the conclusion of the fall 2014 semester, CSF no longer offers Telecourses. Students register for their online courses using Web4 and receive updates through their CCSFmail.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

West Kentucky Community and Technical College

 1/536.76%Paducah, KY

Offering online courses for over 20 years, WKCTC continues to be a leader in online learning. The school currently offers a number of online associates degrees designed to help students transfer into bachelor’s programs; the school also maintains a list of online-run courses students can elect to audit in order to complete a prerequisite or to continue to earn college credits at their own pace. Online programs found at WKCTC include business administration, computer information, criminal justice, marine technology and medical information technology.

Using the online learning management system Blackboard, students have two instructional methods to choose from. "Learn by Term" is the more traditional option, where online courses follow the typical semester schedule. Occasionally labs or exams will require an on-site visit to an approved location. "Learn on Demand" breaks courses down into smaller, 3 to 5 week long modules that allow students to choose their own start date, and choose to take just one module or an entire 15 week course at one time. WKCTC’s associate degrees are delivered via the Learn by Term method.

Once students have access to their Blackboard account, they can learn how to create a discussion board post, submit assignments, check their grades and take an online test by watching video tutorials.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Palomar College

 1/527.62%San Marcos, CA

As a member of the Associate Degree for Transfer program, Palomar College offers Administration of Justice AA degrees that can be transferred to a number of four-year universities in California that Palomar has transfer agreements with, specifically the California State and University of California systems.

Palomar College Online uses Blackboard as its learning management system of choice. All of PC’s online courses receive the same unit credits and transfer status as traditional classroom courses, while at the same time providing students with greater flexibility in their schedules. Instructors assess students’ progress using exams, papers, quizzes and class participation.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Ridgewater College

 2/542.26%Willmar, MN

Associate degrees in liberal arts, computer aided drafting and design are all offered fully online through Ridgewater College. Due to the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum, some of the programs allow students to transfer to baccalaureate majors at four-year colleges and universities, after "getting their generals" done for considerably less money. The Law Enforcement program offers 3 distinct educational tracks that prepare students to pass the Minnesota Peace Officer’s Standards and Training (POST) Board’s examinations.

RC uses the learning management system Desire2Learn (D2L) program. Some online courses are "student-paced," allowing students to work at their own pace, so long as all course requirements are completed by semester's end. Others are "instructor-paced," meaning they have several instructor-designated deadlines and due dates throughout the semester.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Fox Valley Technical College

 1/534.79%Appleton, WI

Through APICS (a not-for-profit international education organization and leading association for supply chain and operations management), FVTC offers the Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) and Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) designations online, as well as an associate degree in forensic science.

Online FVTC students use the Blackboard platform. Instructors use videos, emails, discussions threads, group activities, reflection journals and other interactive software to conduct online coursework and assess students’ progress and performance. Students can work at their own pace, so long as they keep up with the week to week schedule for each program.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Gateway Community and Technical College

 1/529.63%Florence, KY

As a member of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), Gateway offers a "Core Transfer" program, otherwise known as an associate to bachelor degree partnership, along with two convenient online options: Learn on Demand, which offers 12-16 week courses or flexible module-based courses, and Learn by Term, which offers courses in the traditional semester-length through all of the 16 Kentucky community colleges.

Students who wish to complete a four-year bachelor’s would first complete the two-year associate degrees at Gateway, which include the 48 hours of general education courses required by any college in Kentucky that awards bachelor’s degrees. Areas of study for AA/AS to BA/BS students include psychology, communications, business administration, information technology and criminal studies.

Gateway uses Blackboard's web-based classrooms to allow students to check, manage, review and submit their assignments, communicate with instructors and classmates via discussion boards, use journals and wikis, participate in interactive lectures take quizzes and tests online, among other coursework activities.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

What is Accreditation and Why Does it Matter?

Any research into an online college should begin with confirmation that the school is, in fact, an accredited online college. Accreditation is the process by which universities, colleges, and other higher education institutions are evaluated. Peer review boards, whose members include faculty from various accredited schools, set evaluation standards. As with campus programs, online programs must meet those standards in order to achieve accreditation. Typical assessment criteria includes, but is not limited to, admissions requirements, quality of education, and faculty reputation.

Accreditation matters because it sets quality standards meant to ensure that your degree holds some value upon graduation. Employers and graduate schools know that if you hold an accredited online degree, you graduated from a program that meets the rigorous requirements for accreditation. In contrast, an unaccredited degree can cost you more than job offers — graduates of diploma mills risk leaving school tens of thousands of dollars in debt with nothing to show for it but a degree that isn’t recognized by employers, graduate schools or professional certifying agencies. Accreditation of any online college you’re considering can be verified through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) Database of Institutions and Programs Accredited by Recognized United States Accrediting Organizations.

Of course, after confirming accreditation, it can still be difficult to weigh the value and quality of one online degree over another. It’s good to keep in mind that whether a program is offered online or on campus, all accredited programs in the U.S. are held to the same academic and professional standards. These standards also extend to the full-time faculty and adjunct professors that these schools hire. Any accredited online school that fails to meet program and faculty quality requirements risks losing accreditation.

Due to the rapid evolution and development of online coursework, accredited online programs are quickly becoming some of the most high-quality degree path options available. To date, well over 2000 colleges offer accredited online programs. While our list of the best accredited online colleges is a good starting point for researching programs, we’ve outlined some additional steps you can take to narrow your list of schools under consideration.

How do you choose the best online college for you?

In the world of online education, there is no overall best online college or online degree program. But there is a best option for you – you just have to know what questions to ask. Ask yourself these five questions to begin the search for the best online colleges for you:

  • What do you want to do with your degree?
  • What degree level do you want to earn?
  • What majors will help you achieve your career goals?
  • How much flexibility do you need?
  • How much can you afford to spend on an online degree program?

The rapid growth in online colleges means that you have more choices than ever before – and therefore you have to think even more carefully about which online school is right for you. If you know exactly what you want out of a particular degree, then you can make educated choices about which schools and programs will give you an acceptable return on investment.

Know Your Career Goals

A college degree is the best way to increase your earning potential – but different careers require different degrees. Think specifically about the types of job titles you hope to be eligible for after you graduate and the types of employers you want to work for. Research the kinds of skills and degrees people at those jobs have, and use that research to narrow down the degree programs you are considering.

To help get you started on researching career options, check out these guides:

Business Careers
Technology Careers
Healthcare Careers
Education Careers
Criminal Justice Careers

Pick a Degree Level

There are a couple of considerations to make before choosing a degree level to pursue. One, what level of education have you achieved to date? Two, what are your career goals? After all, college degrees aren’t one-size-fits-all. In addition to the multitude of online bachelor’s degrees out there, you can also consider online associate degrees and online master’s degrees. The following list can help you better understand your options:

  • Online Associate Degree: Full-time students can typically complete an associate degree program in two years. If you have a high school diploma and are looking to quickly gain practical career skills, an online associate degree program may be a good fit. Less expensive than a 4-year degree, many online community colleges and online career colleges have programs that will open the door to vocational and administrative support positions such as legal assistant, medical assistant, and medical biller and coder. An online associate degree program is also a cost-effective way to complete general education requirements before transferring to a 4-year program.
  • Online Bachelor’s Degree: It is expected that full-time students can complete an online bachelor’s degree program in 4 years. If you have a high school diploma and/or some college credits to your name, an online bachelor’s degree program may be the right fit. Some colleges even offer degree completion programs specifically for students who have earned an associate degree and would like to finish a bachelor’s program. A bachelor’s degree is perhaps the single best way to increase your earning potential. According to, a worker with a bachelor’s degree can earn over $1,000,000 more over 20 years than a worker with just a high school diploma. Most entry-level positions at professional organizations require, at a minimum, a 4-year degree. Business, healthcare, tech and all manner of other sectors are looking for well-rounded, critical thinkers with communication skills. An online bachelor’s degree program can position you to bring all three and more the table of potential employers.
  • Online Master’s Degree: Most online master’s programs can be completed in less than three years. Many schools offer accelerated online programs allowing you to complete your graduate degree in as little as 12 months. If you already have a bachelor’s degree but want to switch careers, qualify for more advanced leadership roles, or increase your earning potential you may want to consider a graduate degree. Programs from accredited online colleges, in particular, allow those in the workforce to earn a master’s degree online while balancing work and family obligations. It should be noted that a master’s degree is required in some fields for professional licensure and certification. These include, but are not limited to licensed counselors, social workers, and certified public health employees.


Choose a Major

Once you know what degree level you want to pursue, think carefully about what majors will have the biggest impact on your current career or future job prospects. Different majors teach different skills and have different points of emphasis. Multiple studies have shown that what you study has a bigger impact on future earning potential than where you go to school.

Look at the different majors that a variety of top online colleges offer related to the field of study you are interested in. Research what specific courses you will take with each one. Think about what specific hard and soft skills will be most valuable to the work you want to be doing.

Check out our subject guides to learn more about what you can do with different majors.

Decide How Much Flexibility You Need

Different online degree programs offer different amounts of flexibility. Here are some common types of online degree programs and online college classes you’ll find. Each offers a different level of flexibility and different types of instruction.

  • Synchronous: Students are expected to attend classes, view lectures, participate in group chats and conversations and complete assignments at the same time according to a pre-set schedule or syllabus.
  • Asynchronous: Students are given regular deadlines for completing assignments, reading, viewing or listening to lectures and participating in group discussions (often using an online message board), but can complete these tasks at any time before the due date.
  • Open Schedule: A type of asynchronous class, Open Schedule courses allow students to begin courses at any time, independent of traditional quarter or semester systems. Students complete assignments at set points during the class based on their start date. Discussion and interaction with other students is usually minimal.
  • Fixed-Time Online Courses: Students access all academic materials from a computer (no in-person meetings are required), but must log in to virtually attend and participate in class at specific times.
  • Hybrid Online Courses: The majority of course materials and instruction are provided online and can be done remotely, but students are required to meet in person one or more times during the course.

How Much Does an Online Degree Cost?

There is no doubt that a college education pays off – on average, a college graduate earns $1,000,000 more than a high-school only graduate over the course of their lifetime, according to the College Scorecard. Individual earnings vary greatly from person to person based on what level of degree you earn, what you study, and what kind of career you choose to pursue.

The cost of a college degree can vary wildly as well. It’s no secret that tuition prices have skyrocketed in the last few decades. Online degrees aren’t necessarily cheaper than traditional on-campus degree programs, but choosing an online degree program can save you money in commuting costs and materials, and most importantly, give you the flexibility to work while you earn your degree more easily than if you had to take classes in-person.

In-state vs. Out-of-State Online Colleges

One of the main reasons that you might be considering an online college is because it frees you up from having to visit a campus, meaning you could attend college anywhere, regardless of where you live or work. This is absolutely true, and it means that you can consider colleges and online degree programs that wouldn’t be available to you if you had to attend traditional in-person classes.

Many students enroll at public colleges in their own state to qualify for lower in-state tuition rates. However, several public colleges now offer in-state tuition rates to all online students, even if you don’t live in the same state as the school. This can mean savings of thousands of dollars a year, which means you pay less out-of-pocket and take out fewer loans. If you are looking for a degree with a high return on investment, or are entering a field that doesn’t pay a six-figure salary, do your research to find out if the program you are interested in can be found somewhere where you qualify for in-state tuition.

Consider Your Options

There are four main types of online colleges, and each offers different advantages when it comes to cost:

Community Colleges

At a community college, you can pursue your associate degree online, either to qualify for introductory positions in your chosen field or as preparation for a four-year program down the line. Tuition at two-year schools is lower than at most colleges, and for students just starting college, it might make sense for you to begin here.

Professional & Career Colleges

If you want to attend school and prepare for a specific career, you can develop industry-specific skills in a career college. Whether you’re interested in nursing, secretarial work, or anything else, a professional college can help you take the next step in your career.

Public Colleges

These are the traditional four-year state schools. As a general matter, public colleges are usually cheaper than private schools. Some online schools offer reduced tuition rates to in-state students, while others are able to offer in-state tuition to students throughout the country.

Private, Not-for-Profit Colleges

Many, though not all, of the private schools offering online programs are religious schools. Some of these schools incorporate scripture into their online program, though others do not, and have no religious requirements for distance learners. Private non-profit schools are often more expensive than other four-year options, so be sure to do your research and find a school that fits with your budget.

Private, For-Profit Colleges

There are a number of reputable private for-profit colleges as well. When researching for-profit schools, it is vital that you research their accreditation and reputation, as there are a number of diploma mills in this category.

Even though one big advantage of online colleges is the fact that you can attend a college anywhere in the world, most online students take classes from a university within 100 miles of where they live. Online programs offer a great deal of flexibility, but enrolling in an online degree program close to your home can offer some big advantages. If you enroll in an online program close to home, you can save money with in-state tuition, easily access campus resources like libraries, gyms or in-person office hours with professors, and you can access hybrid programs, which require you to spend some time on campus in addition to online curriculum.

Ready to learn what online college degrees are available in your state? Select from the map below to learn about online degree programs where you live.

Online Colleges by State All states in the U.S. Hawaii HI Alaska AK Florida FL New Hampshire NH Michigan MI Vermont VT Maine ME Rhode Island RI New York NY Pennsylvania PA New Jersey NJ Delaware DE Maryland MD Virginia VA West Virginia WV Ohio OH Indiana IN Illinois IL Connecticut CT Wisconsin WI North Carolina NC Massachusetts MA Tennessee TN Arkansas AR Missouri MO Georgia GA South Carolina SC Kentucky KY Alabama AL Louisiana LA Mississippi MS Iowa IA Minnesota MN Oklahoma OK Texas TX New Mexico NM Kansas KS Nebraska NE South Dakota SD North Dakota ND Wyoming WY Montana MT Colorado CO Idaho ID Utah UT Arizona AZ Nevada NV Oregon OR Washington WA California CA

Earning a bachelor’s degree is a huge commitment of time and money, so you need to be smart and purposeful about choosing which programs to apply to. To make the best choice, focus your search on the best accredited online colleges that offer online bachelor’s degree programs in the subject areas you want.


Choose Your Major Before You Choose Your School

For a number of reasons, knowing what you want to study before you pick a school is especially important for those considering earning a degree online. First, even though there are more online colleges than ever before, most schools only offer a select number of bachelor’s degree programs in an online format. Knowing what you want to study will help you narrow your choices and make your search much faster.

Second, knowing what you want to study gives you a better idea of what kind of return on investment you’ll get with your degree, and therefore informs how much you should spend on an online degree program. What you study in college, whether online or on-campus, has a much bigger effect on post-graduate income than which college you attend.

If you aren’t sure what you want to major in, do some research. Think about what you want to do after you earn your degree. Find out what other people in that job-type or industry studied and what kinds of degrees they have. In short, talk to people who have the kinds of jobs you want.

How to Choose an Online Master’s Degree Program

If you’re looking for a way to jumpstart your career or make a career change without having to give up your full-time job, an online master’s degree may be the best way to accomplish your goal. And since most people considering a graduate degree have already started down a chosen career path, it’s not surprising that online master’s degree programs in particular are more popular than ever. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, almost one quarter of graduate students were enrolled in exclusively online courses in 2013, and the number of online courses offered has grown since then.


To make sure you choose from the best online master’s degree programs for you, you must be clear about your career goals and what you want out of the degree program. Most people who earn online master’s degrees do so with the goal of getting a higher-paying job. If you fall into this category, it’s important to really understand the job market for the industry or career you are interested in. For some fields, like social work or psychology, a graduate degree is required for even entry-level jobs. In other fields, like business, the online master’s programs and MBAs can prepare you for significant salary increases or senior leadership roles. Finally, in fields like education, a master’s degree can automatically qualify you for a higher salary, and choosing one of the best online master’s programs can allow you to earn that degree while you work full-time.

Not all jobs benefit equally from graduate school. For example, the typical salary of a worker with a master’s degree in Petroleum Engineering is only $5,000 more per year than the salary of a worker with only a bachelor’s degree in the same subject.

Once you know what you want from your educational investment, spend time networking with people in your desired field and doing online research to find out what kind of educational choices they made. Look at the kinds of companies you want to work for and see where their employees went to school. A big benefit of graduate school, even through an online degree program, is the relationships you develop with other students and instructors. The relationships you build can help you get the job you want after you graduate.

How to Choose an Online Associate Degree Program

When we talk about the importance of a college education, most people immediately think of a bachelor’s degree. But a bachelor’s degree isn’t the only educational route you can take to qualify for a high-paying career. For many people, earning an associate degree can provide you with the training you need in just two years for jobs that are rewarding and high-paying. If you have a full-time job or have other commitments that make it difficult to attend a traditional on-campus, 2-year college, there are more online associate degree programs than ever before for you to choose from.


Use the tips below to find the best online colleges offering associate degrees in the subjects you are researching.

Salary for Associate Degree Graduates

The typical salary for a worker with an associate degree is $41,500, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Not only is this a substantial increase over the typical salary of a high-school only graduate ($35,000), but the unemployment rate for workers with associate degrees is significantly lower (3.8%) than that of high school-only graduates (5.4%). So earning your associate degree will not only increase the amount of money you earn, but it will also make it more likely that you can find a job in the first place. By choosing an associate degree program from an online community college or online career college, you can earn the degree you need to increase your salary without giving up your full-time job.

Just like with other degree levels, different subjects and majors have different impacts on your post-graduate earning power. In general, associate degrees in healthcare, technology, and engineering have the highest return on investment and lead to the highest-paying jobs. According to, workers with an associate degree in management information systems, construction management, and economics can earn over $70,000 a year.

Online Trade Schools, Technical Colleges, and Career Colleges

Online associate degree programs are especially useful if you are looking for a job in a specific trade or one that requires a narrow and specialized skill-set, like a paralegal, nursing assistant or IT professional. Many 2-year schools offer degrees specific to industries and subjects and focus on preparing students for a particular set of jobs. These schools, often known as trade schools, technical schools, or career colleges, tend to center around industries like healthcare, information technology (IT), and specific trades such as computer drafting. As online education becomes more common, more online trade schools and online career colleges have emerged. Our rankings can help you find the best online technical education options.

The First Step to a 4-Year Degree

In addition to boosting your earning potential in just two years and giving you the qualifications you need to get your foot in the door to certain career paths, earning an online associate degree can also be the first step on your journey to a bachelor’s degree. Before you enroll in an online community college or other online school, make sure to confirm that the credits you earn are transferrable and will count toward other degree programs you pursue. This can cut down the time you need to complete a bachelor’s degree in the future.

You should also ask admissions counselors if their school has any special transfer agreements with colleges or universities that offer bachelor’s degrees. It’s common for a community college, even an online community college, to have relationships with other schools that give students priority acceptance to bachelor’s degree programs after they earn an associate degree.

To make sure the credits you earn as part of your associate degree are transferable, start your research with our ranking of the best online community colleges. We’ve done the research to identify which accredited 2-year colleges offer the best quality education to help you reach your academic and career goals.

Why Choose Online Education?

A big reason for the growth in online education is demand. Online college programs make college more accessible to a much infolarger population than traditional on-campus learning. Thanks to technology, you can earn an online associate degree, online bachelor’s degree or online master’s degree without having to sacrifice your job or time caring for your family.

What Programs Are Students Pursuing Online?


In a recent survey conducted by of over 1,000 online learners, an overwhelming 65% of respondents cite flexibility as the top reason for pursuing an online education. These respondents were also less concerned about curriculum specifics or access to on-campus activities. While traditional factors such as affordability, academic excellence and delivery format remain major determining factors, our survey results suggest a majority of students choose to take courses online because they are more convenient.

The advantage of online courses are more than just a sense of freedom. Online courses eliminate the need to commute to a campus, which saves money as well. There are several costs associated with this type of long-term campus commute, and as 29% of respondents report a household income of less than $50,000 a year, affordability matters. In addition, 46% of online students cite choosing the convenience of an online course due to a lack of a local campus or an inability to regularly commute to one.

About 81% of online students are also employed, so the convenience of distance education works in their favor, allowing them to complete classes around their employment schedule. While almost 63% of students say that the courses they took were to further their career, only 17% claim that taking courses was due to a desire to change careers. These responses may suggest that many online students are looking to expand their current professional skills, including the skills needed for a job promotion, rather than shift career paths entirely.

But full- or part-time employment is not the only hurdle to completing higher education; nearly 34% of respondents say they chose online classes due to flexibility surrounding their family’s scheduling demands. In fact, 33% of those surveyed had dependent children living with them when they took courses, offering some insight into what types of external factors students may have to consider when selecting a learning format, such as childcare arrangements.

How the Best Online Colleges of 2016 Stack Up


Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Our rankings of the best online colleges are a jumping off point to help you build your own list of prospective programs that meet your needs. Remember, many factors that contribute to the quality of a degree program are intangible. You won’t find data points here or elsewhere that fully capture the level of faculty support, peer networking or academic and professional stimulation found in one program versus another. Please contact your schools directly for more information.

Growing Popularity of Online Programs

One in three U.S. college students is now taking at least one class online, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Many leaders in education predict digital learning will become even more of an everyday experience for college students and recommend that high schools require students to take one online course before graduation, a requirement many high schools have already adopted.

In terms of total enrollments nationwide, growth rates of online enrollment have exceeded traditional enrollments since 2002, when fewer than 10% of new students were enrolled in at least one online class.

Growth of Online College Enrollment


Source: Sloan Consortium Annual Survey of Online Education

Digital learning is easily the most dramatic change to sweep higher education in more than a century. Colleges are under pressure to expand their online program offerings to meet the rising demand for distance learning options across the country. Learners can choose to take individual courses online, or to pursue a formal certificate or degree program. In fact, 63% of the students responding to our survey were working towards a degree, with the majority of them working towards a four-year bachelor’s degree. The rest were enrolled in online classes for personal learning and growth rather than college credit.

Recent declines in online enrollment can be attributed to an overall, post-recession decline in college enrollment as well as a significant decline in enrollment at online for-profit colleges. Overall, enrollment in online degree programs is growing at a faster pace than general college enrollment.

Growth of Available Online Degree Programs

This is great news for prospective students. Academia, once synonymous with tradition and the slow and careful adoption of all things new, is changing more quickly than ever and for the better. There have never been more opportunities for a more diverse group of degree-seekers.

Consider the rapid growth in the number of online degree programs available between 2012 and 2014. Over the last three academic years, we’ve seen a 45% increase in the number of online programs offered across the United States, for a total of 13,092 in 2014-2015. You can choose from over 550 individual degree programs alone that are offered by the 4-year colleges featured within our list of the best online universities.


Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Financing Your Online Degree

Despite the relative affordability of online programs, the need for financial aid is still a reality for most students. Rest assured, loans aren’t your only option. Explore our collection of financial aid resources or dig into one of the following guides to read more about financing your education.

An Overview of Financial Aid

Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options savvy students can use to reduce the total costs of their education.

Understanding the FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first and most crucial step for any student seeking financial aid. Follow our step-by-step guide for answers to frequently asked questions.

Financial Aid for Online College Students

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place and funding opportunities for online students.

Scholarships for Single Parents

Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for single parents looking for a more secure financial future for their children. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships for these hard-working parents.

Scholarships for Military Dependents

Military spouses and children are often faced with uncertainty, making online education a good option for those on the move. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships specifically for military dependents.

Resources to Help You Succeed

Are you considering a return to school? Do you feel uncertain about your ability to pick up where you left off? Browse our collection of student resources for a little peace of mind. Our guides are designed to help students at any level enter the classroom with confidence. Whether at home or on campus, find the help you need to get the most out of your education. Below you’ll find some of our more popular resources.

Guide to Online Research

There’s a lot of misinformation circulating online for inexperienced researchers. With the help of our online research guide, you can learn how to find reputable sources and discern fact from fiction.

Guide to Academic Writing

For those returning to school, the thought of academic writing can feel intimidating. From research papers to essay exams, our guide provides a high-level overview of how to tackle the usual suspects.

Information on Choosing a Major

Choosing a major can feel overwhelming, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Let us walk you through the process of narrowing your choice and take the next step with confidence.

Understanding Stress

Returning to college? Know that stress comes with the territory, especially if you’re trying to also balance the demands of work and family. Let us help you better understand stress and how to manage it.

Living on a Student Budget

Whether it’s your first time away from home or you’re returning to school, paying for college means living on a tighter budget. Our guide walks you through tracking expenses, establishing a budget, and saving money.

Original Research

Best Online Colleges of 2015
Rank School Location
Accredited Online Bachelor's Degree Programs
1 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
2 George Washington University Washington, DC
3 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
4 Georgia Southern University Statesboro, GA
5 Florida State University Tallahassee, FL
6 Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA
7 University of Minnesota - Twin Cities Minneapolis, MN
8 University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL
9 Appalachian State University Boone, NC
10 Misericordia University Dallas, PA
11 Mississippi State University Starkville, MS
12 University of North Carolina at Wilmington Wilmington, NC
13 East Carolina University Greenville, NC
14 Asbury University Wilmore, KY
15 Florida International University Miami, FL
16 University of Oklahoma Norman, OK
17 Rowan University Glassboro, NJ
18 University of Missouri - Kansas City Kansas City, MO
19 Dallas Baptist University Dallas, TX
20 Clarkson College Omaha, NE
21 Texas Tech University Lubbock, TX
22 Kennesaw State University Kennesaw, GA
23 University of Missouri - Columbia Columbia, MO
24 University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND
25 University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH
Accredited Online Associate Degree Programs
1 Mitchell Technical Institute Mitchell, SD
2 Alexandria Technical & Community College Alexandria, MN
3 Northwest Iowa Community College Sheldon, IA
4 Foothill College Los Altos Hills, CA
5 Moraine Park Technical College Fond du Lac, WI
6 Western Wyoming Community College Rock Springs, WY
7 Northeast Community College Norfolk, NE
8 Olney Central College Olney, IL
9 Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College Shell Lake
10 Citus College Glendora, CA
11 Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture Curtis, NE
12 Santiago Canyon College Orange, CA
13 Minnesota West Community and Technical College Granite Falls, MN
14 Seward County Community College and Area Technical School Liberal, KS
15 Kennebec Valley Community College Fairfield, ME
16 Casa Loma Collge - Van Nuys Van Nuys, CA
17 Big Bend Community College Moses Lake, WA
18 Northcentral Technical College Wausau, WI
19 North Dakota State College of Science Wahpeton, ND
20 City College of San Francisco San Francisco, CA
21 West Kentucky Community and Technical College Paducah, KY
22 Palomar College San Marcos, CA
23 Ridgewater College Willmar, MN
24 Fox Valley Technical College Appleton, WI
25 Gateway Community and Technical College Florence, KY

Best Online Colleges of 2014
Rank School Location
Accredited Online Bachelor's Degree Programs
1 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
2 Chamberlain College of Nursing Chamberlain, OH
3 Fashion Institute of Technology New York, NY
4 Cabarrus College of Health Sciences Concord, NC
5 University of Georgia Athens, GA
6 George Washington University Washington, D.C.
7 Oakland City University Oakland, CA
8 Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA
9 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
10 World Mission University Los Angeles, CA
11 The University of Alabama Tuscaloosa AL
12 Villanova University Villanova, PA
13 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL
14 Bethesda University of California Anaheim, CA
15 University of Wisconsin - Madison Madison, WI
16 Northeastern University Boston, MA
17 Rowan University Glassboro, NJ
18 University of Minnesota - Twin Cities Minneapolis, MN
19 Lancaster Bible College Lancaster, PA
20 University of North Carolina Wilmington Wilmington, NC
21 LeTourneau University Longview, TX
22 University of Delaware Newark, DE
23 Andrews University Berrien Springs, MI
24 Purdue University West Lafayette, IN
25 Misericordia University Dallas, PA
Accredited Online Associate Degree Programs
1 Virginia College Montgomery, AL
2 Sumner College Portland, OR
3 JFK Medical Center, Muhlenberg Harold B. and Dorothy A. Snyder Schools-School of Nursing Plainfield, NJ
4 Southwest Institute of Healing Arts Tempe, AZ
5 Pima Medical Institute-East Valley Mesa, AZ
6 FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising - Orange County Irvine, CA
7 Advanced College South Gate, CA
8 College of Health Care Professions - Northwest Houston, TX
9 Tennessee Technology Center at Murfreesboro Murfreesboro, TN
10 Dade Medical College - Miami Miami, FL
11 Pinnacle Career Institute North Kansas City, MO
12 North Central Kansas Technical College Beloit, KS
13 Vista College Clearfield, UT
14 Concorde Career College - Aurora Aurora, CO
15 Bryan University Columbia, MO
16 West Virginia Junior College - Morgantown Morgantown, WV
17 Daytona College Ormond Beach, FL
18 Heald College Salinas, CA
19 Community Care College Tulsa, OK
20 Eagle Gate College-Salt Lake City Salt Lake City, UT
21 Daymar College-Chillicothe Chillicothe, OH
22 Valley College-Beckley Beckley, WV
23 Western Wyoming Community College Rock Springs, WY
24 Career Point College Tulsa, OK
25 Wright Career College Overland Park, KS