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A college education often leads to better pay and more job opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average bachelor's degree-holder earns $64,900 annually, while individuals with only a high school diploma earn about $38,800 each year. The Florida Department of Education reports similar trends, further noting that the higher a professional's education level, the more likely they are to maintain gainful employment.
This guide highlights the 10 best colleges in Florida, and it can help you find a fulfilling career in the Sunshine State. We rank these schools based on factors like affordability, number of degree offerings, and student outcomes.
Top 10 Colleges in Florida
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|1||University of Florida||Gainesville, FL|
|2||Florida State University||Tallahassee, FL|
|3||University of Central Florida||Orlando, FL|
|4||University of South Florida-Main Campus||Tampa, FL|
|5||Florida International University||Miami, FL|
|6||Florida Atlantic University||Boca Raton, FL|
|7||University of Miami||Coral Gables, FL|
|8||The University of West Florida||Pensacola, FL|
|9||Chipola College||Marianna, FL|
|10||University of North Florida||Jacksonville, FL|
- How We Rank Schools
At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you will make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering school rankings that are transparent, inclusive, and relevant for online students.
Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our Ranking Methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.
Why Study in Florida?
Home to 825 miles of beaches and some of the best college athletic programs and research universities in the United States, Florida is a great place to play, learn, and grow.
Home to 825 miles of beaches and some of the best college athletic programs and research universities in the United States, Florida is a great place to play, learn, and grow.
The University of Florida — the state's flagship public higher education institution — maintains over 200 research centers and delivers more than 300 academic programs across 16 colleges. These degree options include popular online tracks in health education, urban and regional planning, and international business.
Students who want a more specialized education can attend a private institution like Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which offers degrees like aerospace engineering, space physics, and meteorology.
Additionally, it's hard to talk about the best colleges in Florida without mentioning football. The University of Miami Hurricanes and the University of Florida Gators are two of the best NCAA teams, collectively winning eight national championships and drawing capacity crowds at every home game.
Lastly, Florida boasts a robust economy due in large part to its worldwide reputation as a vacation hotspot. With ports facing both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, the state is also a hub for international commerce.
Top Degree Programs in Florida
Florida Employment Outlook
As of December 2020, Florida's unemployment was 6.1%, which was slightly lower than the national rate of 6.7%. Additionally, the BLS reports that the annual mean wage in Florida is $47,750. However, earning potential greatly varies based on individual qualifications.
Students who want to prioritize employability in Florida should consider a career in one of the state's top industries, which include manufacturing, healthcare, IT (particularly video game and mobile application development), and private and homeland security. Aerospace technology is another huge industry in Florida, which houses two of the nine active U.S. spaceports and approximately 2,000 aviation and flight-related companies.
Popular Career Paths in Florida
2020 Best Accredited Colleges in Florida
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University of Florida
|Gainesville, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 88%||
The University of Florida tops our ranking of the best colleges in Florida thanks to its strong student support services and affordability. More than 95% of first-year students at the university continue into their second year, and more than half graduate with no student loan debt whatsoever.
Students at UF can choose from roughly 30 certificate programs, 100 undergraduate majors, and 200 graduate tracks. Programs of study cover a wide variety of subjects, like aerospace engineering, criminology, environmental science, and philosophy. Fully online degrees are available in topics such as business administration, geology, and nursing, enabling students to continue their education on their own schedule and from any location.
In addition to tutoring, academic advising, and career counseling, UF provides specialized services to students with unique needs. For example, the university's Collegiate Veterans Success Center offers ongoing support to military learners, while the First Generation Success program assists students who are the first in their families to attend college.
Undergraduate applicants must have a high school diploma or GED certificate. They must also submit results from the ACT or SAT.
Florida State University
|Tallahassee, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 80%||
Founded in 1851, Florida State University now serves almost 42,000 students from around the world. Just over 70% of undergraduate students earn their bachelor's degree in four years -- the highest graduation rate of any college in the state.
The university's nearly 300 degree programs provide instruction in areas such as biological sciences, oceanography, educational leadership, and marriage and family therapy. Students with full-time jobs or family obligations can seek online degrees in subjects like law enforcement intelligence, information technology, and social work. FSU is also home to a law school and medical school.
While the university does not set minimum academic requirements for admission, admitted first-year students applying for the fall term generally have a high school GPA of 4.1 or above. They also typically score between 1270 and 1390 on the SAT or between 28 and 32 on the ACT. Graduate admission standards vary by program, though applicants must have a bachelor's degree and take an entrance exam (like the GRE).
University of Central Florida
|Orlando, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 70%||
The University of Central Florida confers more than 16,000 undergraduate and graduate degrees each year, preparing its students for careers and continuing education in fields like architecture, economics, health information management, and public administration. The university also offers nearly 100 online degrees and certificates.
Dedicated advisors help every student apply for financial aid, choose classes and a major, navigate the enrollment process, and stay on track for graduation. Students can also access mental health and career counseling services free of charge.
First-year applicants must submit official copies of their high school transcripts or GED certificate, along with results from the ACT or SAT. The average SAT score for admitted students is 1330, while the average ACT score is 29.
The university also provides a variety of scholarships, including the Virga Family Scholarship for students who excel academically and plan to become entrepreneurs after graduation.
University of South Florida-Main Campus
|Tampa, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 71%||
Across three campuses and a suite of distance education programs, the University of South Florida serves the educational needs of roughly 48,000 students every year. Online and in-person learning opportunities at the university are enriched by diversity, with about 10% of the student body hailing from a country outside of the U.S. Additionally, students of color comprise more than 40% of the school's enrollment.
Undergraduate students at USF can major in fields like behavioral healthcare, history, music performance, and statistics, while graduate programs offer advanced training in disciplines such as business administration, curriculum and instruction, and public health. Learners can take advantage of online tutoring, writing assistance, and research support. In addition, career coaches help students find internship opportunities, draft stronger resumes and work portfolios, and prepare for interviews.
Undergraduate admission to USF requires a high school diploma and scores from the ACT or SAT. Applicants with a GED certificate are encouraged to also submit a personal essay.
Florida International University
|Miami, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 57%||
Located in the heart of Miami, Florida International University boasts a network of more than 200,000 alumni, with roughly 115,000 graduates living and working in southern Florida. This deep connection to the community means that students at the university enjoy access to a wide variety of internships, field-based learning experiences, and mentorship opportunities.
FIU offers more than 250 bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs in areas like civil engineering, exceptional student education, international relations, and political science. The university also hosts 66 fully online programs, allowing distance learners to explore subjects such as African diaspora studies, health services administration, and global strategic communication.
To apply as an undergraduate student, you must submit official high school transcripts and results from the ACT or SAT. The average admitted student has a high school GPA of 3.8. Merit- and need-based scholarships include the Presidential Premier Scholarship, which covers all of the tuition for qualifying students who receive a 30 or above on the ACT.
Florida Atlantic University
|Boca Raton, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 51%||
Florida Atlantic University prides itself on providing experiential learning opportunities to its students. Approximately 6,000 students participate in undergraduate research opportunities each year, with another 4,200 involved in registered internship programs. Students can also join study abroad trips and receive course credit for volunteering in their communities.
Through more than 170 degree programs, FAU equips students with the skills and knowledge needed for careers in fields like education, business, engineering, and medicine. All online programs offered by the university are fully asynchronous, meaning students can access recorded lectures and review course materials from any location with internet access at any time.
Along with offering significant tuition discounts to Florida residents, the university provides dozens of undergraduate and graduate scholarships. For example, the Provost Fellowship provides $2,500 in aid to qualifying graduate students, along with a paid research or teaching assistant position.
To apply to FAU as an undergraduate student, you must have a high school diploma or GED certificate and take the ACT or SAT. Graduate applicants typically need to take the GRE.
University of Miami
|Coral Gables, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 84%||
With 11 schools and colleges and more than 180 majors and programs, the University of Miami provides educational pathways for nearly every academic and career interest. Undergraduate students, for example, can elect to study areas like art history, marketing, and meteorology. Graduate students can explore topics like creative writing, higher education leadership, and physical therapy. UM also offers eight fully online master's and doctoral programs.
First-year applicants must have a high school diploma or GED certificate and take the ACT or SAT. The average admitted student has a 3.8 high school GPA and an ACT score between 31 and 34. To receive credit for previous college coursework, individuals must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA in these classes.
Prospective students who excel academically or demonstrate exceptional merit can receive significant financial aid. For example, the George W. Jenkins Scholarship covers the entirety of tuition plus a summer stipend, while the President's Scholarship provides up to $30,000 in aid to qualifying undergraduates.
The University of West Florida
|Pensacola, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 44%||
Each year, hundreds of online students earn certificates and degrees at the University of West Florida. In addition to consistently ranking as one of the best distance education options in the state, the university offers a significant tuition discount to online learners. Military-affiliated students also receive free, 24/7 access to online tutoring support in more than 40 subject areas.
UWF is home to five colleges, with courses of study available in arts and humanities, education, business, health, and science and engineering. Students can also gain practical experience through programming offered by the university's centers on entrepreneurship, cybersecurity, supply chain management, and environmental research.
First-year applicants must have a high school diploma or the equivalent. UWF does not require ACT or SAT scores. Graduate applicants typically must take an entrance exam, like the GRE or MAT, though individual programs may waive this requirement based on a student's professional experience and academic achievement.
|Marianna, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 50%||
Alongside seven bachelor's programs in areas like business administration and teacher education, Chipola College offers a diverse selection of associate degrees and workforce development certificates to serve students who want to quickly prepare for specific careers. Online and asynchronous classes at the college make it easier for learners to gain skills or enter a new field without leaving their current position.
In addition to holding a high school diploma or GED certificate, prospective undergraduate students must also submit scores from the ACT, SAT, or Postsecondary Education Readiness Test. Entrance exam scores are typically not required for workforce development programs, though applicants may instead need to participate in an interview.
The Chipola College Foundation helps defray the cost of education at the institution through scholarship awards. While most of these scholarships offer aid on the basis of academic achievement, the college also specifically supports students who plan to major in music, theater, or the visual arts.
University of North Florida
|Jacksonville, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 57%||
Thanks to its deep roots in the greater Jacksonville area, the University of North Florida has received the Carnegie Foundation's Community Engagement designation. The university serves high school students and adult learners through outreach programs, creates local volunteer and internship opportunities for students, and participates in applied research and scholarship with civic organizations in the community.
Formal academic programs at UNF include nutrition and dietetics, transportation and logistics, and data science. In addition, UNF Online allows students at any location with an internet connection to learn from the same faculty that teach on campus. Fully asynchronous programs are available in areas like healthcare informatics, education leadership, and American Sign Language. Students may also prepare for careers in nursing through low-residency programs.
All undergraduate applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED certificate and take the ACT or SAT. To enroll in graduate programs, prospective students must have a bachelor's degree and submit results from the GRE or GMAT.
New College of Florida
|Sarasota, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 65%||
The New College of Florida is the state university system's designated honors college. It enrolls only 850 students in order to maintain a student-to-faculty ratio of 10-to-1. Learners design their own major, choosing from a diverse slate of courses in areas like economics, gender studies, neuroscience, and religion.
Every year, undergraduate students complete a research paper, lab experiment, off-campus internship, art exhibit, or other independent study project. This experiential learning culminates in a senior capstone project, which typically takes the form of a thesis or a portfolio of work. Due to the hands-on nature of its educational experience, New College does not currently offer any online programs.
The admissions process at the college is highly selective. For example, nearly 40% of all admitted students graduated in the top 10% of their high school class. The average student has an SAT score between 1230 and 1400 or an ACT score between 25 and 31. Applying to the college's graduate program in data science requires a bachelor's degree earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA.
University of South Florida-St Petersburg
|St. Petersburg, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 36%||
At the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, students can choose from 27 undergraduate majors and 17 graduate programs, including a fully online master of business administration that holds accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Additional online programs are available in digital journalism and design and educational leadership.
The university also hosts the Bishop Center for Ethical Leadership -- an interdisciplinary research and teaching initiative that prepares students to lead lives of impact. The center offers a minor in leadership studies, organizes community engagement opportunities for students across majors, and provides ethics training to corporations and organizations throughout southern Florida.
Undergraduate admission decisions are made largely on the basis of high school GPA and entrance exam scores. Graduate admission standards differ by program, but all require a bachelor's degree. Each year, the USF Foundation offers millions of dollars in scholarships and fellowships to incoming students. These awards range in value from $250 to the total cost of attendance.
|Temple Terrace, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 47%||
As a liberal arts college that teaches from a biblical perspective, Florida College supports students' spiritual development and prepares them for careers in service. For example, the college offers degrees focused on the New Testament, elementary education, and ethical business leadership. Students who major in history or liberal arts often advance to graduate programs or law school.
To apply to FC, you must hold a high school diploma or GED certificate and submit results from the ACT or SAT. The college also requires all applicants to share academic and character references and agree to follow a code of conduct rooted in scriptural principles. Transfer students must hold a minimum 2.0 GPA.
The James R. Cope program at FC provides need-based aid to incoming students, with awards ranging from $1,000-$5,000 annually. To qualify for continued funding, recipients must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA, write two acknowledgment letters annually to donors, and complete at least 14 hours of volunteer service each academic year.
Florida Gulf Coast University
|Fort Myers, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 48%||
Through undergraduate and graduate programs in areas like computing, entrepreneurship, and justice studies, Florida Gulf Coast University helps students develop the academic and professional skills needed to excel. Along with a variety of individual distance education courses, the university offers three fully online bachelor's degrees and five online master's degrees.
FGCU emphasizes the importance of service-based learning, with more than 300 courses at the university incorporating a service requirement. Students work with roughly 350 organizations and community groups in the Fort Myers region and have logged more than 3 million combined hours of volunteer experience since 1997.
All undergraduate applicants must have a high school diploma or GED certificate and submit standardized test scores. FGCU does not establish minimum academic requirements, but the average admitted student has a high school GPA above 3.8 and an ACT score above 23. To apply to a master's or doctoral program, you must hold a bachelor's degree and a 3.0 GPA.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Daytona Beach
|Daytona Beach, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 59%||
From three campuses and through expansive online offerings, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University prepares students for specialized careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Many learners pursue degrees in aviation, taking advantage of state-of-the-art simulation facilities and the opportunity to pilot real aircraft. ERAU also partners with organizations like NASA, SpaceX, and Boeing to provide hands-on learning opportunities in the space industry.
The university also offers 47 bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs that can be completed online, featuring accelerated options and multiple start dates throughout the year. Online students can also access 24/7 technical support and personalized academic assistance.
To apply as an undergraduate student, you must have a high school diploma or the equivalent. ERAU does not require applicants to share results from the ACT or SAT, but these exams are strongly encouraged for students seeking scholarships or other merit-based aid.
Florida Southern College
|Lakeland, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 63%||
Founded in 1883, Florida Southern College is the oldest private college in the state. It has grown to serve roughly 3,500 students each year from around the globe. The college guarantees that learners can participate in a study abroad experience, access internships in their field, and receive the support needed to graduate in four years.
Undergraduate students at Florida Southern explore subjects like applied statistics, biotechnology, healthcare administration, and sport business management. The college also offers master's and doctoral programs in areas such as accounting, curriculum and instruction, and nursing. Working professionals can pursue a hybrid or fully online MBA, helping them advance in the business world without taking a break from their career.
Applying to Florida Southern as an undergraduate requires a high school diploma or GED certificate, ACT or SAT scores, an academic letter of recommendation, and a personal statement. Graduate applicants must have a bachelor's degree, though entrance exam requirements vary by program.
Lake-Sumter State College
|Leesburg, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 43%||
Although Lake-Sumter State College primarily offers associate degrees, students at this college in central Florida can also pursue a bachelor's in organizational management or nursing. Associate programs help learners prepare for careers in fields like computer information technology, criminal justice technology, and electrical distribution technology. LSSC does not currently host any fully online programs.
To help its students find work after graduation, the college provides a variety of career development services. For example, students can attend job and internship fairs, receive personalized resume and cover letter guidance, and explore career options through assessments and interviews.
Prospective students typically must hold a high school diploma or GED certificate, though you can enroll in certain associate programs at LSSC on the strength of your placement exam score or professional experience. To pursue a bachelor's degree at the college, you must also share results from the ACT or SAT. LSSC awards scholarships on the basis of academic achievement, financial need, and athletic or artistic talent.
Nova Southeastern University
|Fort Lauderdale, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 52%||
Alongside the programs available at its 314-acre campus in Broward County, Nova Southeastern University offers more than 60 fully online degrees in fields like child protection, information assurance and cybersecurity, public health, and sports science. Asynchronous online coursework enables students to interact with their instructors and classmates, review course materials, and complete assignments largely on their own schedules.
On-campus students may also choose to take a portion of their classes online, combining the convenience of distance education with easy access to recreation and wellness facilities, library and research centers, and performance and visual arts venues. In addition, regional campuses located throughout the state specifically serve the needs of students in hybrid programs.
To apply to NSU, you must have a high school diploma or GED, take the ACT or SAT, and submit one letter of recommendation. Students who apply to the Razor's Edge program -- an undergraduate experience that combines academic and co-curricular learning and offers an annual scholarship -- must meet additional requirements.
|Leesburg, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 65%||
Beacon College was the first college in the country to offer undergraduate degrees exclusively to students with learning differences and disabilities. The college continues to specialize in meeting the educational needs of these unique learners, boasting a four-year graduation rate of nearly 84%.
Undergraduate students at Beacon can major in areas like anthrozoology, business management, human services, and computer information systems. They also can further customize their learning by pursuing minors in criminal justice, entrepreneurship, hospitality, and organizational psychology.
A key to the college's success is its four-year career development program. Starting in their first year, students at Beacon work closely with dedicated career coaches, participate in internships and apprenticeships, and hone job-related skills.
Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED certificate, submit the results of a psychoeducational evaluation, and participate in an interview with admissions staff.
|Winter Park, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 75%||
By providing a diverse liberal arts education, Rollins College strives to prepare students for careers and lives of purpose and meaning. The undergraduate curriculum at Rollins prompts learners to think critically, explore a variety of fields and disciplines, and use their skills to create a positive impact on the world.
After completing foundational and interdisciplinary coursework, students can major in subjects like chemistry, global health, political economy, and social innovation. Rollins also offers master's and doctoral degrees in business, with tracks for full-time students and working professionals. Though the college offers evening and weekend classes, it does not utilize an online learning platform.
Rollins requires that applicants hold a high school diploma or GED certificate. While most prospective students submit ACT or SAT scores, the college may provide test waivers to individuals on the basis of their academic achievement and background. Notably, the MBA program at Rollins does not require any entrance exams.
Palm Beach Atlantic University
|West Palm Beach, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 53%||
As a Christian university, Palm Beach Atlantic University is dedicated to learning, leadership, and service. The school offers bachelor's and master's degrees in forensic science, music, political science, and sports broadcasting. It also hosts fully online programs in ministry, Christian studies, nursing, and psychology.
All students at PBA participate in a "workship" program -- community service that helps students develop professional skills while facilitating spiritual growth. The university also encourages all students to take at least one career trek -- a job shadowing and networking trip where learners meet with alumni and potential employers.
Applicants must submit high school or GED transcripts and results from the ACT or SAT. Prospective graduate students must hold a bachelor's degree. The nursing and pharmacy programs may require applicants to have relevant professional experience. Incoming students can also apply for a variety of scholarships. For example, the Bebe Warren Scholarship provides up to $22,500 to high-achieving students who plan to major in elementary education.
The University of Tampa
|Tampa, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 60%||
Students from around the world attend the University of Tampa, pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in subjects like applied linguistics, interactive media, financial enterprise systems, and music education. Students at UT can also earn a doctor of nursing practice entirely online.
Undergraduate applicants typically hold a high school diploma or GED certificate. However, the university will also admit students without a diploma on the basis of a teacher recommendation and a personal essay. Prospective students must also share results from the ACT or SAT.
The university administers several scholarship and grant programs. For example, the Presidential Scholarship provides up to $16,000 per year to undergraduate students who earned a minimum 3.8 GPA in high school, scored above 1370 on the SAT, and demonstrated exceptional leadership and community service. Transfer students with a minimum 3.0 GPA in their prior college coursework can also receive up to $9,000 in annual aid.
Flagler College-St Augustine
|Saint Augustine, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 55%||
Located in St. Augustine, Flagler College primarily serves students seeking their bachelor's. Nearly 80% of students at Flagler complete an internship or experiential learning opportunity during their undergraduate studies, and roughly 90% find a job or enter graduate school less than one year after they earn their degree.
Undergraduate courses of study cover topics such as arts administration, film studies, coastal environmental science, and mathematics. Flagler offers a single master's program in education of the deaf and hard of hearing, with accelerated and endorsement tracks available. The college does not currently operate an online learning program.
Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED certificate. Students have the option to submit ACT or SAT scores. Certain accelerated programs that cater to working professionals require applicants to hold an associate degree or at least 60 transferable credits. Flagler also offers credit for military training and service.
Santa Fe College
|Gainesville, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 50%||
Established in 1965, Santa Fe College boasts many on-campus facilities, including a planetarium, teaching zoo, and geological field laboratory located in an underground cave system. The college also plays host to the Spring Arts Festival -- one of the largest arts and culture events in the state. To serve students who cannot live on or regularly commute to its campus in Gainesville, SF also provides dozens of online and hybrid classes.
The college offers a variety of technical certificates, associate degrees, and bachelor's degrees. Programs of study include agriculture, food and resource economics, microbiology and cell science, and special education. Noncredit continuing education programs equip students with professional skills in medical coding, bookkeeping, and real estate practice.
Admission requirements vary by program, but you typically must have a high school diploma or GED certificate to become a degree-seeking student at SF. The college provides discounted tuition to Florida residents, homeless youth, senior citizens, and Purple Heart recipients.
|Orlando, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 41%||
In 2012, Valencia College received the inaugural Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, which is primarily awarded based on a school's exceptional graduation rates in its associate programs. While Valencia offers bachelor's degrees in subjects like electrical and computer engineering technology, organizational leadership, and cardiopulmonary sciences, students at the college can also easily transfer to another public college or university through Valencia's DirectConnect program.
Valencia also offers online courses in more than 100 areas of study. Online students learn from the same faculty and follow the same curricula as on-campus students. The college provides online access to academic advising, research assistance, tutoring, career counseling, and a host of other student services.
To pursue a degree at Valencia, you must have a high school diploma or GED certificate. The college does not require applicants to take the ACT or SAT. The school's honors program covers all tuition and fees for students who demonstrate strong academic potential, while the Valencia Advantage Program provides need-based aid.