The National Center for Education Statistics projects that the undergraduate student population in the U.S. will expand from 16.8 million in 2017 to 17.2 million by 2028. This increase is driven in large part by an increasingly competitive job market. However, you can greatly enhance your prospects for career entry and long-term success by earning a postsecondary degree.
In Washington, ample career options exist in major industries such as information technology, national defense, aerospace engineering, and agricultural development. You can also find exciting opportunities in the life sciences sector, since Washington houses one of the largest healthcare and biotechnology clusters in the country.
Top 10 Colleges in Washington
- University of Washington - Seattle, WA
- University of Washington - Bothell, WA
- University of Washington - Tacoma, WA
- Western Washington University - Bellingham, WA
- Centralia College - Centralia, WA
- South Seattle College - Seattle, WA
- Gonzaga University - Spokane, WA
- Whitman College - Walla Walla, WA
- Eastern Washington University - Cheney, WA
- Northwest Indian College - Bellingham, WA
To assist in your college search, we have ranked the 25 best colleges in Washington with respect to factors such as cost, accreditation, student retention, and graduation rate. For each school, you will learn about academic offerings and information on topics such as financial aid, distance education, and student resources. You will also gain insight into the general admissions process.
Be sure to contact the admissions specialists for any schools that pique your interest. These counselors can help you navigate enrollment and find scholarships.
2020 Best Accredited Colleges in Washington
University of Washington-Seattle Campus
|Seattle, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 84%||
Established in 1861, the University of Washington is a public research institution that serves over 16,000 students annually. UW delivers over 180 undergraduate programs, including speech and hearing sciences, microbiology, and architectural design. The university also provides a bachelor of business administration that allows students to choose from seven concentration options. Learners interested in conservation and workplace safety careers can pursue an environmental health degree.
Graduate degrees cover fields such as global health, comparative literature, and chemical engineering. UW's master of accounting program enables candidates to earn their credentials in as few as 12 months. For students who prefer distance education, the university provides eight fully online graduate programs through the Moodle platform.
UW charges affordable tuition rates based on residency status. Financial aid opportunities include the Martin Family Foundation Scholarship for transfer candidates. The school evaluates incoming freshmen through a holistic process that considers their academic history, GPA, ACT or SAT performance, and personal achievements.
University of Washington-Bothell Campus
|Bothell, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 64%||
Serving approximately 6,000 students, the University of Washington Bothell is dedicated to hands-on learning and cross-disciplinary research. UWB provides bachelor's programs in earth systems science, health studies, and community psychology.
Students can pursue a business administration degree with concentration options in retail management, marketing, and management information systems. Alternately, students may select a bachelor's in elementary education leading to K-8 teacher certification. UWB's unique bachelor's program in science, technology, and society prepares students for careers as IT researchers and ethics specialists.
Graduate candidates can select from 11 options, including a master's in nursing that emphasizes administrative leadership.
Incoming freshman need a minimum 2.0 GPA and must submit ACT or SAT scores. Graduate admissions criteria vary by program, but typically consist of at least a 3.0 GPA. UWB offers merit scholarships to both undergraduate and graduate students.
University of Washington-Tacoma Campus
|Tacoma, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 58%||
Created in 1990, the University of Washington Tacoma fosters economic development through community-engaged students and faculty. All undergraduate learners complete a cohort-based core curriculum and take classes in groups in order to facilitate engagement. Afterward, candidates pursue coursework in majors such as computer science and systems, biomedical sciences, and environmental sustainability.
Learners can design their own major and concentration through the interdisciplinary arts and sciences program. UW Tacoma also offers a fully online bachelor's in criminal justice.
At the graduate level, students can choose fields such as geospatial technologies, social work, and cybersecurity and leadership. UW Tacoma delivers a comprehensive nursing track that enables nurses with an associate degree to earn their bachelor's and master's concurrently. For doctoral candidates, the university provides a three-year educational leadership program that totals 96 credits.
Freshman applicants must submit official high school transcripts, ACT or SAT scores, and a personal statement. Graduate candidates typically need a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Western Washington University
|Bellingham, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 69%||
Located in Bellingham, Western Washington University was founded as a teacher training school in 1894. Today, the institution delivers a wide range of bachelor's and master's programs to over 16,000 students, with some classes available online through the Canvas platform.
Undergraduate students can select from programs such as financial economics, community health, and American cultural studies. Those interested in county planning and environmental law can earn a bachelor's in urban planning and sustainable development. The college also offers a kinesiology program with concentrations in sport psychology, movement studies, and pre-healthcare professions.
Among its nearly 50 graduate programs, WWU facilitates a business administration degree that features evening and/or weekend classes. Through the Institute for Global Engagement, students can find service-learning and study abroad opportunities.
To enroll as a first-year learner, candidates need a minimum 2.0 GPA. They submit SAT or ACT scores and a personal statement detailing their personal growth and accomplishments.
|Centralia, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 34%||
The oldest two-year postsecondary school in Washington, Centralia College offers an array of affordable workforce-oriented and transfer programs. The institution operates an open and rolling admissions process that allows incoming students to enroll in most programs in any quarter.
Through the Running Start initiative, high school juniors and seniors can access tuition-free college courses. Adult students benefit from financial support options such as the Opportunity Grant for low-income state residents.
Centralia offers associate degrees in natural resources management, medical assisting, and diesel technology. The college also delivers an office management program, which trains students to successfully hire and supervise clerical staff. Additionally, students can pursue one of eight pre-professional programs in physical therapy, dentistry, pharmaceutical sciences, and other fields.
Although Centralia is a community college, it hosts four bachelor's programs, including a teacher education (K-8) degree that leads to initial state certification. This track requires 94-112 credits and operates in a hybrid format which combines once-per-week evening classes with online coursework.
South Seattle College
|Seattle, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 41%||
South Seattle College enrolls 15,000 learners every year, nearly half of whom are the first in their families to pursue postsecondary schooling. To support this diverse student population, SSC maintains a flexible admissions process and provides a variety of financial aid opportunities.
All learners benefit from services such as one-on-one academic counseling, career guidance, and transfer pathways to state universities. Furthermore, as an Asian American Pacific Islander Serving Institution, SSC provides distinct resources to students from these communities.
Students interested in professional and technical career training can choose from associate programs in subjects such as landscape architecture, culinary arts, and welding fabrication technology. SSC offers a 156-credit associate of aviation maintenance technology program, which full-time students complete over a span of 10 quarters.
SSC provides three bachelor's programs, including a hospitality management degree. For learners interested in academic transfer opportunities, SSC provides associate credentials in public health, digital art and photography, and accounting.
|Spokane, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 87%||
Gonzaga University is a private Jesuit-affiliated higher education institution that serves over 7,500 students. The school's academic catalog includes bachelor's degrees in broadcast and electronic media studies, public relations, accounting, and criminology. Learners in the business administration program can pick from nine concentrations. Business students can also design their own interdisciplinary degree plan with the guidance of faculty mentors.
Graduate students can choose from master's programs such as clinical mental health counseling, transmission and distribution engineering, and nursing (RN-to-MSN). The college's Ph.D. in leadership studies emphasizes individual leadership practices, as well as the roles leaders play in organizations and global systems. To meet the needs of working professionals, Gonzaga provides seven fully online graduate programs through Blackboard.
Financial aid opportunities include the Daniel G. Brajcich Scholarships for business and accounting majors. As a selective institution, Gonzaga highly encourages undergraduate applicants to complete a personal interview if they display a GPA under 3.2 and score below 1150 on the SAT or 23 on the ACT. Transfer candidates need at least a 2.7 GPA.
|Walla Walla, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 88%||
Based in Walla Walla, Whitman College is one of the top private liberal arts institutions in the United States. The school maintains a holistic admissions process and offers comprehensive and diversified financial aid packages that include need-based scholarships and awards for fine arts students.
Whitman provides over 48 undergraduate degree programs in fields such as geology, film and media studies, Latin American studies, and molecular biology. Students can enroll in a bachelor of global literature program that goes beyond the usual cultural, linguistic, and departmental boundaries.
The college also offers a dual-degree program in partnership with the University of Washington. This five-year track enables candidates to earn a bachelor of arts in either biology or geography and a bachelor of science in oceanography.
Whitman provides ample funding and conferencing opportunities to student researchers. Nearly half of learners participate in at least one semester of international studies. Programs cover areas such as public health in Chile and transnational migration in Morocco.
Eastern Washington University
|Cheney, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 52%||
Eastern Washington University, located in Cheney, offers comprehensive academic programming through its six colleges. EWU boasts the lowest in-state tuition price among public Washington universities.
Bachelor's candidates can choose from over 71 majors, including international affairs, analytics, and urban and regional planning. For learners interested in health-related professions, EWU hosts a biology program with concentrations in pre-medicine/pre-dentistry or biotechnology. Learners may also opt for an addiction studies degree geared toward alcohol and drug prevention and treatment.
The college provides graduate-level training in technical communication, public health, and dental hygiene. Students can earn a master's degree in communication sciences and disorders to qualify for speech-language pathologist positions.
To help students cultivate the hands-on experience needed for professional success, EWU facilitates a variety of volunteer positions through community partners. Learners also benefit from internship guidance and study abroad opportunities.
Northwest Indian College
|Bellingham, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 10%||
Founded in 1973, Northwest Indian College is the only accredited tribal higher education institution that serves the reservation communities in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon. The school focuses on recruiting Native American and First Nation students on an open admission basis.
NWIC delivers two-year technical degrees in fields such as information technology and public/tribal administration. The school's chemical dependency studies program incorporates the field experience necessary to qualify for the Washington State Chemical Dependency Counselor Certification. For learners interested in transfer opportunities, the college offers associate credentials in business, life sciences, and early childhood education.
Students seeking a bachelor's degree can choose from programs in native environmental science, community advocacy and education, and tribal governance and business administration. Students can also earn a bachelor of arts in native studies leadership that emphasizes self-determination and cultural sovereignty. NWIC offers fully online courses powered by Canvas.
Applicants must submit an online form, high school transcripts, and tribal certification.
|Seattle, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 75%||
The largest independent postsecondary school in the Northwest, Seattle University enrolls over 7,700 students in 61 bachelor's and 33 graduate programs. Undergraduate majors include biochemistry, international business, mechanical engineering, and film studies. SU offers an environmental studies program with concentration options in ecological systems; urban sustainability; and politics, policy, and justice. Students may also pursue an online bachelor of digital technology and cultures.
SU's graduate catalog contains master's degrees in sport business leadership, school counseling, and professional accounting. Learners can enroll in a joint degree program that allows them to earn a master of finance and a juris doctor in as few as three years. SU also delivers four online graduate programs, including an MBA accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
Prospective freshmen must furnish ACT or SAT scores and meet the specific requirements of their chosen major. Graduate admissions criteria differ by program, but typically include a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Washington State University
|Pullman, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 62%||
Washington State University was founded in 1890, making it one of the oldest land grant institutions in the American West. Today, the school enrolls over 30,600 students at its main Pullman campus, across satellite locations, and online through asynchronous coursework powered by Canvas.
WSU offers assured admission to first-year candidates who possess a 3.5 GPA or higher. For high-achieving learners, the university offers specialized academic and research opportunities through its honors college. The university is also dedicated to providing higher education to undocumented individuals.
Students can select from over 220 undergraduate fields of study, including data analytics, turfgrass management, materials science and engineering, and forestry. Students can pursue an organic and sustainable agriculture degree that focuses on organic food production and resource economics.
WSU's graduate programs cover more than 140 fields. Students can also earn a doctor of pharmacy that is fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.
University of Puget Sound
|Tacoma, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 78%||
The University of Puget Sound is a private liberal arts institution that serves 2,600 students. The institution delivers more than 50 traditional and interdisciplinary academic programs. Puget Sound also facilitates a dual-degree engineering track in collaboration with three partner universities.
The college's bachelor's programs cover fields such as business and leadership, neuroscience, global development studies, and exercise science. Students can enroll in a bioethics program that examines the multifaceted dimensions of emerging life science and healthcare challenges.
Puget Sound provides master's programs in teaching, counseling, and occupational therapy, as well as a doctoral degree in physical therapy.
Prospective freshmen must submit the Common Application, high school transcripts, SAT or ACT scores, and counselor or teacher evaluations.
Walla Walla University
|College Place, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 61%||
Founded in 1892 as a two-year college, Walla Walla University now provides comprehensive academics at five campuses across the Pacific Northwest. Students can choose from over 100 areas of study, including bachelor's degrees for social work, information systems, bioengineering science, and design and illustration.
The university offers a business administration degree that has earned specialized accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs. Business students may pursue one of seven concentrations, including an entrepreneurship track.
WWU offers graduate degrees in social work and biology, as well as a unique MA in cinema, religion, and worldview. Future teachers can pursue a master's in education. Experienced educators can pursue credentials in specialized areas such as literacy instruction and educational leadership.
Financial assistance packages include merit scholarships for transfer candidates and departmental awards for social work majors.
|Bothell, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 29%||
Cascadia College was founded in 1994, making it the newest community college in Washington State. The school offers an array of transfer-oriented and technical associate programs. Cascadia facilitates hybrid and fully online classes through Canvas.
Transfer options cover fields such as biology, business, global studies, and pre-nursing. Technical degree tracks include web application programming, homeland security, and environmental technologies and sustainable practices.
Students can pursue a bachelor's degree in mobile application development or sustainable practices. In collaboration with Bastyr University, Cascadia also offers blended enrollment programs that enable candidates to earn baccalaureate credentials in the natural health sciences. These options include health psychology, integrated human biology, herbal sciences, and nutrition and exercise science.
Cascadia maintains an open admissions process that requires first-year applicants to submit an online application and high school transcripts. High school juniors and seniors who want to pursue dual enrollment must pass a placement exam. Financial aid opportunities include the Frances Bianco Scholarship for students pursuing careers in psychology, human rights, and social justice.
|Kirkland, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 59%||
Located in Kirkland, Northwest University offers more than 70 undergraduate and graduate programs. Bachelor's degree options include biblical literature, environmental science, marketing, and music education. Students interested in becoming game developers or UX localization engineers can enroll in a user experience program. The university also offers an online RN-to-BSN track.
NU's master's programs covers fields such as leadership studies, church revitalization, and counseling psychology. The college delivers a master in teaching that ranks among the top teacher preparation programs in the U.S. NU also provides online master's programs in business administration and international community development.
To enroll as an incoming freshman, candidates submit an online application, a personal statement, and ACT or SAT scores. Graduate candidates typically do not need to furnish standardized test results if they possess a 3.0 or higher GPA. NU funds a variety of institutional awards, including a merit-based scholarship for MBA students.
Columbia Basin College
|Pasco, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 30%||
Columbia Basin College enrolls more than 11,000 students in associate transfer and technical career training programs. Workforce education programs include automotive technology, fire science, and Spanish medical interpreter.
CBC's associate programs cover fields such as communication studies, general engineering, and computer science. Students can obtain an associate degree in agriculture food systems, which explores crop production, distribution, and marketing strategies. Learners can also pursue two-year degrees in one of seven world languages.
The college offers 10 applied bachelor's programs, including majors in healthcare administration, cybersecurity, and construction project management. Learners may also earn a bachelor of teacher education through a cohort-style program that leads to initial state certification.
The school maintains an open admissions policy that only requires candidates to submit an online application. Financial aid opportunities include foundational scholarships based on a candidate's designated need and field of study.
Pacific Lutheran University
|Tacoma, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 70%||
Based in Tacoma, Pacific Lutheran University delivers 44 undergraduate programs and seven graduate and professional programs to 3,100 students annually. Undergraduate students can select from majors such as social work, Chinese studies, mathematics, and computer science. PLU also offers a communication degree that enables candidates to concentrate their studies on film and media studies, strategic communication, or communications and civic engagement.
At the graduate level, degree programs covers fields such as nursing practice, creative writing, and marriage and family therapy. PLU delivers multiple master of education programs, including tracks leading to alternative teacher certification.
In addition to affordable tuition, PLU offers a variety of funding opportunities, including the Rieke Leadership Scholarship for candidates with a history of promoting racial and ethnic diversity and social justice. Prospective freshman students submit an official application, a 250-word personal essay, official transcripts, and an academic recommendation. The university gives candidates the option to submit ACT or SAT scores.
Seattle Central College
|Seattle, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 25%||
For over 50 years, Seattle Central College has provided affordable career training and college transfer opportunities to a diverse population of students. The school delivers technical associate programming in areas such as medical assisting, culinary arts, and maritime deck technology. Learners can pursue an associate degree in carpentry to access lucrative entry-level positions in the construction industry.
SCC offers six applied bachelor's programs designed to provide workplace skills in specific career areas, including dental hygiene, respiratory care, community health and education, and applied behavioral science. Students can earn a bachelor's degree in healthcare services management to access leadership roles in nursing homes and group medical practices.
On top of an open admissions process, SCC offers affordable tuition rates, large tuition discounts for military veterans, out-of-state tuition waivers, and multicultural scholarships.
|Spokane, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 75%||
Whitworth University is based in Spokane and serves 3,100 students each year. Whitworth offers undergraduate degrees in subjects like public history, applied physics, environmental studies, and visual communication. Students can pursue a bachelor of bioinformatics that explores how to use biological data to understand genetics and develop new medicines. Whitworth also offers a mathematical economics program that prepares candidates for careers as financial analysts and researchers.
Learners can enroll in master's programs for athletic training, administrative and nonprofit leadership, and school counseling. They can also earn teaching credentials that lead to initial certification in elementary or secondary education. Whitworth offers an accelerated MBA track that candidates can complete in as few as nine months.
All learners may apply for funding support, including merit-based freshman awards and military service scholarships. First-year candidates undergo a holistic evaluation process that considers GPA, academic rigor, and ACT or SAT performance. The school also bases admission decisions on each applicant's extracurricular activities and leadership accomplishments.
North Seattle College
|Seattle, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 26%||
Founded in 1970, North Seattle College supports a diverse student population by offering affordable career training, academic transfer options, and continuing education programs. The college also facilitates dual enrollment opportunities for high school juniors and seniors through its Running Start initiative. In addition, NSC provides distance education options powered by Canvas.
Learners who want to gain entry-level employment immediately after graduation can enroll in associate programs for real estate, pharmacy technician, and watch technology. They may also pursue the electronics program, which includes options in aviation, industrial power, and mechatronics.
NSC offers applied bachelor's degrees in areas such as early childhood education and international business. Students can enroll in a four-year residential and commercial property management program which builds on foundational business and accounting skills. North Seattle maintains direct transfer pathways with the majority of four-year institutions in Washington State.
All students benefit from affordable tuition and financial aid. The college dedicates distinct resources for undocumented individuals.
Tacoma Community College
|Tacoma, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 25%||
Tacoma Community College enrolls over 13,000 students each year in accessible associate transfer and career training programs. The school boasts a very affordable tuition price that totals one-third the cost of most public four-year institutions in the state. TCC operates an open admission policy and accepts any student who wishes to learn.
Students can select from associate programs for radiologic science, human services, and occupational therapy. Students can earn transfer-focused credentials in areas such as microbiology and communication studies. Learners may also obtain an associate of arts in forestry, which prepares students for advanced academics in conservation science and environmental policy.
Additionally, TCC students can pursue a bachelor of applied science in applied management, health information management, or community health. The third track helps candidates develop the research and disease prevention skills to work as health educators and epidemiologists.
Financial aid opportunities at TCC include tuition waivers for dual-enrolled high school students and athletic scholarships for incoming freshmen.
|Bellevue, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 24%||
Bellevue College serves more than 31,000 students, making it the largest institution in the Washington Community and Technical Colleges system. With the exception of enrollment into bachelor's programs and select technical associate tracks, Bellevue welcomes all learners through an open process.
For students interested in professional and technical training, Bellevue offers associate degrees in radiation therapy, as well as network services and computing systems. The school delivers transfer-oriented programs in areas such as business, music, and math education. Learners can also enroll in one of five science tracks before transferring to a partner university.
Bachelor's programs cover options in digital marketing, healthcare management, molecular biosciences, and interior design. By pursuing a data analytics degree, students can learn how to convert vast data sets into actionable information for businesses and organizations. In addition, Bellevue hosts an accelerated bachelor of nursing program for licensed RNs.
|Des Moines, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 30%||
Highline College was established in 1961 as the first community college in King County. Today, the school serves 17,200 students through its main campus in Des Moines and distance education programs. All learners can attend Highline by simply completing an online form, applying for financial aid, and registering for classes.
Students can earn professional and technical credentials for digital forensic investigation and personal fitness training. Alternately, they may pursue transfer degrees in fields such as business, elementary education, and pre-nursing. Candidates may also pursue an associate of applied science in network security engineering, which prepares them to sit for Cisco certification exams.
At the baccalaureate level, program options include integrated design, global trade and logistics, and youth development. The college also offers a bachelor's degree in respiratory care that synthesizes advanced coursework with clinical training.
The only associate program that maintains admissions criteria is nursing, which requires applicants to display a minimum 3.0 GPA for prerequisite coursework.
Pierce College-Fort Steilacoom
|Lakewood, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 24%||
Pierce College Fort Steilacoom serves over 20,000 students at its two main campuses and three satellite locations. The school delivers a range of associate transfer degrees in the arts and sciences. Students who want to earn technical associate credentials can select from programs such as construction management, occupational safety and health, and kinesiology.
Pierce hosts four applied bachelor's programs, including a bachelor's in teaching that leads to state licensure with dual endorsements in PreK-3 general education and PreK-3 special education. Candidates may also pursue an online homeland security degree that explores how to coordinate disaster planning and recovery efforts. Pierce uses the Canvas platform for online courses.
To enroll, first-time students complete an online admissions form. Financial aid opportunities include need-based tuition waivers and state grants for Washington residents. Learners may also apply for a variety of institutional scholarships.