2022 Best Online Colleges for Working Adults

Returning to school while remaining in the workforce is no easy task. Our higher education experts at BestColleges have found the schools that can best accommodate life's obligations as you pursue a degree. Read on to compare schools by cost, convenience, and academic quality.

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Published on January 14, 2022 · Updated on June 15, 2022

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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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There is more than one way to complete a college degree. Rather than going directly to college after high school, an increasing number of students delay their higher education. There are numerous reasons for this decision: some travel the world, start families early in life, or pursue a career. For others, life may simply get in the way due to commitments outside of their control, such as a family illness or a major life event.

FAQs About Online Colleges for Working Adults


Are online degrees respected by employers?

Graduates of online degree programs receive the same diploma as their on-campus counterparts. Most employers accept an accredited online degree without issue.

How much money will I make with an online degree?

Although college graduates generally earn higher incomes than high school graduates, an individual's potential salary depends upon their field of study, their location, and their career choice.

Are online degrees easier than traditional programs?

Online courses for adults require the same level of commitment as traditional classroom courses. However, distance learning can be even more difficult, as many individuals juggle work and additional obligations simultaneously.

Are online degrees cheaper?

Tuition for online degrees typically costs about the same as a traditional program. Students can significantly save money on college costs, however, by avoiding campus fees, room and board, and meal plans.

Are online degrees quicker than traditional programs?

Accelerated programs allow students to complete their degrees quicker than traditional programs. Students pursuing a bachelor's degree while working full time may prefer to enroll on a part-time basis, which increases degree completion time.

Related Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Regardless of the reason, it may not be possible -- or necessary -- to complete a college degree directly after high school. Fortunately, schools make resources available for nontraditional students, who are usually defined as undergraduate students over the age of 25. Nontraditional student enrollment is more common in some schools than others, but many institutions offer specific resources, organizations, or courses tailored to the needs of nontraditional students.

Nontraditional students face some unique challenges. They often juggle the demands and responsibilities of adulthood -- such as paying bills and working full time -- with the requirements and deadlines of college courses. Not all colleges provide the right environment for nontraditional learners to flourish. The list below, however, identifies institutions that go the extra mile to accommodate nontraditional students and help them succeed.

Are you an older student considering a new degree, or perhaps finishing a degree that you previously started? If so, there has never been a better time to pursue your dream diploma. Technology now allows students to work on their degree in ways that were once impossible; and many programs offer asynchronous courses that let you complete coursework at your own pace and according to your own schedule. In short, completing a degree online means you do not have to forego your commitments to take your career to the next level.

2022 Best Accredited Online Colleges for Working Adults

Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team

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How We Rank Schools

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.

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.

#1 Online College in New Hampshire

Southern New Hampshire University

School Information
Location Manchester, New Hampshire
Admission Rate 88%
Graduation Rate 44%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 94% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

 Avg. Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $320

Undergrad, out of state | $320

Graduate, in state | $627

Graduate, out of state | $627

SNHU enrolls 135,000 online students in career-preparation programs. Students choose from 200 undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs online. An SNHU bachelor's degree requires 120 credits. The most popular programs include business and healthcare degrees.

Learners can finish a bachelor's degree faster by transferring up to 90 credits. Working adults also receive credit for career and life experiences. Support services include academic coaching, peer tutoring, and an online wellness center. Admission to one of the nation's best colleges for working adults requires all school transcripts.

#2 Online College in Virginia

Liberty University

School Information
Location Lynchburg, Virginia
Admission Rate 51%
Graduation Rate 47%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

 Avg. Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $390-$455

Undergrad, out of state | $390-$455

Graduate, in state | $565-$615

Graduate, out of state | $565-$615

A Christian college in Virginia, Liberty hosts a strong virtual college. Students pursue one of 450 online programs. Learners can find options at all levels: certificate, associate, bachelor's, and graduate. The majors cover fields including healthcare, education, and criminal justice. 

Degree-seekers complete classes at their own pace. By transferring up to 90 credits, working adults can finish a bachelor's degree faster. Enrollees pay the same affordable tuition regardless of residency status. 

Free electronic textbooks for all undergraduate classes saves students money. Admission to one of the top colleges for working adults requires high school and college transcripts.

#3 Online College in Florida

University of Central Florida

School Information
Location Orlando, Florida
Admission Rate 44%
Graduation Rate 72%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 59% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

 Avg. Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $179

Undergrad, out of state | $715

Graduate, in state | $327

Graduate, out of state | $1,151

With 25 years of experience delivering distance education, UCF offers 100 fully online programs. They can begin their education with professional certificates. The bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs cover many different fields.

The school's most popular bachelor's programs include psychology and nursing. Enrollees pursue master's degrees in in-demand fields such as engineering and healthcare administration. 

Affordable tuition and a generous transfer policy help make UCF one of the best online colleges for working adults. Admission requires SAT or ACT scores and a minimum 2.0 GPA on transfer credits.

#4 Online College in New York

New York University

School Information
Location New York, New York
Admission Rate 16%
Graduation Rate 85%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

 Avg. Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $23,478/semester

Undergrad, out of state | $23,478/semester

Graduate, in state | $23,584/semester

Graduate, out of state | $23,584/semester

NYU Online's campus without borders focuses on professional education. Two degree completion programs offer majors in social science and leadership and management studies. Enrollees customize each degree with one of several concentrations. Students acquire hands-on experience through NYU-organized internships. 

Most of NYU's online programs lead to master's degrees. Students can pursue a master's of public health at one of the nation's best colleges for working adults. Other master's degrees include counseling, taxation, and bioinformatics. 

Degree completion program admission requires an associate degree or 45 transferable credits with a 3.3 GPA.

#5 Online College in Pennsylvania

Clarks Summit University

School Information
Location South Abington Township, Pennsylvania
Admission Rate 41%
Graduation Rate 88%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 64% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

 Avg. Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $415

Undergrad, out of state | $415

Graduate, in state | $475-$710

Graduate, out of state | $475-$710

A Christian college in Pennsylvania, CSU offers accredited undergraduate and graduate degrees. Students complete online bachelor's degrees in majors such as counseling and business administration. A degree completion BS lets students use 50 elective credits to make their own curriculum. 

Graduate students pursue master's degrees in fields such as counseling and divinity. Degree-seekers can transfer up to 90 credits into a bachelor's program. Online students pay affordable tuition at one of the best colleges for working adults. 

Members of the military and Christian workers receive tuition discounts. Admission requires a minimum C grade on transfer credits.

#6 Online College in Virginia

Averett University-Non-Traditional Programs

School Information
Location Danville, Virginia
Admission Rate 24%
Graduation Rate 100%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 97% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

 Avg. Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $480-950

Undergrad, out of state | $480-950

Graduate, in state | $565-$655

Graduate, out of state | $565-$655

With 30 years experience, Averett offers online programs for adults who work. Students can earn a BS from anywhere in majors such as business, sociology, and computer information systems. Averett lets students transfer an AAS into the BAS and add a minor.

The master of accountancy prepares enrollees for the uniform certified public accounting exam. Small classes provide tailored learning at one of the best colleges for working adults. Averett charges affordable online tuition regardless of students' residency. Admission requires all school transcripts, and a minimum C grade for transfer credits.

#7 Online College in California

San Diego State University

School Information
Location San Diego, California
Admission Rate 34%
Graduation Rate 73%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

 Avg. Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $431-$531

Undergrad, out of state | $431-$531

Graduate, in state | $482-$956

Graduate, out of state | $482-$956

Founded in 1897, SDSU serves nontraditional learners with degrees offered through the global campus. Students can pursue a unique BA in American Indian studies online. Other degree completion programs include the BA in communication and BS in public health.

The BS in child development and BS in civil engineering offer hybrid formats. 

Some enrollees finish SDSU's degree completion programs in as little as two years. Graduate students choose from one of eight fully online master's degrees. Admission to one of California's best colleges for working adults requires 60 units and a 2.75 GPA.

#8 Online College in Wisconsin

Bellin College

School Information
Location Green Bay, Wisconsin
Admission Rate 100%
Graduation Rate 86%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 45% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

 Avg. Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $324-$998

Undergrad, out of state | $324-$998

Graduate, in state | $755-$800

Graduate, out of state | $755-$800

Located in Green Bay, BC offers programs specializing in training healthcare professionals. Students complete the hybrid BSN junior transfer track in two years at this college for working adults in healthcare. The online diagnostic cardiac sonography certificate requires an in-person weekend intensive.

The MSN offers a hybrid family nurse practitioner track and a full online nurse educator track. Students can pursue the doctor of nursing in an online cohort model. BC boasts licensure exam pass rates that consistently exceed the national average. A small student-to-faculty ratio encourages personalized learning. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA for transfer students.

#9 Online College in Maryland

University of Maryland Global Campus

School Information
Location Adelphi, Maryland
Graduation Rate 15%
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 90% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

 Avg. Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in state | $306

Undergrad, out of state | $499

Graduate, in state | $504-$1,087

Graduate, out of state | $659-$1,087

Developed to serve working adults and servicemembers, UMGC specializes in offering degrees in fast-growing fields. Students choose from over 90 programs delivered online and at various locations. The bachelor's and graduate degrees cover fields such as business and management, cybersecurity, and IT and computer science.

Support services include tutoring, mentoring, and one-on-one writing assistance. UMGC is one of the most affordable colleges for working adults. Enrollees pay competitive tuition rates and free digital class materials save them money. 

Students can transfer up to 90 credits into a bachelor's degree. Admission requires a high school diploma or GED certificate and a 2.0 GPA for transfer credits.

Definition of Nontraditional Students

Traditional students are generally defined as learners who attend college soon after completing a high school degree. These undergraduates are often enrolled full time and are usually between the ages of 18 and 24. While definitions may vary, nontraditional students frequently meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Over the age of 24 (or, in some cases, as young as 23)
  • Several years out of high school
  • May be a parent or have dependents
  • May be married
  • May hold a GED rather than a high school diploma
  • May have completed military service
  • Financially independent

Depending on the institution, any of these characteristics may meet the parameters of a nontraditional student. Moreover, as the population of nontraditional students continues to rise, colleges and universities are finding new and innovative ways to reach these learners.

Why Online Programs Are a Good Option for Working Adults

Working adults who pursue a college degree face a variety of challenges. Earning a college degree is difficult on its own, and it is made more difficult by combining college's relentless onslaught of deadlines, projects, and tests with a demanding work schedule.

Fortunately, colleges and universities are increasingly tailoring their programs to nontraditional students. For example, online programs are an excellent option for working adults; they provide the flexibility that working adults need, and allow them to complete their degree while maintaining their job schedule. Some online programs also offer accelerated degree programs where motivated learners can complete their degree much faster than a traditional degree track.

Interview with Sheneka Balogun, a Former HBX (Now Harvard Business School Online) Participant

Sheneka Balogun
Former HBX Participant


How did HBX accommodate you as a non-traditional/working student? When I told a friend that I was considering applying to HBX, she tried to talk me out of it, only because I am a working mom of two young children-ages 5 & 7. She was concerned how I would fit a tripod of courses from an elite school like Harvard into my already full schedule. I'm so glad that I took a chance because HBX was one of the best educational experiences of my life! I relied heavily on the HBX calendar that provided me an overview of the weeks, and peer-to-peer learning. The calendar kept me grounded because it showed me that the coursework was manageable. The community of learners across the globe on the journey with me kept me connected and engaged in course discussion.
What are the common traits you see in a non-traditional/working students? We want to learn things that are applicable to both our professional and personal lives. We are looking for non-traditional ways to advance our knowledge and understanding of the world around us. We are value-driven and that simply is a way of saying that everything has to be meaningful and relevant, and worth investing our time because we juggle many responsibilities.
Can students be successful at an online program while working full-time? Without a doubt! As I completed the coursework each week at HBX it was really apparent that they had me in mind when they developed the curriculum. There was a variety of learning resources and each week I looked forward to logging in because it was a challenging, fun, and rewarding experience all bundled into one. Even with other priorities that compete for our time as full-time working students, if colleges and universities design it with us in mind we will be successful.
How can universities better equip non-traditional students, like working mothers, veterans, and students exclusively enrolled in distance programs? Universities can equip us by identifying what is important to us and then developing programs that suit our professional needs. Higher education has to continue re-inventing itself and evolve with a diverse, student population like me. We want to be equipped with 21st century skills so that we are competitive applicants for jobs and promotion in a global economy. We just want it packaged in a way that takes it from theory to practice, and fits into our busy lives.
What services should a non-traditional/working student look for when choosing a university or program? Support and connection in real time. Students should determine if the program has resources to help manage and organize their time, and also academic support for coursework. HBX developed a platform that helped to facilitate learning student to student. They also embedded opportunities within the course to practice the concepts learned each week. It was a different model of academic support I had not experienced before and it worked! Often times, support and connection comes in novel ways. Students should look for what is different about the program, and what kind of unique services have been engineered with them in mind so that if they need support, it is at their fingertips.
What benefits are there to working while attending school? There are so many benefits to working while attending school. You get to put into practice what you learn in school and that helps to retain what you are learning in coursework. It also helps to see the immediate value that education offers to you and motivates you to continue until you finish!

Nontraditional Student Enrollment Expected to Rise

Nontraditional students are common at colleges throughout the country, particularly in online programs. In fact, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Education Commission of the States indicates that the ratio of non-traditional students attending higher education is expected to increase. While enrollment totals are higher for students younger than 25, the NCES projects total enrollment growth rates for older students to outpace growth rates of traditional younger students through 2024.

Interview with Gary Alan Miller, the Director University Career Services at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Gary Alan Miller
Director University Career Services
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


How does your school accommodate non-traditional students? We provide the opportunity for students to request appointments via video chat or phone call, to accommodate difficulties coming to traditional office hours. We offer networking programs in evening hours to accommodate the schedules of individuals who are working. Non-traditional students can, of course, also access our online resources around the clock. We strive to support all of our students, regardless of their needs.
What are the common traits you see in a non-traditional student? I don't know that non-traditional students can be stereotyped. Each individual has their own strengths and their own situation. A place like UNC-Chapel Hill is probably known more for traditional college students. But, we want all students to both feel welcome and be successful on our campus.
What services should a non-traditional student look for when choosing a university? It depends on their individual needs and how much those needs require unique services, of course. My advice is for students to be truly reflective of their needs so that they know what questions to ask with regard to services. For example, if the individual knows that they are not going to be able to be on campus during traditional work hours, they should ask how they will be able to benefit from those services.
What benefits are there to working while attending school? From a career perspective, adding that practical experience to your story can be invaluable. Employers appreciate the work ethic and dedication it takes for someone to be successful in college while maintaining employment. Of course, a concern may develop if the person loses the ability to take on other experiences that would benefit their career plans (such as an internship in a new area into which they are trying to transition). But, we work with students to make sure they can convey all the positive aspects of their work in parallel to what they are learning in the classroom.

How Long Do Online Programs Take?

Earning an online degree can take anywhere from a few months -- in the case of a certificate -- to five years or more to earn a Ph.D. Associate and master's programs typically take two years, while bachelor's degrees take about four years to complete. Program length also depends on how many transfer credits your institution will accept, and whether you study on a part-time or full-time basis. Below, is additional information about adult college options such as accelerated programs, life experience and transfer credits, and scholarships for to nontraditional students.

Accelerated Online Programs

While not every online school offers an accelerated degree program, they can set working adults on a fast track to their educational goals. Accelerated options use shorter timelines for college classes and offer coursework year-round rather than on a set semester schedule.

Provided you already hold an associate degree, you may be able to complete a bachelor's in as little as one year. Another popular accelerated bachelor's degree program for adults allows learners to complete a bachelor's and master's degree simultaneously. This dual-degree format can reduce the overall time commitment and financial burden to students, while giving them a competitive advantage on the job market.

Generally, accelerated programs cost about the same as traditional-length programs, since tuition prices are tied to the number of course credits a student completes. Explore your prospective schools' websites for detailed information on their accelerated degree options.

Credit for Life Experience and Prior Learning

Institutions are increasingly recognizing the value of life experience and prior learning. By awarding credits for military service, work experience, or life experience, colleges and universities make earning a degree more accessible and affordable to nontraditional students.

Professionals with years of employment at a technology company, for example, may be awarded credit for a related course in their IT degree without completing modules and assignments.

Although these credit-for-experience programs provide an excellent way to lower the cost and time commitment of a degree program, the process can require an extensive amount of time and work on the student's part. Schools may request submission of a thorough work portfolio and/or completion of an exam to demonstrate one's mastery of a subject before awarding credit.

Transferring Previous College Credits

Prospective college students can reduce the cost and time commitment of their degree by taking advantage of transfer credit opportunities.

Individuals with an associate degree, for example, can fulfill about half of the credit requirements of a bachelor's by transferring prior credits. To transfer credits, students submit official transcripts from their previous institution to their new institution, and work closely with an admissions advisor to ensure eligibility.

Transfer credit exceptions and issues may arise, however, and may be attributed to a difference in a school's accreditation, core curriculum requirements, or mismatched course equivalencies. Check with your prospective school to ensure your prior credits can transfer.

Scholarships for Adult Working Students

Nontraditional college students can locate a variety of scholarship opportunities online through a number of foundations, organizations, or private companies. Eligibility requirements may include one's field of study, current employer, gaps in an educational timeline, organizational membership, age, or other life circumstances. Ten scholarship opportunities are listed below.

American Legion Auxiliary Non-Traditional Student Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Eligible applicants include members of The American Legion Auxiliary or Sons of the American Legion. They must pursue their degree in a trade, professional, or technical program, or a two- or four-year degree. Applicants must also submit FAFSA results.
Amount: $2,000

View Scholarship
Association for Nontraditional Students in Higher Education Scholarships

Who Can Apply: Eligible applicants must be at least 23 years old, active members in ANTSHE, and meet at least one criteria of a nontraditional student, such as being a single parent or veteran. Applicants must also submit letters of recommendation.
Amount: Varies

View Scholarship
College JumpStart Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This merit-based scholarship allows any high school upperclassman, current college student, or nontraditional student to apply. Applicants must attend or plan to attend a U.S. college or university and must express their higher education goals.
Amount: $1,000

View Scholarship
EWI Adult Students in Scholastic Transition Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This scholarship is awarded annually to nontraditional adult students currently enrolled in school or enrolling for the first time. Applicants must live within the boundaries of a participating Executive Women International Chapter.
Amount: Varies

View Scholarship
Jeanette Rankin Scholarship Fund

Who Can Apply: Eligible applicants include low-income women over the age of 35 who pursue technical or vocational training, an associate degree, or a bachelor's degree from a nonprofit, accredited institution. Applications require letters of recommendation.
Amount: Varies

View Scholarship
Lifetime Adoption Foundation Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Scholarship applicants must be birth mothers who placed a child for adoption anytime after 1990, meet minimum GPA requirements, and be enrolled part time or full time. Applicants must write a 400-word essay.
Amount: Varies

View Scholarship
Osher Reentry Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: Eligible applicants include students with a gap in their education of five years or more and are pursuing their undergraduate degree. Applications are handled by participating institutions; contact your prospective school for more information.
Amount: Varies

View Scholarship
Pride Foundation Scholarships

Who Can Apply: One application enters students into more than 50 scholarship pools. Applicants must be LGBT residents of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, or Washington, and enrolled -- or planning to enroll -- in a degree or certificate program.
Amount: $10,000

View Scholarship
Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation

Who Can Apply: Eligible students must be enrolled full-time with a 3.0 GPA, and attend a printing or graphic program at a U.S. technical school, college, or university. Applicants must submit two letters of recommendation.
Amount: Varies

View Scholarship
Walmart Associate Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be part-time or full-time Walmart associates who demonstrate financial need, and participate in Walmart's Lifelong Learning Program or pursue an accredited postsecondary education.
Amount: Varies

View Scholarship

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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