Best Community Colleges in North Carolina

Learn more about the best community colleges in North Carolina and the employment outlook throughout the state.
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Tyler Epps
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Tyler Epps is an editor for BestColleges. He writes and edits content about higher education, specializing in degree planning and college rankings. He is passionate about helping students prepare for college and navigate their educational journey. He...
Updated on June 28, 2023
Learn more about our editorial process 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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Consisting of 58 colleges that offer flexible and accessible educational options, the North Carolina Community College System enrolls approximately 700,000 students each year. Furthermore, the Longleaf Commitment Grant allows qualifying North Carolina high school graduates from low- and middle-income families to become eligible for financial assistance at each of these colleges.

With opportunities for free tuition, financial aid, and quality education, North Carolina houses some of the best online community colleges and trade schools.

Why Study in North Carolina?

Educational Opportunities

Community colleges in North Carolina offer specialized educational options and customized job training programs, including one-year and two-year certificates and degrees, transfer opportunities, and dual enrollment. North Carolina's community colleges offer more than 275 programs and make up one of the largest community college systems in the country.

The state's community colleges also provide learners with the opportunity to sign up for short-term workforce training programs or earn an associate degree in nursing that qualifies them to work as registered nurses.


Forbes ranked North Carolina as the best state for business from 2017 to 2019. With a package of low taxes for businesses and residents, along with top-tier job development programs, North Carolina's economy is on the rise.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in North Carolina falls well below the national average, including in terms of housing, healthcare, groceries, transportation, and utilities. WalletHub also ranks North Carolina 34th in average tax burden among all states in the country. This means that the average North Carolinian pays less in taxes when compared to the national average.

Cultural and Community Offerings

North Carolina is the ninth-largest state in the United States in terms of population, boasting a diverse population of more than 10 million. Despite the large population, North Carolina is not a crowded state. Instead, the Tar Heel State is known for its beautiful coastal plains, scenic barrier islands, and hiking trails.

North Carolina houses more than 40 state parks, 10 national parks, and four national forests, along with various art and history museums. There are also various community celebrations throughout the year, helping North Carolinians come together and build an inclusive community.


There are rarely extreme winters or summers in North Carolina. The climate is mild throughout the year, characterized by its humid and sub-tropical climate.

As winters are extremely mild, North Carolinians and tourists from all over the world can enjoy outdoor activities throughout the year. Visitors and residents can take a trip to the iconic Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains or plan a beach getaway at Emerald Isle, Bald Head Island, or Cape Hatteras.

Top Degree Programs in North Carolina

Featured Online Programs

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

North Carolina Employment Outlook

North Carolina's employment ecosystem is supported by job-providing programs like ApprenticeshipNC and BioNetwork, along with customized training schemes and small business center networks that serve many local workers.

The U.S. Department of Labor projects that North Carolina will experience 6.3% job growth from 2018-2028. This would translate to the creation of more than 300,000 new jobs.

4 North Carolina Jobs in Demand for 2022

Registered Nurses

  • Annual Median Salary: $66,820
  • Job Outlook: 11%

Healthcare and social assistance is one of the biggest employment industries in North Carolina. These professionals, who help maintain patient records and administer many types of medication, are consistently in demand. Nurses must hold a license to practice.

Veterinary Technologists and Technicians

  • Annual Median Salary: $35,470
  • Job Outlook: 26%

These professionals help veterinarians diagnose and treat animals. Daily tasks may include collecting blood and tissue samples and performing lab tests. An associate degree is the most common academic requirement for these positions.


  • Annual Median Salary: $45,480
  • Job Outlook: 13%

Skilled trades careers, like electrician, generally don't require four-year degrees. This allows individuals to enter the workforce quickly. Students aiming for a career as an electrician can look forward to entering an in-demand industry.

Occupational Therapy Assistants

  • Annual Median Salary: $66,490
  • Job Outlook: 27%

Students who want to work as occupational therapy assistants often earn an associate degree from a community college or technical school. Occupational therapy assistants support a patient's recovery and progress in developing skills that they need in daily living and working.

Best Accredited Community Colleges in North Carolina

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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Best Community Colleges in North Carolina

  1. Pamlico Community College

    Grantsboro, NC



    With a 9-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio and a graduation/transfer rate 26 percentage points higher than the national average, Pamlico Community College ranks as one of the best community colleges in North Carolina. Students at PCC can pursue certificates and degrees in fields like criminal justice technology, early childhood education, and medical office administration. The college also maintains continuing education and skill development programs for working adults.

    Numerous programs at the college are available online, including the ECU Partnership Program for future K-12 educators. PCC also supports distance education students with online academic advising, career coaching, tutoring, and writing assistance.

    To apply to PCC, you must have a high school diploma or the equivalent. Some students may also need to take a free placement test to determine if they need to enroll in developmental courses.

  2. Wayne Community College

    Goldsboro, NC



    Located on a 175-acre campus in Goldsboro, Wayne Community College offers more than 100 degree, certificate, and professional development programs in subjects like emergency management, mechanical engineering technology, and aviation systems. Students at this community college in North Carolina also have the option to earn fully online degrees and certificates in areas such as accounting, computer programming, and medical office administration.

    For students wishing to transfer to an in-state bachelor's program, WCC offers AA, AS, associate of engineering, and associate of general education in nursing degrees that meet the general education requirements of University of North Carolina System institutions.

    Students at WCC enjoy access to a wealth of support services. The school's career services office hosts personalized counseling, resume and interview skills workshops, and job fairs.

    Applying to WCC generally requires a high school diploma or the equivalent. Prospective students may also need to take a placement exam to assess their readiness to study at the college level.

  3. Mayland Community College

    Spruce Pine, NC



    Situated in North Carolina's Appalachian Mountains, Mayland Community College serves students across the state through online and hybrid classes in subjects like biology, business law, medical terminology, and network security. In-person programs are also available in areas such as criminal justice, electronics engineering, and practical nursing.

    Students at Mayland can also select one of three associate degree tracks that meet the general education requirements of a bachelor's program at a four-year institution. Mayland maintains articulation agreements with several public and private colleges in the state, making it easy to transfer credit.

    Applicants must submit official copies of their high school or GED transcripts, though Mayland does not require incoming students to take a placement exam. Certain programs, such as nursing, may have stricter entrance requirements, Students can apply for more than 60 scholarships awarded on the basis of academic achievement, financial need, and career aspirations.

  4. Vance-Granville Community College

    Henderson, NC



    With separate campuses in Vance, Granville, Franklin, and Warren counties, Vance-Granville Community College offers more than 40 programs in fields like business administration, computer science, education, and health services. Students who need to balance their studies with professional or personal responsibilities can also take advantage of fully online programs in criminal justice, early childhood care, and supply chain management.

    Alongside its degree and certificate programs, VGCC provides a multitude of professional development and personal enrichment opportunities. For example, students can participate in a law enforcement training program, developing the skills needed to earn admission into a police academy or qualify for a departmental promotion.

    Prospective students must apply online; submit official copies of their transcripts; and take a placement exam that covers subjects like math, writing, and reading comprehension. Students who do not receive a passing score on this exam may need to take remedial coursework prior to enrolling in a program.

  5. Western Piedmont Community College

    Morganton, NC



    Each year, Western Piedmont Community College educates more than 7,000 students through 104 degree, diploma, and certificate programs. Students can choose to learn at the college's 300-acre campus, in fully online programs, or through a hybrid approach that allows participants to combine the convenience of distance education with the structure of the classroom experience.

    Programs are available in building construction technology, digital effects and animation, information technology, and paralegal studies. Students who earn an associate of arts or associate of science at the college also receive guaranteed admission to member institutions of the University of North Carolina System.

    WPCC operates under an open-door admission policy. Applicants who do not meet English and math competencies may need to take developmental classes. Prospective students can also apply for multiple forms of financial aid, such as a $1,000 scholarship for emergency services personnel and their families.

  6. Rockingham Community College

    Wentworth, NC



    Committed to access, excellence, and student support, Rockingham Community College ranks as one of the best community colleges in North Carolina. In addition to on-campus programs in areas like finance, industrial systems technology, and respiratory therapy, the college also offers dozens of online and hybrid classes.

    While RCC uses an open-door admission policy, its health sciences programs have limited enrollment and set stricter entrance requirements. For example, to enroll in the pharmacy technician program, you must score at least 70% on the program's placement test. Programs in nursing and medical laboratory technology may also require an interview with an admissions counselor.

    Through the Spartan Passage program, students who earn an associate degree at RCC receive guaranteed admission to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. They are also eligible for transfer scholarships and have their application fees waived. Students must maintain a GPA of at least 2.0 to remain in this program.

  7. Stanly Community College

    Albemarle, NC



    With a main campus in Albemarle, Stanly Community College gives students the support they need to succeed in the classroom and after graduation. Students can work with dedicated mentors to complete their financial aid paperwork, choose and enroll in classes, and navigate the college's online resources. Success coaches help students consider their career interests and options, hone their resume writing and interview skills, and network with alumni and employers.

    Degree and certificate programs provide instruction in areas like agribusiness technology, heavy equipment operations, radiography, and game development. SCC also offers fully online programs in accounting, business administration, cybersecurity, and human services technology.

    Applying to SCC requires either a high school diploma or GED certificate. Students who have not taken the ACT or SAT may need to take a placement test. The placement exam is free, and online students can receive a voucher to take the test at an authorized center in their area.

  8. Montgomery Community College

    Troy, NC



    While Montgomery Community College offers a host of traditional programs in subjects like business administration and medical assisting, students attending this community college in North Carolina can also explore highly specialized topics like gunsmithing, metal engraving, and hunting and shooting sports management. While some courses are available at a distance, MCC does not currently offer any fully online programs.

    To apply to MCC, you must hold a high school diploma or the equivalent. Incoming students must also take a placement exam, though the college waives this requirement for those who have previously taken some college-level courses. New students must also meet with an academic advisor to create a plan of study.

    MCC offers a variety of institutional scholarships to increase the affordability of its programs. To qualify, students must maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA during their undergraduate studies and demonstrate financial need by completing the FAFSA.

  9. Richmond Community College

    Hamlet, NC



    Serving approximately 10.000 students, Richmond Community College prides itself on providing high-quality education and flexible learning opportunities. The average class size at the college is just 17 pupils, allowing instructors to provide personalized attention to their students. In addition, day, night, and online classes give students the freedom to continue their education at their convenience.

    Fully online associate programs are available in business administration, law enforcement, healthcare management, and cybersecurity. Through its adult education programs, RCC also helps students earn high school equivalency certificates and develop the academic skills needed to study at the college level. The college also holds transfer agreements with all schools in the University of North Carolina System, as well as 20 additional private colleges and universities in the state.

    Applicants must submit official copies of their high school transcripts. Prospective students must take a placement test and meet with an academic counselor.

  10. Southwestern Community College

    Sylva, NC



    Since its founding in 1964, Southwestern Community College has awarded more than 15,000 degrees, diplomas, and certificates in areas such as entrepreneurship, automotive systems technology, paralegal technology, and the culinary arts. To further expand educational opportunities, the college now offers fully online programs in office administration, software development, and early childhood education administration.

    SCC emphasizes work-based learning. Students in more than a dozen of the college's associate programs participate in internships to evaluate potential career options, develop practical experience, and grow their professional network.

    Degree-seeking applicants must have a high school diploma or the equivalent. They must also demonstrate college-level reading, writing, and math proficiency based on a placement test, high school GPA, or prior college credit.

    Prospective students can also apply for a variety of scholarships. For example, the Brigham Scholars program supports students who excel academically and plan to pursue a criminal justice career after graduation.

Click here to see the best accredited colleges in North Carolina.

Frequently Asked Questions About Community Colleges in North Carolina

Are community colleges worth it?

Community colleges usually offer relatively affordable tuition rates and a flexible path toward in-demand jobs and emerging professional fields. Many community colleges also offer flexibility through affordable online programs.

Another advantage of enrolling at community colleges is that the credits you earn are transferable to most four-year universities in the country, providing an alternative path in your pursuit of a bachelor's degree.

Does North Carolina have free community college?

Some community colleges in North Carolina offer free tuition and financial assistance. In 2021, the Governor's Emergency Education Relief fund granted North Carolina an estimated $138 million in financial aid, which helped the state's community college system to create the Longleaf Commitment Grant.

How many community colleges are in North Carolina?

There are 58 community colleges spread across North Carolina. The North Carolina Community College System offers 275 programs of study and serves about 700,000 students.

Some community colleges in North Carolina offer fully online programs. Students can receive specialized training in skilled labor educational programs, which typically takes 1-2 years. Central Piedmont Community College and Wake Technical Community College are the two largest community colleges in the state in terms of student enrollment.

What is the number one community college in North Carolina?

Located in Grantsboro, Pamlico Community College is considered among the best community colleges in North Carolina. According to its website, PCC boasts an excellent 9-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, along with a graduation and transfer rate that is well above the national average.

Since starting as a small industrial education provider in 1962, PCC has become a fully accredited two-year community college. In addition to on-campus offerings, the school now offers online programs for working adults.

How much does it cost to go to a community college in North Carolina?

The average tuition at community colleges in North Carolina typically costs about $2,500 per year for in-state students and $8,250 for out-of-state students.

Almost every community college in North Carolina offers some online learning programs, so students can avoid paying transportation and on-campus dormitory fees. Eligible students can also apply to the Longleaf Commitment Grant, which would award them free tuition for up to two years.

Feature Image: Andrea Evangelo-Giamou / EyeEm / Getty Images 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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