Best Colleges in Washington

portrait of Meg Whitenton
Meg Whitenton
Read Full Bio

Contributing Writer

Megan Whitenton has over a decade of experience as an art educator. She has worked in web marketing and public relations for major arts organizations and produces web content for fields including higher education, healthcare, and the arts. Meg earned...
Updated on June 11, 2024
Learn more about our editorial process

As colleges and universities navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, we're continuing our efforts to provide you with useful student resources and the latest program information. Check our coronavirus resources page to learn more.

Washington is known for providing diverse and innovative higher education opportunities. Some of the largest colleges in Washington are also among the largest in the United States. The best colleges in Washington offer a variety of research and liberal arts programs.

Washington's state university system spans multiple campuses and a comprehensive online division. Popular majors include business, engineering, and social sciences. The best online colleges in Washington offer flexible learning options, such as accelerated paths to graduation, as well as in-state tuition rates for all distance learners.

Below, we've ranked the best colleges in Washington to help you find a school that aligns with your academic and career goals.

Top 10 Colleges in Washington

Is your school on this list? Get the BestColleges ranking seal.

#1 University of Washington-Seattle Campus Seattle, WA
#2 University of Washington-Bothell Campus Bothell, WA
#3 University of Washington-Tacoma Campus Tacoma, WA
#4 Western Washington University Bellingham, WA
#5 Centralia College Centralia, WA
#6 South Seattle College Seattle, WA
#7 Gonzaga University Spokane, WA
#8 Whitman College Walla Walla, WA
#9 Eastern Washington University Cheney, WA
#10 Northwest Indian College Bellingham, WA

How We Rank Schools

Chevron Down

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 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.

Best Accredited Colleges in Washington

Is your school on this list? Get the BestColleges ranking seal.

Best Colleges in Washington

  1. University of Washington-Seattle Campus

    Seattle, WA



    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.

  2. University of Washington-Bothell Campus

    Bothell, WA



    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.

  3. University of Washington-Tacoma Campus

    Tacoma, WA



    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.

  4. Western Washington University

    Bellingham, WA



    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.

  5. Centralia College

    Centralia, WA



    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.

  6. South Seattle College

    Seattle, WA



    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.

  7. Gonzaga University

    Spokane, WA



    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.

  8. Whitman College

    Walla Walla, WA



    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.

  9. Eastern Washington University

    Cheney, WA



    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.

  10. Northwest Indian College

    Bellingham, WA



    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.

Top Degree Programs in Washington