A college degree is the best way to advance your career and increase your earning potential, but geography, family, or work obligations can make traditional college degree programs feel unattainable. Thanks to technology, however, it’s possible for you to earn a college degree while you work full-time or take care of your family, and more people are opting to enroll in online colleges and universities than ever before. In fact, online degree programs have outpaced traditional degree programs in terms of growth in the last decade, and, according to Babson, 70% of academic leaders say that online learning is now a fundamental part of their postsecondary institution’s long-term growth strategy. In other words, online programs from accredited online colleges and universities now offer the academic quality and the flexibility professionals need. There have never been more or better choices when it comes to online associate degrees, online bachelor’s degrees, and online master’s degrees.
What are the Best Online Colleges?
It’s more important than ever to pick the right online degree program. That’s why BestColleges.com exists – we’ve reviewed thousands of accredited online colleges and universities to help you find the best online degree program for you. The right online college for you will work with your budget, your schedule, and your learning style to make your goals a reality. Our ranking of the 50 best online colleges and universities gives you a place to begin your search for an online degree program that meets your need
The 5 Best Accredited Online Colleges and Universities
1. University of Florida
The University of Florida was launched in 2014 to provide both new and transferring students full-time, high-quality baccalaureate degree programs. Prospective Gators have an opportunity to study in one of 200 online programs with flexible learning options, world-class faculty, and a worldwide alumni network of 415,000 Gators.
Florida offers bachelor’s of arts degrees in anthropology, biology, criminology, geography, geology, psychology, and sociology. Students can also pursue BS degrees in fields such as business administration, computer science, environmental management, fire and emergency services, nursing, public relations, sports management, and telecommunication, media, and society.
Florida has a comprehensive list of master’s degree offerings, including programs in art education, business administration, educational leadership, aerospace engineering, fire and emergency services, and gerontology. Notable online programs include the 30-credit master’s in veterinary forensics science, a program for professionals working in veterinary medicine and forensic science. Areas of study include animal crime scene processing, scientific and legal principles of forensic evidence, cruelty to animals, and interpersonal violence. The school’s 32-credit master of science in pharmaceutical sciences has several areas of emphasis, including forensic science, pharmaceutical regulation, and forensic DNA and serology. The school also offers a selection of undergraduate and graduate certificates in various fields.
Most courses are delivered asynchronously. Students may enroll full-time or part-time and can even take time away from their studies. Other notable school features include affordable tuition and comprehensive financial aid offerings, virtual career fairs, and access to job boards.
2. University of Central Florida
Founded in 1963, this Orlando-based university is the largest postsecondary institution in the United States by overall enrollment, as well as undergraduate enrollment. UCF currently serves more than 63,000 students, many of whom are enrolled in online courses and degree programs through the school’s robust distance learning program.
All online courses at UCF are led by the same professors and faculty members that teach the same subjects on campus. A total of 18 fully online bachelor’s degrees are available for undergraduate distance learners. These include Bachelor of Arts degrees in core subjects like history, English and political science, as well as niche fields like communication and conflict and Latin American studies. A BSN program is also offered for prospective nurses. In addition to full degrees, online undergrads can also choose from 29 minors in five academic areas: arts and humanities; education and human performance; health and public affairs; hospitality management; and sciences. All of these options are available as ‘2+2 baccalaureate completion’ programs for students who have completed some college in the past without earning a four-year degree. As an extra perk, UCF Online students are not charged administrative fees for resources exclusively used by brick-and-mortar students.
UCF also features 24 fully online master’s degrees for graduate-level students. These programs cover a wide range of academic subjects. Master of Arts (M.A.) options include degrees in applied learning and instruction, educational leadership and English-technical communication. Alternatively, online students at UCF can earn Master of Science (M.S.) degrees in fields like criminal justice and digital forensics. UCF also offers web-based master’s degrees in seven specialized engineering fields, a dual public administration and criminal justice master’s, and an MSN option for nurses. Some UCF Online master’s programs are 30 to 35 credits in length, and may be completed in as little as one year of full-time enrollment.
3. Northeastern University
Northeastern University Global Network is the name given to the school’s collective satellite campuses and worldwide research partnerships. The online degrees/certificates themselves are offered through Northeastern University.
Established in 1898, this institution of nearly 25,000 students functions as a private research university. In addition to four Boston-area campuses, the university’s ‘Global Network’ extends to satellite campuses in Charlotte, Seattle, Silicon Valley and Toronto. Northeastern also holds partnerships with education and research facilities in more than 150 countries.
Northeastern currently offers 10 online bachelor’s degrees for distance learners. Three management-related bachelor’s degrees are offered — general management, finance and accounting management and health management — as well as a leadership degree. Other undergraduate degrees are available in human services, information technology, liberal studies, political science, professional communication and psychology. All of Northeastern’s online bachelor’s degree programs are 120 credits in length, and designed to be completed with four years of full-time enrollment or seven years of part-time enrollment. Each degree follows a comprehensive curriculum consisting of one-credit labs and three-credit foundational, major-related and professional elective courses. The psychology degree program culminates in a senior research seminar. Most of the remaining programs culminate in a final project; human services majors must also complete an on-site practicum course, where they will receive supervised training from experienced professionals at a working human services facility. As of Fall 2016, all bachelor’s programs at Northeastern follow a semester-based schedule.
Online graduate students enrolled at Northeastern can choose from 37 master’s degree pathways. These include nine degrees in business- and management-related fields, seven in health and human services and five in education. The university also offers several highly specialized programs for online master’s students, including tracks in energy systems, geographic information technology, homeland security, security and resilience studies and two degrees concentrated in regulatory affairs. Doctorates in education and transitional physical therapy are also available in a primarily online format. Additionally, two undergraduate certificates and 30 graduate certificates can be earned entirely online within one year of full-time study.
4. University of Alabama at Birmingham
Established as an extension center in 1936, the University of Alabama at Birmingham has added a robust virtual college internationally recognized for academic excellence, research, and innovation. The school offers a comprehensive catalog of fully online and hybrid degree and certificate programs. With working adults in mind, the virtual college offers students flexible learning options. Bachelor’s degrees offered fully online include programs in accounting, criminal justice, marketing, information systems, and finance. The school’s Department of Human Studies offers a BS in community health and human services, a program that prepares students for a career as a community coordinator, outreach specialist, or drug abuse counselor. The BS in industrial distribution has two tracks: engineering and medical equipment and supplies.
Master’s degrees are available in accounting, criminal justice, sociology, and engineering, each with corresponding concentrations. Master’s programs offered in a blended format include the MS in health informatics, the MAED in special education-collaborative teacher, and the MS in health information-executive format. Notably, the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s online master’s of public health has several concentrations delivered fully online, including epidemiology, health behavior, industrial hygiene, and occupational health and safety. The 44- to 45-credit master of science in nursing— nurse practitioner provides nurses with specializations in women’s health, family healthcare, and psychiatric-mental health.
UAB’s online programs are delivered through Canvas, and eLearners have access to expansive support services such as the Access Success Center, libraries, and technical support. Those graduating from this institution become part of an alumni network of more than 115,000 graduates around the globe.
5. Liberty University
Liberty University is a private, not-for-profit Christian doctoral research university with its main campus located in Lynchburg, Virginia. Launched in 1985, the school’s distance learning program, Liberty’s online programs, follows a non-traditional academic timetable. Classes are 8 weeks in length, and there are eight start dates each year.
Nearly all online programs are offered nearly 100% online. Only one bachelor’s program requires a one week, on-campus class, and that is the B.S. in social work; the remaining bachelor’s degree programs are delivered fully online, and are designed to be completed in four years or less. Liberty’s Online programs bachelor’s programs span 16 academic departments, and tout tuition that is considerably lower than the on-campus degree programs at $9,360 instead of the traditional $20,300. The online bachelor’s degree programs also have no additional fees, and are completely free to apply.
The school’s options for business administration degrees are particularly extensive; students may choose from degree concentrations in 16 different fields, including digital marketing and advertising, entrepreneurship, financial planning, green and sustainable management, marketing analytics and project management. Criminal justice majors may also pick a degree specialization from fields like homeland security, juvenile justice and public administration. As a faith-based university, Liberty’s Online programs also offers degrees in religion (with four concentrations), biblical and educational studies and Christian leadership and management, as well as a Christian counseling concentration for psychology majors. A total of 24 online minors are also available to undergraduates, four of which are focused on Christian studies. There also are undergraduate degrees in aviation, communications, education, history, information technology, nursing, and more.
Graduate students enrolled at Liberty’s online programs also enjoy a wide range of online master’s degree selections. Aspiring teachers seeking a Master of Education can choose from more than 15 different degree specializations, including obtaining licensure if needed. The school’s MBA programs include 36-hour and 45-hour tracks that have 16 possible specializations. Online counseling options are also quite robust. For example, the master of arts (M.A.) degrees in human services counseling and pastoral counseling each feature 11 possible concentrations. Online grad students pursuing a religious master’s can also earn degrees in seven different fields through the Rawlings School of Divinity. Finally, Liberty’s online programs offers web-based and blended doctoral degree programs in business, counseling, education, music, nursing and religious studies. The application fee is $40 for master’s degree programs and $50 for doctoral and postgraduate degrees.