Are Online Degrees Respected by Employers?
If you attend an accredited university with a solid reputation, then the answer is yes. The days when an online degree came with a dodgy reputation are well in the past. In fact, the diploma you receive will not even state that it was completed online. A good online program will teach you the same skills as a campus-based program and will give you the same credentials.
There are, of course, programs that will not be taken seriously. One major red flag is an institution that is nationally—rather than regionally—accredited. It’s hard to overstate the importance of regional accreditation. Without it, your credits will not be transferable to other institutions and your diploma will not be taken seriously.
How Much Money Will I Make With an Online Degree?
You’ll make the same amount of money as you would if you attended the same program at a traditional campus. There are so many factors that go into your future salary that it is impossible to generalize on how much money you will actually make.
But assuming that you complete a solid program at an accredited institution, then the fact that you completed your degree online will be no hindrance to your future earnings.
Are online degrees easier than traditional programs?
No. Solid online programs will match the academic rigor that you will find in a traditional classroom. You’ll be held to the same high standards of scholarship, participate in discussions, complete labs, and conduct research. You’ll probably be taught by the same faculty that teach on campus too—and they don’t relax their standards for online students.
And the more flexible the schedule is, the more you’ll have to keep yourself motivated. On the other hand, you won’t have to travel to campus. You can complete assignments, participate in discussions, and attend lectures on your own time, wherever you are.
Are Online Degrees More Affordable? Faster?
The answer to this question really depends on the school you attend, but universities do often offer discounts to online students. And several schools offer in-state tuition to all online students, which can add up to huge savings.
And yes, they often are faster. You’ll have to complete the same amount of work for your online degree as you would if you were attending on campus, but many online programs are offered in accelerated formats. These programs are usually offered year-round, in eight to twelve-week terms—which can propel you through your degree at a much faster pace than a traditional program.
Should I Get an Online Degree?
This depends on what your greatest needs are. Online programs can offer a huge amount of flexibility in scheduling. So if you need (or want) to continue working while you study then online programs make a lot of sense. And many online programs are less expensive than their traditional counterparts so there is the added benefit of cost savings.
There will also be the added challenge of self-motivation—especially in asynchronous courses where there is no set log-in time. You’ll have to work hard to make sure you stay on top of lectures and assignments so that you don’t get behind. But the best online programs offer an array of student supports that will help keep you motivated and engaged.
What Are the Best Online Colleges?
When searching for the best online colleges, we’ve taken into account a number of essential factors. The first—and most basic—requirement is that all schools on our list are regionally accredited. This guarantees a level of legitimacy to their online programs. We also take into account the institution’s national reputation, as evidenced by national and niche rankings (like U.S. News and World Report). And we look closely at affordability—gleaning tuition costs from the National Center for Educational Statistics.
The College Choice Score you see beside each school is a composite score that balances academic excellence with return on investment. We hope our ranking helps you in your search for a great online college!
1 PENN STATE WORLD CAMPUS
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 100
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $23,129
The second largest campus in the Pennsylvania State University system, Penn State World Campus has been offering high-quality online programs since 1998. Penn State World Campus partners with Penn State’s many academic units and colleges, making it possible to offer more than 150 degree and certificate programs online to over 14,000 students worldwide.
As a student at Penn State World Campus, you’ll be able to complete your program at your own pace. Courses at Penn State World Campus are delivered in asynchronous format, so you can attend classes on your own schedule. You’ll experience both self-study and peer-to-peer interaction using chat, video conferencing, phone calls, email, social media, bulletin boards, and more. Some top degree programs offered include:
- Bachelor of Science in Accounting
- Master of Engineering: Electrical Engineering
- Master of Education: Educational Leadership
Penn State World Campus has an unparalleled national reputation. In U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 ranking of leading online degree programs, Penn State World Campus received the most top-ten rankings of any institution in the country. The school is also home to six online programs that rank among the top-ten online programs for veterans.
EMBRY-RIDDLE AERONAUTICAL UNIVERSITY
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 99.06
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $19,002
A pioneer in distance learning, Florida’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has been offering online programs since the school first launched their online portal in 1993. The school, which is one of the top-ranking STEM-focused universities in the country, uses cutting-edge technology to deliver its undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs to nontraditional students.
If you’re looking for an online degree in aeronautics or engineering, then look no further. Embry-Riddle has developed innovative programs which rank highly and offer exceptionally high return-on-investment. The school is also home to excellent online Business programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. And Embry-Riddle uses their long experience in distance learning to focus on engagement and critical services that help ensure student success. Some top programs include:
- Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics
- Master of Science in Engineering Management
- Master of Science in Technology
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University knows how to make education accessible for nontraditional students. Online learners have access to dedicated student advisors that help guide them through their program. And online degree programs feature multiple start times throughout the year, with 12 undergraduate and 10 graduate terms. This accelerated format propels students through the program in nine-week sessions.
ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY–ASU ONLINE
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 98.70
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $13,007
Located in Tempe, Arizona, Arizona State University (ASU Online) is one of the top providers of online education in the country. The University serves a huge online student body, with over 25,000 students enrolled in one of their 150+ undergraduate and graduate programs. Through their multiple online education platforms, ASU Online is constantly removing barriers for students to attend a nationally-ranked university.
At ASU Online you’ll be able to avoid the one-size-fits-all approach to education. Students are able to tailor their degree programs to fit their personal career goals and often have the chance to practice skills and gain real-world experience in their own communities. And students benefit from direct connection to the knowledge and expertise of the same award-winning faculty who teach on-campus. Top degree programs include:
- Master of Arts in Criminal Justice
- Master of Business Administration
- MBA/MS Industrial Engineering
At ASU-online, student support is all-encompassing. You’ll encounter tutors to help you get through the tough classes, success coaches who help adjust to online student life, and career service personnel who can help you apply your skills and passions in the real world. And you’ll join a diverse, global community of Sun Devils though student clubs, social media, and classroom interaction.
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA DISTANCE LEARNING
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 98.48
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $11,976
Another school that is no stranger to national rankings, the University of Florida—located in the city of Gainesville—is breaking down geographical barriers to higher education. The University of Florida offers access to more than 200 online undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs. And as a student, you’ll be a member of The Gator Nation, along with thousands of students and alumni around the world.
The University of Florida is committed to removing barriers to higher education. And their tuition and fees—which are the lowest among public universities who are members of the prestigious American Association of Universities—reflect that commitment. UF online programs combine rigorous academics in an accessible platform with access to student supports (like peer tutoring and career services) that will help you succeed. Top degree programs include:
- Bachelor of Arts or Science in Business Administration
- Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction
- Master of Science in Civil Engineering
UF online programs have three start dates per year (in August, January, and May), and the school offers multiple pathways (like degree completion programs) for students depending on their educational background. In addition to the many degree programs offered online, the University of Florida also offers a number of professional development courses online for working professionals.
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT CHICAGO
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 93.92
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $11,571
The largest university in the Chicago area, the University of Illinois at Chicago has consistently ranked among the top ten schools to get an online Bachelor’s degree (and currently sits at #4 according to U.S. News and World Report). The University has been offering online programs for a decade, and currently offers over 45 degrees at the undergraduate through postgraduate levels.
The University of Illinois at Chicago takes online student engagement seriously. As a student, you’ll take advantage of learning management system tech tools such as videos, audio, blogs, and discussion boards to keep connected to faculty and peers. Courses are taught by the same full-time, expert faculty that teach on campus. And UIC ensures that programs are accredited by top-notch accrediting agencies. Top degrees offered include:
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)
- Bachelor of Science in Health Management
- Master of Engineering
UIC offers a range of student supports to ensure your success as an online student. Live technical support is available, as well as access to tutorials on how to access information within your online courses. And students can access learning software from computers and mobile devices. UIC also offers flexible scheduling so students can attend lectures, complete assignments, and engage in discussions at their convenience.
UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 93.52
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $15,533
Located in Orlando, Florida, the University of Central Florida (UCF) is an emerging preeminent research university and home to one of the top online programs in the country. UCF has been offering online programs for over 20 years and now serves over 8000 students online. Over 80 accredited online degree programs are now available at the undergraduate through postgraduate level.
At the University of Central Florida, online courses combine an outstanding learning experience with personalized convenience and flexibility. With top online degrees in areas like Criminal Justice and Graduate Nursing, UCF is establishing a reputation for excellent online programming for working professionals. Not content to rest on their laurels, UCF ranks among the top 25 most innovative schools in the country (U.S. News and World Report). Top online degrees include:
- Master of Science in Nursing
- Master of Science in Criminal Justice
- Master of Science in Digital Forensics
Affordability is an important aspect of access to higher education, and UCF has been recognized (by both Forbes and Kiplinger’s) for being one of the most affordable and best-value universities in the U.S. And online students have access to a wide range of student supports—from peer-assisted tutoring and online tutors to library services, academic advising, and career services.
COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY–GLOBAL CAMPUS
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 93.19
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $16,232
Founded in 2007, Colorado State University-Global Campus (CSU-Global)is the online campus of the Colorado State University system. CSU-Global was the first independent, 100% online state university in the U.S. and now has an online student body of over 15,000 students. CSU-Global currently offers 24 accredited degree programs at the Bachelor’s and Master’s level.
CSU-Global Campus has worked hard to earn a reputation as one of the best online schools for working professionals. The school is constantly pushing innovation in teaching methods, making online learning both rigorous and engaging. And CSU-Global emphasizes individualized support for students from registration to graduation, with a wide range of student resources—from tutoring to tech support. Top online degrees include:
- Bachelor of Science in Accounting
- Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration
- Master of Science in Management
With monthly starts and accelerated eight-week courses, CSU-Global makes higher education both immediately accessible and remarkably efficient. The University also insists on absolute transparency in costs and fees—which includes a tuition guarantee so you know exactly what you will have to pay. They also integrate a data-driven approach that measures key student performance metrics to ensure that their courses are doing what they need to.
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS–SPRINGFIELD
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 92.56
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $11,444
One of three campuses in the world-class University of Illinois, the University of Illinois Springfield is widely acclaimed for their leadership in online learning. UIS offers over 45 degree, certification, and graduate certificate programs for nontraditional students, many of which rank among the best in the country. Students encounter an intellectually rich environment with top-notch faculty and online resources.
Online learning at UIS is both flexible and convenient for working students. And while online courses are equally rigorous and taught by the same faculty that teach in the classroom, online curricula are designed for online instruction specifically. And faculty are trained in online instruction so they are able to help students take advantage of the unique resources available to online learners. Some top degrees offered include:
- Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration
- Master of Public Administration
- Master of Arts in Human Services Administration
The University of Illinois Springfield takes accessibility seriously—and works to make transferring into programs as simple as possible. UIS has established relationships with many accredited institutions across the state of Illinois, making the transfer process seamless for students. And Joint Agreements mean that student in approved community colleges can be assigned a UIS advisor that help plan a course of study before they even begin studying at UIS.
CUNY SCHOOL OF PROFESSIONAL STUDIES
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 90.69
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $6,530
CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) is a college of the City University of New York system—the largest urban university system in the country. CUNY SPS offers a variety of online bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as certificates and professional non-degree programs. And the University’s online Bachelor’s program currently ranks in the top 5% in the country in U.S. News & World Report.
Online courses at CUNY School of Professional Studies make use of emerging technology and interactive formats for a unique learning experience—creating a rich online learning environment with opportunities for students to interact with instructors and classmates. CUNY SPS also provides unique bachelor’s to master’s pathways, making the school a top destination for working professionals in the psychology, business and healthcare sectors. Top degree programs include:
- Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Media
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing
- Master of Arts in Psychology
- Master of Science in Business Management and Leadership
Drawing on CUNY’s renowned faculty and practitioners, as well as numerous industry and education partners, online programs at CUNY School of Professional Studies provide affordable and accessible opportunities for personal growth and job mobility. All students pay the same tuition rate (regardless of residency) and a number of credits for prior learning allow undergraduate students to earn credit for previous education and workplace education.
OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY–OSU ECAMPUS
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 90.58
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $19,484
Located in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Oregon State University Ecampus is consistently ranked among the nation’s best providers of online education. Currently ranking among the top ten universities for their online Bachelor’s programs (U.S. News & World Report), OSU’s Ecampus offers more 30 degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level—all developed by OSU faculty who are known worldwide for their research, expertise, and innovation.
OSU Ecampus courses and programs are developed by world-class OSU faculty who use innovative course delivery strategies. Through cutting-edge technology, students are actively engaged in virtual labs, interactive language-acquisition exercises, engaging videos, and interactive lectures. OSU uses Canvas as its learning management system, so online interaction through discussion boards and web conferencing keeps students in touch. Top online degree programs include:
- Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Sciences
- Master of Engineering in Industrial Engineering
- Master of Science in Data Analytics
OSU Ecampus students have access to a wide range of student supports—vital resources like success counseling, library services, free online tutoring, and career guidance. And OSU Ecampus is currently ranked among the top five best online bachelor’s programs for veterans— advisors collaborate with veterans to maximize their military education benefits and find programs that work well for military service members.