blue ridge carolina

Best Online Colleges in North Carolina Top Consensus Ranked Online Schools in North Carolina

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The state of North Carolina has a lot to brag about.

This is a state where you’re within driving distance of the Blue Ridge or Smoky Mountains from its scenic coastline. It’s home to the famed Research Triangle’s over 300 companies and 65,000 employees. Medical research is conducted on-campus and in the Research Triangle by the respected Duke University School of Medicine.

“First in Flight” adorns North Carolina’s license plates and suggests its role in the first sustained air flight made by Orville Wright at Kitty Hawk. The state’s also home to the country’s largest private residence, with 178,926 square feet in floor space, the Biltmore Estate, and brings nearly 1.4 million visitors to the state.

There’s a lot to recommend in North Carolina and its commitment to higher education with colleges, universities, and community colleges is a part of NC’s bragging rights.

Online Learning in North Carolina

Those who are looking for online degrees in North Carolina should know that there are plenty of people who might benefit from attending school online. Online degree programs in North Carolina can be beneficial to working adults who are trying to maintain employment, those who live in rural areas, and students who might not be following the traditional path. If someone is trying to work and go to school at the same time, North Carolina online college will benefit them. The flexibility of attending class online will work better with their work schedule.

Furthermore, those who live in rural areas might not be able to get to a traditional classroom setting easily. North Carolina was traditionally an agricultural state, and many of the state’s people still live in rural areas, particularly in the eastern coastal region and the western mountains. Long commute times through difficult roads make an online degree a better option for many of these students.

What Kinds of Degrees Can I Earn Online in North Carolina?

Online education has exploded with opportunities for potential students. Whether you’re a first-time student looking for a degree program, you want to complete an interrupted degree, or you want to earn a graduate degree, you’ll find an NC college or university for you.

There are many people who wonder what type of online degrees in North Carolina they can earn. Fortunately, people can earn everything from associate’s degree to a doctoral degree online in North Carolina. Some people might already have a bachelor’s degree and are looking for online master’s programs in North Carolina. Some might even be looking for online doctoral programs in North Carolina. The flexibility of online degree programs in North Carolina is one of the highlights of going to school through the internet.

Online community colleges NC could be a better option for some students. The ability to earn a degree no matter where you are has remarkable benefits for a variety of people. The flexibility of these programs is a benefit that cannot be passed up.

North Carolina online college degrees include anything that anyone is looking for, ranging from online masters in North Carolina to doctoral programs and undergraduate degrees. For this reason, people at many points along the educational process can earn an online degree from a North Carolina school. There is an option for anyone who is looking to go back to school and improve their resume when looking for a high-level job. Take a look at the options.

Nontraditional Students in North Carolina

The broader definition of nontraditional students is usually considered as older or working adults, stay-at-home parents who maintain their homes and raise children, or those who couldn’t complete an undergraduate or graduate degree for other reasons. strive to advance their education through various North Carolina online colleges. These colleges offer a unique opportunity to pursue their dream and move forward with their career once their children become school-aged. Nontraditional students also include active military students who are pursuing an online education while serving their country. 

Working adults in the state of North Carolina who work a full-time job commitment are able to pursue their education while maintaining employment. Many of these working adults cannot take time off work and return to school, an opportunity providing them they otherwise might not have had.

Degree Completion for NC Residents

It’s been said, “Man plans, God Laughs.” Numerous students may have had their college careers interrupted and are now looking to finish any outstanding programs from before their career or want the option to gain a new skill while taking on new hobbies.

Many North Carolina online programs offer Degree Completion programs that will allow you to finish a degree you once started but had interrupted.

Specialized Degrees for NC Students

Online education allows you to expand your school search to any state in the union. If you’re looking for a special degree and one isn’t available to you locally, you’ll want to let your imagine go wild and explore programs in other states that fit your needs.

A word of warning, though.

Not all online schools can accept students from any state. Look for an online program that is a member of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). This agreement “…expand(s) students’ access to educational opportunities and ensure more efficient, consistent, and effective regulation of distance education programs.) The college or university offering an online program should indicate on its website that it is an NC-SARA member.


If you need a professional certification, be sure to check what schools offer online certifications. Some students seek online certificate programs that require them to take a select amount of courses related to their particular discipline and be awarded credit in that area. These online certificate programs in North Carolina colleges can be either graduate or undergraduate.

Higher Education in North Carolina

DesignationPublic/PrivateNumberYearsDegrees Available
Community CollegesPublic582Associate Degrees
State UniversitiesPublic164B.S., B.A., M.A., M.S, Ph.D.
College & Universities Public164B.S., B.A., M.A., M.S, Ph.D.
Colleges & UniversitiesPrivate364B.S., B.A., M.A., M.S, Ph.D.

As an online student and depending on your school, you might qualify for in-state tuition even if you live outside of the state. Be sure to talk with an admission advisor to determine if you might qualify for in-state tuition as a distant student.

Whether you’re an NC resident or a nonresident attending school online, remember that public institutions are typically lower in price than private schools.

Online/Distance Learning in North Carolina By the Numbers

North Carolina EnrollmentTotalUndergraduateGraduate
Enrollment561,984 480,41181,573
Online Study Only173,381146,67126,710
Some Online Courses178,610164,33914,271
No Online Courses209,993169,40140,592
  • Flexibility The convenience of an online NC education is significant. Wherever you are and if you can log onto the Internet in your workplace, your home, or on vacation, you can set your own study schedule with online courses.
    • Should your degree, such as nursing or social work, require clinical or practical experience, you can complete the requirement in local facilities, agencies, or centers under the supervision or approved preceptor
    • While coursework can be done on your schedule at a time convenient for you, you’ll still need to meet course deadlines for your assignments and exams
  • Courses – online degrees are developed and taught by the same faculty as your on-campus cohorts. While coursework is conveniently online, depending on your class, you may be required to participate in Zoom or other interactive video platforms for classes at specific times.
    • Some programs may require intensives that necessitate traveling to the school’s North Carolina campus. Intensives allow you to interact with professors and students and/or participate in or demonstrate skills training. Intensives, or immersives, are usually held on weekends with plenty of advanced notice of dates
  • Cost – You can save money earning your degree online at a North Carolina school. Depending on the school, some online degrees charge non-NCresidents the same tuition rate as in-state students. Regardless, you’ll save money on transportation, housing, and meal costs typically incurred by on-campus students. The biggest benefit is you can continue to work and earn a quality degree simultaneously.

How Can I Save Money on an Online Degree in North Carolina?

Lower-cost regional public institutions are your best option for Florida online colleges, and their tuition rates are more affordable than private, not-for-profit institutions that offer online programs. This is something to consider when budgeting and preparing for an online program.

North Carolina Four-Year Colleges & UniversitiesIn-StateOut-of-State
2-Year Community CollegeEstimated Tuition Cost

Of course, those who are looking for North Carolina online college degrees would also like to know about the cost of going to college. There are many people who go the traditional college route and end up with a lifetime of debt on the other side. In order to save money on an online master’s in North Carolina or other degrees, it is important to think about lower-cost regional public institutions. This might mean starting with online community colleges in NC where the tuition is typically lower. Then, after this, people can move to a four-year school and save money by entering with credits already.

Accredited North Carolina colleges and universities will be eligible to award the Federal Student Aid programs such as Pell Grants, loans, and departmental scholarships. Most schools and scholarship programs require you to make an application for student aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – FAFSA®. The form will also help when applying for need-based scholarships.

Some students might be eligible for scholarships either from the online community colleges NC or scholarships from third-party companies.

Online students may qualify for scholarships that may not be available from other states. Some scholarships may only be for North Carolina residents attending a specific college or university, but out-of-state, online students may also be eligible for scholarships. You’ll want to explore if your state offers scholarships for which you qualify.

Scholarships can be merit-based or need-based. Some scholarships are related to your major. Some may require essays, letters of recommendation, a minimum GPA, be of a certain gender or heritage, and/or that you major in a specific field of study.

Whatever the case, you’ll want to explore the options. The table below is just a snapshot of possibilities.

Scholarship NameScholarship AmountGeneral Eligibility/Requirements
North Carolina Need-BasedVariesUndergraduate; North Carolina resident
Western Union Scholarship$2500Age 18-26; Undergraduate; Studying: science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and business/entrepreneurship
Great Minds of STEM$500-$10,000Pursuing science, technology, engineering or math degree; be of Hispanic descent and/or must demonstrate significant leadership or service within the underserved community
Howe Scholarship$1500African American student interested in the building arts; New Hanover, Pender, Columbus or Brunswick county
Monica Chibuogu Nneji Foundation College Scholarship$500Pursuing Associate or Bachelor degree in a health care related program at an accredited 
Betsy Y. Justus NC TECH Founders Scholarship $4,000Rising female college freshman, re-entry or transfer student; North Carolina resident
Dottie Martin Teachers Scholarship$500Plan to teach in North Carolina once education is completed
Prism Foundation$1,000-$5,000Strong history of work and impact within the API and/or LGBTQ+ communities; attending a post-secondary institution in U.S.  
NBCUniversal LNESC Scholarship$5,000College sophomore or junior enrolled full-time in an accredited college or university; 3.0 GPA
(Source: College Foundation of North Carolina)

Employer Tuition Assistance

If you’re working, you’ll want to talk with your Human Resources representative about available education benefits such as tuition reimbursement or tuition assistance. With the increase of available online degree programs, more employers are amenable to helping employees earn or complete their degrees, especially if it relates to their work. This benefit is seen as a great way for employers to foster loyalty and improve employee morale.

In some cases, employers are looking to send their employees back to school to increase their value to the company. If this is the case, the employer may be willing to pay for the cost of education. This is a great way to save money on North Carolina-accredited online colleges. Those concerned about the cost of returning to school should try to explore all of these options. There are typically ways to save money on a North Carolina college online. One of the benefits of going to school in North Carolina is the accessibility of the higher education system to anyone who would like to earn an advanced degree.

Are There Online Public Universities in North Carolina?

Public online programs are an incredibly important part of the world of higher education. Public schools are typically cheaper than their private counterparts and give everyone the opportunity to improve their quality of life through an advanced degree. Furthermore, public universities are often the cheapest online colleges in NC. The public universities in NC are typically North Carolina accredited online colleges. This accreditation is important because it demonstrates to employers that degree is of high value.

Accredited online colleges in North Carolina have gone through an extra layer of vetting to ensure all of their classes are of acceptable academic rigor. This demonstrates to everyone that the employee is ready to put their education to work for the value of the company and their family. For this reason, many people have realized the value of online public university programs in North Carolina. Anyone who is looking for an alternative to the traditional college route in North Carolina should consider earning an online degree in NC.

Students who want to expedite their career or gain their education while maintaining a significant workload refer to this network to determine the best programs available in their disciple and what they need to move forward with.

Best Online Colleges in North Carolina

A person may choose to take online classes and complete an entire degree online in North Carolina. Some private and public universities offer the option. Additionally, some community colleges provide students with the option to complete classes online. Sometimes, a degree program is only partially online and will require the student to complete some of the degree in a brick-and-mortar classroom setting.

Many times, an online program teaches students the same material as the college’s traditional class, so a student is only losing out on the socialization aspect of college rather than the benefit of a solid curriculum. However, not only schools are created equal, so it’s important for a person to compare his or her options. One way is by searching for the best colleges in North Carolina. The top colleges in North Carolina may supply education both on-campus and online.

College Consensus Methodology

The Best Online Colleges & Universities in North Carolina category is limited to schools in North Carolina offering at least three fully-online degree programs at any level. The following programs are not formally ranked; they are presented in alphabetical order.

Wondering how to pay for your North Carolina college degree? Check out our list of the Top North Carolina Scholarships.

Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University logo from website

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this public university has an impressive slate of online degrees available. Whether seeking an undergraduate or graduate degree, you’ll want to explore the options at Appalachian State University. Since its early beginnings as Wautauga Academy in 1899, APP now has an enrollment of over 21,000 students in Boone, NC, and a commitment to providing quality education, no matter where you live. With 13 undergraduate and 13 master’s online degrees. APP is the first university to offer an online B.S. in Veterinary Technology.

East Carolina University

East Carolina University logo

East Carolina University is one of the largest universities in North Carolina, with an enrollment of over 28,000 with over 8,000 100% online students. The university is located in Greenville, NC, and is nationally recognized for its quality online degree programs. ECU offers over 100 online degrees with undergraduate degree completion and graduate degrees. The most popular degrees are in Nursing, Business, and Medicine, with options for online study.

Gardner-Webb University

gardner webb university logo 6425

Since starting as a boarding high school in 1905, Gardner-Webb University transitioned to a private, Christian college and is now a four-year university since 1993. This university has vigorous online, undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree programs. You’ll have a choice of undergraduate and graduate degrees in Education, Nursing, Criminal Justice, Computer Information Systems, and more. You’ll need an Associate degree to be admitted to the undergraduate program. The university has nine departments offering 80 bachelor and graduate programs.

North Carolina A&T State University

North Carolina AT State University logo from website

Not only is North Carolina A&T State University a top-tier research university, but it’s also the largest historically black university in the country and awards more degrees to African Americans in North Carolina. You can choose from 10 online undergraduate (B.A., B.S.) and ten graduate (M.A., M.S., and Ph.D.) Undergraduate majors are available in Economics, Environmental Health & Safety, Information Technology, Nursing Completion (RN-BSN), Criminal Justice, and more. For graduate students, 12 degrees are available in five colleges.

North Carolina State University

North Carolina State University

This land grant university opened in Raleigh in 1887 as the North Carolina College of Agricultural and Mechanic Arts. Today, NC State is a corner of the state’s Research Triangle, is well known in research and partnerships, and leads the state as a STEM university. You can tap into this respected school without leaving home through its robust online programs, including master’s and doctoral degrees and bachelor’s completion programs. Among online graduate majors are Textiles, Education, Natural Resources, and more, with Engineering, Business, and Sciences nationally ranked.

Queens University of Charlotte

queens university of charlotte logo 8223

The Queens University of Charlotte was formally established in 1857 as the Charlotte Female Institution and didn’t become coeducational until 1987 and became a full-fledged university in 2002. Queens University is a small institution that offers 100% student-centric online master’s studies in Education, Communication, Healthcare, and Business. As with other programs, there’s no difference in the curriculum for online and on-campus students, and you’ll have access to the faculty online or by phone. You’ll also have 24/7 technical support at this nationally-ranked university.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill logo from website

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the country’s first public university, opened in 1795 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Commonly referred to as UNC, this is a top-ranking public research university with a sterling reputation as innovative. Boasting 54 Rhodes Scholars since 1902 and two Nobel Laureates among its faculty, nearly 32,000 students enroll at UNC. Online students can apply for one of nine master’s and two doctoral degree programs (Public Health and Nursing), and undergraduate students can take online classes.

University of North Carolina Wilmington

division of academic affairs the university of north carolina wilmington logo 130327

The only downside to earning an online degree from the University of North Carolina Wilmington is missing out on the campus’s proximity to the Atlantic coast. Established in 1947 as Wilmington College to meet the educational demands of returning WWII veterans and area students. Several online degrees are offered in nursing (RN to BSN & MSN Nurse Educator), business (MBA, MS), healthcare (BS, MHA), and marketing and communication (MA.). Nationally ranked, UNCW is part of the University of North Carolina System and enrolls 18,000 students.

Wake Forest University

Wake Forest University logo

In 1834, before there was even a town of Wake Forest, NC, there was Wake Forest University, located in an NC area known as Forest of Wake (the school moved to Winston-Salem, NC, in 1956.) In 1962, the university was the first educational institution to desegregate. The university supports seven colleges and schools offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees and has vibrant study abroad programs (60% of WFU recent graduates participated.) WFU Online has twelve master’s and doctoral degrees available. Degrees offered include business, healthcare, education, law, and more.

Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University logo from website e1556305438256

The Western Carolina campus is just west of Asheville in Cullowhee, NC. It has an average enrollment of 10,000 students and 787 members of its award-winning faculty (some of whom have won Emmys, O. Henry, and National Endowment for the Arts awards). You’ll find robust academic online offerings for undergraduate or graduate degrees, either 100% online or hybrid programs. WCU has some notable alumni, including writer and humorist David Sederis and Ariana DeBose, Oscar winning actress and singer.

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