Online college education has come a long way; a child born in the same year as the first fully online degree could very well be earning their doctorate online right now. In that time, online education has gone through many changes, from scoffing and disbelief to full acceptance. While predatory, unscrupulous online “colleges” once threatened to make online degrees a punchline, today the most prestigious colleges and universities – from the Ivy League to research giants like MIT and Stanford – offer fully online programs. The best online colleges for undergraduates are some of the best colleges, period.
Earning your undergraduate degree by going to college online offers busy working professionals a viable option if they want to earn their college degree. Online degree completion programs offer affordable options and unmatched convenience, especially when compared to their ‘brick and mortar’ counterparts. The flexible scheduling capabilities, offered by online degree completion programs, allows working professionals to earn their degree at their own pace, on their own time. Online classes can be asynchronous (accessible on the student’s schedule) or “live sessions” that take place simultaneously, sometimes with an on-campus class.
How We Ranked the Best Online Colleges and Universities
To rank the Best Online Colleges and Universities, College Consensus applied the Consensus method to online institutions. The Consensus approach to rankings is well-established and explained in full on our About page. We combine official rankings from the most trusted publishers with verified student ratings from reputable review sites to form an aggregate ranking that takes into account the opinions of experts and the experience of students equally. That’s the Consensus Score.
To qualify for the Best Online Colleges and Universities ranking, institutions must have a Consensus Score and offer at least 5 bachelor’s degree or bachelor’s completion programs in an online or hybrid format. Schools are ranked according to their Consensus Score.
University of Florida OnlineGainesville, FL
The University of Florida, through its UF Online division, offers 20 distinct online degree programs in the areas of Biology, Business, Communication, Anthropology, Education, Computer Science, and Nursing, among many others. Kiplinger’s recognizes The University of Florida among the colleges that offer the best value in the country. UF Online offers financial assistance in the way of scholarships, grants, loans and student employment, which makes it one of the best online colleges in the nation.
The University of Florida is a public university that was established in 1853. The school is the flagship campus and senior member of the State University System of Florida. Additionally, the University of Florida is a space grant, sea grant, and land grant university. The school is home to more than 56,000 students, of which 3,500+ were studying online. US News recognizes UF Online as having one of the top ten online baccalaureate programs in the country. The University of Florida’s alumni and students have competed and won more than 125 medals during the Olympic games, about half the medals were gold.
Northeastern UniversityBoston, MA
Northeastern University, in combination with its Lowell Institute School and College of Professional Studies, offers ten undergraduate degree programs that can be completed entirely online. Degree programs cover the disciplines of Manufacturing, Psychology, Liberal Arts, Leadership, Finance, Media, Information Technology, Analytics, and Health Management. Northeastern University’s Lowell Institute takes an innovative approach to its educational values and curriculum. The school, in partnership with General Electric, has created an online Bachelor of Manufacturing degree with an accelerated format.
Northeastern University is a private institution of higher learning that was founded in 1898. The school operates with several Boston area campuses, plus satellite campuses in California, Washington, Canada, and North Carolina. Northeastern University has been recognized regularly by the Princeton Review as a top university that offers the best internships. Northeastern University is best known for its innovative cooperative program that sets up professional experiences with business partners who are willing to pay for the student’s services.
Saint Joseph’s UniversityPhiladelphia, PA
Saint Joseph’s University offers four undergraduate distance-learning programs in the areas of Psychology, Organization Leadership, Business, and General Studies. Additionally, Saint Joseph’s University offers an associates degree in Business. St. Joe’s has been recognized as one of the best accredited online colleges. Saint Joseph’s University offers a military tuition discount for those who have made sacrifices for their country. St. Joe’s online degree programs offer flexible and convenient learning paths.
Saint Joseph’s University is a private university that was established in 1851. The school is affiliated with the Roman Catholic (Jesuit) Church. Saint Joseph’s University’s urban campuses total more than 110 acres and are home to more than 8,000 students. Saint Joseph’s University offers more than 25 study-abroad programs. At present, more than 35 Jesuits live on the school’s campus, with ten Jesuits working as faculty members. Saint Joseph’s University is a member school of the Association of Jesuit Colleges & Universities, and the seventh oldest in the country.
John Brown UniversitySiloam Springs, AR
John Brown University offers seven baccalaureate level degree programs that can be completed online. These convenient and flexible distance-learning programs include the disciplines of Business, Nursing, Communication, Liberal Arts, Psychology, Politics, and Organizational Behavior. JBU’s online platform offers a personal and interactive educational experience, with real-world applications. John Brown University offers credit for military service in accordance with the American Council on Education. John Brown University offers a variety of scholarships, State & Federal Aid, and a tuition discount for students who work for nearby Mercy Hospital, the Department of Education, and Wal-mart/Sam’s Club.
John Brown University was established in 1919. John Brown University is an Interdenominational Christian institution of higher learning. US News and World Report recognizes John Brown University as a “best school for veterans”. John Brown University is home to more than 2,600 students and another 88 academic staff members. John Brown University’s degree programs have received accreditation in the areas of Education, Business, Technology, Engineering, and Nursing. John Brown University’s 200-acre campus is situated with the Cherokee Nation Territory.
Pennsylvania State University-World Campus University Park, PA
Pennsylvania State University-World Campus offers 37 bachelor’s degrees that can be completed entirely online. These convenient online programs, offered by one of the best accredited online colleges in the country, are available in the areas of Business, Healthcare, Journalism, Digital Media, Sustainability, History, Information Technology, and Human Development, among many more. Penn State Online’s classes are offered asynchronously — available when the student is ready, not vice versa. Service members and veterans (and their spouses) may waive the application fee.
Pennsylvania State University-World Campus was established in 1998. Penn State Online was created to bring Penn State’s quality undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Currently Penn State Online offers more than 145 undergraduate and graduate programs through its distance-learning platform. The technical facility and administrative branch are located near State College, PA. The US News and World Report recognizes a dozen Penn State Online degree programs. Penn State University has offered distance education since the late 1800s.
Loyola University New OrleansNew Orleans, LA
Loyola University New Orleans offers eight unique baccalaureate level programs that can be completed entirely online. The areas of study include Psychology, Ministry, Criminal Justice, Business, Computer Information Systems (two), Psychology, and Interdisciplinary Studies, among others. Loyola University New Orleans is considered among the best online colleges and holds eleven accreditations across many industries. Loyola’s innovative approach to education encourages students to explore who they want to be. Loyola has a generous transfer credit policy and only requires students to complete 25% of total credit units required to be earned at Loyola University New Orleans.
Loyola University New Orleans is a private institution of higher learning affiliated with the Roman Catholic (Jesuit) Church and the first university established by the Society of Jesus. The school was originally founded in 1904 as Loyola College. The school operates with two campuses (the Main Campus & the Broadway Campus) that are home to more than 5,000 students. Loyola University New Orleans’ campus was so impacted by Hurricane Katrina, the school had to cancel classes for the fall semester in 2005. America’s Best Colleges recognizes Loyola University New Orleans as the number one school among all other southern regional universities.
Appalachian State UniversityBoone, NC
Appalachian State University offers eleven bachelor degree programs that can be finished 100% online. The degree areas include Special Education, Management, Nursing, Social Work, Child Development, Communications, and Career & Technical Education. Appalachian State University is considered one of the best online colleges in the State of North Carolina and the country. The school’s distance-learning platform is a convenient and flexible way to meet your educational goals while maintaining other life obligations.
Appalachian State University was established in 1899 as a normal school for teachers. The school joined the University of North Carolina system in 1967 and is now the 6th largest member school within the North Carolina’s system. The school is located in the College town of Boone, North Carolina across approximately 1,300 acres; on which nearly 20,000 students attend classes. Appalachian State University is located more than 3,300 feet above sea level in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This location is one of the highest elevations of any institution of higher learning in the country, east of the Mississippi River.
Florida State UniversityTallahassee, FL
Florida State University’s Office of Distance Learning offers seven bachelor-level degree programs that can be completed entirely online. These seven distance-learning degree programs are offered by four of the university’s colleges — Social Sciences & Policy, Criminal Justice, Applied Studies, and Arts & Sciences. Online programs offered by one of the best online colleges are offered asynchronously, synchronously, and a mixture of both. Florida State University continues to be recognized for its diversity efforts and successes.
Florida State University was founded in 1851 and is currently a senior member school of Florida’s State University system by way of Florida’s legislature’s enactment of the Buckman Act. The school’s 1,400+-acre campus is located in Florida’s state capital and home to more than 41,000 students. US News and World Report recognizes Florida State University among the top 26 best national universities in the country. Florida State University holds the distinction of being the only institution of higher learning in the Sunshine state that has a High Magnetic Field Lab. Additionally, FSU is the educational facility that created the cancer drug — Taxol.
William Jessup UniversityRocklin, CA
William Jessup University, through its online division, offers five undergraduate degree programs that can be finished 100% online. These distance-learning degree programs require the completion of 120 credit units to graduate. William Jessup University offers students a chance to discover their own readiness for online learning, before applying for admission. The school offers 6 rolling admission dates throughout the academic calendar year. Graduates of a police academy, veterans, and active duty military members receive a tuition discount from William Jessup University offers a generous transfer credit policy of up to 90 credit units for any available online bachelor’s degree program.
William Jessup University was founded in 1939 as a non-denominational Christian Church. The school operates with two campuses in Southern California, Rocklin, and San Jose. William Jessup University consists of three schools covering the areas of Business, Education, and Professional Studies. Addition, the school operates with two institutes related to Bio-Diversity and Public Policy. Famed architect Frank Gehry designed many of the building on William Jessup University’s campus. US News and World Report has recognized William Jessup University as the second best college for veterans.
IU OnlineBloomington, IN
Indiana University, through its IU Online division, offers 23 online degree programs that cover 19 fields of study. These include Business, English, Communications, Design, Design, Humanities, Library Science, Education, Music, and Public Health, among others. Indiana University is recognized among the best online colleges. Indiana University online programs allow students to complete their degree around their other life obligations. It is noted that IU’s tuition differs for in-state and out-of-state students. The same quality faculty who teach on campus teaches IU’s online degree programs.
Indiana University was established in 1820 and is currently a member school of the Indiana State University system. Indiana University operates with nine distinct campuses, with Bloomington holding the distinction of being the flagship campus with about 45,000+ students attending classes at that campus alone. Indiana University operates with two separate campuses that are home to more than 109,000 students.
George Washington UniversityWashington, DC
George Washington University, through the GW Online division, offers seven different baccalaureate level degree programs that can be earned entirely online. These flexible distance-learning programs are offered through the School of Medicine & Health Science, the School of Nursing, and the College of Professional Studies. As a private university, George Washington University ‘s tuition rates are considered reasonable and are fixed when a student is accepted into the institution of higher education. Through their longtime partnership with the Navy ROTC, George Washington University offers all ROTC members a grant towards the cost of housing and meals. George Washington University is recognized among the best accredited online colleges in the nation.
George Washington University was established in 1821. The main campus, Foggy Bottom, offers students an urban educational experience, whereas the Virginia and Mt. Vernon campuses are located in more suburban locations. George Washington University’s three campuses are home to more than 27,000 students. A US Congress charter created George Washington University, one of only a few schools to hold that distinction.
University of Minnesota-Twin CitiesMinneapolis, MN
One of the nation’s most respected public research institutions, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities is also a center of learning and culture for the Midwest. With Minnesota’s wide spaces and many rural communities, the university has also made online education a priority, fulfilling its mission to bring educational opportunity to as many students as possible. UMN offers 18 bachelor’s and bachelor’s completion programs in a fully online or partially online format (some programs may require a brief residency, such as a summer intensive course).
UMN’s online offerings include some of the most in-demand fields, including Accounting, Health Management, and Information Technology Management, as well as fields that are very specific to the needs of Minnesotans, such as Agricultural Business. Students may also enhance their career potential with online certificates like the Business Administration certificate, or go on to a master’s program, fully online, after completing their bachelor’s.
University of OklahomaNorman, OK
The University of Oklahoma has had the needs and best interests of Sooners at its heart since it was founded in 1890, bringing higher learning to the Oklahoma and Indian Territories. Today, OU continues to reach out and meet needs, including an online division that is steadily growing and earning national attention for its quality. Students in Oklahoma can complete their bachelor’s degrees in 5 different areas, including Administrative Leadership, Criminal Justice, and even Aviation, or include an online minor with their major.
The online bachelor’s completion programs at the University of Oklahoma are designed specifically to meet the needs of working adults, career-changing professionals, and life-long learners, with an emphasis on convenience, flexibility, and job market value. After completing an online bachelor’s, OU graduates can go on to a number of different graduate degrees, including unusual offerings like Museum Science and Prevention Science, or continue their education with a certificate or specialized training.
UMass AmherstAmherst, MA
UMass Amherst offers a wide range of online programs from certificate programs to undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The school offers 17 online bachelor’s degree programs, including degrees in applied psychology, arts management, business studies, early childhood education, journalism, and sustainability studies. All of UMass Amherst’s online programs adhere to the same high standards as its regular programs, so online students can be sure they will receive the same quality education as their on-campus peers.
UMass Amherst is one of the best online colleges for students seeking to pursue nursing studies. The school’s nursing programs are among the top 15 in the country, and its graduate programs are designed to accommodate the busy schedules of working professionals. UMass Amherst offers an RN to BS program and a Doctor of Nursing Practice program as well as a post-masters Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner certificate. UMass Amherst is the largest public research university in New England.
San Diego Christian CollegeSantee, CA
San Diego Christian College offers six bachelor’s degree programs and one associate degree program through its online campus. The school’s online degree programs allow students to receive a quality Christian education that is flexible enough to fit into their busy lives. The programs offered online are the BS in Business Management, BA in Christian Ministries, BA in Communication, BA in Human Development, BS in Leadership, BA in Psychology, and AA in Liberal Studies.
In accordance with its vision statement to equip graduates with a godly character and biblical worldview, every student at San Diego Christian College completes a biblical worldview minor. The school aims to provide challenging educational programs that help students build their faith as they acquire the knowledge and skills they will need to succeed in their careers. The U.S. News and World Report ranks San Diego Christian College among the top regional colleges in the West.
Huntington UniversityHuntington, IN
Huntington University offers online Bachelor of Science degrees in business administration, not-for-profit-leadership, human resource management, marketing, criminal justice, psychology, and social work as well as an online associate degree in organizational management. All of Huntington’s degree programs offer 5-week accelerated courses that you can complete as your schedule allows as long as you meet the weekly deadlines. Online students complete the same program as traditional students.
Huntington University is a Christian college associated with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, USA. The school provides a liberal arts education that incorporates Christians values and beliefs. The school is committed to scholarship and truth and emphasizes to its students the importance of a moral life and spiritual integrity. Huntington is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Huntington University is one of the leading Christian liberal arts colleges in Indiana.
University of IowaIowa City, IA
The University of Iowa’s Distance and Online Education department offers 8 online undergraduate degrees and 11 online graduate degrees as well as several certificate programs. The bachelor’s degree programs offered are Bachelor of Applied Studies (BAS), Bachelor of Arts in Enterprise Leadership, Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, Bachelor of Liberal Studies (BLS), Bachelor of Science in Sport and Recreation Management, Bachelor of Social Work (BA), Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN), and RT to BS in Radiation Sciences.
The University of Iowa is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is one of the best accredited online colleges for students who want to be sure they’ll get a quick return on their investment. Within six months of graduation, about 95% of Iowa graduates have either landed a job or been accepted to graduate school. The placement rates are highest for nursing (99%), pharmacy (97%), and business (97%). The University of Iowa is the oldest higher education institution in Iowa and is one of the leading research universities in the country.
Misericordia UniversityDallas, PA
Misericordia University offers 12 online undergraduate programs and 6 graduate programs. The undergraduate programs include government, law, and national security; business administration; accounting; information technology; social work; and professional studies. There are also six degrees in the health care field, so Misericordia University may be one of the best online colleges for students interested in nursing or other medical career options.
Misericordia is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and its programs are recognized by several other accrediting organizations. The school is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church and its mission is to provide an environment where everyone is welcome in order to promote the development of critical thinking, respect, and curiosity. Students who complete the requirements of the Guaranteed Placement Program are guaranteed a university-paid internship if they cannot find a job within six months of graduating.
Linfield College McMinnville, OR
Linfield College has been providing online courses for more than 10 years, and now offers 10 online degree programs. Students can choose from business information systems, accounting, international business, project management, marketing, management, history, global studies, and RN to BSN (nursing).
Linfield strives to connect learning, life, and community by providing a culture where excellence is something to strive for. The school promotes understanding of cultural differences and encourages students to apply what they learn in real-life situations to test their knowledge and hone their skills. Linfield has an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio and an average class size of 14, which encourages interaction between students and their professors. This makes it one of the best online colleges for students who like to be able to ask questions and receive feedback from faculty. Linfield College is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Roger Williams UniversityBristol, RI
Roger Williams University offers flexible learning, which enables students to learn whenever it is convenient for them. The school’s online learning opportunities allow busy students and professionals to fit their coursework into their lives at the time that’s most convenient for them. The school’s advisement program allows students to develop an ongoing relationship with an advisor and provides a sense of belonging and community.
At Roger Williams University, students are encouraged to design their own learning experience. The staff works with students to provide the resources and support they need to achieve success. The school encourages students to learn through experience by helping students find internships and hands-on learning experiences. Roger Williams University seeks to inspire students to acquire the knowledge, habits, and skills they need to lead fulfilling lives.
Asbury UniversityWilmore, KY
Asbury University offers online bachelor’s degrees in health promotion and wellness, elementary education, instructional design, instructional design for health professions, leadership and ministry, organizational management, social work, and public health. The school also offers an online associate of science degree. The online programs are broken into 8-week classes, which start in August, October, January, and March.
Asbury University is a multi-denominational Christian liberal arts university that values spiritual vitality as well as academic excellence. The school seeks to develop servant leaders who can positively influence their families, their churches, and society through their well-grounded faith and professional excellence. At Asbury University, you’re not just a number—you’re part of the family. The school’s focus is to students find where they fit into God’s plan in order to positively impact the world. Asbury has an assortment of scholarships available based on need, talent, academic achievement, and more. Almost every Asbury University student receives financial aid.
Kentucky Wesleyan CollegeOwensboro, KY
Kentucky Wesleyan College offers six online bachelor’s degree programs: business administration, criminal justice and criminology, general studies, graphic design, psychology, and religion. All online courses are delivered in a 7-week course format to allow students the flexibility to complete courses quickly. At Kentucky Wesleyan University, every student’s success is a priority. The school helps each online student create a personalized plan to reach their social, academic, and extracurricular goals.
Kentucky Wesleyan College is a Christian college operated in partnership with the United Methodist Church. The school offers a liberal arts education that teaches students to think critically and live moral and ethical lives. Kentucky Wesleyan believes in doing things “The Wesleyan Way.” That means putting a focus on honor and integrity and supporting and loving others. The school believes that human interaction and relationships are the keys to a healthy and successful future.
University of North Carolina WilmingtonWilmington, NC
The University of North Carolina Wilmington offers online bachelor’s degree programs in clinical research, criminology, elementary education, interdisciplinary studies, international studies, and nursing (RN to BS). Online courses give students added flexibility, but may still require students to “meet” online at specific times for discussions and other live online events. The University of North Carolina Wilmington was ranked 7th in the nation for online bachelor’s programs by U.S. News and World Report, making it one of the best accredited online colleges.
The University of North Carolina Wilmington is one of 17 UNC campuses. The school has been recognized for its academic excellence, diversity, and innovation and is committed to developing responsible citizens who are thoughtful, creative, and engaged critical thinkers. The University of North Carolina Wilmington is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. UNCW’s vision is lofty: to be recognized for excellence in everything it does.
Bethel University (MN)Saint Paul, MN
Bethel University has 10 bachelor’s level online degree programs: accounting, business management, Christian ministries, human services, management information systems, nursing (RN to B.S.), organizational leadership, post-baccalaureate nursing (B.S.N.), psychology, and special education. Bethel’s adult undergraduate academic programs focus on real-world skills designed especially for adult students and taught based on a Christian worldview.
Bethel University is a leader in Christian education. The school infuses its evangelical faith into everything it does in order to give God glory for its accomplishments. Bethel’s mission is to prepare men and women for excellence in scholarship, leadership, and service. Bethel’s graduates are well-equipped to transform their culture and advance the gospel by living lives that demonstrate biblical truth. Bethel is one of the best online colleges for students seeking a Christ-centered educational experience. Bethel’s faculty members are faithful Christians who are not only leaders in their fields but also demonstrate how to live Christ-centered lives.
Oregon Institute of TechnologyKlamath Falls, OR
How Credible are Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs??
The process required to accredit a college or university includes an intensive investigation by a federally recognized accreditation organization. The U.S. federal government hand-picks these associations and gives them their stamp of approval. With the authorization bestowed, these councils then evaluate the credibility of an entire school, or just a specific program. Accreditation associations follow strict requirements to determine the answer to the question – How credible are online degrees? When an institute of higher learning meets (or surpasses) the established, rigid accreditation standards, the government sanctioned councils receive authorization to issue an accreditation to the school or a program.
Accredited online degrees are available in many fields of study. The best online colleges are evaluated from differing perspectives, by a diverse set of industry experts (according to each national publishers’s choice of methodology), then aggregated here on College Consensus. Online schools are ranked in descending order of their 2019 College Consensus score. Prospective students should also consider other metrics when choosing a distance learning program. These include: just how affordable the school is, how convenient and accessible the online program is, and, the overall reputation of the school and/or the degree program. Students are advised to take the time to define their education goals, their scheduling needs and their career aspirations before they begin to narrow down potential online degree programs of interest.
What Are the Best Online Degrees to Get for Jobs?
The most respected online degree programs are available in a variety of disciplines that include: Accounting, Engineering, Information Technology (IT), Business, Counseling, Criminal Justice, Education, Graphic Design, and Health care, among others. Each year, schools create more online degree programs to meet the growing needs of working professionals.
Within the healthcare field, students have the option to specialize in areas like Medical Coding, Informatics, Public Health, and Medical Assisting. Finance, accounting, marketing and management specialties are some of the best online degrees to get in the many facets of the business industry. The best online degree to get is the degree that springboards your career to elevated positions of leadership and the salaries those advanced positions pay.
Many respected online degree programs offer students the ability to ‘lock-in’ the tuition rate – at admission – for enough time to reasonably complete the degree a student is working towards. This ‘lock in’ capability allows a student to not only save money, but offers a viable budgetary solution that can accurately predict the cost of tuition during the time it takes to earn your degree.
Will an Online Bachelor’s Degree Help Me Make More Money?
The pay scale for most workers depends upon a host of factors that include one’s experience, background and work-specific factors. However, one’s educational background is likely to be one of the most important determinants that holds the key that opens the doors to increased responsibilities and compensation. Even if the diploma you hold is from one of the top online degree programs, you may only realize a significant bump in salary if the degree you hold is related to the job you are applying for. The higher the degree you attain, the higher the salary.
Graduates of top online degree programs find job opportunities where there once were none; salary amounts that far exceed their current pay scale. Undergraduate online programs are the first step towards a more advanced degree that will ultimately, provide leadership opportunities in the industry of your choice. It is best to match an online degree program with a student’s salary and career objectives.
What About Accelerated Online Bachelor Degree Programs for Working Adults?
Working professionals must earn their online degree in a way that allows them to continue to receive a paycheck, and to continue living their preferred lifestyle. Accelerated Bachelors Degree programs for adults are designed to for working learners to quickly learn new skills that will help advance their career and improve the salaries earned.
The Bachelor Degree programs for working adults essentially condenses coursework that is typically covered in four months, into five through eight-week semesters, depending upon the density of the material taught. Accelerated Bachelors degree programs for adults are great options for working professionals who prefer to focus on one course each semester. Fast track online programs typically require students to attend classes year round. This is one of the ways that allow students to earn their degree quickly.