Colleges, Universities and Online Colleges in Phoenix

Updated October 3, 2022 • 3 Min Read

Many of Arizona's institutions of higher learning are found in the greater Phoenix area, which extends to Scottsdale, Glendale, Mesa, Tempe and other communities located in the Valley of the Sun. The region, known as a hub for online education, hosts the headquarters of distance learning giant University of Phoenix, as well as Rio Salado Community College, which focuses on e-learning opportunities. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Colleges in Phoenix

The county of Maricopa — including Phoenix, Tempe and the environs — outranks the U.S. average in terms of the percentage of the population holding at least a bachelor's degree, according to the U.S. Census. Tempe is home to Arizona State University, while neighboring cities such as Glendale, Mesa and Scottsdale have community colleges.

The city of Phoenix hosts five community colleges, including GateWay Community College. The largest campuses are Phoenix College and Paradise Valley Community College, but these enroll just over 3,000 full-time students, with some programs geared toward small classrooms and hands-on study. These colleges focus equally on career preparation and positioning students to transfer to four-year colleges throughout the state and beyond.

For private, nonprofit colleges and universities, the city of Phoenix has two options, both affiliated with the Baptist Church. Ottawa University maintains a campus here, and is specifically focused on adult and professional learners, with a primary emphasis on master's degrees in counseling. Arizona Christian University offers bachelor's degrees in a wide variety of subjects.

Phoenix is home to a number of colleges and universities, offering an array of certificate programs as well as associate, bachelor's and graduate degrees. The table below describes many of Phoenix's colleges and universities, with the type of degrees or training they focus on.

Phoenix CollegePublicAssociate degrees, certificate programs
Paradise Valley Community CollegePublicAssociate degrees, certificate programs
South Mountain Community CollegePublicAssociate degrees, certificate programs
GateWay Community CollegePublicAssociate degrees, certificate programs
Rio Salado Community CollegePublicAssociate degrees, certificate programs
Ottawa UniversityPrivate, not for profitBachelor's degrees (limited), master's degrees (emphasis)—focused on human services and counseling
Arizona Christian UniversityPrivate, not for profitBachelor's degrees

Online Colleges in Phoenix

SPOTLIGHTMesa Community College – Phoenix, Arizona

The Phoenix metropolitan area is home to a cluster of communities, including Mesa, located about 15 miles to the east of the capital city. Mesa Community College (MCC) is part of the Maricopa Community College District, one of the largest such districts in the country. Big is the theme here, from the expansive area occupied by the Phoenix urban oasis to the extensive educational opportunities found across Maricopa County. True to form, MCC thinks big with its online programs and outreach to students of all kinds.

Mesa Community College students can choose from more than 500 online courses and numerous programs leading to associate degrees or certificates. The degree options include an Associate in Arts program as well as business tracks such as international trade, business communication and real estate. Other possible majors range from justice studies to retail management. In addition, several distance learning programs offer certificates of completion in a selection of subjects spanning emergency management, organizational leadership, music business, salesmanship and small business start-ups.

Distance education isn't limited to degree programs. Among the many offerings for e-learning are unique classes on herbal remedies, computer operations for agribusiness or the Native American Indian history of the Southwest. Students can also satisfy general education requirements with distance learning courses in topics such as Arabic culture or 19th century women writers.

To match the many choices for online studies, some MCC courses also allow students to pick either fully online or hybrid learning modalities. MCC stresses that the learning objectives and transfer value are the same for web-based classes as for their traditional, campus-based counterparts. To support e-learners, the college provides online resources including a help center, tutoring, library access and tutorials on using the Canvas learning management system. Canvas is designed to provide secure access to course materials, email, discussion boards, online quizzes, grades and other course information. While the content for online degree and certificate programs is delivered fully online, MCC students should be forewarned that proctored examinations may be required.

COLLEGE NAMEMesa Community College
SUBJECTSBusiness and Management, Emergency Services, Justice Studies
LEVELSAssociate and Certificate

Rio Salado Community College, a distance learning community college, has its roots in nearby Tempe. Rio Salado offers a wide range of e-learning programs as well as educational services and support for the community, including classes at a U.S. Air Force base.

Arizona's two major public university systems have extensive online education options. Arizona State University offers 85 fully online degree programs that lead to bachelor's degrees, graduate degrees and graduate certificates.

The University of Arizona operates its Outreach College, offering students broad choices with campus-based, online, evening and weekend courses. Outreach College focuses primarily on graduate degrees and professional development certificates, with 39 fully online programs. Undergraduate options are more limited and include a minor in nutritional science.Find Online Programs Now »

Top Industries, Careers and Employers

Phoenix is the capital of Arizona and the sixth largest city in the country, per the U.S. Census Bureau. According to City Data, tourism and business services account for nearly 77 percent of the Phoenix area's total employment.

As reported in the Phoenix Business Journal, the five largest employers in the city span the industries of government, health care and finance:

  • State of Arizona
  • Banner Health
  • City of Phoenix
  • Wells Fargo
  • Maricopa County

The financial services industry is a sector of significant growth: American Express, Bank of America, Chase Bank and Discover Card Services join Wells Fargo Bank in having processing centers or regional headquarters in Phoenix. Manufacturing has traditionally been important to the city, and remains so, with a specific focus on technology and aerospace manufacturing — both of which call for a healthy dose of higher education.

Colleges & Universities in Phoenix


Ottawa University-Phoenix2,653$10,440Not For Profit (Private)
Arizona Christian University514$17,982Not For Profit (Private)


Phoenix College21,392$1,824Public
Paradise Valley Community College16,046$1,824Public
GateWay Community College Phoenix13,266$1,824Public
South Mountain Community College10,186$1,824Public

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Whether you’re looking to earn your online degree or you’re a parent looking for answers, you can find all of your questions covered here. Explore these resources to help you make informed decisions and prepare for whatever is thrown your way.

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