Colleges in Orlando
According to the most recent census, more than 32 percent of Orlando's residents achieved at least a bachelor’s degree, which outranks both state and national averages. The largest educational institution in Orlando is University of Central Florida (UCF), a public university. UCF, the second-largest university in the country, reports that U.S. News & World Report designated it a “Top Up-and-Coming” national university. According to UCF, it was named a best-value university by The Princeton Review and Kiplinger’s, and it was declared one of the nation’s most affordable colleges by Forbes.
Orlando is known as the Theme Park Capital of the World, with more than 52 million visitors each year. But the city also has its share of individuals who are there to learn, and local institutions include University of Central Florida, one of the largest universities in the country. The local community college ranks high nationally for the number of degrees awarded, and it offers support services for students transferring to UCF. Orlando’s students also can take advantage of numerous private and online learning options.
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Valencia College is the other significant public school option in Orlando. It primarily awards associate degrees, but has also recently integrated a small number of bachelor’s degree programs. In 2010, the Orlando Business Journal reported that Valencia College awarded more associate degrees than any other two-year school in the country. It also led all two-year schools in the number of associate degrees awarded to minorities. Valencia College is a member of DirectConnect to UCF, a program that allows its graduates admission and a smooth transition to that major Orlando university.
Orlando's nonprofit private colleges include Columbia College, which has a local campus in addition to its main campus in Missouri. Adventist University of Health Sciences, a Seventh-day Adventist institution, specializes in allied health and nursing education and has ties to Florida Hospital.
Below is a look at the majority of Orlando’s colleges and universities.
|University of Central Florida||Public||Bachelor’s degrees, graduate degrees|
|Valencia College||Public||Associate degrees, limited bachelor’s degrees, certificate programs|
|Florida A&M University College of Law||Public||J.D. (Graduate degree in Law)|
|Columbia College||Private, not for profit||Associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees, certificate programs|
|Adventist University of Health Sciences||Private, not for profit||Associate, bachelor’s and graduate degrees—in health sciences|
Online Colleges in Orlando
A range of private entities offer online studies for Orlando students, including Everest College. Everest has campuses in both north and south Orlando, as well as online programs, for example, associate and bachelor's degrees in homeland security. Columbia College serves 25,000 students each year through its Online Campus, offering more than 800 undergraduate courses and 27 online degrees.
Two major public Florida universities whose campuses are elsewhere in the state also present online learning options. Florida State University runs a Distance Learning division with several undergraduate and graduate programs that may be completed entirely online, as well as many online courses where credit can potentially be transferred to other colleges. The University of Florida offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees via distance and online learning, and this coursework requires formal admission to the university.
Top Industries, Careers and Employers
Given that it’s a tourist mecca, it is no surprise that City Data reports the top two industries in Orlando as accommodation & food services and arts, entertainment & recreation. Interestingly, though, only the top slot of its largest employers fits into these industries. Those five largest employers are:
- Walt Disney World
- Orange County Public Schools
- State of Florida Government
- Adventist Health System
- Florida Hospital
Orlando also serves as headquarters for Darden Restaurants, the city’s one company on the 2013 Forbes Fortune 500 list. It is headquarters for other recognizable brands such as the following:
- American Automobile Associate (AAA)
- Ruth’s Chris Steak House
- Tupperware Brands Corp.
For future economic development and growth, the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission has targeted five major industries with a local presence that Orlando seeks to enhance even further. Many of these industries share a propensity for employing individuals prepared with higher education:
- Business services
- Advanced technologies
- Film & digital media
- Life sciences & health care
- Aviation/aerospace & defense
Orlando also has the seventh-largest research park in the country, Central Florida Research Park, which is home to more than 120 companies and employs more than 8,500 people. This research park is considered a hub for the nation’s military simulation and training programs.