Best Online Colleges and Universities 2021

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Read the Specifics: FAQ | Why Get a Degree Online | Online Degree Cost | Online Student Fees | Available Online Degrees | Ranking



Online colleges and universities offer flexible degree paths. Enrollees take classes in their major. They also complete general education courses and electives. After meeting graduation requirements, students earn their degree.

Accredited online colleges offer degrees that meet the requirements for many career paths, professional licenses, and certifications. These schools meet high standards for academic excellence.

Our list ranks the best online colleges and universities. Explore the rankings to find the right fit for your budget and goals.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Online Degrees

true Q. Can I get a degree completely online?

Yes. Students can earn a degree entirely online. In 2019, nearly 3.5 million college students enrolled exclusively in online courses.

true Q. Are online degrees accredited?

Yes. Accredited online colleges grant degrees to distance learners. Online programs meet the same accreditation requirements as in-person programs. Students should always choose an accredited institution for their degree.

true Q. Does Harvard offer online degrees?

Yes. Harvard and many other top-ranked schools offer online degrees. Harvard enrollees can earn certificates, undergraduate degrees, and graduate degrees.

AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org 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.

Top Online Programs

Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.

Why Get a Degree Online?

Online degrees appeal to students with work or family responsibilities. The flexible format allows them to complete coursework on their schedule. Distance learners can also enroll in their desired program without relocating.

Earning a degree from a traditional college or an online college can pay off. Professionals with a bachelor's degree earn $27,000 more per year than those with a high school diploma.

How Much Does an Online Degree Cost?

The cost of an online degree varies depending on many factors. These factors include the school, degree level, and tuition discounts. Some colleges offer tuition discounts for fully online learners. In-state students also benefit from the most affordable tuition at public colleges. Generally, public colleges cost less than private colleges. However, students may benefit from more institutional aid at private colleges.

Students should budget $38,000-$60,000 in tuition costs for an online bachelor's degree. They should also plan for living expenses. Full-time students can earn a bachelor's degree in four years.

Additional Online Student Fees

Online learners may need to pay additional student fees. These fees depend on the school and program. Some online colleges charge distance learning or technology fees. Students also need to pay for technology to access courses. These expenses can include a computer and internet access.

Distance learners must pay for textbooks and other required class materials. Some programs require lab or supply fees. Others require in-person visits. Students should factor in the cost of traveling to campus.

Some online schools charge a graduation fee. Graduates may need licensure or certification before getting a job. These credentials can add to the total cost of entering a professional field.

Available Online Degrees

Online colleges award degrees in popular majors, like business, education, and nursing. Learners can also study engineering and healthcare. Students should choose their major and specialized courses based on their interests and professional goals.

Learners pursuing an online degree develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. They also hone their analytical skills. These skills can help professionals in diverse industries and career paths.

Accredited online colleges offer degrees in a variety of fields. See below for some in-demand online degrees.

  • Business Administration

    Business is the most popular degree. Undergraduates can earn an online business administration degree. Learners complete coursework in financial accounting, organizational behavior, and strategic decision-making. Business degree-holders can work as analysts, consultants, or managers.
  • Education

    Online colleges offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in education. Distance learners study learning methods, classroom instruction, and assessment techniques. Online programs connect education majors with local student teaching opportunities. State-approved online education degrees meet the requirements for a teaching license.
  • Psychology

    An online psychology degree trains learners in human behavior, abnormal psychology, and social science research methods. Students complete coursework and projects online. An undergraduate psychology degree builds strong critical thinking and analytical skills. With a doctorate in psychology, professionals can work as licensed psychologists.

Best Online Colleges and Universities 2021

University of Florida View School Profile Gainesville, Florida

A public research institution in Gainesville, UF enrolls more than 55,000 students annually. UF offers over 200 online degrees and certificates. Thanks to its many program options, UF appeals to learners seeking online colleges with a variety of majors.

Undergraduates can major in diverse fields like anthropology, business administration, criminology, and computer science. The university offers online master's programs in areas including international business, sustainable design, urban planning, and educational leadership. Degree-seekers can also enroll in an online master of business administration program. Unlike many other online colleges and universities, UF offers online doctoral programs in educational leadership, nursing practice, higher education administration, and classical studies.

Applicants must meet the university's general admission requirements. UF supports distance learners through financial aid opportunities. The university offers a tuition discount for Florida residents.

University of Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

California State University-Bakersfield View School Profile Bakersfield, California

A public university founded in 1965, CSUB grants degrees from its 375-acre campus at the southern end of the Central Valley. CSUB also offers online degrees. Through CSUB Extended Education, students can earn a fully online or hybrid degree.

Undergraduates can earn fully online bachelor's degrees in communication and sociology. The university also offers online master's degrees in education, management, and kinesiology. The school's online master of business administration program helps professionals advance their careers and pursue supervisory positions. In addition to its fully online programs, CSUB offers hybrid degrees in nursing, social work, and education.

CSUB promotes a personalized learning environment by prioritizing small class sizes. Designed for working students, CSUB's programs help students reach their educational goals in a flexible format.

California State University, Bakersfield is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

American University View School Profile Washington, District of Columbia

A private research university in Washington, D.C., AU enrolls 14,000 students annually. AU also offers online programs as one of the nation's best online universities. Online courses at AU meet the same academic standards as in-person courses while prioritizing flexibility.

AU offers fully online master's degrees in areas like economics, international relations, and business. AU also draws on its close relationship with the Department of Homeland Security to offer an online master's degree in counterterrorism and homeland security. Undergraduates can supplement their on-campus classes with online courses. Online learners benefit from access to library services, a writing lab, and tutoring services.

American University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

California State University-Fresno View School Profile Fresno, California

A public institution in San Joaquin Valley, Fresno State enrolls over 25,000 students annually. Fresno State ranks as one of the best online universities thanks to its fully online graduate programs and hybrid undergraduate programs. 

Fresno State offers a variety of fully online graduate programs, including master's degrees in teaching and language arts instruction. Fresno State also offers an online master's in educational leadership program. Nurses can pursue an online doctor of nursing practice. At the bachelor's level, Fresno State offers hybrid programs in business administration, liberal arts, and nursing. 

California State University, Fresno is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

California State University-Sacramento View School Profile Sacramento, California

Founded in 1947 as part of California's state university system, Sacramento State enrolls over 30,000 students annually. The school grants degrees from its 300-acre campus in the state capital and through online programs. The university offers several online and hybrid programs at the bachelor's and master's level.

At Sacramento State, undergraduates can earn a fully online bachelor's in criminal justice or career and technical studies. The university also offers hybrid programs in early childhood education, nursing, and psychology. At the graduate level, learners can enroll in an online master's program in accountancy, curriculum and instruction, or nursing. Sacramento State also offers a hybrid executive master of business administration program. The university reports some of the nation's lowest tuition rates. 

California State University, Sacramento is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

The University of Texas at Austin View School Profile Austin, Texas

The state's flagship public research institution, UT Austin dates back to 1883. Today, the university enrolls more than 50,000 students annually. UT Austin offers online programs through TEXAS Extended Campus (TEC). Designed for traditional students, mid-career professionals, and nontraditional learners, TEC provides continuing education, professional training, and online courses for college credit.

TEC offers self-paced and semester-based online courses. The self-paced options appeal to self-directed learners seeking the greatest flexibility. The semester-based courses adhere to UT Austin's academic calendar. Online learners complete activities and assignments divided into learning modules. Thanks to the variety of course formats and flexible options, UT Austin ranks among the nation's best online colleges and universities.

The University of Texas at Austin is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Connecticut View School Profile Storrs, Connecticut

A public institution that hosts over 32,000 students annually, UConn promotes innovation and a global approach to higher education. Degree-seekers can take online classes or pursue a graduate degree in a fully online format. Designed for working professionals, the flexible online delivery method helps students advance their education and pursue new career opportunities.

At UConn, graduate students can enroll in an online master's program in accounting, educational technology, or engineering. The educational technology program uses a unique two-summer format to help educators expand their skills around the academic calendar. Learners can also pursue an online master's degree in energy and environmental management, human resources management, or family nurse practitioner.

In addition to fully online programs, UConn offers low-residency graduate programs. The university also offers technical support and resources for accessing distance learning materials.

University of Connecticut is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Gallaudet University View School Profile Washington, District of Columbia

A private institution chartered to educate deaf and hard-of-hearing students, Gallaudet University dates back to 1864. Today, the university offers the only interpretation degrees taught in an American Sign Language (ASL) immersive environment. The Washington, D.C., institution also ranks as one of the best online universities thanks to a variety of online programs.

Gallaudet University offers an online bachelor's degree-completion program for students with prior college experience. Learners can major in psychology or deaf studies. The university also offers online master's programs in sign language education, school counseling, and clinical health counseling.

Gallaudet University offers a unique online master's in deaf education, which trains teachers of deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Degree-seekers choose a specialization in educating students with disabilities or ASL and English bilingual early childhood education.

Gallaudet University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

University of San Diego View School Profile San Diego, California

A private Catholic institution founded in 1949, USD prioritizes social innovation, intellectual exploration, and change. USD offers several online graduate degrees, including master's degrees in education, criminal justice, and information technology. Degree-seekers can also earn an online master's degree in applied data science, cybersecurity operations and leadership, or applied data science. USD also offers online master's programs in healthcare informatics and law enforcement and public safety leadership.

USD supports students throughout their educational journey. Prospective students work with a personal enrollment advisor to gain admission. Once admitted, incoming students work with a program advisor to enroll in classes and complete financial aid requirements. Academic advisors for each graduate program also guide learners through their degree requirements.

University of San Diego is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

John Brown University View School Profile Siloam Springs, Arkansas

A private Christian university founded in 1919, JBU grants degrees from its campus in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. As an interdenominational university, JBU emphasizes both faith and learning in its liberal arts programs.

JBU offers some of its most popular undergraduate programs in an online format, including psychology and a general liberal arts degree. Learners can also pursue a bachelor's degree in organizational leadership or management online. Online graduate options include a master of business administration, a master's in leadership, and a master's in counseling. JBU also offers an online master's in cybersecurity and several education master's degrees.

John Brown University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Written by:

Genevieve Carlton holds a Ph.D. in history from Northwestern University and earned tenure as a history professor at the University of Louisville. An award-winning historian and writer, Genevieve has published multiple scholarly articles and a book with the University of Chicago Press. She currently works as a freelance writer and consultant.

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AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org 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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