Accredited Online Bachelor’s Degrees

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The bachelor’s degree is widely considered to be the most common degree sought by high school graduates preparing for lifelong careers, and can lead to greater earnings, increased job security and more employee benefits. Online learning presents an accredited college option for students who can’t afford tuition, aren’t close to a college campus or want an accelerated, self-paced program that shortens the time to graduation.

Best Online Bachelor’s Programs 2018-2019

2-Year Colleges

It is often the case that attending class in-person simply isn’t an option, as many of life’s obligations are time-consuming and demand more immediate attention. However, students who may be working around these scheduling constraints may be pleased to hear they can complete the entirety of their bachelor’s degree online. Online learning allows students to make the necessary time to earn a college degree, without disrupting their already busy schedules. To help students find the best learning options for them, we’ve ranked schools across the country based on factors such as class size, program count, and institutional financial aid opportunities. Explore the top schools with online bachelor’s programs below.

Rank University Title Tuition # of Online Programs Expand Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Description
1 University of Central Florida $4,478 17 50% 73% 43% Yes Yes Yes

The University of Central Florida offers 20 fully online bachelor's degree programs, plus 33 minors, all taught by the same full-time faculty members as the school's on-campus courses. Online bachelor's degree options include anthropology, health services administration, international and global studies, psychology, and technical education and industry training. Technology used to teach online courses runs the gamut from live streaming video to online labs to smartphone apps. Services available to online learners include academic advising, career placement assistance, financial aid services, access to digitized library materials, success coaching and live tutoring. Students seeking a bachelor's degree must earn a minimum of 120 credit hours, including 36 hours of general education coursework and 48 hours of upper division coursework, in addition to major-specific requirements. Online students receive a waiver for some campus-based fees such as activity, transportation, health and athletic fees. UCF is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

2 The University of Alabama $10,470 11 53% 68% 56% Yes Yes Yes

Students interested in the University of Alabama can choose from 13 online undergraduate degree programs in arts and sciences, commerce and business administration, engineering, human environmental sciences and nursing. Most degrees in the school's "Bama by Distance" program are fully online and require 120 credit hours for graduation. Some programs, however, do have some in-person requirements. The mechanical engineering bachelor's requires 128 credit hours and occasional in-person lab hours. For the RN to BSN program, nursing courses and the core curriculum are online and clinical activities can be completed at facilities close to home. The same instructors who teach on campus, interact with students via Blackboard Learn. Some lectures are offered through video streaming. Students can find a list of designated core curriculum courses and required prerequisites through the registrar's office. The Bama by Distance Student Services Team supports online learners throughout their programs, providing help with everything from admissions to applications to financial aid. Other services include online library resources, tutoring assistance and technical support. The University of Alabama is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

3 University of Florida $4,477 16 46% 88% 29% No Yes Yes

The University of Florida offers 18 online bachelor's programs, including anthropology, computer science, environmental management, fire and emergency services, public relations and sports management. The majority of UF online courses are asynchronous, so students can watch lectures and complete assignments at their convenience. Most programs are fully online, but there are some exceptions. As an example, the microbiology and cell science degree requires 2 in-person lab courses taught in accelerated 5-day cycles. Online students have access to support services including career counseling, skill enhancement, resume and interview preparing, and virtual job fairs. Eligible online students can be considered for a range of federal, state and institutional aid through the Office for Student Financial Affairs. UF is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Additionally, various programs have accreditation from bodies such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the American Council for Construction Education and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

4 Liberty University $15,105 14 24% 55% 88% Yes Yes Yes

Bachelor's degree options abound at Liberty University, which offers 31 online bachelor's degree programs in 11 different areas - aviation, behavioral sciences, business, divinity, education, arts and sciences, government, law, music, nursing and visual arts - as well as more than 2 dozen minors. Liberty's online degree programs are taught in a flexible virtual classroom environment, allowing students to complete assignments when convenient. Coursework is completed through the Blackboard classroom management system. Most classes are 100 percent online, 8 weeks long, and have no set log-on times. Some are 14 or 17 weeks in length and a few programs require minimal 1- or 2-week on campus stays. All students have access to a digital library, online study aids, writing resources, and technology support. Degree completion time depends on the chosen program and the amount of transfer credits a student has. Students are able to transfer up to 75 percent of previously earned credits. Liberty is accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Additionally, many of Liberty's programs are accredited by other agencies, including the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

5 Harvard University $43,280 30 5% 98% 55% No Yes Yes

Harvard University Extension School, 1 of 12 degree-granting institutions at Harvard University, offers a Bachelor of Liberal Arts for students who want to complete their degree part-time, both on campus and online. Degree concentrations can include humanities, science or social sciences. Students must complete three stipulated degree courses before submitting an admission application. Once accepted, classes can be taken in the fall, spring or summer, and students are required to take at least 16 credits on campus. Intensive 3-week and weekend options are available. Extension School students can find academic and career services assistance on the school's Resources page and financial aid information through Student Financial Services. Harvard Extension School is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

6 Pennsylvania State University-Worldwide $16,952 22 56% 87% 35% Yes Yes Yes

Students can choose from 35 fully online bachelor's degrees at Pennsylvania State University. From traditional liberal arts to technical specializations, programs include agribusiness management, digital multimedia design, economics, international politics, software engineering, and turfgrass science. Penn State calls itself a pioneer in delivering education at a distance, since it began offering correspondence courses in 1892. Courses are taught by faculty members experienced teaching in an online environment and are academically equal to those taught on campus. Courses are asynchronous, so students can complete most programs at their own pace. While students do not have to attend classes at a specific time, they must complete assignments and exams by specified due dates. Online learners stay connected with other students through chat, video conferencing, social media, and online bulletin boards. A syllabus distributed at the start of each course provides an overview of assignments, grading strategy, student and faculty expectations and course materials. Students typically spend 8-to-12 hours a week on readings and assignments, plus additional time for papers, projects or exams. Time for degree completion depends on factors such as transfer credits and course load. Online students have access to the same support services as students on campus, including a new student orientation, academic advising, career counseling resources, research library, technical support and tutorials. PSU has different payment options to help students pay for tuition and other student fees. PSU is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Many individual programs have additional accreditations through governing bodies in their fields.

7 Washington State University $9,324 10 72% 70% 72% Yes Yes Yes

New Student Center website contains a wealth of information on technical requirements, courses, academic advising, tuition and financial aid, study tips and graduation requirements. Washington State University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Additionally, many undergraduate programs maintain accreditations through discipline-specific organizations.

8 Florida International University $4,721 19 50% 60% 44% No Yes Yes

Learners looking to earn a bachelor's degree will find 40 online programs at Florida International University, including Asian studies, computer engineering, international relations, public administration and women's and gender studies. Students should plan to spend 8-12 hours a week on a 3-credit course. The length of time to compete a bachelor's degree depends on how many courses a student takes a semester. Some programs offer accelerated options for faster completion, while others are cohort-based, so all students move through the program on the same schedule. Courses are not self-paced; thus, all assignments and exams must be completed by their due dates. The school's learning management system enables online students to log into classrooms, receive and submit assignments, review grades, interact with faculty and other students, and collaborate virtually. FIU offers a guide to help students through the application process as well as counseling from success coaches and 24/7 live tech support. An online orientation session welcomes students with information on financial aid and available online resources such as libraries, and career and counseling services. Online students are encouraged to connect with their peers through academic organizations; social, political, cultural, and spiritual clubs; the school's sorority and fraternity community, and its alumni network. FIU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Various colleges within the university are accredited individually by bodies such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation and Council on Education for Public Health.

9 University of Illinois at Springfield $9,493 10 65% 52% 85% Yes Yes Yes

The University of Illinois Springfield offers 13 undergraduate online degree programs, including business administration, computer science, English, management information systems, political science and teacher education. Graduation requirements vary by program. Depending on the program, online courses can involve a variety of tools, methods and strategies to present content. This can include books, hard copies and digital, websites and simulations, videos, asynchronous discussion forums and synchronous web conferences. Most UIS online classes are capped at 25 learners so students and faculty can develop relationships over the 15-week semester. Classes are taught primarily by full-time faculty, often the same who teach on-campus versions of the courses. The school's Career Development Center offers a range of services and resources to online students, including distance career counseling and career document critique, remote career fair participation and access to online systems to explore majors, career planning and jobs, and internships. UIS also offers online students their own program coordinator, who serves as their contact for support and informal advising. The school's Learning Hub offers free academic support services through online supplemental instruction and peer tutoring in writing, math, statistics, accounting, economics, science and academic/study skills. UIS is working to make its online courses and digital content accessible and ADA compliant. In the Fall 2017 semester, 1,681 students from 48 states were enrolled as online students at UIS. The university is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

10 Webster University $26,100 12 47% 65% 93% Yes Yes Yes

Webster University offers 5 fully online bachelor's degrees in criminology, educational studies, general studies, management, and religion and global society. It also offers 3 online bachelor's degree completion programs in data analytics, media communications and RN to BSN. Most programs require 128 credit hours. Courses are offered in 8-, 9- and 16-week formats and programs are generally completed within 1-4 years, part-time or full-time. Students should expect to invest 15-20 hours per course per week. Courses are optimized for online learning and delivered by the same faculty as in the classroom. Each online course meets the same academic standards as the school's traditional classroom programs. Webster uses an asynchronous format, so learners participate in class activities and complete assignments at their convenience, but with scheduled due dates. Advisors assist new online students with registration, degree requirements and academic policies. Online students are also eligible for peer tutoring, writing assistance and career assistance. Online transfer students must be on track to complete a minimum of 64 undergraduate credit hours before transferring into their program of choice. The school is committed to helping students, including online students, secure loans and other financial aid. Webster is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

11 Northern Arizona University $8,698 28 78% 54% 82% No Yes Yes
12 University of Wisconsin-Stout $7,014 14 88% 55% 18% Yes Yes Yes
13 Robert Morris University $27,320 10 80% 63% 97% Yes Yes Yes
14 Bemidji State University $7,360 11 64% 47% 47% Yes Yes Yes
15 University of Minnesota-Crookston $10,180 15 68% 48% 85% Yes Yes Yes
16 Missouri State University $6,150 26 84% 57% 54% No Yes Yes
17 Old Dominion University $6,330 23 85% 55% 65% Yes Yes Yes
18 Minot State University $5,192 13 60% 42% 70% Yes Yes Yes
19 Troy University $7,224 16 91% 39% 57% Yes Yes Yes
20 University of Nebraska at Omaha $5,596 14 86% 50% 49% Yes Yes Yes
21 Concordia University-Wisconsin $27,640 10 63% 62% 98% Yes Yes Yes
22 Wichita State University $6,385 11 86% 50% 74% Yes Yes Yes
23 Oregon State University $8,715 19 77% 67% 67% No Yes Yes
24 National University $13,016 28 - 50% 4% Yes Yes Yes
25 East Carolina University $4,365 20 70% 61% 42% No Yes Yes
26 Columbia College $7,887 23 - 40% 27% Yes Yes Yes
27 University of Arizona $10,160 14 79% 63% 74% No Yes Yes
28 Park University $11,730 18 85% 27% 49% Yes Yes Yes
29 Clarion University $7,238 12 94% 51% 41% Yes Yes Yes
30 Ferris State University $11,144 11 78% 51% 69% Yes Yes Yes
31 University of Toledo $8,052 12 94% 47% 92% Yes Yes Yes
32 Bellevue University $6,840 54 - 32% 62% Yes No Yes
33 Siena Heights University $24,390 31 72% 53% 99% Yes Yes Yes
34 King University $25,798 12 51% 54% 89% Yes Yes Yes
35 Chaminade University of Honolulu $23,180 11 91% 51% 98% Yes Yes Yes
36 Davenport University $15,936 23 78% 41% 93% Yes Yes Yes
37 Saint Leo University $20,760 21 70% 43% 100% Yes Yes Yes
38 Fort Hays State University $3,789 22 91% 44% 73% No Yes Yes
39 University of Southern Mississippi $7,549 12 60% 51% 68% No Yes Yes
40 University of Memphis $7,488 18 57% 46% 44% Yes Yes Yes
41 Northern Kentucky University $9,000 16 91% 40% 61% Yes Yes Yes
42 Northwestern State University of Louisiana $5,180 17 62% 40% 49% Yes Yes Yes
43 The University of Texas of the Permian Basin $4,312 12 81% 37% 78% No Yes Yes
44 Concordia University-Saint Paul $21,250 17 57% 49% 97% Yes Yes Yes
45 Mayville State University $5,053 11 55% 43% 72% Yes Yes Yes
46 Dakota State University $6,984 11 83% 43% 61% Yes Yes Yes
47 Colorado Christian University $22,360 13 - 41% 96% Yes Yes Yes
48 Dickinson State University $5,138 22 92% 34% 54% Yes Yes Yes
49 LeTourneau University $27,930 15 44% 52% 97% Yes Yes Yes
50 Wayland Baptist University $13,800 22 100% 32% 87% Yes Yes Yes

Bachelor’s Degrees: The Basics

Bachelor’s degree programs, both online and on campus, provide students with a comprehensive arts and sciences education as well as concentrated studies in their major field. They typically take four years to complete.

There are two major types of bachelor’s degrees offered by campus and online colleges and universities:

  • Bachelor’s of Arts (B.A.) A four-year degree program with major concentrations in arts, fine arts, social sciences, and humanities.
  • Bachelor’s of Science (B.S.) A four-year degree with concentrated major studies in mathematics, physical and life sciences.

Courses of study are commonly divided into lower- and upper-division segments. During the first two years, students complete lower-division general education classes. They’re also introduced to their major and minor fields of study. The second-two years are comprised of upper-division courses providing intermediate and advanced studies in major fields. Students typically progress to upper-division courses after satisfying pre-requisites. During their final semester, students may undertake internships or complete senior projects.

The table below shows a range of courses that make up a typical bachelor’s degree curriculum, ranging from lower-division general education studies to advanced classes in a college major:

Survey in Biology Introduction for non-science majors includes overview of life processes and fundamental concepts in biological science. Requires laboratory hours.
English Composition Students learn a variety of college research and writing modes, with an emphasis on organization of ideas, written drafts and revisions.
Computer Science Fundamentals This foundation course for computer science majors introduces theories and designs for employing algorithms and programming languages. Pre-requisite: Math 101.
Introduction to Psychology What are the fundamental concepts, principles and methods of psychology? The course covers topics in sensory perception, personality, emotional health, abnormalities, and coping strategies.
Contemporary Global Challenges and Issues Intermediate studies in political culture, world opinion, and the role of peacekeeping institutions. Topics include global warming, nuclear proliferation, starvation, energy policy, and humanitarianism.
Principles of Criminal Investigation Examination of techniques and theories in the detecting, preserving and presentation of physical and forensic evidence. Includes laboratory sections. Prerequisite: Introduction to Criminology.
Race, Gender and Class in the Media Offered jointly by the Departments of Communication and American Ethnic Studies, this interdisciplinary course investigates the use and perpetration of stereotypes by media organizations and resulting influences on public opinion.
Early Childhood Curriculum Focuses on evidence-based models for designing and implementing programs supporting early learning, including topics in cognition, literacy, social development, and special populations.
Advanced Business Administration Third in a series of studies in accounting, business organization, business law, ethics, international commerce, information systems, marketing and finance.
Undergraduate Independent Study in Urban Planning Students are mentored in an independent research project or related field work in an approved topic in urban planning, community environment, ethics and sustainability.

Does a Bachelor’s Degree Pay?

A completed bachelor’s degree arms graduates with more earning power over their working lifetimes than for those who haven’t completed college. In 2013, bachelor’s degree holders took home median weekly wages of $1,199 — more than $450 per week over pay made to workers with only a high school diploma (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS). In addition to increased earning potential, bachelor’s degrees provide graduates with job security in tough economic times. A 2013 study conducted by the PEW Charitable Trusts found that while 21–24-year-olds suffered wage and job cuts during the severe downturn in the economy, 2009-2009, those with bachelor’s degrees fared exceptionally better than workers without a post-secondary degree. Wages for four-year graduates shrank by less than half the amount of the pay cuts suffered by workers with only a high school diploma. Similar disparities were found in job cuts; jobs of bachelor’s graduates dropped two percent during the economic downturn, while positions for workers with only high school diplomas fell by twice as many (four percent).

When a Bachelor’s Degree Makes Sense

A bachelor’s degree program is a common way for students to complete a well-rounded education that can prepare them for careers beyond entry-level service occupations. Many employers require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree with a major and skills that match their job requirements. For some students, the bachelor’s degree serves as an educational bridge to an advanced degree program. Most states require public school teachers to complete a bachelor’s degree as a minimum entry requirement for classroom work. Campus and online bachelor’s degree programs offer great opportunities for students who have only taken a few college-level classes or have completed an associate degree that want to transfer and complete their four-year degrees. Major and minor subject fields offer broad class selections across the entire range of bachelor’s degree programs. Students who have completed an associate degree may change directions entirely to pursue a four-year degree in another major field.

Graduates from bachelor’s degree programs work across the career spectrum, taking jobs as:

  • Auditors
  • Architects
  • Financial analysts
  • Sales managers
  • Insurance underwriters
  • Cost estimators
  • Credit counselors
  • Teachers and trainers
  • Tax collectors
  • Police, fire, and EMT responders
  • Budget analysts
  • Personal financial advisers
  • Registered nurses
  • Multimedia specialists
  • Software developers
  • Actuaries
  • Graphic designers
  • Writers and journalists
  • Interior designers
  • Public relations representatives
  • Civil engineers
  • Environmental engineers and consultants
  • Cartographers
  • Surveyors
  • Social workers
  • Counselors
  • Clinical and laboratory technicians
  • Economists
  • Mediators
  • Airline pilots
  • Foresters and conservation scientists

Transferring to a Four-Year College or University

Students transferring from an associate degree program to bachelor’s studies, or students changing four-year colleges, must take special care to ensure they receive credit for previous classwork. Academic advisers and degree counselors are go-to resources in considering a change. Many four-year schools have transfer arrangements with community colleges in their states or communities. Not all courses are treated equally by academic transfer committees. Community college students intending to transfer should start from the first semester to determine which course of study will best-meet core and general education requirements required by their four-year school. Students changing bachelor’s degree institutions may risk losing previous credits for studies outside standardized general education courses.

How Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs Work

Often students are disappointed to discover that they cannot afford to relocate to attend college or live too far away to commute. They may be saddled with employment or family responsibilities that make attending full-time, on-campus programs impossible. For them and others, online bachelor’s degree programs are convenient alternatives, with their flexible class hours and 24/7 remote access from any device connected to the internet. Because they are self-paced, many online bachelor’s degree programs may be completed in less than four years. Students will find an extensive selection of online colleges, universities and for-profit schools that confer bachelor’s degrees.

Online educational technology is advancing as quickly as innovations can be built into college interfaces. Students enroll, register, receive academic counseling, attend classes, complete assignments and tests, and hold conferences with their professors without leaving their home, office or nearby café. Classes are presented through multi-media presentations, live and recorded lectures, instructor blogs, email and threaded communications, video and voice conferencing software. Students have round-the-clock access to online libraries and resources for conducting research.

Online Learning Q&A

Must I be a nerd to use an online classroom program?

Students who are reading this right now have all the skills necessary for accessing their online degree programs. Where other tools are used (such as video conferencing), there are help pages, technical support staffs, and peers to show them the ropes.

What is the quality of online classes compared to on-campus ones?

Most online teachers and professors hail from the campus college environment. In addition, accredited online degree programs have been evaluated by independent researchers to ensure that they meet standards for academic quality and course delivery.

What happens to students who have to complete laboratories in addition to attending online lectures?

Distance educators understand the reasons why students choose online schools. To that end, they create labs that can be completed entirely online or they schedule labs with participating organizations close to where students work and live.

Is student aid available for online students?

Online bachelor’s degree institutions that hold formal accreditations are eligible to offer qualified students the package of federal student loans, grants and work study options.

Will I miss the social aspects of a college education if I’m only online?

Online students may miss football games, pep rallies and campus activities, but they’re not paying for them! And because students have a limited time to study, online programs allow them to devote themselves to completing their degrees. Online students frequently report that they build lasting friendships and academic interests with their fellows through class chats, emails and conference calls.

Bachelor’s Degree College Accreditation

Colleges, university and online schools that offer bachelor’s degree programs stake their reputations on voluntary accreditation. The process involves a college self-assessment followed by a campus visit by an independent accreditation agency. Agencies are approved by the U.S. Department of Education. A formal accreditation evaluates how the college performs in areas of academic quality as defined by national standards organizations. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) currently identifies more than 20,000 accredited academic programs across the United States.

Accreditation can be granted for an entire school or college, or individual college programs can receive specialized accreditation. College departments may seek accreditation from professional associations if they are delivering career-focused coursework. Campus-based programs typically seek regional accreditation of their degree programs from one of six agencies. Online colleges and traditional colleges offering online classes often obtain a regional accreditation as well as a specialized online accreditation from agencies such as the United States Distance Learning Association or Distance Learning Council.

Students requiring financial aid should investigate accreditations at their prospective colleges and universities. The U. S. Department of Education requires schools that offer federal financial aid (grants, loans, fellowships) to hold current accreditations.