Earning a bachelor's degree can help students advance professionally and qualify for in-demand careers. The U.S. Department of Education reports that college graduates typically earn 66% more than individuals with only a high school education. Over a lifetime, bachelor's degree-holders earn approximately $1 million more than workers without any postsecondary education.
Many students face obstacles to earning a degree, such as balancing academics with family and work. Flexible online programs can help busy learners fit coursework into their schedule. Online learning generally eliminates the need to commute to and from campus and distance programs often cost less than brick-and-mortar programs. Many schools offer generous transfer policies and accelerated courses that can benefit working professionals.
Many institutions offer a variety of online bachelor's degrees, and the number of choices can be overwhelming. This guide covers various online learning models, common course requirements, and funding options. The ranking of affordable online bachelor's degrees can help prospective students find the best school and program for their needs.
|1||University of Florida||Gainesville, FL|
|2||Saint Louis University||Saint Louis, MO|
|3||Purdue University||West Lafayette, IN|
|4||Houghton College||Houghton, NY|
|5||Drexel University||Philadelphia, PA|
|6||Indiana University||Bloomington, IN|
|7||University of Virginia||Charlottesville, VA|
|8||University of Michigan||Ann Arbor, MI|
|9||University of Washington||Seattle, WA|
|10||Bethel Univeristy||Saint Paul, MN|
Online bachelor's programs typically feature the same academic requirements as on-campus programs. Most bachelor's programs require about 120 credits, including major coursework, general education classes, and electives. Full-time students typically earn their bachelor's degree in four years.
Learners can reduce degree-completion time by transferring credits, receiving credit for professional or military training, or passing exams to demonstrate knowledge. Admissions advisors can provide information about transfer policies and evaluate each applicant's credit needs.
Many online programs offer flexible scheduling options. Distance programs often feature asynchronous courses, which allow students to complete coursework at their convenience, as long as they meet deadlines. Learners in asynchronous classes may post on online discussion boards, complete research projects, and take exams. Asynchronous courses require discipline and time management.
Synchronous courses, on the other hand, feature set class times. During live online classes, instructors often deliver a lecture and use technology to facilitate class discussion. While some online programs follow a standard academic schedule, others offer accelerated six-week or eight-week classes. Students in an accelerated program typically take 1-2 classes per term and often graduate sooner.
Many schools offer resources and services designed for online learners. Distance students can often communicate with librarians, who help distance learners access research materials and digital library resources. Online learners can often access tutoring and writing assistance using email, videoconferencing, and collaborative software.
According to the College Board, the average cost of in-state tuition at public institutions was $10,444 in 2019. The average out-of-state tuition rate for the same year was $26,820. Online learning can help reduce the overall cost of earning a degree. Schools often waive fees for on-campus services, such as fitness centers and parking, for distance learners. Institutions may also charge all online learners in-state tuition rates, regardless of residency.
Flexibility: Most online programs feature asynchronous classes, which can help learners balance academics with career and family obligations. As long as students meet assignment deadlines, they can complete coursework at their convenience.
Affordability: Many online students save on costs associated with transportation and housing. Because online students do not use on-campus services, some schools waive fees or discount tuition rates for distance learners.
Program Variety: Students can choose from online schools and programs across the country. Because distance learners are not limited by geographic location, students can choose the ideal program for their academic and career aspirations.
Academic Rigor: Online programs meet the same rigorous academic standards as on-campus programs. Online courses often incorporate readings, discussions, group projects, presentations, and exams. Faculty may deliver multimedia presentations, and learners use technology to interact with peers and teachers.
Accelerated Options: Many online programs offer accelerated courses. Instead of 15 weeks, accelerated classes typically last six or eight weeks. Learners who study at an accelerated pace usually take 1-2 classes at a time and graduate sooner than average.
Online bachelor's degrees are often more affordable than on-campus programs. Online learners can study from home, without commuting or moving near campus. This can reduce costs associated with transportation and housing. This section includes information about tuition and fees for online students, along with potential savings.
The cost of earning a bachelor's degree online depends on factors including school location and institution type. Many online students attend public two-year schools, which featured an average tuition rate of $3,700 in 2018, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Although two-year institutions do not deliver bachelor's degrees, learners at these schools can complete general education courses and prerequisites. Two-year schools often maintain articulation agreements with four-year institutions, simplifying the process of transferring credits.
The average cost of tuition at a four-year college in 2018 was $9,200 for public schools and $35,800 for private schools, according to NCES. Tuition rates may vary based on enrollment status, and some schools charge a per-credit tuition rate. In addition to tuition, schools may charge distance students online enrollment fees or individual class fees. Online students should also consider the cost of technology. Distance learners need a reliable laptop or tablet and an internet connection.
Online learners often save on parking, meal plans, and housing. Out-of-state learners who study online may also qualify for in-state tuition rates. Some online programs require only digital course materials, saving students money on textbooks. Learners may also receive discounts on software.
This course explores the history of the United States. Students learn about the political, economic, and cultural development of the nation through reading assignments, class discussions, and research projects. Coursework provides an overview of significant events in the nation's past, and learners develop critical thinking and analytical skills. Students must cite historical evidence when evaluating major themes of American history.
Learners in this class develop writing abilities and critical thinking skills. Students craft thesis statements and support conclusions with cited quotations. The course explores writing styles including expository, descriptive, argumentative, and personal narrative. Learners brainstorm ideas and create final drafts, and they evaluate word choice and tailor their writing to specific audiences. Coursework also covers grammar and proper citation formats.
This course introduces the study of living things. Topics include cell biology, compounds and molecules, genetics, evolution, and ecosystems. Online biology courses may include a virtual lab component, and many programs require two biology courses. Learners complete reading assignments, class discussions, and exams.
Students in a variety of disciplines apply knowledge of statistics. Learners in this course prepare to collect, organize, interpret, and present data. Students learn to evaluate surveys and experiments while considering sample size and distribution. Learners develop critical thinking and analytical skills as they evaluate data and draw conclusions.
Professionals in most disciplines must be able to communicate effectively in written, spoken, and visual formats. Students in this course complete practical communication projects to build abilities and confidence in public speaking. Learners prepare to deliver multimedia presentations and written reports. Coursework may include group projects, lectures and discussions, and class activities. Many instructors require mock job interviews and self-evaluations.
Students should check the accreditation status of each prospective school. Voluntary accreditation by an independent agency demonstrates that an institution meets set standards of quality. Individuals often need a degree from an accredited school to qualify for graduate school or professional licensure. Additionally, only learners at accredited institutions qualify for federal financial aid.
The two main types of institutional accreditation in the U.S. are regional and national. Regional accreditation is older and more prestigious than national accreditation. Regionally accredited schools do not typically accept transfer credits earned from nationally accredited institutions.
Learners can also look for programmatic accreditation from field-specific agencies, such as the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Some states require candidates for teaching or nursing licensure to hold a degree from a program with field-specific accreditation.
The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation maintain lists of recognized accrediting agencies. These organizations offer online databases of recognized agencies and schools.
Scholarships can help defray the cost of tuition, books, technology, and fees. Many organizations offer awards based on criteria such as academic merit and financial need. See below for some scholarships available to online learners. Students can research awards available from their employer, local civic organizations, and their state.
Who Can Apply: This award supports Hispanic learners who are pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree. Applicants must have a minimum 2.5 GPA and must
plan to enroll in an accredited college or university. Learners studying a STEM field receive preference.
Who Can Apply: This scholarship program helps postsecondary students return to school following a gap of at least five years in their education.
Participating colleges administer the scholarship. Eligibility requirements vary by school, but most institutions consider financial need, academic promise, and work history.
Who Can Apply: This organization awards 350 scholarships annually, with the intention of encouraging African American, Native American, and Hispanic students
to pursue careers in chemical science. Applicants must be studying a chemical science-related field full time at an accredited institution. The scholarship committee considers
academic merit and financial need.
Who Can Apply: The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants offers multiple scholarships. Eligibility requirements vary by award, but candidates
must be pursuing a degree in accounting or related field. The organization considers academic merit and offers scholarships reserved for transfer students, minority students,
Who Can Apply: This scholarship program supports individuals who demonstrate leadership in their community and school. Marathon awards 20 scholarships
annually to high school seniors. Candidates must have a minimum 3.0 GPA, demonstrate financial need, and submit a personal essay. The scholarship committee considers each
applicant's community service, extracurricular activities, employment history, honors, and awards.
|Can I do a bachelor's degree online?||Yes, many schools offer fully online bachelor's degrees. Online programs in some fields, such as healthcare, may require in-person components. Distance learners typically fulfill these requirements through intensive weekend or summer sessions.|
|How long does it take to earn a bachelor's degree online?||Full-time students typically earn their bachelor's degree in four years. Part-time students may need additional time. Many schools offer accelerated courses that allow online learners to graduate sooner. Schools may also allow online students to take credits beyond a full-time course load at no additional charge.|
|How much is the average cost of online college?||The average cost of in-state tuition at public schools for the 2019-2020 academic year was $10,440, according to the College Board. The average out-of-state tuition rate for the same year was $26,820. Many schools charge all online learners the same tuition rate, regardless of residency, which can result in significant savings for out-of-state students.|
|Is there a free online college?||University of the People offers an accredited, tuition-free degree, though the school does charge assessment fees. Additionally, students may defray most or all of their tuition at other institutions through scholarships and grants. Students can complete the FAFSA to determine whether they qualify for federal financial aid.|
To find the best colleges of 2020 for earning an online associate degree, our researchers and higher education experts collected and analyzed data from every accredited postsecondary institution in the United States. The goal? To see which colleges offered the most notable balances of academic rigor, program availability, student support and affordability for online learning. The specific criteria and scoring metrics for the ranking are as follows:
*PBV: is a proprietary metric that compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or a similar) qualitative score. It also compares the qualitative score of the program to the score of other programs with the same (or similar) cost. In short, the PBV calculation denotes the overall value – or “bang for your buck” – of an online degree.
|Rank||Logo||School||Tuition||# of Online Programs||Acceptance Rate||Graduation Rate||Financial Aid||Credit For Experience||Placement Service||Counseling Services||Description & Additional Information||Toggle|
|1||University of Florida Gainesville, FL||
Founded in 1853, the University of Florida is a public land-grant institution located in Gainesville. UF administers more than 300 undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs to over 50,000 learners each year, including a variety of online bachelor's degrees. Students can choose from 24 online bachelor's degrees in the arts, sciences, humanities, communications, business, and technology. The 120-credit programs feature flexible, asynchronous formats that allow students to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations. UF accepts applications on a rolling basis. Applicants must hold a high school diploma or equivalent and submit recent SAT or ACT scores, a resume, and an essay. Students can transfer up to 60 credits toward a bachelor's degree.
|2||Saint Louis University Saint Louis, MO||
Saint Louis University is a private, Roman Catholic research institution based in St. Louis, Missouri. The oldest university west of the Mississippi River, SLU was founded in 1818. The school offers a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, including many online options. Students can choose from nine online bachelor's degrees in areas like computer information systems, emergency management, organizational behavior, security intelligence, and general studies. These programs feature accelerated, eight-week courses that use convenient learning modules. Learners can begin on one of six start dates per year. Applicants must hold a high school or GED diploma and submit transcripts. They must also participate in a coaching session with an academic advisor. All potential transfer credits need a minimum 2.5 GPA.
|3||Purdue University West Lafayette, IN||
Located in West Lafayette, Indiana, and founded as a land-grant institution in 1869, Purdue University offers over 200 undergraduate majors and nearly 70 graduate and professional programs. Students can choose from online bachelor's degrees that span education, the arts and sciences, technology, business, economics, and computer science. Most programs comprise 120 credits that students can complete in four years of full-time study. The school delivers all course content through flexible formats that accommodate busy learners and working professionals. Prospective students must hold a high school diploma or equivalent and submit recent SAT/ACT scores, a personal essay, and general biographical information.
|4||Houghton College Houghton, NY||
Established as a seminary and coeducational school in 1883, Houghton College is a private, nonprofit institution affiliated with the Wesleyan Church. Houghton College offers affordable, accessible learning experiences to over 1,000 degree-seekers each year. The school offers online bachelor's degrees in criminal justice, psychology, human resources, integrated marketing, leadership development, and organizational management. The programs include general education and major-specific courses. Degree-seekers can access material any time through convenient, asynchronous platforms. Applicants need a high school or GED diploma. They must also provide transcripts, recent SAT/ACT scores, a personal statement, and a recommendation letter.
|5||Drexel University Philadelphia, PA||
Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Drexel University is a private, nonprofit institution founded in 1891. Drexel emphasizes experiential learning through nearly 200 graduate and undergraduate programs. Drexel offers diverse online bachelor's degrees designed to help learners achieve their career goals. For instance, degree-seekers interested in health professions can pursue majors in counseling, nursing, or psychology. Students can also choose from bachelor's degrees in business, communication, technology, and cybersecurity. Expert faculty facilitate each program, delivering all course material through innovative and flexible learning tools. Admission requirements include a high school diploma or equivalent, transcripts, a current resume, and letters of recommendation. Applicants must also submit recent standardized test scores and a personal essay that details their professional aspirations. Program-specific requirements may also apply.
|6||Indiana University Bloomington, IN||
Based in Bloomington and founded in 1820, Indiana University maintains a strong commitment to diversity, academic freedom, and professional development. The school enrolls nearly 45,000 learners each year through a variety of graduate and undergraduate programs. Students can choose from 25 online bachelor's degrees in fields like business, communications, health science, mathematics, and the liberal arts. Each program comprises 120 credits of general education, elective, and major courses. Degree-seekers learn through accommodating learning modules that combine self-directed study with interactive experiences. Prospective learners need a high school or GED diploma. They must also submit academic transcripts, recent SAT/ACT scores, and a brief essay. Transfer applicants need a minimum 2.5 GPA.
|7||University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA||
The University of Virginia is a public research institution founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819. UVA provides comprehensive educational experiences through over 200 undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs across eight schools and colleges. UVA offers online bachelor's degrees in liberal arts and health management. Each program features fully only courses and a mostly synchronous format, requiring set virtual meeting times. Graduates can pursue employment in their field or graduate study. Applicants must hold a high school diploma or its equivalent and submit unofficial transcripts, two personal essays, and a letter of recommendation.
|8||University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI||
Established in 1817, the University of Michigan serves nearly 50,000 students through undergraduate and graduate programs in the humanities, social sciences, business, and technology. U-M offers a 36-credit online bachelor of science in dental hygiene that caters to working professionals. The degree-completion program features fully online coursework, but it requires a two-day on-campus orientation. Applicants need an active dental hygiene license. They must also hold credentials from a program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation with a minimum 3.4 GPA.
|9||University of Washington Seattle, WA||
Chartered in 1861, the University of Washington cultivates a challenging learning environment informed by innovative scholarship and research. The sea-grant institution located in Seattle, Washington, boasts an expansive, urban campus and a robust online division. UW offers online bachelor's degree-completion programs in early care and education and integrated social sciences. These programs require 180 quarter credits and welcome both part-time and full-time learners. Learners can access the material at their convenience, typically graduating in 2-3 years. Applicants need at least 70 transfer credits from a regionally accredited institution. They must also submit transcripts, a current resume, and a brief personal statement that outlines their fit within the school.
|10||Bethel University Saint Paul, MN||
Located in Mishawaka, Indiana, a South Bend suburb, Bethel University offers high-quality education, training, and career preparation programs. A private, nonprofit institution founded in 1947, Bethel retains affiliation with the evangelical Christian Missionary Church. Bethel confers online bachelor's degrees in business, marketing, leadership, behavioral science, cybersecurity, organizational management, and interdisciplinary studies. Each program prepares degree-seekers for successful careers in their field and advanced study. Most programs comprise 120 credits. Prospective learners must possess a high school diploma or its equivalent. They must also submit transcripts and recent SAT/ACT scores.
|11||Appalachian State University Boone, NC||
A public institution located in Boone, North Carolina, Appalachian State University values research, community, and environmental stewardship. Established as a teacher training school in 1899, Appalachian now offers over 200 undergraduate and graduate programs. Students can choose from online bachelor's degrees in career and technical education, child development, communication studies, advertising, management, nursing, and workforce leadership. These programs include general education, major, and elective coursework. Applachian offers each program entirely online through a blend of asynchronous and synchronous formats. Admission requirements include applicable transfer credits with a minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA. The number of required transfer credits varies by program. Supplementary materials include transcripts and official SAT/ACT scores.
|12||Mercer University Macon, GA||
Mercer University is a nonprofit institution based in Macon, Georgia. The oldest private college in the Peach State, Mercer was founded by Baptist ministers in 1833. The institution manages 12 schools and colleges that serve over 8,000 degrees-seekers in business, engineering, and the liberal arts. Mercer offers online bachelor's degrees in disciplines like accounting, communication, and criminal justice. Designed for busy learners and working professionals, these programs feature flexible formats that let degree-seekers balance their studies with personal and professional responsibilities. Mercer also offers a robust menu of career services that help students transition from school to the workforce. Applicants must hold a high school or GED diploma and submit transcripts. Transfer applicants need a minimum 2.5 GPA.
|13||University of Georgia Athens, GA||
The University of Georgia promotes excellence through intellectual inquiry and learning. Established through state legislative action in 1785, UGA is among the oldest public universities in the country and provides a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, including an online bachelor's degree in special education. Designed to help degree-seekers obtain Georgia teaching licensure, the program requires 121 credits. UGA delivers all exams, assignments, and course content entirely online. The program concludes with a practicum at an approved site near the student's home. Applicants need 60 accredited transfer credits with a minimum 2.8 GPA. They must also complete the school's admission and ethics assessments.
|14||Maryville University Saint Louis, MO||
Established in 1872, Maryville University is a private, nonprofit institution that enrolls over 10,000 learners and boasts a 97% career placement rate for graduates. Located in Town and Country, Missouri, the institution manages six colleges and schools that confer nearly 100 graduate and undergraduate degrees. Maryville offers online bachelor's degrees in business, technology, health services, and the liberal arts. These programs combine general education, major, and elective requirements. Students can begin on one of multiple start dates per year. Maryville administers each program through cutting-edge, interactive, and user-friendly online platforms. Applicants need a high school or GED diploma with a minimum 2.5 GPA. They must also submit transcripts. Maryville welcomes transfer learners with credits earned at a regionally accredited institution.
|15||George Washington University Washington, DC||
Founded in 1821, George Washington University offers undergraduate and graduate degrees through 14 schools and colleges. The school hosts students from its 43-acre urban campus in Washington, D.C., and through an online division. GW offers online bachelor's degrees in medicine and health sciences, professional studies, and nursing. Each program requires 120 credits and features a flexible format designed for busy students and working professionals. The school offers technical support services to all learners. Applicants must hold a high school diploma or its equivalent and submit transcripts and a letter of recommendation. They may also submit a writing sample and SAT/ACT scores to bolster their application.
|16||University of South Florida Tampa, FL||
Located in Tampa, the University of South Florida is a public research institution founded in 1956 as part of the State University System of Florida. USF instructs over 50,000 students through more than 200 undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs. USF offers online bachelor's degrees in applied sciences, information studies, nursing, and criminology. USF delivers these programs through hybrid and fully online formats. The programs feature a mix of synchronous and asynchronous components. Applicants must hold a high school or GED diploma and submit official transcripts and recent SAT/ACT scores. Transfer learners need a minimum 2.5 GPA on all potential transfer credits.
|17||University of Iowa Iowa City, IA||
Established in 1847, the University of Iowa is a public research institution that values inclusion, ingenuity, and learner success. The school administers over 200 undergraduate and graduate programs across 12 schools and colleges. UI offers online bachelor's degrees in applied studies, political science, liberal studies, and radiation sciences. Students can also choose from online bachelor's degrees in sport recreation, nursing, and enterprise leadership. The fully online programs include virtual meetings and videocasts. Degree-seekers learn from the same expert faculty who teach on-campus programs. Admission requirements vary by program. At minimum, prospective learners need a high school diploma or its equivalent and recent SAT/ACT scores.
|18||University of Central Florida Orlando, FL||
Chartered in 1963, the University of Central Florida values scholarship, creativity, and integrity. The school operates a main campus in Orlando and serves one of the largest student bodies in the U.S., enrolling nearly 70,000 learners each year. UCF confers a variety of online bachelor's degrees in science, business, technology, health services, and the humanities. Most of these programs require around 120 credits, including general education, elective, and major requirements. Applicants need at least 12 accredited transfer credits. Additional admission requirements include official transcripts indicating a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA, a high school diploma or its equivalent, and SAT/ACT test scores.
|19||Villanova University Villanova, Pa||
Villanova University is a private, nonprofit institution in Radnor Township, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1842 by Augustinian friars, the school retains a strong affiliation with the Catholic Church. Villanova offers diverse undergraduate and graduate programs through six schools and colleges. Villanova offers fully online bachelor's degrees in leadership, general studies, public service administration, and organizational management. Most programs require around 120 credits of general education and major courses that students can complete in an accelerated format. Applicants must hold a high school or GED diploma and submit official transcripts, a current resume, and a brief essay that discusses their educational interests and professional goals. Students can transfer up to 60 credits toward a bachelor's degree.
|20||North Carolina State University at Raleigh Raleigh, NC||
Located in Raleigh, North Carolina State University values freedom, respect, stewardship, and excellence. Established as a public land-grant institution in 1887, the school is the largest in the state, enrolling more than 35,000 degree-seekers each year. NC State offers an online bachelor's degree in leadership in the public sector. The fully online, degree-completion program combines liberal arts foundations with hard skills in public leadership. Degree-seekers take courses in public policy, law, political science, and organizational management. Admission requirements include at least 60 transfer credits from a regionally accredited institution. Applicants must submit transcripts.
|21||DeSales University Center Valley, PA||
Founded in 1964, DeSales University is a private, nonprofit institution located in Center Valley, Pennsylvania. DeSales provides rigorous educational experiences rooted in the Catholic tradition. The school's graduate and undergraduate programs promote values of humility, gratitude, wisdom, and hospitality. Learners can choose from 14 online bachelor's degrees in business, marketing, finance, and the humanities. The 120-credit programs feature accelerated, six- and eight-week course sessions and a mix of asynchronous and synchronous components. Applicants must hold a high school or GED diploma and submit transcripts, letters of recommendation, and SAT/ACT scores.
|22||Dominican University River Forest. IL||
Located in River Forest, Illinois, Dominican University is a private, nonprofit, Catholic institution that offers innovative undergraduate and graduate programs. Established in 1901, the school hosts students on a 30-acre campus and online. DU grants online bachelor's degrees in legal studies, human services, and nursing. Designed for busy learners with previous academic experience, these degree-completion programs feature flexible formats. Most degree-seekers graduate within 20 months. Applicants need at least 30 transfer credits from a regionally accredited institution. They must also provide transcripts, a current resume, and an essay.
|23||University of Utah Salt Lake City, UT||
Located in Salt Lake City, the University of Utah promotes the highest levels of scholarship and intellectual integrity. Founded in 1850, the public research university serves over 30,000 learners through nearly 200 undergraduate and graduate programs. The U offers online bachelor's degrees in economics, human development, nursing, recreation and tourism, psychology, sociology, and social work. Each major requires 122 credits. The school's innovative delivery format combines self-paced study and interactive learning experiences. Applicants must hold a high school diploma or its equivalent and submit transcripts and SAT/ACT scores. Transfer students need a minimum 2.35 cumulative GPA.
|24||Saint Joseph's University Philadelphia, PA||
Established in 1851, Saint Joseph's University is a private, Jesuit-affiliated school that hosts students on a 114-acre urban campus in Philadelphia and online. Learners can choose from a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs. SJU offers online bachelor's degrees in general studies, business administration, psychological studies, and organization development and leadership. Degree-seekers learn from the same faculty who teach on campus. The school delivers all course content through convenient, interactive learning platforms. Applicants must hold a high school or GED diploma and submit official transcripts, a personal statement, and one letter of recommendation.
|25||University of South Florida Sarasota, FL||
Part of the University of Florida System, the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee offers over 40 undergraduate and graduate programs through four schools and colleges in science, business, and the liberal arts. UFSM offers fully online bachelor's degrees in cybersecurity and information technology and communication sciences and disorders. The school delivers both programs in a highly interactive learning environment that includes face-to-face conferences and help sessions. Applicants must hold a high school diploma or its equivalent and submit ACT/SAT scores and official transcripts. International applicants must also demonstrate English language proficiency. Additional requirements may also apply.
|High School Diploma||Associate Degree||Bachelor's Degree|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Earning a bachelor's degree typically leads to increased earning potential, regardless of program format. However, online programs are often more convenient and accessible. Distance education options can be ideal for students who work full time, care for children, or live in remote areas.
Online learning is a popular alternative to in-person college classes. Many students prefer the accessibility of online classes. Remote learners can attend schools in other states, and many schools charge all online students in-state tuition rates, regardless of residency. Also, online bachelor's degrees are often more affordable. Distance learners typically save money on costs such as transportation and housing.
Most online programs offer flexible scheduling options that accomodate the needs of working professionals. Many online programs deliver asynchronous courses, allowing students to watch online lectures and participate in discussions at their convenience. Although synchronous classes still offer the flexibility to study from anywhere, they require learners to log in at set times.
Students can also pursue a hybrid learning experience, which blends online courses with on-campus evening or weekend classes.
On-campus learning typically appeals primarily to recent high school graduates, while online learning programs attract more diverse demographics. Online classes often comprise students of different ages, ethnicities, and locations. Many online classes include participants from various countries. The student diversity common to online programs prepares learners to manage diversity in professional contexts.
The earning potential of bachelor's degree-holders varies significantly by major. While no degree guarantees a certain salary, students can use the figures below to make informed decisions regarding their education. Individual salaries also depend on factors including experience level and location. The table below shows the highest-paying online bachelor's degrees, according to data from PayScale.
|Degree||Early Career Salary||Mid-Career Salary|
|Electrical Engineering and Computer Science||$88,000||$142,200|
|Applied Economics and Management||$58,900||$140,000|
|Business||Business students gain the fundamental knowledge necessary to run a business. These programs often offer concentrations such as accounting, finance, and human resources. According to data from PayScale, professionals with a bachelor's degree in business earn a median annual salary of $63,000. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that several business and finance positions require only a bachelor's degree and pay quality salaries, including budget analyst and financial examiner.|
|Health Professions and Related Programs||Although doctors and nurse practitioners need advanced degrees, professionals with an online bachelor's degree in a health-related field can qualify for many careers. For example, according to the BLS, athletic trainers, dieticians, and registered nurses need only a bachelor's degree. Nurses earn a median annual salary of $71,730 per year, and the BLS projects nursing positions to increase 15% from 2018 to 2028.|
|Social Sciences and History||Students pursuing an online bachelor's degree in this field learn about the known history of civilization, examine the motivations behind past actions, and explore how societies function. PayScale reports that graduates with a bachelor's in history earn a median annual salary of $64,000. Graduates often work as high school teachers, operations managers, and executive assistants.|
|Psychology||Many psychology-related careers require a master's degree. However, bachelor's degree-holders in the field can pursue roles as recreational therapists, human resources managers, or social services workers. According to data from PayScale, individuals with a psychology bachelor's degree earn a median annual salary of $60,000.|
|Biological and Biomedical Sciences||Students in this field learn about natural processes in various life forms, such as humans, animals, and plants. Many graduates pursue a professional degree to become a veterinarian or doctor. According to PayScale, bachelor's degree-holders can also work as research managers in laboratories and as technologists in medical facilities.|
The amount of time required to earn a bachelor's degree depends on several factors, including when the student begins planning for college. Learners can accelerate their graduation timeline by beginning preparations during their senior year of high school. The following sections explore methods to help you graduate on time.
Students can take Advanced Placement (AP) classes during their senior year of high school. AP classes can help impress college admissions and scholarship committees. AP classes also prepare students academically for rigorous college coursework.
Prospective college students can also take the PreACT and PSAT exams during their junior year of high school. During their senior year, most students take the ACT or SAT exam. Seniors should also complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to qualify for federal funding and work-study programs.
College freshmen typically work with an academic advisor to plan their courses. Freshmen can begin considering a field of study, but they do not yet need to declare a major. During their first year, college students typically focus on general education courses in subjects including English, math, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. Students can also audit courses that appeal to their interests.
During their second year of college, students generally continue taking general education courses and prerequisites. Many schools require students to declare a major by the end of their sophomore year, so undecided learners can use this time to explore potential majors.
Juniors typically focus on completing major coursework, although a small percentage of students may remain undecided. Juniors may also take some general education courses, and many third-year students apply for internships.
A senior's course load generally includes primarily major courses. During their final year of college, students meet with an academic advisor to review their transcripts and ensure they are on track to graduate on time.
After the final review of their credits, students who want to participate in the ceremony file for graduation. Learners who plan to attend graduate school take the GRE or GMAT and apply to programs. Students who intend to enter the workforce immediately after graduation can visit their school's career center to prepare their resume and interview skills. Seniors should also collect letters of recommendation for graduate school applications or potential employers.
Tuition rates vary significantly among individual schools. Generally, two-year colleges charge lower tuition rates than four-year universities, and public schools typically cost less than private institutions.
Most online students save money on expenses such as transportation and housing. However, schools often charge fees exclusive to distance students, such as technology fees and online learning fees.
|Type of College||Average Published Yearly Tuition and Fees|
|Public Two-Year College (in-district students)||$3,243|
|Public Four-Year College (in-state students)||$9,037|
|Public Four-Year College (out-of-state students)||$25,657|
|Private Four-Year College||$30,731|
Public schools typically charge lower tuition rates for in-state learners than for out-of-state students. However, some institutions charge all online students the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. In addition to residency status, tuition rates depend on the learner's program. Students in some fields may need to pay additional course or lab fees.
Housing and transportation costs comprise a large portion of college expenses for on-campus students. Taking classes online can reduce or eliminate these expenses. Distance learners can live with their family or in more affordable off-campus housing, and most online programs require few, if any, campus visits.
Most schools charge all students a per-credit or per-semester technology fee. This fee covers on-campus services such as computer labs, email, and internet. Online students may also pay distance learning fees, which often cover the cost of operating online platforms and offering cloud services.
Some online programs require students to attend on-campus classes during evenings or weekends. In-person components vary by school and major. Some programs also include an internship or practicum, which require learners to work a certain number of hours in person. Students should research each prospective program's in-person requirements before applying.
Online classes typically cost less than on-campus courses. However, distance learners often incur additional expenses. Online students may need to upgrade their internet service or computer to meet technical requirements. Students typically need up-to-date software and hardware to participate in online courses.
Both online and on-campus students can typically qualify for the same financial aid opportunities. Scholarships and grants are ideal forms of funding, since they do not require repayment. Students can also take out loans to cover any remaining costs.
Students should complete the FAFSA form to determine whether they qualify for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. Students who have defaulted on previous loans or who are attending classes less than part time may not qualify for federal support. Additionally, learners must attend an accredited institution to qualify for federal aid.
Scholarships are available from the federal government, state governments, schools, and private organizations. Learners typically qualify for scholarships based on academic merit or financial need. Many community organizations and university financial aid offices maintain databases of available scholarships. Recipients can typically apply scholarship funds toward tuition and other college expenses.
Like scholarships, grants do not require repayment. The federal government awards grants, such as Pell Grants, to learners who demonstrate financial need. Many grants support students pursuing high-need professions, such as teaching or nursing. The expected family contribution detailed on each student's FAFSA form determines their eligibility for need-based grants.
Work-study programs allow students to earn compensation for part-time work. Students can qualify for federal work-study programs by completing the FAFSA form. Work-study opportunities are often available on campus or off campus, and most students receive loans, scholarships, or grants to supplement their work-study income.
The federal government provides student loans, which usually offer lower interest rates than private loans. The most common federal loan, the Direct Stafford Loan, is available to undergraduate and graduate students. This loan may be subsidized or unsubsidized. Parents of students can apply for a Direct PLUS Loan, and students who demonstrate extreme financial need can qualify for a Federal Perkins Loan.
Some occupations require education beyond a bachelor's degree. Graduates can pursue a master's degree, license, or certification to qualify for more advanced career opportunities. Roles requiring higher levels of education often pay higher salaries. Below are some continuing education options for individuals who have earned a bachelor's degree online.
Master's students receive specialized education in their field and gain in-depth industry knowledge and skills. Employers may require a master's degree for certain positions, and many pay higher salaries to master's degree-holders. Most master's programs require about two years to complete, but learners can pursue accelerated options to graduate more quickly. Applicants to graduate programs typically need a bachelor's degree from an accredited college.
Professionals in many fields need a license to qualify for employment. For example, teachers and nurses need a state license to practice. Licensing requirements ensure that individuals have completed the academic and experiential training necessary to work in the field. In some industries, licensure is not required but can improve a professional's marketability.
Professional certification programs provide specialized training for employees. Earning a relevant certification can lead to additional career opportunities and higher earning potential. For example, certified public accountants and certified clinical mental health counselors typically earn higher salaries than those without certification.
Students looking for the best online bachelor's degree programs should consider several factors. The ideal program for one learner may not suit another. Students should consider their personal goals and preferences when evaluating academic options. The list below comprises schools offering the best online bachelor's degrees. Considerations for the rankings include cost of attendance, available programs, and geographic location.
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