Online education has exploded in popularity over the last decade. As technology improves and students’ needs change, more colleges are offering accredited online degree programs.
Online programs allow students to study on their own schedule. They remove geographical limitations and open up education opportunities for working professionals or those with families. While online colleges provide flexibility, ensuring your chosen program provides a quality education with accreditation is crucial.
In this blog, we explore the key things to look for when researching online college options. We also recommend some of the top accredited online colleges and universities based on factors like academic excellence, variety of programs, affordability, and reputation.
What is Accreditation for Online Colleges?
Accreditation is the review process that ensures colleges meet certain standards for quality, academics, policies, and more. There are national and regional accrediting bodies that conduct reviews of both online and traditional campus-based higher education institutions.
Attending an accredited online college validates that your education and degree meet high standards. It also qualifies students for federal financial aid and ensures better transferability of credits.
Top 5 Accredited Online Colleges and Universities
1. Arizona State University
With over 200 online degrees at the bachelor’s and master’s levels, ASU offers an outstanding variety spanning many disciplines like sustainability, engineering, business, public policy, and more.
2. University of Florida
The University of Florida is consistently ranked one of the nation’s top five public universities. Their over 300 online degrees help extend their academic excellence at affordable rates for in-state students.
3. Penn State World Campus
Part of the prestigious Penn State system, the World Campus has earned a strong reputation for online education with over 150 highly-ranked programs including graduate IT and MBA degrees.
4. Oregon State University
Oregon State University offers over 70 online degrees focusing on in-demand fields like computer science, business, public health, and environmental sciences.
5. University of Southern California
With prestigious online master’s degrees in social work, engineering, business, and more, USC provides the academic rigor expected from this top-tier research university.
When researching the best fit online program for your goals, be sure to confirm up-to-date accreditation status. This ensures your online degree carries the utmost value after graduation. Reach out with any questions!
What to Look for in an Online Program
Beyond accreditation status, there are other key factors to evaluate when comparing online colleges and degree programs:
Variety of Programs Offered
Look for variety and flexibility in online options. Can you easily switch majors if your interests evolve? Are there multiple concentrations or electives to choose from?
Research the credentials and experience level of the professors and instructors who will be teaching your online courses. Highly qualified faculty indicates academic rigor.
Compare both the advertised tuition rates and the associated fees for online components. Is there flexibility in part-time vs full-time schedules? How do costs compare to competing programs?
Transfer Credits Policy
Having an online college accept generous transfer credits from prior schooling makes a big difference affordability-wise. Maximize savings by looking for programs that allow transfers.
Reputation Among Employers
While graduating from an accredited program is key, you also want to ensure your specific degree is valued and well-recognized by leaders within your intended industry.
Worthwhile Online Education Takes Research
Pursuing your degree or certificate online has many advantages—but only if you choose an accredited, reputable school. Take time to thoroughly research program details, school accreditation status, costs, and real graduate outcomes.
By selecting one of the top accredited online colleges showcased here, you can feel confident you will receive a flexible and respected education that furthers your career goals. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any additional questions!
Spotlight: Top Online Masters Programs
While many associate online education with bachelor’s degrees, a growing number of graduate programs are offered exclusively online. These provide excellent opportunities for working professionals to upskill.
Here we spotlight some of the best accredited online master’s degree options across high-demand fields:
Online Masters in Business Administration (MBA)
- Penn State World Campus
- Arizona State University
- University of North Carolina
These universities offer acclaimed online MBA programs, often specializing in areas like sustainability or analytics. Graduates earn an MBA fully online from a top business school.
Online Masters in Computer Science
- Georgia Tech
- University of Texas Austin
- Carnegie Mellon University
For those looking to advance into leadership IT or technology roles, these top computer science schools provide cutting-edge masters degrees through online coursework and projects.
Online Masters in Healthcare Administration
- Duke University
- Ohio University
- Boston University
These online healthcare administration programs prepare graduates to take on critical roles managing complex healthcare systems and organizations. Coursework covers current challenges from policy to patient-centered care.
Online Masters in Education
- University of Florida
- Purdue University Global
- Western Governors University
From specialized focuses like literacy to broader educational leadership degrees, these schools allow aspiring teachers and administrators to earn master’s degrees completely online.
Conclusion: Evaluate Your Online Degree Choices Carefully
Online colleges undoubtedly create exciting opportunities – but the expansive options now available also invite confusion. Set yourself up for success by carefully comparing accredited programs that work for your budget, interests, schedule, and career ambitions.
Use this blog post as a starting guide highlighting some well-established accredited online colleges to consider. Best of luck furthering your education and career goals!