At one time, getting a college degree was out-of-reach for many individuals. But every year, more online colleges and programs are launched. And that has made it possible for more people than ever to earn a college degree. Hundreds of universities offer students the chance to study whatever interests them. All from wherever they happen to be. Here, we rank the best online college degree programs across dozens of majors, from accounting to business to psychology and more.
An online degree is highly flexible. You can complete assignments anywhere there is an internet connection. Plus, with the top 10 online colleges, you can study whenever it’s convenient for you. A lot of online programs appeal to busy working adults. However, people of all ages are taking advantage of the opportunity to earn a degree online. And we’ve got the best online colleges all in one place.
What Kind of College Degree Programs Are Online?
Virtually any area of study offered by conventional colleges can now be accessed remotely. So if you want to go to one of the best online colleges and major in a particular interest, you can! Here are just a few of the hundreds of topics you can study through an online program:
|Art & Design
|Video Game Design
Don’t see your interest listed? Don’t worry. This is only a partial list of the online degrees you can pursue. There are dozens of others waiting to be explored.
Our Top 10 Online College Degree Programs
There are several differences between online colleges and traditional colleges. However, at top10onlinecolleges.org, we feature the best online colleges with the following characteristics:
1) They are accredited by an agency approved by the U.S. Department of Education.
2) The degree is valued by employers and others in the field, whether it was earned online or on campus.
3) The quality and variety of the coursework are comparable to the education you would get in person.
4) The college uses state-of-the-art, user-friendly technology to deliver the courses.
About Our Reviews
Our mission is to provide online learners with plenty of factual information. That way, they can make a smart choice about which school to attend online. Therefore, when we review all the different online degrees that are available, we consider two types of schools:
1. Conventional brick-and-mortar colleges where you can attend online or in person.
2. Colleges with no physical campus that only offer the best online degree programs.
Our information comes directly from the accredited online colleges and universities we feature. We also consult reputable organizations like:
- U.S. News and World Report
- U.S. Department of Education
- National Center for Education Statistics
More About Top 10 Online College Degree Programs
In the fall of 2020, around 14.1 million learners were enrolled in online classes. Online college is more mainstream than its ever been.
It wasn’t too long ago that if you told someone you were studying for a degree online, they might give you a sarcastic smirk or even an eye roll. Distance education used to have a pretty bad rap due to “diploma mills” and the failed correspondence course era of the 1970s.
But online learning is here to stay, and there are several myths about online education we are here to dispel:
Misconception #1 Online Degrees Are Not “Real” Degrees
This may have been true a few decades ago. There was a time when unscrupulous companies sold the public on the idea of “correspondence courses.” These courses would accept anyone. They promised to teach students how to be a nurse, airline stewardess, psychologist, and more by taking classes through the mail. It didn’t take long to realize these scammers were bilking people out of thousands of dollars by promising them a real college education by mail. Soon, the whole concept was a joke.
So when colleges began offering online degrees, people were understandably skeptical. And it took a long time for society to warm up to the idea. It didn’t help that there really were some shady players in the new online college industry. This only reinforced the idea that these operations were low-quality.
However, the best online colleges have steadily gained more credibility since those rough beginnings. There are now hundreds of public and private universities and accredited online colleges offering legit online degrees. And, of course, the pandemic permanently cemented online education into our culture, making it a necessity rather than a choice.
Misconception #2 Online Degrees Are Not Accredited.
This myth is a holdout from those early days of shady online “colleges.” These days, the best online college degree programs are offered through reputable, accredited schools.
You can feel confident that we only feature respected, accredited online colleges in good standing. We’ll talk more about accreditation momentarily.
To learn more, check out our featured article, Are Online Colleges Accredited?
Misconception #3 Employers Don’t Take Online Degrees Seriously.
Another myth is that graduates get a diploma that states the student completed the program online. This may have been true in the past, but it’s not standard practice anymore.
Online students earn the same degree as their classmates who attend in person. As a result, employers suspicious about online degrees are now few and far between. Generally, a potential employer will not know whether you attended college in person or online.
Misconception #4 There Is No Opportunity for Socialization With an Online Degree Program.
The next myth about online programs is that online learners do not get a chance to interact with others. Nor are they able to participate in on-campus activities. Indeed, online students often have careers, families, and other responsibilities. And these things can sometimes keep them from spending time on campus. However, they are not excluded from on-campus groups and activities.
In fact, most universities strongly encourage online learners to visit the campus. Online students are urged to join some organizations and participate in college events.
Misconception #5 Online Degree Programs Are Not Rigorous or Challenging.
There is also a myth that the best online programs are easier, making them less credible. This is also untrue. Most schools offering online degrees follow the same curriculum taught on campus. And in most cases, the same instructors teach the online programs.
In addition, online students must complete the same assignments as anyone else. They just have a more flexible learning schedule.
Misconception #6 Online Degree Programs Give Students Less Access to Their Professors.
While this occasionally happens, it’s not the norm. But some students may be concerned they won’t get enough interaction with their professors. If you are worried about this scenario, there is a solution. Look for schools that prioritize regular communication between online learners and their instructors.
For example, many of the best online colleges and universities provide students with a dedicated advisor. The advisor guides the student through the process from application to graduation. And if you’re worried about not getting enough one-on-one time with your teachers, speak up. Find out your professor’s office hours and schedule a meeting.
The Pros and Cons of Online Degree Programs
Those seeking an online degree program should look at all the pros and cons of online learning. With even the best online courses, you’ll need to be self-motivated and disciplined. In addition, some businesses are still skeptical about online degrees. They may favor job candidates who went to school in person. For this reason, it’s vital to seek out accredited schools. You should thoroughly research the college you plan to attend. Make sure they offer the quality education you expect from any college or university.
What Are the Advantages of Attending College Online?
Many students only started online college classes due to the pandemic. But there are still plenty of great reasons students opt for online learning these days. You can choose a nationally accredited university or a smaller regional college. But either way, you can take classes online. Completing your coursework from home has many advantages. Nest, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of distance education.
Online Schools Are Often More Affordable
One significant benefit to students pursuing an online degree program is affordability. Often, online universities are cheaper than traditional college. Online students don’t need to pay for transportation, meals, housing, and other expenses of going off to college. By choosing the best online program, you can often save a lot of money on your education. Additionally, some (although not all) of the best accredited online colleges have lower tuition fees for online learners. Plus, students pursuing an online degree still qualify for financial aid, loans, scholarships, and grants.
Online Schools Are Convenient
In the digital age, we complete many tasks online now that used to be laborious and time-consuming. For example, we register our vehicles, order groceries, do our taxes, and more—all at the touch of a button. So it’s not surprising that we’ve gravitated to online learning. In addition, most people are extremely busy. Therefore, the chance to complete your education on your own time is appealing.
Online Schools Are Flexible
Another advantage of accredited online colleges is the flexibility they provide. Working professionals can remain in their careers while pursuing an advanced degree. The best online colleges aren’t just for those right out of high school. Undergraduate and graduate students alike can benefit from pursuing an education online.
New parents or those with young children are not typically able to attend college. But now, they can do so by pursuing their online degrees. If they choose a school with an asynchronous format, that’s even better. They can complete their coursework around diaper changes and round-the-clock feedings. Not to mention erratic sleep schedules.
Online Schools Are Accessible
Realistically, a college education is impractical for some people. There can be many reasons for this. People may have other responsibilities that keep them from attending class during normal hours. They made need to work two jobs to make ends meet. For whatever reason, college is not an option for them. However, what was once out of reach has become possible with the best online programs. Accessibility is one of the most important benefits of any online program. Online schools are accessible for both undergraduate and graduate students
Online Schools Offer a High-quality Education
There are so many new online degree programs available. But people still wonder if you can get a high-quality college education online. Is it watered down? Is online instruction effective? Can you really learn if you’re not in a classroom?
You should ask these questions of any school you attend, whether online or on campus. Keep in mind that the best online programs will be regionally or nationally accredited. They are likely also taught by the same esteemed professors as in-person classes. Are they all alike? No. That’s why you need help choosing in choosing the best online program. And that is why we’re here.
Online Schools Save Time
Have you ever taken a class where half of your classmates couldn’t keep up with the materials? If you had more advanced knowledge than most of the other students, you were probably bored. But you still had to wait while the instructor answered questions. For traditional on-campus students, a 90-minute class can drag on and on when you already know the material. When half of the students don’t “get” what’s happening, the others have no choice but to wait.
With asynchronous online courses, you can bypass that situation and use the extra time to go to the park with your kids or get a jump start on another class. You don’t have to be held up by other students.
What Are the Major Disadvantages to Online College?
Naturally, something so popular will also have some downsides. When considering all the pros and cons, you may decide not to attend classes online. There are some very real challenges to attending school online. Ultimately, getting a college degree online is not for everyone. Here’s why:
Remote College Can Be Lonely
Even at the best accredited online colleges, remote learning can be a lonely experience, especially if you dont actively reach out. While that solitude could be one person’s dream, others might find it disturbing to have that much alone time. Many students learn better in a lively and active classroom, which is fine.
If feeling lonely and isolated worries you about going to college online, you have options. Consider getting involved on campus in other ways besides academics. For example, you can join the chess club, participate in Greek life, work out at the school’s gym, and more. Even those who live far away from campus can join online chat groups. They can also participate in social media pages. There are plenty of ways to regularly interact with others in the same boat.
Remote College Comes With Tech Challenges
Even the best online colleges may be more challenging for you if you struggle to make sense of the internet. For example, you might have difficulty just navigating from your email to another web page. If this is the case, you’re probably not going to like an online school. No matter how good an online learning platform is, it will never be perfect. There will be technical difficulties from time to time.
If you still want to attend online school despite that challenge, no problem. Simply choose a remote program offering knowledgeable and responsive tech support. The best accredited online colleges offer their students 24/7 tech support services at no charge.
Remote College Requires Self-motivation
If you’re the type of person who waits for others to tell you what to do next, you’ll have a hard time with online college degree programs. That’s because it’s assumed that remote students will find out what is expected of them and do it without being told.
Both undergraduate and graduate students can enjoy a relaxed and unstructured environment for studying. But not all people have the self-discipline and motivation to follow through. Therefore, you need to bet the master of your own time with online courses. Sure, you can have fun, but you will also need to plan that fun around your coursework if you dont want to fall behind and wonder where the time went.
Of course, for many students, self-motivation is what drove them to enroll in an online college degree program in the first place. These students are driven, curious, and enjoy the challenge of maintaining their own schedules.
If you really want to attend one of the best online colleges but you’re worried you dont have the self-discipline, there is a solution. Not all accredited online colleges offer the same online learning formats, and you can choose a school offering a more structured approach. So how can you tell the difference? We’ll discuss that in a moment.
What Types of Degrees Can You Get Online?
Many people assume you can only pursue bachelor’s degrees online. However, this is false. Students can pursue online degrees at all levels. Let’s take a look at each.
Many high school graduates chose to pursue an associate degree. Associate degrees qualify a level above a high-school diploma and right below bachelor’s degrees. How long does an associate degree take? Typically, you will need 60 credits to earn your associate degree. You can get online associate degrees in many popular areas of study, including:
- General Studies
- Nursing (R.N.)
- Medical Assisting
- Liberal Arts
- Early Childhood Education
This is just a partial list. In fact, there are hundreds of options for getting an associate degree online. Some of the most popular accredited online colleges offering associate degrees include:
- Weber State University
- Excelsior College
- Southern New Hampshire University
- Columbia Southern University
- Thomas Edison State University
How Long Does It Take To Get an Associate Degree?
You’ll typically need around 60 credits to graduate with an associate degree. In general, this takes approximately one to two years.
After an associate degree, the next college level is a bachelor’s degree. However, it should be noted that you are not required to get an associate degree to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Students can pursue a bachelor’s degree right out of high school.
How Can I Get Into an Online Bachelor’s Degree Program?
The requirements for acceptance to any online bachelor’s degree program can vary quite a bit. For example, some schools might require students to have a 6.0 GPA for acceptance, while others are less stringent. Like traditional college programs, the criteria for getting into one of the top 10 online colleges depends on many factors.
According to U.S. News & World Report, some of the most popular accredited online colleges to pursue an online undergraduate degree include:
- University of Florida
- Ohio State University
- Arizona State University
- University of Illinois-Chicago
- University of North Carolina-Charlotte
- Colorado State University
- University of Central Florida
- Geroge Washington University
- Utah State University
How Long Does It Take To Get a Bachelor’s Degree Online?
Again, it depends on the school and the program that you pursue. Typically, you’ll need 120 credits to earn your bachelor’s degree online. This usually takes around four years. However, with accelerated online programs, it may take less time.
A master’s degree is the next level after a bachelor’s degree. Usually, people pursue a master’s degree because they want to learn more, advance in their fields, or begin a new career. Other times, they want to prepare for a doctoral-level program. But, no matter what their goals are, those who want to get a master’s degree are usually dedicated to learning.
Some of the most popular schools to get an online master’s degree include:
- University of California – Berkeley
- Columbia University in the City of New York
- Northwestern University
- California State University-Northridge
- George Mason University
- St. John’s University
- Seton Hall University
- University of Maryland – College Park
How Long Does It Take To Get a Master’s Degree Online?
You will need 36 to 54 credits to earn a master’s degree online. It can take anywhere from 1.5 to two years studying full-time to get your undergraduate master’s degree.
The next (and final) graduate degree after a master’s level is a doctoral degree. You are probably already familiar with the most common doctoral-level degree—a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). A Ph.D. can be awarded across dozens of fields, including:
- Physical Therapy
Students can even earn a doctoral degree in nursing.
The options for getting an online doctoral degree are more limited at this level. That is, not as many schools offer online doctoral degrees. However, a few of the most notable ones include:
- Nova Southeastern University
- University of North Dakota
- Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale
- University of Alabama
- George Washington University
- Johns Hopkins University
- Texas Tech University
How Long Does It Take To Get a Doctoral Degree Online?
Doctoral degrees take about twice as long as bachelor’s degrees. Students may be pursuing a doctoral program for up to eight years (occasionally more). It all depends on the school, the area of study, and other factors. The credits required can vary from 90 to 120. However, some online doctoral programs can take as few as 5.8 years.
Online Learning Formats
The learning format you choose is also vital when searching for the best accredited online colleges. There are three basic formats for online college programs. These include Asynchronous, Synchronous, and Hybrid programs. So what does that mean exactly?
Asynchronous Online Degree Programs
With asynchronous online programs, students have the most flexibility in how and when they study. Asynchronous classes are self-paced. There are some deadlines, but students can complete their assignments on their own time. In addition, they can listen to lectures and participate in discussions whenever it is convenient. In other words, they can choose how much or how little effort to put in.
With asynchronous learning environments, there are ways to stay in touch. Students use forums, chats, or message boards to keep a dialogue between themselves and their professors or classmates. While many students love asynchronous learning, it is relatively unstructured. As a result, you have to rely on yourself to get things done.
Synchronous Online Degree Programs
Synchronous coursework is on more of a schedule. Students are expected to log in to each of their courses at the same time as their classmates. They listen to lectures, participate in online classes, and complete assignments with their peers.
Asynchronous classes are more structured. But they are perfect for students who aren’t very self-disciplined. If you think you may have trouble maintaining a learning schedule independently, you might opt for this format.
Hybrid Online Degree Programs
With hybrid programs, you’ll still want to go to a regionally and nationally accredited school, of course. But in this case, your classes will be a mix of asynchronous and synchronous online programs. Naturally, there are some pros and cons to fully-online courses versus hybrid. Only students near the college can participate in a hybrid program since you’ll need to spend part of your time on campus.
Hybrid programs let students experience the best of both worlds. This can be a desirable option if you are undecided and in your first year. You can experiment to find your preference. Hybrid programs also give you some face-to-face instruction. This can open you to new experiences and different perspectives.
These are the three online programs you will encounter as you search for the best accredited online colleges If you have a definite preference, you’ll want to be sure of the type of online classes offered since you’ll need to live with your choices for months or even years.
What Is a Semester at an Online College?
In a typical college or university, semesters last 15 or 16 weeks. Classes are measured in “credit hours.” For example, three credit hours means your class meets for three hours each week of the semester.
However, many accredited online colleges offer accelerated online programs, which means you can get your degree faster. In this case, you may need to increase the number of times you attend classes each week. Or your online classes might last longer.
For example, if the accelerated program is only eight weeks to completion, you would meet for six hours a week to earn your three credit hours.
Of course, with asynchronous classes, online learners have the option to complete their coursework at their own pace. This learning format makes it easier for students who want to get ahead of the game.
So, how long is a semester? It really depends on the college and the program you plan to pursue.
What About On-Campus Services?
At the best online colleges, remote students are still entitled to most services. They typically can participate in:
- Library services
- Attending certain classes in person
- Sports and fitness programs and facilities
- Mental health counseling
- Health care or nursing services
- Access to the cafeteria (and even the chance to add on a food plan)
- Student organizations
- Greek organizations
- Concerts, dances, and other events
- Sporting events
- Writing support
- Peer assistance
- Online advisors
- Career counseling services
Popular Areas of Study at the Top Online Colleges
As we discussed, you can pursue just about any degree you can imagine online. Next, we’ll talk about some of the most popular areas of study at accredited online colleges.
An online degree in criminal justice can lead to many careers. Examples include law enforcement, homeland security, crime scene investigation, corrections, and more. Some of the coursework in a criminal justice program may include:
- Socioeconomic Problems
- Race, Crimes, and Restorative Justice
- Research Methods
- Rehabilitation and the Offender
- Theories of Crime
- Correctional System
- American Judicial System
- Police Problems and Practices
More advanced online degrees (master’s and above) provide specializations in various fields. These may include forensic science, law enforcement, criminology, corrections, or homeland security.
Governments will always need to invest in continued national and local security. So criminal justice online degrees will remain in high demand. In addition, criminal justice work can be highly technical. Hence, an online degree is a logical step toward building a career in this field.
Some online colleges offering criminal justice programs include:
University of Massachusetts Global
UMass Global is the online division of the University of Massachusetts. It is a fully-accredited school offering dozens of online programs. Students at UMass Global enjoy a flexible learning environment. And it is geared especially toward working students.
The online B.A. in Criminal Justice program is popular. It’s for students pursuing carers in corrections, law enforcement, forensics, and more. You can complete your studies entirely online or opt for a hybrid format. With the hybrid program, you study partly online and partly on campus.
All students at UMass Global have access to many resources designed to help them succeed. Some of these include:
- Online Writing and Math Center
- Multimedia & Design Support
- Live Technology Training and Workshops
- Online Academic Support
Regis University offers an online B.S. in Criminology degree program. This degree focuses on real-world case studies and practical skills. Students in this program get plenty of hands-on experience, plus an internship or capstone project near the end. You can take your classes 100% online or opt for a hybrid program. Many people feel Regis is one of the best online colleges to study criminology.
One of the unique things about this online criminology program is that the faculty members are all veterans of the field. They have worked as detectives, investigators, police chiefs, and more. This means they teach from a practical point of view instead of just reading from a textbook.
Regis also offers a FastForward program. This program enables students to earn a bachelor’s and master’s criminology degree at the same time. In addition, the FastForward program lets you complete both of these online programs quicker, so you save time and money.
Regis is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (H.L.C.).
An online degree in psychology from one of the best accredited online colleges can lead to a successful career in the field. You’ll need an advanced degree to become a psychologist, but a bachelor’s degree is enough to break into the field. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology, you can pursue many interesting careers. Examples include:
- Social worker
- Health services manager
- Human resource specialist
- Mental health counselor
- Market researcher
An online bachelor’s degree in psychology is about studying the human mind. You will learn about cognition and how people think and function. Plus you will learn how to treat abnormal psychological conditions.
Many online schools offer a degree in psychology. Here are just two of them:
Liberty University Online
Liberty University is an accredited online college students can earn an online B.S. in Psychology. This program is ideal for those who plan to also pursue a graduate degree. However, it will also equip you to work in the field. The 120-credit hour program can usually be completed in as little as 3.5 years.
Liberty allows online students to customize their online degrees to their specific career goals and interests. Specializations include:
- General track
- Addictions and Recovery
- Christian Counseling
- Criminal Psychology
- Crisis Counseling
- Developmental Psychology
- Life Coaching
- Military Resilience
L.U. Online is an extension of Liberty University in Virginia. It’s one of the best online colleges in terms of services. It is specifically set up for online learners, so there are plenty of resources to help online students succeed. These include:
- Online writing center
- Supplemental instruction
- Jerry Falwell Library
- Tutor.Com at no cost
- Tutorial videos and live webinars
- Career center
University of Florida Online
The University of Florida is an accredited online college. The school has a 100% online, self-paced B.A. in Psychology program. It has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the second-best online bachelor’s program in psychology in the nation. Why is it so good?
The program has the same academic rigor and esteemed faculty members. In addition, it is identical to what is taught on campus. Requirements for the degree include coursework in statistics, biology, mathematics, and psychology. This means that graduates of the online psychology program are prepared for many different careers. They will also be ready for graduate school if they choose.
- U.F. Online has many resources for its online students, including:
- Regular extracurricular activities for online students to connect
- A network of 100 “Gator Clubs” around the world
- The U.F. Online Student Plaza—a 24/7 virtual campus
- Access to all of the schools Level 1 research libraries
- Over 1,000 student organizations
- Optional add-on packages to use the fitness center and the health center.
- Sports and events
You may also like: The Ten Best Online Psychology Degree Programs
An online degree in nursing can open the door to a rewarding career in the medical field. Nursing online degrees range from associate level to graduate degrees. The best online nursing colleges include hands-on clinical experience. Often, these schools partner with hospitals for internship opportunities.
You can get entry-level nursing positions with an associate’s degree. But more lucrative opportunities in nursing require a bachelor’s degree to become an R.N.
Here are two schools with some of the best online nursing programs in the country:
The Ohio State University
O.S.U. has an award-winning 100% online R.N. to B.S.N. program. It has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the #1 online nursing degree program in the country for 2022. Several factors make this the top online nursing program:
- The academic quality is superb.
- A low student to instructor ratio means online students get personalized attention.
- The curriculum is based on evidence-based practice
- Online students can earn the degree either as part-time or full-time students.
O.S.U. is an accredited online college. The online R.N. to B.S.N. degree program is also very affordable. All of the materials are open or university-provided. So there are no textbooks to purchase. Additionally, students in the online program get to pay in-state tuition no matter where they live.
Students in the online nursing program can enjoy the same resources as those who study on campus. These include clinical placement, research opportunities, and student organizations and events.
East Tennessee State University
East Tennessee State University offers a CCNE-accredited online R.N. to B.S.N. program. Online students can attend full-time or part-time. The program is designed for registered nurses who want to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Typically, R.N.s who hold a B.S.N. can achieve higher roles and salaries in the nursing field.
Some of the courses online students can expect with the online R.N. to B.S.N. program include:
- Communication for Health Professionals
- Patient-Centered Care
- Pharmacology for Nursing
- Care of Persons with Mental Illness
- Population, Community, and Public Health Nursing
- Health Promotion and Research
- Clinical Care for Women, Childbearing Families, and Children
Students in the ETSU online community enjoy all of the same amenities as those who attend on campus. In addition, they can access tutoring services, career services, counseling, and more.
See also: Top Online Colleges for Nursing
The best online colleges for education can vary, depending upon what a student wants to teach. But most education degrees tend to focus on the foundations of education and current educational theory.
An online education degree provides students with skills like:
- Managing a classroom
- Analyzing material
- Developing curriculum
- Instructing in ways that students can understand and learn
Requirements for teaching vary from state to state. For example, some states require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to enter the field. But other states require a master’s degree in some education fields. As a result, aspiring teachers need to research their state’s requirements.
There are scores of colleges offering online education degrees. Therefore, prospective students should have no problem finding one that suits their needs. Below are two examples:
Kansas State University
K-State offers an educational studies bachelor’s degree program that is entirely online. Although you won’t earn a teaching license with this degree, you will be prepared for many roles in education. These include professional tutoring, education outreach programs, educational policy, etc.
Additionally, students will have a personalized internship experience in this program.
Students admitted into the program are considered pre-professional education majors. Online courses may include:
- Introduction to Human Development
- Foundations of Education
- Teaching as a Career
- Educational Technology for Teaching and Learning
- Core Teaching Skills and Lab
- Schooling and Popular Culture
- Introduction to Adult Education
Grand Canyon University
At Grand Canyon University, students can pursue online Bachelor of Education degrees like:
- Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
- Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education
- Bachelor of Science in Educational Studies
- Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Special Education
- Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Special Education
The school offers excellent convenience and flexibility for people with busy schedules. It is one of the best accredited online colleges in terms of variety and affordability.
Top Online Colleges for Active Military and Veterans
Online college degrees are ideal for active-duty military and veterans. The most obvious benefit is the ability to study anywhere in the world as long as there is an internet connection. You are not tied to a specific class schedule. That way, students can further their education and fulfill their duties simultaneously.
When considering the best online colleges for military members, you should look for extra flexibility. For example, opt for schools that are lenient with things like:
- Unpredictable absences
- Homework delays
- Unexpected withdrawals
Many online colleges for military members will freeze online courses upon request. This is because the individual may be unexpectedly deployed or transferred. Freezing course allows the student to resume their coursework when it’s convenient. And they won’t need to start over. In addition, online colleges that offer 24/7 access let students view lectures and add to online discussion when it works for them.
Veterans may be returning to school after many years away from college. The best online colleges for veterans will be schools that:
- Allow transfer of credits earned during previous coursework or military training.
- Offer resources like tutoring, online advisory support, peer assistance, and writing support.
- Provide scholarships or financial aid specifically to members of the military or veterans.
Some of the best degree programs for military members and veterans include:
- Criminal Justice
- Business Administration
- Computer science
These degrees often build on areas of military training that the student has already experienced.
Some of the best online colleges for military members and veterans include:
- Arizona State University
- Eastern Kentucky University
- Florida State University
- University of Southern Mississippi
- Rutgers University
- Park University
- Maryville University
- Pennsylvania State University World Campus
- Liberty University
- Drexel University
Accredited Online Colleges and Universities
While you’ll have some choices about the type of online college or university you decide to attend, accreditation is an absolute must. Any reputable online college will be accredited. This is true whether it be national accreditation or regional accreditation.
Let’s talk more about accreditation and why it is so important.
What Is Accreditation?
Accreditation is how potential students and their families tell if a school offers quality education. It’s like a “review” of a college or its programs. It is essential because:
If you need a federal (or state) student loan or grant, you can only attend a school or program that has been accredited.
Sometimes companies require their employees to have attended an accredited school. This helps them judge whether the employee is qualified for the job or not.
Employers who provide tuition assistance as a benefit will usually only apply the funds to an accredited program.
While accreditation seems complicated, it’s really not. It just means the school has been judged by a specific organization to offer high-quality programs or programs. So who are these organizations anyhow?
Who Decides Whether a School Is Accredited or Not?
In most other countries, accreditation is done through the government. However, in the U.S., accreditors are private organizations not affiliated with the government. Their purpose is to review the quality of a school or program.
There are 19 officially-recognized accrediting bodies for online colleges and universities in this country. In addition, there are also around 60 accrediting organizations for specific programs of study. All of them are approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or CHEA.
While we won’t go into the entire list of accrediting agencies, here are just a few that you may already recognize.
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC)
- Higher Learning Commission (H.L.C.)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
How Can I Find Out if the School I Want To Attend Is Accredited?
Most schools tell prospective students upfront about their accreditation status. You can usually find it directly on the school webpage. In fact, you should be leary if you cant find accreditation information on a college’s website. However, if you are still unsure, CHEA maintains a vast database that includes:
Getting a College Degree Faster
If you are trying to get your degree in record time, there’s good news. Many online colleges offer degree completion programs or accelerated online college degree programs. Here’s the difference between the two:
Online Degree Completion Programs
What if you already have some credits but haven’t attended college in a while? Many colleges offer online degree completion programs. These programs let you transfer credits you’ve already earned toward a bachelor’s degree. Then, you can finish up your course requirements online.
In some cases, it can take less than a year to earn your degree with an online degree program! This is especially true if a student already has an associate degree.
Here is an example of an online degree completion program:
Mayville State University
Mayville State University offers a Bachelor of University Studies (B.U.S.) degree completion program entirely online. It is designed for students who have already had some college coursework but have not yet earned their bachelor’s degree.
This innovative program allows students to create a program tailored to their academic goals. For example, instead of pursuing a specific major, the student can choose to study from a wide range of areas, such as:
- Library Media and Information Science
- Early Childhood Education
- Business Administration
- Physical Education
- Special Needs
- General Science
- Social Science
Students need to have a minimum of 36 credit hours at the 300/400 level. They can opt for a minor as well. Tuition for the program is just $325.82 per credit, regardless of where you live. Plus, financial aid may be available.
Another bonus of this school is Mayville State University’s Internship Program. This unique program lets students earn a paycheck and get college credit for the work they complete in the internship.
Another advantage of attending Mayville online is that your credits will never expire. So no matter how long it has been since you attended college, you will get transfer credit for your work. Even if it has been over 25 years!
Accelerated Online College Degrees
Some schools also offer accelerated online degree programs. With this option, you can get on the fast track to earning your degree by taking heavier course loads and working harder. It’s not for everyone, of course. However, some students are eager to earn a degree fast. If you have the time and energy, an accelerated college degree program can shorten your time to earn your degree by at least a year, sometimes more.
There is another advantage to some of the best accelerated online college degree programs. Many of them allow students to earn a master’s degree at the same time. Here’s an example:
Southern New Hampshire University
SNHU offers some unique online accelerated bachelor to master’s degree programs. Students can take graduate-level online courses while they are still undergraduates. This means they can pay a lower tuition rate.
Then, after they earn their bachelor’s degree, they can apply those credits to the master’s degree program. It’s an excellent way for students to earn a graduate degree faster and cheaper than pursuing each separately. The programs include
- Sports Management
Additionally, students can select an accelerated associate to bachelor’s degree program. These include:
- Online Associate Degree in Marketing
- Online Associate Degree in Business
- Online Associate Degree in I.T.
An associate degree can generally be completed in two years. And a bachelor’s degree usually takes four. However, with SNHU’s program, students can get both in about four years.
Related Resource: What Is the Fastest Way to Get a Bachelor’s Degree Online?
Can You Get Scholarships if You’re Enrolled in an Online College?
There is a mistaken idea that you can’t get a scholarship unless you attend an on-campus program. Fortunately, this myth is entirely false. There are many scholarship and grant opportunities for online college students. Students who need help paying for college should definitely try to find these opportunities.
Of course, not all traditional scholarships will be available to online students. But online students may qualify for some that conventional students cannot. It all depends on the eligibility criteria. This will be outlined by the organization or company offering the scholarship. You should research scholarships as much as possible. You never know what you may be qualified for.
For example, some scholarships are for students pursuing a specific major. Others are geared toward student-athletes. In addition, there are scholarships for students based on:
- Academic performance
- Volunteer experience
Eligibility for Scholarships
While the criteria for getting a specific scholarship can vary considerably, there are a few things that most of them require.
Most Scholarships Can Only Be Applied To Accredited Programs
Not surprisingly, you usually need to go to an accredited college to qualify for most scholarships. This is why it is so crucial that you seek out accredited online schools.
You Must Submit the Proper Materials on Time
Students only need to turn in a simple online form for some scholarships. For others, the process is lengthier. You may need to send in supporting documents or write an essay. The most important thing is that you return all the required forms and materials on time and fully completed. This is true for all scholarships. If you have questions about a particular scholarship, be sure to get all the information before applying.
Scholarships for Online College Students
So, what types of scholarships can you get as an online student? Honestly, the great news is there are too many to list in one post, but we will cover a few. We’ll also provide a list of resources where you can find more information about scholarships for online college.
Scholarships for Adopted Children
Adoption STAR Academic Scholarship
The Adoptions STAR Academic Scholarship is for students who have been in foster care or are adopted. To qualify, you must show that you have overcome adversity. Plus, you need to:
- Demonstrate high achievement in the face of challenges
- Display good character
- Have a history of academic progress in high school
- Plan to attend a four-year college
Related Resource: 25 Great Scholarships for Adopted Students
Youth Empowerment Scholarships
Youth Empowerment Scholarships are between $250 and $500. They are presented by the Texas Foster Care Association. They are provided to six students each year. Students must have been fostered or adopted through the Texas foster care system. Additionally, they must meet the following requirements:
Be enrolled as a full or part-time student in an accredited school. It can be a university college, junior college, technical, or vocational school.
- Maintain a G.P.A. of at least 2.0 throughout the semester
- Be a resident of Texas
- Provide current transcripts and complete application
- Have two letters of recommendation. One from a teacher, coach, or nonrelated adult and one from a foster parent or caseworker
First-Generation American Scholarships
There are numerous scholarships available for first-generation Americans, refugees, and immigrants. This category is typically divided into specific geographic regions where the student came from. Here are a few examples:
National Italian American Foundation Scholarships
The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) offers many different scholarships. However, they are specifically for Italian American students. The scholarship you apply for will depend on your background and academic goals. To apply for any of them, students must meet the following criteria:
- Be enrolled full time in a U.S. accredited institution
- Have a G.P.A. of at least 3.5 out of 4.0 (there are some exceptions)
- Be a U.S. Citizen or resident alien
- Have at least one ancestor who has immigrated from Italy
- Have an active NIAF Membership. (Students can use a parent’s or grandparent’s membership)
Mary Rosenblum Somit Scholarship
Next is the Mary Rosenblum Somit Scholarship. It is for undergraduates in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. All students are welcome to apply. Preference is given to:
- Students who are immigrants
- Students whose parents were immigrants
- First-generation college students
- The criteria for this scholarship includes:
- Students must complete one academic year before receiving the award
- You must be enrolled in U.B.
- You may demonstrate financial need, although it is not the only determining factor
- A personal essay is required (at least 500 words)
- You need to submit a letter of support from a U.B. faculty member
Scholarships for African Students
Beautiful Minds Scholarship
The Beautiful Minds Scholarship is for minority seniors. Specifically, it’s for those who plan to enroll in a regionally accredited school. The award is $1000. Students must:
- Have a G.P.A. of 3.0 or higher (plus official transcript)
- Have an anticipated graduation date
- Show proof of acceptance to the college or university
- Write an essay on the topic “Finding My Purpose”
- Submit a letter of recommendation from an administrator or teacher at their high school
E.S.A. Foundation Computer and Video Game Scholarship
The E.S.A. Foundation Computer and Video Game Scholarship is for women and minority students pursuing a career in the video game industry. There are 30 $3,000 annual awards given to students attending (or planning to attend) an accredited college or university. Criteria includes:
- Must be pursuing a degree in video gaming (or related major)
- Must have a letter of acceptance to the program
- Must be a U.S. citizen
- Must have a minimum cumulative G.P.A. of at least 2.75
Scholarships for Homeschoolers
Craig Dickinson Memorial Scholarship
The Craig Dickinson Memorial Scholarship is a $1000 award for a homeschool student. It is awarded for academic excellence. It is presented by the Home Education Recognition Organization. Students must have been homeschooled for the previous two years to apply. The requirements include:
- Homeschool transcript
- Test scores (if available)
Emmett Comer Scholarship
Washington Homeschool Organization (WHO) provides several homeschool scholarships. They are for student members who will be attending college in Washington. Emmett Comer was one of Washinton State’s beloved homeschool leaders, and the Emmett Comer Scholarship is named in his honor. The award is $1000. Candidates will need to:
- Submit a short application
- Write a brief essay on the benefits of homeschooling
- Provide parent-created homeschool transcripts
You may also like: 25 Great Scholarships for Homeschooled Students
Scholarships Directly From Online Schools
Another way to help you pay for your online education is with a scholarship from the school you plan to attend. Several online schools award such scholarships. A few of these include:
Pennsylvania State University—World Campus
Penn State’s online campus offers over 175 accredited programs, including:
- Associate Degrees
- Bachelor’s Degrees
- Undergraduate Certificates
- Master’s Degrees
- Doctoral Degrees
- Graduate Certificates
For students in these programs, Penn State has several scholarship opportunities.
Western Governors University
Western Governors University is an accredited online college. The school is dedicated to making higher education accessible to as many students as possible. The school offers over 60 flexible online degree programs, including:
- Bachelor’s Degrees
- Master’s Degrees
- Post-Masters Certificates
Presently, Western Governors offers many scholarships for new and returning students, including:
- General scholarships
- Health & Nursing scholarships
- Business Scholarships
- I.T. Scholarships
- Teaching Scholarships
- Military Scholarships
Other Scholarship Opportunities For Online Students
Exploring the world of scholarships for online students can be time-consuming. However, it can also save you a lot of money on your education, so don’t skip this vital step. In addition to the opportunities we’ve already listed, there are many more resources to look into.
What Equipment Do I Need for Online College Courses?
You’re already used to getting a list of supplies in high school. But what do you need to take college courses online? Depending on your needs, this list can help you get online learning off to a great start.
A Reliable Computer
The most essential piece of equipment you need for taking online courses is a computer. Many students wonder, “what type of computer do I need to study online?” The type of computer you purchase often depends on your major. For example, communications students might want a slim and lightweight laptop. But computer engineering students will need something more powerful. That way the computer can support the software required throughout the program.
If you’re confused about which computer to get, contact your school’s tech support or a faculty member in your department. They will have the best suggestions since they have seen what works and what does not over the years.
Additionally, your college may require you to use a particular operating system. If you are not familiar with it, you’ll want to brush up on your tech skills before classes begin.
Narrowing down your options is a matter of asking yourself a few questions:
- Does it meet the college’s requirements?
- Is there a built-in speaker and webcam?
- What is the processing speed?
- Does it have a strong battery life?
- How big do you want your screen to be?
- How much storage will you need?
- Will you use it for other things?
An Extra Screen (External Monitor)
An extra screen is not absolutely essential unless your college requires it. However, when you’re working on a computer all day, an external monitor can help.
You’ll have a much bigger screen to work with when you hook up an external monitor. As a result, you won’t need to switch between pages constantly. Instead, you can be using one screen to take notes and another to watch a lecture. Or you can display a textbook on one while taking a quiz on another.
When they start using an extra screen, most people find that they don’t know how they ever did without it. As an added bonus, an external monitor can help reduce neck and eye strain.
Depending on the computer you purchase, you may need to pick up some additional accessories. For example, your computer may come with a mouse and keyboard, or you might need to buy them separately. You may also need batteries, a wrist rest, or a mousepad.
Microphone: Your computer’s built-in microphone will work. But a quality microphone can eliminate background noise. It can also make you sound clear and crisp and make communicating much easier.
Webcam: Your computer may already have a webcam, but if not, you will need one to access your lectures and other course material. Classes will be a lot more enjoyable when you can see clearly. And the camera will allow everyone to see you too.
Headset or Noise Cancelling Headphones: A headset or earbuds are crucial if you live with others who may not want to hear your professor talking.
However, if you purchase good noise-canceling headphones, you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration. These days, you can buy wireless headsets that let you get up and move about the house without tripping over cords. Additionally, these headphones are specifically designed to reduce distracting sounds. And they can help you hear group calls, lectures, and discussions better.
A Stable Internet Connection
A stable internet connection for online learners ranks right up there with a good computer. After all, nearly everything you do in an online program will require internet connectivity. You’ll be watching lectures, accessing course materials, and completing lesions online every day. So your connection needs to be fast and reliable. You should look for a wireless plan with at least 10 GB of data or more.
For speed, online learners will need at least 2 Mbps at the very minimum. But if you live with others, that’s probably not enough. Experts suggest that you should aim for 6 Mbps or higher for online college. You can find out your current speed by doing an Internet speed test. With online learning, you need fast uploading and downloading, so pay attention to those numbers too.
Internet connections are not always stable. So it may also be worth it to have a mobile hotspot as a backup. You don’t want to be stuck with no connection during an important quiz or lecture. Talk to your cell phone provider to see what they have. For example, Verizon’s Jetpack is a mobile hotspot device. It’s handy when trying to do coursework on the go since you can connect wherever you are.
All of this may be a bit confusing for those who are new to online studies. If you need more information, contact your school’s tech support department. They can help you get set up or steer you in the right direction.
A Good Chair
On-campus students do a lot of walking and moving from one classroom to another. But if you are studying online, you’ll be sitting in one spot for a long time. So you’ll want to have a comfortable, ergonomically correct, and adjustable chair. This way, you can avoid injury or strain.
The Right Software
What software do students need for online education? Honestly, many software programs can be helpful for studying online. But you dont need all of them. Your school will have a specific online learning platform hosting the virtual classrooms. You will usually do the majority of coursework on this platform unless otherwise specified. Typically, you can access everything from there, including:
- Assigned readings
- Discussion roards
- Meetings with your professors or advisors
Depending on your school’s requirements, you can usually get by with basic word-processing software. The most common software program for college students is Microsoft 365. It may come preinstalled on your computer, so don’t purchase it before checking. You can use this to create documents, spreadsheets, and more.
Depending on your major, you may need to purchase additional software. This is common with online programs. For example, with online science courses, you may need special software that replicates an in-person science lab. Programs like this can allow students to conduct labwork virtually.
A Quiet Place to Study
Maybe you already have a room where you can shut the door and get some studying done. But if not, you should try to create some type of study space. This will be especially important if you live with other people. Even if it’s just a corner of the room, you’ll need it.
Choose a low traffic-area that has good lighting and is free of distractions. Remove unnecessary items like knick-knacks, pictures, and other clutter. Add a desk or table, your chair, and your computer. You’ll want a basket or bin for any supplies you have—pen, paper, tape, books, etc.
Try to choose a spot you can return to each day. You don’t want to have to set up your learning over and over if you can help it. Plus, it’s easier to get motivated to learn when you can go straight to your desk and get to work. Politely explain the situation to your roommates or family members. Let them know that you prefer not to be disturbed when you are in your study space.
See also: Study Tips for Online Students
A printer is optional, especially if you can turn in your work online. But it may be helpful to print out certain things to access offline. For example, you may want to print out study notes, the class syllabus, or your assignments.
If you don’t have a printer, you can pick up a flash drive. With a flash drive, you can save important documents and go someplace else to print them. Plus, it will fit right in your pocket, whereas a printer takes up more space.
Some students prefer to keep all their important dates and deadlines in a digital calendar or planner. However, an old-school calendar can be a helpful visual to put on the wall. Either way, you’ll need a way to keep track of your assignments, quizzes, and exams.