2022 Best Online Colleges in the U.S.

By Shadi Bushra | Updated 7/19/2022

With the growth in popularity of online colleges for bachelor's degrees and beyond, OnlineU is launching its first Best Online Colleges by Salary Score ranking.

Salary Score evaluates schools based on median earnings for alumni to determine which have the highest salary outcomes across majors. The rankings highlight online schools whose graduates earn the highest starting salaries for their major. A Salary Score above 50 indicates alumni earn higher than average salaries for their field of study, while one below 50 indicates graduates tend to be low-paid for their major. To be eligible for consideration, a school needed more than half of its total enrollment to be online. Read our methodology to learn more about how we rank schools.

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RankSchool Annual Tuition Salary Score
# 1 #1 Thomas Edison State University $12,024 96 96
# 2 #2 American Public University System $7,005 92
# 3 #3 Capella University $15,233 92
# 4 #4 Colorado State University Global $9,000 90
# 5 #5 University of Maryland Global Campus $12,132 87
# 6 #6 Western Governors University $7,790 84
# 7 #7 Waldorf University $6,570 80
# 8 #8 Bellevue University $11,205 80
# 9 #9 Southern New Hampshire University Online $11,286 79
# 10 #10 Granite State College $9,690 73
# 11 #11 University of Phoenix $16,752 72
# 12 #12 Park University $6,012 71
# 13 #13 Wilmington University $8,834 66
# 14 #14 Saint Leo University Online $7,296 66
# 15 #15 Franklin University $16,080 62
# 16 #16 Columbia College $8,602 61
# 17 #17 Upper Iowa University $21,060 59
# 18 #18 Purdue University Global $10,662 59
# 19 #19 Johnson & Wales University - Online $13,734 57
# 20 #20 DeVry University $17,552 55
# 21 #21 Liberty University $8,475 54
# 22 #22 Indiana Wesleyan University Online $11,977 - $14,334 49
# 23 #23 Indiana University - East $17,745 48
# 24 #24 University of Mount Olive $17,975 46
# 25 #25 Athens State University $13,224 41

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2022 Best Online Colleges Highlights

Ranking Details

#1 Thomas Edison State University

  • Salary Score: 96
  • Annual Tuition: $9,856
  • Locations: Trenton (NJ)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Despite private and for-profit schools’ strong overall performance, the top school by salary outcomes was a public nonprofit college. Thomas Edison State University, located in New Jersey, moved up two points to a Salary Score of 96. The school's most popular programs are Interdisciplinary Studies and Registered Nursing. Other large programs for the school include Business Administration and Social Sciences. All of these programs had salary outcomes in the 95th percentile or better. And though it is a smaller program by enrollment, its Health Professions program earned a Salary Score of 100. All of this helped propel TESU to the top of the rankings.

#2 American Public University System

  • Salary Score: 92
  • Annual Tuition: $7,324
  • Locations: Charles Town (WV)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The for-profit, West Virginia-based American Public University System gained three points to earn a Salary Score of 92 this year. APUS is made up of American Military University (AMU) and American Public University (APU). Its most popular majors are Business Administration (92), Criminal Justice (99), Computer/Information Technology (84), Health and Physical Education (100), and Natural Resources Conservation (97).

#3 Capella University

  • Salary Score: 92
  • Annual Tuition: $14,540
  • Locations: Minneapolis (MN)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Minnesota's for-profit Capella University moved up a point to a Salary Score of 92. The two programs that vacuum up the most students are Registered Nursing (80) and Business Administration (99). They are followed in popularity by Psychology (91), Health Administration (95), Human Resources (90), and Computer/Information Technology (99).

#4 Colorado State University Global

  • Salary Score: 90
  • Annual Tuition: $8,400
  • Locations: Greenwood Village (CO)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Colorado State University Global is the second public university on this list, and is slightly smaller than TESU. The school gained barely a point from last year, but it was enough to get it a Salary Score of 90. Its largest program by enrollment is Business Administration (98). Its second and third-largest programs, Computer and Information Science (60) and Accounting (70) earned much lower, though still above-average, Salary Scores. Other popular programs include Human Resources (94), Health Administration (86), and Communications (99).

#5 University of Maryland Global Campus

  • Salary Score: 87
  • Annual Tuition: $12,336
  • Locations: Adelphi (MD)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

The University of Maryland Global Campus is the second public university in the top ten, and the biggest of the three public schools by far, with an online enrollment of nearly 36,000, representing 78% of the school’s total enrollment. The school moved up a point for a Salary Score of 87 this year. Its most popular program is Business Administration (89), followed by Computer and Information Sciences (67) and Criminal Justice (96). Its Communication bachelor’s program has a Salary Score of 100.

#6 Western Governors University

  • Salary Score: 84
  • Annual Tuition: $6,670
  • Locations: Salt Lake City (UT)
  • Accreditation: NWCCU

Western Governors University, based in Utah, is by far the largest school in the top ten, and, by smaller margins, the largest among all eligible online schools. It has an online enrollment of over 98,600 students. WGU gained 3 points to get to a Salary Score of 84. The most popular major for its bachelor's students is Registered Nursing (80), followed by Business Administration (97). Other top majors include Computer and Information Sciences (90). But some of its popular programs, such as Education (57), have low, but still above-average salary outcomes.

#7 Waldorf University

  • Salary Score: 80
  • Annual Tuition: $8,700
  • Locations: Forest City (IA)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Iowa-based Waldorf University's top majors suggest a strong leaning towards law enforcement and public service careers. Its top program, with an exceptional Salary Score of 99, is Criminal Justice and Corrections. Waldorf graduates of the Fire Protection (81) and Homeland Security (67) programs also earned above-average salaries. Other strong programs are Human Resources Management (98) and Health and Medical Administration (95).

#8 Bellevue University

  • Salary Score: 80
  • Annual Tuition: $7,851
  • Locations: Bellevue (NE)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Bellevue's most popular programs are Business/Commerce (76) and Business Administration (98), though other business-related majors such as Accounting (28) and Marketing (35) offer uncompetitive salary outcomes. Education, though a smaller program, earned a Salary Score of 100, always an impressive feat. Other strong programs at Bellevue are Sales and Merchandising (96) and Criminal Justice (91).

#9 Southern New Hampshire University Online

  • Salary Score: 79
  • Annual Tuition: $9,600
  • Locations: Manchester (NH)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

Southern New Hampshire University, one of the largest schools on this list with about 87,000 students, had popular programs in Business Administration (88), Registered Nursing (76), and Psychology (83). But its strongest programs are Business, Management, and Marketing (98), Liberal Arts (98), and Health Services (97). Its large size means it offers a wide array of majors, including many more that lead graduates to above-average salaries for their field, from Natural Resources Conservation (88) to Design and Applied Arts (68) and more.

#10 Granite State College

  • Salary Score: 73
  • Annual Tuition: $9,015
  • Locations: Concord (NH)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

Granite State College, based in New Hampshire, offers particularly strong salary outcomes for Health and Medical Administration (97) and Criminal Justice and Corrections (96), as well as Psychology (83). Some of its more popular programs weren't as exceptional when it came to salary outcomes, but still offered Granite College graduates above-average salaries. These include Registered Nursing (73), Interdisciplinary Studies (66), and Business Administration (64). It is also the last of the three public colleges in the top ten.

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Popular Online Programs

Jump to a Program: a b c d e f g h i j l m n o p r s t v w
a Online Schools Programs Alumni Salary Accreditation
Accounting 165 283 $48,930 AACSB ACBSP
Aerospace Engineering 3 9 $65,620 ABET
Agriculture 17 54 $39,040 Institutional
Anthropology 19 48 $26,590 Institutional
Architecture 2 4 $45,970 NAAB
Art & Design 22 66 $26,560 NASAD
Art History 5 6 $25,990 Institutional
Aviation 17 42 $48,890 AABI
b Online Schools Programs Alumni Salary Accreditation
Biology 14 29 $28,750 Institutional
Business 384 1,957 $45,560 AACSB ACBSP IACBE
c Online Schools Programs Alumni Salary Accreditation
Chemical Engineering 2 9 $66,610 ABET
Child Development 50 75 $29,970 APA
Christian Counseling 7 10 $26,750 ACPE
Civil Engineering 3 16 $61,750 ABET
Communications 153 434 $34,520 ACEJMC
Computer Engineering 15 22 $73,140 ABET
Computer Science 96 236 $65,840 ABET
Construction Management 12 14 $65,730 ACCE ATMAE
Counseling 66 106 $32,600 AAMFT CACREP
Creative Writing 18 26 $30,800 Institutional
Criminal Justice 241 551 $36,130 Institutional
Criminology 42 70 $34,260 Institutional
Cybersecurity 101 223 $38,470 Institutional
d Online Schools Programs Alumni Salary Accreditation
Data Science 32 53 Not reported Institutional
Dental Hygiene 22 22 $56,520 Institutional
e Online Schools Programs Alumni Salary Accreditation
Early Childhood Education 82 137 $35,940 CAEP MACTE NAEYC NCATE
Economics 43 89 $50,900 AACSB
Education 171 535 $35,080 CAEP CEA MACTE NCATE
Electrical Engineering 14 35 $71,220 ABET
Elementary Education 55 95 $35,940 CAEP MACTE NCATE TEAC
Emergency Management 61 139 $46,390 Institutional
Engineering 87 275 $66,170 ABET
English 60 117 $29,230 Institutional
Environmental Science 50 124 $32,460 Institutional
Exercise Science 16 28 $30,100 Institutional
f Online Schools Programs Alumni Salary Accreditation
Fashion 7 11 $36,850 Institutional
Finance 116 195 $52,830 AACSB
Fire Science 22 40 $62,000 FESHE
Forensic Accounting 12 16 $38,470 Institutional
Forensic Psychology 17 19 $31,870 APA
Forensic Science 35 66 Not reported AAFS
g Online Schools Programs Alumni Salary Accreditation
Geographic Information Systems 14 25 $36,380 Institutional
Graphic Design 25 40 $34,730 NASAD
h Online Schools Programs Alumni Salary Accreditation
Health Education 25 33 $33,920 Institutional
Healthcare Administration 157 296 $39,400 CAHME
Healthcare Management 144 270 $39,400 CAHME
History 69 133 $30,770 Institutional
Holistic Medicine 2 2 $26,660 ACAOM CNME
Homeland Security 59 138 $46,310 Institutional
Hospitality Management 48 88 $38,330 ACPHA
Human Resources 149 235 $46,270 AACSB ACBSP
Human Services 116 281 $31,440 Institutional
i Online Schools Programs Alumni Salary Accreditation
Industrial Engineering 16 28 $68,530 ABET
Information Technology 155 536 $54,990 ABET
Interior Design 1 1 $43,770 CIDA NASAD
j Online Schools Programs Alumni Salary Accreditation
Journalism 51 76 $33,880 ACEJMC
l Online Schools Programs Alumni Salary Accreditation
Landscape Design 1 1 $47,080 LAAB
Law 35 56 $111,930 ABA ABA
Law Enforcement 49 60 $36,130 Institutional
Liberal Studies 293 972 $37,440 Institutional
Library Science 4 5 $28,100 ALA
m Online Schools Programs Alumni Salary Accreditation
Management 364 1,632 $45,440 AACSB
Marketing 194 382 $43,960 AACSB
Marriage & Family Therapy 17 21 $32,600 AAMFT COAMFTE
Mathematics 22 52 $48,010 Institutional
Mechanical Engineering 8 20 $65,820 ABET
Medical Assistant 1 1 $39,150 ABHES
Medical Office Administration 1 1 $39,400 ABHES
MPA 1 2 Not reported Institutional
Music 8 20 $26,820 NASM NASM
n Online Schools Programs Alumni Salary Accreditation
Network Administration 28 32 $54,990 ABET
Nursing 322 397 $67,750 AANA ACEN ACEN ACME CCNE
Nutrition 11 17 $31,720 ACEND
o Online Schools Programs Alumni Salary Accreditation
Occupational Safety 10 22 $33,920 ABET
Organizational Leadership 210 510 $45,440 AACSB
p Online Schools Programs Alumni Salary Accreditation
Personal Training 1 1 $30,100 Institutional
Philosophy 22 30 $31,200 Institutional
Photography 4 9 $25,410 Institutional
Physical Education 5 14 $30,100 NCATE
Physics 6 8 $42,570 CAMPEP
Political Science 65 124 $35,860 Institutional
Project Management 39 114 $45,440 AACSB PMI-GAC
Psychology 231 482 $29,850 APA
Public Administration 92 222 $41,950 NASPAA
Public Health 60 130 $33,920 CEPH
Public Relations 48 67 $38,720 Institutional
r Online Schools Programs Alumni Salary Accreditation
Radiology 24 43 $56,290 JRCERT JRCNMT
Real Estate 8 10 $52,610 Institutional
Religious Studies 84 277 $28,000 ACPE
Respiratory Therapy 26 30 $56,290 CoARC
RN to BSN 277 304 Not reported ACEN
s Online Schools Programs Alumni Salary Accreditation
Secondary Education 22 72 $35,940 CAEP NCATE TEAC
Social Work 55 59 $32,580 CSWE
Sociology 87 153 $31,970 Institutional
Software Engineering 26 34 $73,140 ABET
Sonography 6 8 $56,290 Institutional
Spanish 13 18 $32,080 Institutional
Special Education 32 52 $38,470 CAA CAEP
Speech Pathology 4 4 $25,870 CAA
Sports Management 57 102 $39,700 Institutional
Substance Abuse Counseling 27 37 $32,600 CACREP
Supply Chain Management 70 112 $45,440 Institutional
Systems Engineering 5 9 $67,400 ABET
t Online Schools Programs Alumni Salary Accreditation
Teaching 46 94 $36,160 CAEP MACTE NCATE TEAC
Theology 18 33 $27,250 CAATS
v Online Schools Programs Alumni Salary Accreditation
Veterinary Technician 3 8 $31,970 AVMA COE
Video Game Design 20 28 $34,730 Institutional
w Online Schools Programs Alumni Salary Accreditation
Web Design 22 31 $39,510 Institutional
Web Development 34 62 $39,510 Institutional

Compare Colleges by Salary Score

Search over 2,000 colleges to see how their overall salary strength and individual program salaries compare to other colleges nationwide.

Overview of Online Bachelor's Degrees

Key Insights:

  • Private nonprofit schools made up 56% of the top 25 online schools by salary outcomes.
  • Although public schools made up less than one-quarter of the list, public college Thomas Edison State University was the top online school for salary outcomes.
  • For-profit online schools had higher average Salary Scores than either public or private nonprofit schools; for-profits also saw their average Salary Score improve the most since last year.

Can You Earn a Bachelor's Degree Online?

Yes, you can earn a bachelor's degree completely online. Online school has moved from a rarity to an increasingly common path for many. Its flexibility, affordability, and lower risk of disease spread made it a popular option during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. For some Americans, online colleges were and remain their preferred way to learn — even beyond the pandemic.

In the fall of 2019, before lockdowns were on anyone’s mind, nearly 18% of students took all of their classes online, according to the US Department of Education. Even more students were mixing and matching online and in-person classes. And at for-profit colleges, almost 63% of students were enrolled fully online.

Today, all varieties of nonprofit and for-profit colleges provide accredited online degree options for undergraduate students. Because of this increased focus on online education, OnlineU has created Salary Score rankings for online schools and programs to see how graduates fare compared to others with the same degree across the country.

Today, all varieties of nonprofit and for-profit colleges provide accredited online degree options for undergraduate students.

Applying to an Online Bachelor's Program

The application requirements for an online bachelor's program are usually identical to the requirements for an on-campus program. In general, applicants must provide the following:

  • Official high school transcripts or their equivalent, with at least a 2.0 GPA
  • SAT or ACT scores
  • Letters of recommendation from teachers, counselors, coaches, or other mentors
  • An entrance essay, usually personal and reflective
  • Official transcripts from postsecondary colleges (transfer students only)

Some online schools provide accommodations to students who do not meet the minimum GPA requirements, such as probationary admission or the opportunity to give supplemental information to add context.

What To Expect From an Online Bachelor's Degree

Online bachelor's degree programs differ by institution and subject, but there are some general features that you're likely to find in many of them.

120 credits on average. Most degree programs require students to complete at least 120 credit hours. Most courses are 3-4 credits and full-time students take 4-5 classes per term.

Asynchronous coursework. Online courses usually feature recorded lectures and discussion boards, where a student can post at any time during the week. Live lectures or set class meetings are less common, but weekly assignments will typically have set due dates.

A culminating experience. Degree programs often lead to a final experience that reinforces concepts from previous courses. In many programs this is a capstone course in which students complete a comprehensive research project or exam. In others, it's a supervised internship or other subject-appropriate field experience.

Virtual support. Completing a degree requires support and resources. A good college demonstrates its care for students by providing academic advisors, tutoring and writing support, open access to online library resources, and nonacademic services such as counseling and career advising.

Types of Online Degrees

Students may enroll in hybrid programs, which blend online and in-person learning, while other degree programs are exclusively online.

The extent to which a degree can be completed entirely online depends on the particular program. Some majors, such as nursing, often feature in-person requirements. These can include internships in the student's local community, on-campus orientations or intensive sessions with a student's cohort, or lab hours at a college or other professional laboratory for science students.

How Long Does It Take to Earn an Online Bachelor's Degree?

Online bachelor's degrees are typically designed to take four years of full-time study to complete, though many students take more time to finish at a part-time pace.

Alternatively, some online colleges offer ways for students to fast-track their bachelor's degree. Accelerated programs feature shorter terms that run year-round to allow students to take more courses each year. Students may be able to shave a year off the time needed to graduate.

Check a school's credit transfer policy for another way to reduce the time spent earning your degree. Several schools offer credit for prior learning assessments that award academic credit to students with previous professional or military experience. Students can also demonstrate mastery in a subject by completing a portfolio or taking CLEP exams for credit that can be applied toward their degree.

Additionally, an online degree completion program is designed for adult students who have started but not completed a four-year degree, and they offer a faster and less expensive way for students to finish without starting over again. Applicants must have earned a minimum number of academic credits from previous institutions, usually between 50 and 60, or else substantial career or military experience.

Will I Be Able to Work While Earning My Online Bachelor's Degree?

Flexibility is one of the main draws of completing your education online. According to a 2019 report regarding online college students, 51% of undergraduate students worked full time and 21% worked part time.

Most online bachelor's degree courses are delivered asynchronously to accommodate students' busy schedules. Asynchronous courses offer the most flexibility since students can view pre-recorded lectures and complete online coursework when it's convenient for them. In contrast, synchronous classes require students to log in at set times during the week.

Is an Online Bachelor's Degree Legitimate?

Accredited online degrees are legitimate. If a recognized agency has certified the quality of a school's online programs, then the credential is just as meaningful as a diploma earned through in-person learning. Fraudulent accrediting agencies give a stamp of approval to low-quality online colleges, so always check that all accreditors mentioned on a college's website are in the DAPIP or CHEA databases.

Which Accreditation Is Best For Online Degree Programs?

When researching degree programs, consider schools with regional accreditation first. Regional accreditation is considered the most prestigious because it's based on the most rigorous academic standards; national accreditation tends to focus on technical and trade schools. Attending a regionally accredited school allows you to do the following:

  • Apply for federal financial aid
  • Transfer credits to another regionally accredited college in the future

The Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) is a national accreditor that certifies the quality of schools with online programs, so DEAC accreditation is another factor to consider. Finally, some major fields feature professional organizations that accredit individual programs, such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) for engineering.

What Is the Easiest Degree to Get Online?

This question can't be answered in absolutes because each person's strengths and weaknesses are different. This means that there is not one program we can crown as the “easiest online degree.” In fact, the easiest degree will likely vary from student to student based on their out-of-school commitments, academic background and abilities, and interest in the program they’re studying. This last point is backed up by research showing that students perform better in subjects they are interested in.

While this is a notable data point, you should also consider these important factors that can make a degree easier to obtain:

Admissions requirements. More competitive admissions requirements make it harder for a student to get their foot in the virtual door. You should look up an online college’s acceptance rates before applying. This allows you to take stock of your own abilities and interests and get a better idea if you would be admitted into your desired school.

Instructor expectations. Competitive colleges maintain their edge by offering classes that can’t be found elsewhere or faculty members who are at the top of their fields, so expect a higher level of performance.

Program length. It is easier to stay motivated in a shorter program, suggesting that brevity can translate to an “easy” degree. But on the other hand, a short program may try to pack more information in less time. This could make it more difficult for some students to balance work and family commitments with a heavy courseload.

Online student support. Some schools or departments may provide better academic services to distance learners, such as tutoring, career coaching, or writing help. This is especially important if you anticipate difficulties in subjects that will be core to the program you want to pursue.

It can be difficult to compare these factors using colleges’ promotional materials and web pages alone. For less biased information, you can read reviews from real students and alumni of specific programs.

Cost of an Online Bachelor's Degree

All of our college program lists include manually collected tuition data to provide a transparent view of tuition costs. In general, private colleges tend to charge more than public colleges. It's also helpful to keep in mind the long-term financial impact after graduation, which is why our lists also include alumni salary for each individual program.

Although tuition is the biggest portion of any degree's expense, it's not the only cost associated with higher education. Schools charge fees that vary by institution and program type. For example, some online students pay technology fees each term, and there are also fees for applying to a college in the first place and for covering the cost of graduation in the final semester. Additionally, online students need reliable high-speed internet access as well as supplies, such as books, e-books, and sometimes specific software.

Financial Aid for Online Students

Online students apply for financial aid in the same way as campus students and are eligible for most of the same funding to cover some or all education costs. Some private scholarships endowed by an institution's alumni may only apply to campus students, so check with a school's financial aid office before applying.

The first step in the process is to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines how much federal aid a student qualifies for. Federal aid includes gift aid that doesn't need to be repaid: grants based on financial need, scholarships based on merit or family background, and work-study programs that provide tuition waivers for students. The government also offers student loans at interest rates that are generally more favorable than loans from private sources.

Most states and colleges also use the FAFSA to determine aid eligibility. They may offer grants and scholarships, and some states have work-study options similar to the federal program. According to a 2020 report by Sallie Mae, 71% of all undergraduates or their families completed a FAFSA for 2019-2020, and 73% received at least some scholarship or grant money. In the same year, the average family covered about 42% of total college costs using a combination of gift aid and borrowing.

Salary Outcomes for Online Bachelor's Graduates

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that earning a bachelor's degree leads to higher earnings and a lower chance of unemployment over the course of an individual's career. Bachelor's graduates earn a median $500 more each week than high school graduates and about $360 more than those with an associate degree. These positive salary and employment prospects improve with each degree a student attains. Alumni of terminal doctoral and professional degree programs earn a median $600 more each week than bachelor's graduates and experience less unemployment.

Median Weekly Earnings by Degree Level Bar Graph

Which States Host the Most Online Schools With Top Salary Scores?

Indiana led with three colleges in the top 25: Purdue University Global, Indiana Wesleyan University Online, and Indiana University - East. However, they were concentrated towards the bottom of the list, at #18, #22, #23, respectively.

Minnesota and New Hampshire also have multiple online colleges featured in our top 20 rankings, with two apiece.

Minnesota’s Capella University and Walden University mirror Arizona’s top online schools: They are all private for-profit colleges. However, Capella’s #4 ranking and Walden’s #10 spots beat out any of Arizona’s schools.

That said, these two fully online Minnesotan schools teach just over 17,500 students. That is a fraction of the nearly 139,000 online students enrolled in Arizona’s three ranked schools.

New Hampshire and its two schools — Southern New Hampshire University Online (#9) and Granite State College (#10) — enroll more than 88,000 online students. However, Granite State has just over 1,500 online students, while Southern New Hampshire University Online enrolls nearly 87,000 online students, making it the second largest online school by enrollment on our top 20 list. It trails Utah’s massive Western Governors University (#6), the state’s only ranked school, with over 98,600 students enrolled.

How Does School Type Impact Online Schools’ Salary Scores?

Top 25 Breakdown by School Type

School type Number of Schools Percentage
Private 14 56%
For-profit 5 20%
Public 6 24%

Most of the schools to rank in the top 25 online schools are private nonprofit institutions, making up just over half of the top 25. Public nonprofit colleges made up nearly a quarter of schools, while for-profit schools made up one out of every five colleges here.

Even though many of these online schools are private, their tuition rates are far lower than those of the top colleges on the on-campus bachelor's list. This can mean a better return on investment for some students, especially those who don’t need or want in-person education or the on-campus experience.

Graph showing different college types' average Salary Scores

Among school types, for-profit online schools have received the highest average Salary Scores and seen a big jump from last year. This also means that for-profit online schools significantly outperform for-profit on-campus schools for bachelor’s degrees.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that the data used in Salary Score only includes salary data for students who finished their degree. This is especially relevant since for-profit schools tend to have lower completion rates than public ones.

Is an Online Bachelor's Degree Worth It?

Study after study has shown the benefits of higher education for employment and earning potential, but you may be wondering specifically whether an online degree is worth the cost and effort. Though this is a subjective measure that will vary by individual, the answer is usually yes: Online degrees can confer the same benefits as on-campus degrees, and they may be more accessible and flexible than on-campus programs. Online students can access their classrooms from anywhere with an internet connection and complete assignments when it's convenient for them.

Below we dive into further detail about why the savings may be worth it, what online learning means for employment, and some potential downsides of online learning that you should keep in mind.

  • Savings

Students can save time and money by pursuing an online bachelor's degree instead of attending on-campus programs. Online learners aren't required to pay additional campus-based fees, and they save on room and board and transportation costs. Many online programs also offer credit for previous schooling, professional experience, or military training, which can save them money by reducing the time it takes to finish.

  • Employment

The stigma against online education seems to be eroding. Hundreds of accredited colleges in all sectors now offer online degrees. In a 2018 survey of 750 HR specialists, 71% said they had hired an online-degree graduate in the previous year, and 61% said they believe that online degrees are as good as regular degrees. If you attend a school that offers both in-person and online degrees, employers usually won't know how you earned your degree because the diplomas and transcripts are identical. However, graduates of fully online schools may experience some hiring bias directed against online learners. Students should be aware of this and other potential downsides.

Potential Downside of Online Learning

There are some potential downsides to studying 100% online. Data suggests that fully online students graduate at lower rates than in-person learners, although the cause is unclear. It may be that online institutions aren't providing the necessary academic or personal support that students may require to succeed. Alternatively, students may enroll in distance learning without considering their personal learning styles. It's important to choose the degree that's right for you.

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