Why This Matters

  • YOU’RE COMPETING IN A CLASS OF 1.9 MILLION

    1.9 million students graduate with a bachelor degree every year. Making sure that your online degree stands out from the crowd means being choosy about finding a reputable accredited college.

  • ONLY 2.5% OF BACHELOR’S HOLDERS UNEMPLOYED

    The good news: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), your unemployment rate with a bachelor’s degree is nearly half that with just a high school diploma (2.5% compared to 4.6%).

  • YOU COULD BE MAKING $23K MORE EACH YEAR

    The BLS also found that bachelor degree holders generally earn $461 more each week compared to high school graduates ($1,173 to $712). That difference adds up to an annual increase of $23,972.

Our Research

There are hundreds of bachelor degrees available, and even more schools to choose from. The right school for you depends on the specific degree you’re pursuing, and what resources each university can provide in terms of faculty, networking, and coursework to set you up for success in the field.

Pursuing your bachelor’s degree online makes sense. Many programs let you study at your own pace, so can fit school in with the rest of your life, rather than trying to adjust everything around new classes every few months.

We found the top 20 best online bachelor degree programs by looking for nonprofit, accredited universities that are known to do online education well. By evaluating each university based on its program strength, online resources, and comparative cost, we then created its Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. (For a closer look at our methods, see Our Ranking Methodology.)

  • 100 Universities
  • 45 Hours of Research
  • 20 Top Picks

The Top 20 Online Bachelor Degrees

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Our Ranking Methodology

To find the best online bachelor degree programs, we first required each college to be nonprofit. This helps ensure that a college’s first interest is the success of its students rather than its profit margins. We also only looked at accredited universities — those which have been recognized by a third-party organization for the quality of their education programs.

Then we evaluated each university based on three factors:

Program Strength

First, we evaluated how well each program ranked with college evaluators like U.S. News. These organizations dive deep and explore the merits (and demerits) of hundreds of universities to assess whether a particular college can provide a rigorous education. We created an algorithm to collect and analyze these multiple rankings into one score, so we could easily compare universities.

Universities more widely recognized for the strength of their programs did well here, while lesser known colleges earned fewer points.

Online Readiness

Next, we evaluated the online resources of each university. With increasingly more colleges teaching courses online, it’s important to make sure that a university can adequately support its online students. We also looked at student satisfaction surveys with a particular eye to how students rated their faculty and coursework to help us score how well each university taught online classes.

Comparative Cost

Then, we assessed each university based on its per credit cost. While the specific number of credits may vary by degree program, as an undergraduate student expect to need at least 120 credit hours to complete your degree — the U.S. standard for a bachelor’s degree.

We compared universities based on their per credit cost. Universities that were relatively cost-effective earned more points here, while those which trended more expensive than average earned lower scores.

This Gave Us Our Intelligent Score

Together, these three assessments helped us calculate the Intelligent Score for each university. The top scoring universities are highly-regarded for their bachelor degrees, have excellent resources to support online learning, and won’t cause you to break the bank when earning a degree.

This Degree Isn’t For Everyone

Some of the perks of online bachelor degrees — the ability to watch classes at your own pace, and study from anywhere — aren’t always perks for everyone. A 2013 study found that students enrolled in online classes think that it requires more discipline and that classes are harder to pass than traditionally taught classes. This doesn’t mean that on-campus classes are easy, but that some students prefer and may find it easier to succeed in environments with weekly peer support.

Before pursuing a degree, it’s important to be upfront about what you may hope to get out of a degree — online or otherwise. If you’re interested in utilizing traditionally on-campus benefits like networking opportunities, tutoring sessions, and group projects, you’ll want to ask your program advisor whether the online program offers adequate replacements.

What’s Next?

As you hone in on the best online bachelor degree for your career goals, there are a few things to keep in mind. While all of the universities on our list are regionally accredited, having degree-specific accreditation can help give your diploma additional weight to future employers. A quick search for the accrediting organization to your degree of choice can help give you a list of the schools best-equipped to prepare you for the field.

Secondly, even more so than with an on-campus degree, your professors will make or break your bachelor degree experience. If you have a particular specialization or areas of interest within your degree that you’d like to pursue in your career, check out the faculty list of prospective universities. In addition to seeing professor’s individual specializations, you can also look to see what areas they have recently researched.

Finally, you’ll need to pay attention to the state authorizations for each prospective college. State authorizations vary by state and by particular degree, and not all states recognize the authority of others to award online degrees. If you live in a different state than that of the university, you’ll need to confirm with the admissions office, program director, or your local board of education to make sure you can study with them.