Why This Matters


    Around 34% of jobs in the nation require at least a bachelor’s degree. Without college, you could be missing out on some big opportunities. Those figures include all jobs in the United States, so in your industry, the percentage of positions requiring bachelor’s or master’s degrees may be even higher.


    Among those with only a high school diploma, unemployment rates in 2020 averaged 9%. For those with a bachelor’s degree, the average was 5.5%, and for those with a masters, it was only 4.1%.


    In 2020, people with a high school diploma made $781 per week on average. Those with a bachelor’s degree made $1,305 per week on average, an increase of 40%.

Our Research

Our list of best online colleges for working adults covers a wide range of options, including schools that offer both undergraduate and graduate degree programs. You’ll find degree programs for STEM, liberal arts, business, and many other interests and career paths.

It’s important to choose well-respected schools that meet your educational needs. That’s why we looked at colleges that were accredited by regional organizations. Accreditation from bodies such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), Higher Learning Commission (HLC), New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), or Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) helps you know you’re attending a high-quality school that meets rigorous education requirements.

  • 72 hours to write this article
  • 100 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 190 education programs we compared

The Top 50 Online Colleges for Working Adults

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What You Should Know About This Degree

When you’re considering online degree programs, you should compare them with in-person and hybrid programs. In-person programs offer all instruction in the classroom and hybrid programs provide instruction both online and in-person depending on your needs and the type of learning required. The best option for you depends on what you’re studying and your personal needs. Online degrees are great for working adults because they offer flexibility, but if you’re looking at getting something like a nursing degree, you may need a hybrid approach that supports in-person clinical and lab learning.

Another consideration is whether you want a synchronous or asynchronous program. Many working adults enjoy the flexibility of asynchronous programs, which let you learn at your own pace and accommodate your work schedule.

Earning a degree can help you improve your job outlook, particularly if you’re angling for a promotion. Some organizations require people who are in leadership positions to have at least a bachelor’s degree, for example.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching online colleges for working adults:

  • Am I eligible for this program? To take advantage of an online degree program, you need to qualify for admission. Requirements depend on the program, but you may need to have a high school diploma or equivalency and meet other requirements, such as having minimum scores on standardized tests or passing a placement exam with a community college. If you’re looking at a graduate degree program, you might need to have completed a relevant undergrad program with a certain CPA.
  • How long does it take to complete this online degree? As a working adult, you’ll want to know how much time will be taken up with your schoolwork as well as the timeline of the degree program. An online bachelor’s degree can take three to four years to complete for full-time students or six to eight years for part-time students. Some online master’s programs are designed to fast-track working professionals, allowing you to earn the degree in as little as two years.

Start your journey to better credentials and higher pay by researching the best online colleges for working adults. You should contact financial aid offices to find out about scholarships, grants, and other financial aid programs, and check with your human resources office to see if your employer offers education reimbursement benefits.