To start 2019 with a bang, we’ve researched which colleges are teaching online the best, and which ones are doing the best in the most sought-after degrees. The three fastest growing fields — nursing, business, and education — feature prominently in our initial research, and we’re excited to tackle more degrees in the year ahead.

The Best Online Degrees

Online Colleges

We started our search by finding the universities that simply do online education well at the undergraduate and graduate level. As increasingly more universities try their hand at online education, it’s important to identify those programs which have already figured out how to prepare students for their future careers. The Best Online Colleges highlights thirty universities that have received multiple awards for their online degrees.

We evaluated each college for the strength of its online resources, its reputation, and program strength. If thirty doesn’t feel like enough options, we’d also recommend checking out California Baptist University, the University of North Dakota, and the University of Cincinnati. These universities tend to be on the more expensive side, but are well-recognized for the strength of their online degrees.

We also analyzed universities at the undergraduate level with our Best Online Bachelor Degrees. All of our top picks have excellent reputations for teaching bachelor degrees well online, but we also had some runner-ups. Champlain College, the City University of Seattle, and North Carolina Central University didn’t make our final list because they didn’t have the same name-recognition as our final 20, but they’re worth a closer look.


Nursing is one of the fastest growing fields in the U.S. We’re expected to need one million new nurses by 2026 to fill opening roles and take over positions from retiring nurses. We found the best online nursing programs at three levels:

The Best Online RN to BSN degrees give additional training to registered nurses with an associate or diploma of nursing. Since the Institute of Medicine and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing are currently united in making sure at least 80% of RNs have a bachelor’s degree by 2020, RN-BSN programs are increasingly important. In addition to our top universities, we feel these are worth a closer look: Ashland University, Henderson State University, and Lewis-Clark State College.

The Best Online Master of Science in Nursing degrees help nurses hone in on their field. Nurse specialists are in increasing demand due to their training in caring for specialized groups like the elderly and those dealing with addictions. While Ohio State University and the University of North Carolina: Charlotte didn’t make our top list for being on the expensive side, we feel these universities are still worth examining for their reputations and degree options.

For the Best Online Nursing degrees, we took a broader look at each university’s nursing department as a whole, evaluating its opportunities for nurses at all stages of their careers. One factor to consider: there is a growing call for nurses to obtain doctorates in part due to a shortage of nurse educators. Some of our runner-ups include: Jacksonville State University, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Bradley University.

Master of Social Work

Social work is another field where earning a degree can see you helping people directly in only a couple of years. Social workers are in high demand as the U.S. faces an increasingly elderly population and the opioid crisis drives a need to help addicts and their families.

The Best Online Master of Social Work identifies the top 28 universities, honing in on those with an excellent reputation and flexibility when it comes to time commitments and specializations. All of our top picks are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, and are fully online.

We also liked California State University San Bernardino, Florida State University, Portland State University. The on-campus requirements of these schools prevented them from making it to our best list – usually a long weekend once or twice each year — but we feel these universities are worth a closer look if travel isn’t an issue.

Master of Education

147,000 people graduated with master degrees in education in 2016. It’s the second most-popular graduate field only to business degrees – who came in number one with 185,000 graduates in 2016. It’s a good thing, too. The U.S. is in dire need of teachers, with every state reporting shortages in at least one specialization.

To find the Best Online Master of Education, we analyzed over 350 programs to find the top 30 that will best prepare students for careers as educators. Depending on your career goals, you might prefer a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), Master of Science in Teaching (MST), or a Master of Education (MEd). Our top picks offer a variety of options while maintaining high standards for their program strength.


Business degrees vary widely — a degree in business can help students enter a career in just about every industry. We took a wide lens approach when finding the Best Online Business Degrees, paying attention to what fields are hiring the most (healthcare and technology), and rating universities based on their bachelor and master degrees alike. Every program is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) – the gold standard for business degrees.

We also recommend taking a look at University of Arkansas, University of Illinois at Chicago, and University of Iowa for Online Business Degrees. Though they didn’t have offer as many degrees as our top picks (and University of Arkansas’ program is not quite as well-known), we feel these programs could be the right pick for the right student.

Then we examined the most popular graduate degree of all to find the Best Online Master of Business Administration (MBA). The best schools on our list are all AACSB-accredited, have strong reputations, and offer multiple concentrations to help tailor your degree to your particular interests.

In addition to our top picks, we’d encourage you to consider Widener University, Midwestern State University, Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Though these programs didn’t make our final cut because they weren’t quite as well known, or didn’t offer quite as many degree specializations, they have strong programs worth adding to your list of consideration.

What’s Next?

Over the next twelve months we’re excited to dive deeper into the world of online education to help connect people to the next step on their educational journey — no matter their background. Stay tuned for our upcoming articles, Best Online Master of Counseling and Master of Public Administration.