The Best Online Colleges in North Carolina
| TBS Staff
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North Carolina is home to one of the nation's largest state university systems as well as many private colleges and universities that offer online degrees.
Students in North Carolina continue to pursue bachelor's degrees at increasingly higher rates. To address a shortage in college-educated professionals, the state coordinated with myFutureNC to set a goal for more than 54% of adults over the age of 25 in the state to hold a bachelor's degree by 2030 — an increase of 5% from 2019.
To better accommodate students, many universities and colleges in North Carolina have turned to online education. Online learning allows students from all corners of the state to access programs with reduced travel and living costs. In fact, North Carolina boasts one of the largest online educational systems, offering more than 400 degree options.
Featured Online Schools
Students considering attending an online university in North Carolina may feel intimidated by the sheer number of available options. We hope to help make that process a little easier with this page, which ranks of best online colleges in North Carolina. Our list considers the top schools in the state, along with available employment opportunities after graduation.
|#1||East Carolina University Greenville, NC|
|#2||University of North Carolina at Greensboro Greensboro, NC|
|#3||Western Carolina University Cullowhee, NC|
|#4||Fayetteville State University Fayetteville, NC|
|#5||North Carolina State University Raleigh, NC|
|#6||Appalachian State University Boone, NC|
|#7||North Carolina Central University Durham, NC|
|#8||University of North Carolina Wilmington Wilmington, NC|
|#9||University of North Carolina at Charlotte Charlotte, NC|
|#10||Campbell University Buies Creek, NC|
The Best Online Colleges in North Carolina
East Carolina University, a public, sea–grant, doctoral/research university founded in 1907, enrolls about 27,500 students. Among the largest universities in the state, East Carolina University offers more than 200 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and professional degrees, including more than 80 online degree programs.
East Carolina University offers undergraduate degree completion programs in nine program areas such as business, communication, education, industrial technology and nursing. Students also can complete more than two dozen master’s degrees in programs ranging from computer sciences to music education to nutrition to environmental health and more. Students also can earn an online doctor of nursing practice degree and complete more than 30 online certificates, several post–master’s nursing certificates and licensure programs.
Online students can access course materials any time of the day or night, although some courses do include real–time chat sessions. Most courses also include weekly assignment deadlines. The same faculty teach online and on–campus courses.
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a public, research and liberal arts university founded in 1891, enrolls about 16,100 students. A member of the University of North Carolina system, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro offers more than 180 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs.
Through UNCG Online, students can pursue a host of undergraduate completion programs, master’s degrees and certificates. UNCG Online offers courses in both synchronous and asynchronous formats, and the same faculty teach the university’s online and on–campus courses.
The bachelor completion programs include liberal studies, peace and conflict studies, philosophy, business administration, human development and family studies, supply chain management and public health. Students also can pursue 10 master’s degrees in topics such as dance education, nursing administration, information technology and management, and more. Students can earn an online doctor of education in kinesiology, an education specialist degree in educational leadership as well as a host of certificates.
Online students have access to a host of resources such as tech support, academic advising, a writing center, an online bookstore and career services.
Western Carolina University, a public university, established in 1889, is part of the University of North Carolina System. The university provides a variety of graduate and undergraduate degree programs.
The university’s group of undergraduate online degree programs consist of degree completion programs. Most undergraduate programs require students have an associate degree and/or complete the liberal studies requirements prior to admission. Western Carolina University provides undergraduate online degree completion programs in criminal justice, entrepreneurship, business administration and law, nursing and more. The university provides online graduate degrees in entrepreneurship, human resources, health sciences, nursing, school administration and more.
The online students have access to many services from academic advising to tutoring.
Fayetteville State University, a public, regional university founded in 1867, enrolls about 5,900 students. A member of the University of North Carolina System, the university offers a host programs leading to bachelor, master and doctoral degrees, including several online bachelor completion and master degree programs.
Fayetteville State University’s online bachelor degree completion program options include criminal justice, psychology, fire and emergency services management, sociology, nursing and general business management. Students must have completed core curriculum or be dual enrolled in a partnering community college. Online students can also pursue master’s degrees in criminal justice and business. The university offers its online programs in an asynchronous format with no set class times.
Online students have access to services including tech support, financial aid and an online bookstore.
North Carolina State University, a public, co–educational, land–grant, sea–grant, space–grant, research university founded in 1887, enrolls more than 34,700 students. The largest four–year college in North Carolina, North Carolina State University, through its Distance Education program, offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees, certificates programs as well as teacher licensure programs. The programs are the equivalent of the on–campus programs, and university faculty members teach the online programs.
North Carolina State offers undergraduate programs in leadership in the public sector, mechanical engineering, and mechatronics engineering, as well as master’s degree programs in environmental sciences, engineering, teacher education, and more. Online students can pursue a doctor of education degree in adult and community college education.
Distance education students have access to proctoring services, a virtual orientation, and academic advising.
Appalachian State University, a comprehensive, co–educational, public university founded in 1899, enrolls about 20,000 students. A member of the North Carolina system, the university offers more than 140 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs, including a host of online bachelor’s completion, master’s, specialist and doctoral programs.
Appalachian State University offers bachelor’s degree completion programs in a host of topics such as child development, elementary education, health promotion, management and more. Online students can also complete about a dozen master’s degree programs including those in curriculum specialist, public administration, nursing and social work. Students can pursue a variety of certificate programs, education specialist programs and a doctorate in educational leadership. Online courses follow a cohort–based format.
Online students have access to resources such as academic advising, an online bookstore, career services, and financial aid.
North Carolina Central University is a public HBCU located in Durham, North Carolina. Established in 1910, the school offers a variety of flexible online degrees. Several bachelor's degrees can be completed entirely online at NCCU, including programs in behavioral and social science, criminal justice, early childhood education, hospitality and tourism, and psychology, as well as a RN-to-BSN nursing degree. NCCU uses the Blackboard system to deliver synchronous course content. Like some other online colleges in North Carolina, this school does not offer self-paced online courses. NCCU instructors post login days and times during which distance learners must participate. Prospective online learners must submit their high school transcripts or GED certificate, SAT or ACT scores, and evidence of leadership and service in community or civic organizations. As one of the schools in the greater University of North Carolina system, there are minimum course requirements in English, mathematics, science, social studies, and foreign languages that must be completed prior to admission.
The University of North Carolina Wilmington offers undergraduate and graduate degrees online. Distance learners may pursue bachelor's degrees in clinical research, criminology, elementary education, international studies, and nursing. Master's degrees are available in chemistry, clinical research and product development, and various education fields. Additionally, a doctor of nursing practice degree can also be completed online. Courses are delivered synchronously at this online school in North Carolina, and degree seekers are required to meet in virtual classrooms at specified dates and times for each class. Not including internship opportunities, these majors do not have any on-campus obligations.
Each major requires specific prerequisites. Prospective students must check the admission requirements for their desired major before applying. As part of the University of North Carolina system, UNCW boasts an extensive set of online and library resources, especially those used in research-based fields.
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, a public research university founded in 1946, enrolls more than 27,000 students. The university offers more than 150 programs leading to bachelor, master and doctoral degrees, including a host of online programs.
Online students can pursue bachelor’s completion degree programs in four subject areas – engineering technology, pre–education, nursing and kinesiology. Online students can also earn a host of master’s degrees and graduate certificates in education, nursing and engineering topics. The university offers many of its online programs in an asynchronous format, but some do require students to log in at specific times, and some programs require on–campus visits. The same faculty teach the university’s on–campus and online courses.
Online students have access to tech support, a designated librarian, and Distance Education Program Managers.
Campbell University in Buies Creek is a mid-sized private university with approximately 6,500 students; the school is affiliated with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. CU offers 20 bachelor's programs online, including criminal justice, Christian studies, psychology, and a general liberal arts and humanities concentration. Additionally, a bachelor's in applied science is available with several concentrations.
These bachelor's degrees can be completed in four years by full-time students. Associate degrees are also available online and students can major in behavioral science, homeland security, and information technology security, among other fields. CU delivers these bachelor's and associate degree courses in eight-week accelerated terms. A certificate in Christian studies is also available at this online school in NC.
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (North Carolina A&T State University), a public, co–educational, land–grant, research university founded in 1891, enrolls more than 10,700 students. Among the oldest public universities in the nation, North Carolina A&T State University offers a host of degree programs including online bachelor, 2+2, master and doctoral degrees and certificate programs.
The university’s online bachelor’s and 2+2 program options include liberal arts, business education, geomatics and more. Online students can pursue eight master’s degrees in teaching, information technology and agricultural education among others. Students also can earn an online doctor of philosophy in technology management as well as certificates in family and consumer sciences, and environmental health and safety.
The university’s online students have access to a variety of resources including financial aid, tech support, counseling services, career counseling, library resources and an online bookstore.
Winston-Salem State University is an HBCU with approximately 6,700 students. Established in 1892, WSSU's distance learning program helps students with limited opportunities experience higher education in a traditional setting. Several undergraduate degrees are available online, including bachelor's of science degrees in clinical laboratory science and nursing, as well as a bachelor’s of interdisciplinary studies. WSSU also offers master's of science degrees in rehabilitation counseling and advanced nurse education. Additionally, a transitional doctor of physical therapy degree is available at this online college in NC.
Prospective undergraduates must submit official high school transcripts and their SAT or ACT scores. As part of the UNC school system, a minimum of a 880 on the SAT or 17 on the ACT is required for admission. For graduate studies, some concentrations may require the GRE or GMAT. Distance learners must check the requirements of their desired major before applying and plan accordingly.
Located in Misenheimer, North Carolina, and established in 1885, Pfeiffer is small private university with about 1,600 students. At Pfeiffer, students can earn professional certificates, undergraduate, and graduate degrees. In addition to certificates in leadership and medical practice management, distance learners can earn four-year bachelor's of science degrees in health administration, business management and leadership, criminal justice, as well as an RN-to-BSN degree. Several master's degree options are also available, including master's of business administration, health administration, financial fraud investigation, and education. While all of these degrees may be completed entirely online, most of Pfeiffer's distance learning programs include a hybrid component. Prospective students should contact the admissions office to determine whether online-only or a hybrid format best fits their learning style. Pfeiffer has campuses in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, which may make a hybrid format easier for some degree seekers.
William Peace University is a small liberal arts college in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was established in 1857 and is affiliated with the Presbyterian church. WPU was originally a women's college and one of the oldest institutions of higher education for women in the country, but the school began admitting men in 2012. Located in the school of professional studies, WPU offers several online undergraduate degrees, including bachelor's degrees in business administration, criminal justice, education, liberal studies, psychology, marketing, and leadership and nonprofit administration. Unless otherwise specified by course instructors, all online courses at WPU require students to complete two proctored exams, and students are responsible for making arrangements to have their exams proctored. Prospective students must submit official high school transcripts and SAT or ACT scores. Like many other online colleges in North Carolina, transfer credits may be accepted and are considered on a case-by-case basis.
Montreat is a private Christian liberal arts college located just outside of Black Mountain, North Carolina. Distance learners can earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees online. The institution offers associate degrees in business and in general studies, along with bachelor's of business and science degrees, including concentrations in psychology and human resources, the Bible and religion, cybersecurity, and human resource management. Additionally, master's degrees in management and leadership and a master's of business administration are available online. For undergraduate degrees, applicants must have a GPA of 2.0 or higher. Graduate applicants for the MBA should have a minimum GPA of 2.75 and submit their GMAT score. Financial aid is available at this online school in NC in the form of grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study programs. Some degree candidates may be eligible for VA benefits.
The University of North Carolina Pembroke, a public, co–educational, liberal arts university established in 1887, enrolls more than 6,000 students. A member of the University of North Carolina system, the university offers nearly 60 bachelor and master degree programs, including a host of online undergraduate completion programs and a master’s degree in public administration.
The University of North Carolina Pembroke offers undergraduate completion programs in topics such as criminal justice, interdisciplinary studies, business administration and sociology. Students should complete all general education requirements before applying to the program.
Online students have access to the same services as on–campus students, including financial aid, academic advising, an online bookstore and a writing center.
Gardner–Webb University, a private, four–year university founded in 1905, enrolls more than 4,500 students in a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Online students can complete many undergraduate completion and graduate degree programs.
Students who hold 60 to 64 hours of college credit can complete bachelor’s degrees in accounting, criminal justice, entrepreneurship, religion and more. Gardner–Webb University also offers fully online master’s degree programs in sport pedagogy, nursing, business administration, accountancy and international business administration. The university’s doctor of nursing practice degree requires 20 to 23 hours of on–campus lectures, but the remainder of the program is available online.
Online students have access to support services such as advising, a writing center and technology services.
Established in 1896, St. Andrews is a small four-year liberal arts college in Laurinburg, North Carolina. The school is affiliated with the Presbyterian church and, until 2011, it was named St. Andrews Presbyterian College. This multi-disciplinary online program offers bachelor's degree programs in business administration, education, psychology, general business studies, and interdisciplinary studies. Education majors can choose from one of three tracks: elementary, middle grades, and special education. With 120-121 credits needed to complete the major requirements, full-time students can finish these degrees in four years. Special financial aid may be available through St. Andrews' military service program and for NC residents. Applicants must submit their high school transcripts and official SAT or ACT scores. Transfer students must have a minimum GPA of 2.0. As with many other online schools in North Carolina, courses may be transferred toward online degrees; transfer requests are considered on an individual basis.
Founded by the Convention of Free Will Baptists in 1951, Mount Olive is a private Christian university with approximately 3,800 students. Both undergraduate and graduate degrees can be earned at this online school in North Carolina. Distance learners can earn an associate of science in general studies, nursing, or criminal justice and criminology as well as a RN-to-BSN. Mount Olive also offers master's programs in business administration, healthcare management, and education. Courses are asynchronous with no specific class or login times. Most courses are accelerated and five weeks in duration. Both full-time and part-time enrollment status is available, allowing for maximum flexibility for busy schedules. Not all degree program admission requirements are the same at this online college in NC. Prospective students must contact their desired department and be certain that all prerequisites are met, including standardized test scores.
Located in Banner Elk, North Carolina, Lees-McRae College is a private four-year institution affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. Established in 1900, Lee-McRae is a small school with about 1,100 students. Online programs offered at this online school in NC include bachelor's degrees in business administration, criminal justice, elementary education, and human services. Distance learners can also earn an RN-to-BSN degree. Courses are delivered either synchronously or asynchronously depending on the major. Bachelor's degrees may be completed in as few as 16 months.
Applicants must submit all official transcripts as well as meet program-specific requirements. New freshman must submit their high school transcripts and SAT or ACT scores. The RN-to-BSN degree requires an associate degree in nursing or diploma in registered nursing, as well as two letters of professional recommendation. Degree seekers applying for the elementary education degree must have a Praxis Core score of 468 or higher and submit a personal statement along with two faculty recommendations.
Online Colleges in North Carolina Ranking Guidelines
We selected the online schools in North Carolina based on the quality of their programs, types of courses and degrees offered, and faculty strengths, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation, including a strong reputation for online degree programs.
Employment in North Carolina
The overall employment outlook in the state appears strong. The North Carolina Department of Commerce and United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) project the addition of more than 300,000 jobs from 2018-2028. The unemployment rate of 6.2% is about the same as the national unemployment rate.
The state offers growing opportunities in most of its major industries, including aerospace and defense, biotechnology, and business and financial services. Many organizations within these industries and others focus on innovation, which bodes well for future professionals in those industries.
According to BLS data, the state's $47,200 median annual salary exceeds the median annual salary for all occupations by more than $7,000. Additionally, the 90.6 cost of living index suggests that life in North Carolina is less expensive than the national average.
Below are some of the fastest-growing and highest-paying careers in North Carolina, including some of the highest-paying roles employing more than 1,000 individuals in North Carolina. Salary information applies specifically to North Carolina, while job growth data pertains to the United States as a whole.
|Career||Annual Mean Salary (2019)||Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)||Education Required|
|Real Estate Brokers||$84,770||3%||High School Diploma|
|Interpreters and Translators||$58,040||20%||Bachelor's Degree|
The following data reflects the highest-paying roles employing more than 3,500 professionals in North Carolina. Salary figures apply specifically to North Carolina, while job growth data refers to the United States as a whole.
|Career||Annual Mean Salary (2019)||Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)||Education Typically Required|
|Health Specialties Postsecondary Teachers||$140,740||21%||Master's or Doctoral|
|Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians||$62,740||5%||Associate or Trade|
|Flight Attendants||$56,270||17%||High School Diploma|
Online Associate and Graduate Degrees
In addition to the many bachelor's degrees available through online colleges in North Carolina, the state also offers access to online associate and graduate programs. With COVID-19 pushing many classes across the country online, the state strengthened its online learning infrastructure, allowing for more programs and courses in the future.
Many of North Carolina's online schools focus on growth industries, encouraging students to take advantage of the state's major employment sectors. For example, students can find programs in nursing, business, and information technology at the associate, bachelor's, and graduate levels.
These programs and other online degrees provide the same training as on-campus schools, but through different delivery modes and schedules. Online students can commonly choose between asynchronous and synchronous programs, with the former providing more flexibility and the latter offering a more collaborative, real-time environment. Online programs may also offer accelerated completion schedules for learners who can handle a heavier course load.
In addition to delivery mode, online learners should consider other factors that vary with online learning. For example, students should think about tuition price differences for residents and nonresidents, on-campus residency requirements, and online transfer credit opportunities. For more information about online education, check out our online learning overview and resource guide.
Frequently Asked Questions
Students need to pay tuition at most community colleges in North Carolina, but some colleges offer free tuition for learners who qualify for financial aid.
NC Promise is an agreement among three University of North Carolina system schools to maintain a standard tuition rate of $500 per semester.
Western Carolina University, Elizabeth City State University, and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke participate in NC Promise. The state also offers the North Carolina Comprehensive Articulation Agreement, which allows for easier transfer of credits between schools.
All students can attend college in North Carolina, regardless of their GPA. While some schools set a 2.0 GPA minimum for applicants, others have open admission requirements for candidates with high school diplomas or GED certificates.
NC State features a robust online learning system with more than 1,000 online courses and over 100 online programs.
The UNC online system connects online programs and courses from 17 campuses. Students can take standalone courses or choose from hundreds of program options.
While the state does not have any Ivy League schools, North Carolina does host some of the country's oldest and most prestigious colleges and universities, including University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University.
- Appalachian State University
- East Carolina University
- Elizabeth City State University
- Fayetteville State University
- North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
- North Carolina Central University
- North Carolina State University
- University of North Carolina - Asheville
- University of North Carolina at Charlotte
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- University of North Carolina at Greensboro
- University of North Carolina at Pembroke
- University of North Carolina School of the Arts
- University of North Carolina at Wilmington
- Western Carolina University
- Winston-Salem State University
- North Carolina School of Science and Math - public high school
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