The Best Online Colleges in North Carolina

by 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.

Top 10 Online Colleges in North Carolina 2020
#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

  1. East Carolina University
    Location

    Greenville, NC

    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.

  2. University of North Carolina at Greensboro
    Location

    Greensboro, NC

    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.

  3. Western Carolina University
    Location

    Cullowhee, NC

    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.

  4. Fayetteville State University
    Location

    Fayetteville, NC

    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.

  5. North Carolina State University
    Location

    Raleigh, NC

    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.

  6. Appalachian State University
    Location

    Boone, NC

    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.

  7. North Carolina Central University
    Location

    Durham, NC

    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.

  8. University of North Carolina Wilmington
    Location

    Wilmington, NC

    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.

  9. University of North Carolina at Charlotte
    Location

    Charlotte, NC

    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.

  10. Campbell University
    Location

    Buies Creek, NC

    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.

Best Online Colleges

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.

Fastest-Growing, Highest-Paying Careers
Career Annual Mean Salary (2019) Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) Education Required
Optometrists $138,200 4% Doctoral
Veterinarians $112,930 16% Doctoral
Real Estate Brokers $84,770 3% High School Diploma
Interpreters and Translators $58,040 20% Bachelor's Degree
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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.

Most Common Careers in South Carolina
Career Annual Mean Salary (2019) Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) Education Typically Required
Health Specialties Postsecondary Teachers $140,740 21% Master's or Doctoral
Financial Examiners $73,400 7% Bachelor's
Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians $62,740 5% Associate or Trade
Flight Attendants $56,270 17% High School Diploma
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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

Is Community College Free in North Carolina?

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.

What Is NC Promise?

NC Promise is an agreement among three University of North Carolina system schools to maintain a standard tuition rate of $500 per semester.

What Schools Participate in NC Promise?

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.

What GPA Do You Need To Attend School in North Carolina?

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.

Does NC State Offer Online Degrees?

NC State features a robust online learning system with more than 1,000 online courses and over 100 online programs.

Does UNC Have Online Courses?

The UNC online system connects online programs and courses from 17 campuses. Students can take standalone courses or choose from hundreds of program options.

What Ivy League School Is in North Carolina?

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.

What Are the 17 UNC System Universities?
  • 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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