The Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania

by TBS Staff

Updated May 24, 2022 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Online colleges in Pennsylvania prepare students for in-demand careers in business, healthcare, technology, and the life sciences.

The Keystone State provides several benefits for college students. The Pennsylvania State Grant Program offers financial aid for undergraduates, including students attending online colleges in PA. Many of the state's online colleges also offer tuition discounts for fully online learners and in-state students, making a college degree more affordable.

Online learners can pursue degrees in many fields at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The state's online program options include nursing degrees and online MBA programs. With a college degree, graduates can qualify for opportunities in many of Pennsylvania's key industries, including the life sciences, business, and technology.

Our list ranks the best colleges in Pennsylvania with online programs, including public and private colleges and universities. We only include regionally accredited schools in our rankings to ensure the highest educational quality. Prospective applicants can use this list to find the right program for their budget, interests, and career goals.

Top Online Colleges In Pennsylvania 2021
#1 Pennsylvania State University - World Campus University Park, PA
#2 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
#3 Robert Morris University - RMU Online Moon Township, PA
#4 California University of Pennsylvania California, PA
#5 Saint Joseph's University Philadelphia, PA
#6 DeSales University Center Valley, PA
#7 Jefferson Philadelphia, PA
#8 Villanova University Villanova, PA
#9 Misericordia University Dallas, PA
#10 Slippery Rock University Slippery Rock, PA

Featured Online Schools

The Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania

  1. Pennsylvania State University - World Campus

    University Park, PA

    In 1892, Penn State offered some of the country's first correspondence courses to farmers around the state who were interested in higher education. The Penn State World Campus, which officially launched in 1998, offers more than 120 programs of study to its 6,000+ students.

    The Penn State World Campus offers online associate, baccalaureate, master, doctoral and certificate programs. Online associate's degrees include business administration and Information Sciences and Technology. Online bachelor's degrees include criminal justice and nursing. Online master's degree options include adult education and data analytics. Online doctoral degree offerings include nursing, and available online certifications include bioenergy and financial planning.

    Online student resources include academic advising, career counseling, technical support and an online library with librarians available via email, live chat or over the phone.

  2. Drexel University

    Philadelphia, PA

    Drexel University, established in 1891, is renowned for its co-op programs. The school offers more than 170 programs of study to its 25,000+ students with majors including fields within business, engineering, the medical field, the arts and technology.

    Drexel University offers baccalaureate, master, doctoral and certificate programs entirely online through its Drexel University Online platform. Online bachelor's degrees include business, nursing and psychology. Online master's degrees include clinical research, engineering and law. Online doctoral degree offerings include education, healthcare and nursing. Available online certifications include law, public health and information science.

    Online student resources include technical support, career services via Skype and an online library with librarians available via live chat, email or over the phone.

  3. Robert Morris University - RMU Online

    Moon Township, PA

    Robert Morris University, founded in 1921, is named after one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and is not affiliated with the university of the same name in Illinois. The university offers its 5,000+ students more than 80 programs of study, including majors within business, nursing, engineering and much more.

    Robert Morris University offers baccalaureate, master's and certificate programs entirely online. Bachelor's degree options include business, cyber forensics and health services administration. Master's degree offerings include data analytics, human resource management and nursing. Available certifications include land management, nutrition, online teaching and conflict resolution.

    Resources made available to online students include an online library with librarians available via email or over the phone.

  4. California University of Pennsylvania

    California, PA

    California University of Pennsylvania (Cal U), a member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, is a public university founded in 1852. Cal U is currently enrolling more than 7,500 students. In 2010, Cal U launched Global Online to offer online programs to students across the globe. Through Global Online, Cal U now offers more than 75 programs 100% online.

    Online undergraduate students at Cal U can pursue an associate degree in either liberal studies or technical studies, or a number of bachelor's degrees, such as computer information systems, land management, legal studies, and more. Online master's degrees offer the widest range of subjects, including special education, nursing administration, criminology, business administration, and many more. They even offer two online doctoral degrees: criminal justice and health science. Online students can also enroll in one of several certificate programs.

  5. Saint Joseph's University

    Philadelphia, PA

    Saint Joseph's University, a private, not-for-profit, Roman Catholic Jesuit university, founded in 1851, is among the oldest Jesuit universities in the nation. SJU has been providing demanding and supportive education for more than 160 years and now enrolls more than 8,000 students and has more than 66,000 alumni.

    Now, SJU provides the same rigorous Jesuit education to students all over the world by offering a wide array of degree and certificate programs online. Online students can earn certificates in business administration, criminal justice, education. They offer three online bachelor completion programs, one in general studies two in business administration. Online master's degree seekers can choose from a range of programs, including business administration, educational leadership, health administration, and more.

  6. DeSales University

    Center Valley, PA

    DeSales University, founded in 1965, is a private Catholic university named in honor of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers, journalists and the deaf. The university was one of the first universities for Catholic men in the Diocese, established by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. The university currently teaches more than 2,000 students.

    DeSales University offers baccalaureate and certificate programs online through the university's ACCESS Program. Online bachelor's degree offerings include accounting, criminal justice, business administration and nursing, while available online certifications include financial management, marketing, digital art and social media.

    Online student resources include an online job board, technical support and an online library with librarians available via email, Twitter or over the phone.

  7. Jefferson

    Philadelphia, PA

    Jefferson, which was created through the merger of Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University, offers many on-campus and online programs. Jefferson is a private school located in Philadelphia.

    The school offers nine bachelor of science programs, including business management, human resource management, law enforcement leadership, and organization leadership. The business management program lasts two to three years and require students to earn at least 120 credits. Courses last eight weeks, and most of the school's online programs do not require any on-campus work.

    Master's programs at Jefferson include sustainable design, healthcare quality and safety, population health intelligence, and construction management. The healthcare quality and safety program takes one to four years for students to complete, and all courses are taught asynchronously.

    Jefferson also offers an online post-master's nursing certificate, an MBA, and a doctorate in nursing practice and midwifery.

  8. Villanova University

    Villanova, PA

    Founded in 1842, Villanova University is a private research institution located just outside Philadelphia. More than 10,000 students study at the school's six colleges and schools, and each of these schools offers courses online.

    Engineering students may choose from nine online master's programs including biochemical engineering, sustainable engineering, and cybersecurity. The engineering school offers 102 online classes each year and boasts just 16 students per course.

    Villanova conducts its online courses through video and audio lectures, which distance learners can access 24/7. Students may download lectures to view and listen offline, and they are encouraged to refer back to important lessons after graduating. Villanova's graduates benefit from an alumni network of more than 123,000, making it one of the most desirable online colleges in Pennsylvania.

  9. Misericordia University

    Dallas, PA

    Misericordia offers 17 degrees and three certificates in a hybrid or fully online format. Undergraduate degrees available include a major in government, law, and national security. The interdisciplinary program prepares students for careers in national security by exploring topics like political science, legal studies, and history.

    Students may choose to complete fully-online courses in 15-week or seven-week formats. The accelerated seven-week program has eight start times throughout the year.

  10. Slippery Rock University

    Slippery Rock, PA

    Founded in 1889, Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania (SRU) is a public university located about 50 miles north of Pittsburgh. Slippery Rock offers more than 150 undergraduate majors and minors, and over 40 graduate programs.

    Recognized as one of the leading online schools in Pennsylvania, Slippery Rock offers a wide variety of master's, doctoral, and degree completion programs in distance formats. Undergraduates who already have completed some credits at another institution may be interested in SRU’s degree completion programs, which include an interdisciplinary BS in philanthropy and nonprofit management and a BS in leadership studies.

    Graduate admission requirements vary by program. Students looking to transfer to Slippery Rock must already hold an associate degree from an accredited program, and have a minimum cumulative GPA of at least 2.0.

Best Online Colleges

Online Colleges in Pennsylvania Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

Here at, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

Employment in Pennsylvania

College graduates benefit from a strong economic outlook in Pennsylvania. The state's below-average cost of living makes PA an attractive place for businesses and workers. Pennsylvania's major industries include energy, manufacturing, life sciences, and plastics. Jobs in many of the state's most common careers require a college degree.

Currently, fewer than 1 in 3 Pennsylvanians have a bachelor's degree or higher. Many of Pennsylvania's highest-paying jobs require a bachelor's degree, including careers like financial manager, construction manager, nurse practitioner, or information security analyst. All of these occupations pay average salaries of over $100,000 in Pennsylvania. Earning a college degree is a good way for Pennsylvanians to increase their earning potential and qualify for more jobs.

The highest-paying, fastest-growing careers in Pennsylvania include opportunities in healthcare, management, tech, and criminal justice. Pennsylvania's unemployment rate slightly exceeds the national average, while the average annual wage sits just above the national average.

The following information covers some of the highest-paying roles employing more than 1,000 individuals in Pennsylvania. Salary information refers specifically to Pennsylvania, while job growth data pertains to the United States as a whole.

Highest-Paying Careers
Career Annual Mean Salary (2020) Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) Education Required
General Internal Medicine Physicians $251,540 -1% Doctoral
Chief Executives $227,250 -1% Bachelor's
Family Medicine Physicians $218,310 6% Doctoral
Psychiatrists $214,410 12% Doctoral
Nurse Anesthetists $185,090 14% Master's
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The following data reflects some of the highest-paying roles employing more than 15,000 professionals in Pennsylvania. Salary figures apply specifically to Pennsylvania, while job growth data refers to the entire United States.

Most Common Careers in Pennsylvania
Career Annual Mean Salary (2020) Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) Education Required
Physicians $202,340 4% Doctoral
Financial Managers $153,730 15% Bachelor's
Computer and Information Systems Managers $145,460 10% Bachelor's
Lawyers $139,120 4% Doctoral
General and Operations Managers $131,060 6% Bachelor's
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Online Associate and Graduate Degrees

In addition to bachelor's programs, colleges in PA offer online associate and graduate programs. The switch to online-only education during the COVID-19 pandemic has expanded online options and led to more distance learning opportunities. Online learners at accredited Pennsylvania colleges receive the same high-quality education as those attending on-campus programs.

At the associate level, undergrads can earn degrees in business, engineering, and applied technology. These programs prepare graduates for the workforce or offer transfer credits that can be applied toward a bachelor's degree. Pennsylvania's statewide pathway program allows graduates with associate degrees to apply their credits directly to four-year degrees at other Pennsylvania schools.

At the graduate level, degree-seekers can choose from online options in fields like business, education, and nursing. For example, Penn State offers an online MBA program, and Cal U offers several online master's programs in nursing.

Online learning appeals to busy students and professionals who are seeking career advancement or changes. Working professionals may prefer the flexibility of an asynchronous learning schedule over attending in-person classes.

Some programs include in-person components, offer hybrid options, or require learners to complete practicum requirements in their local areas. For example, online nursing students and education majors often must meet practicum requirements through nearby hospitals or schools.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Online College Cheaper in Pennsylvania?

Many online colleges in Pennsylvania offer tuition discounts for fully online students and in-state learners, though the after-fees cost can vary. Choosing an online learning format can sometimes save students money, though not always.

What Are the 14 Pennsylvania State Colleges?


What Is the Hardest College To Get Into in Pennsylvania?

The Pennsylvania colleges with the lowest acceptance rates include University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College, and Carnegie Mellon University.

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