The Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania
| TBS Staff
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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.
|#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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Clarion University of Pennsylvania, founded in 1867, is one of the universities which comprise the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The university teaches more than 5,000 students. Available majors include topics within the spheres of education, science, business, information science and much more.
Clarion University of Pennsylvania offers associate, baccalaureate, master, doctoral and certificate programs online through Clarion Online. Associate's degrees include allied health and criminal justice. Bachelor's degrees include liberal studies and business administration. Master's degree options include library science and rehabilitative services. Doctoral degree offerings include nursing, while available certifications include public relations and the early childhood director's program.
Online student resources include career services, online writing assistance via email, disability support, wellness assistance and an online library with librarians available via live chat, email, Twitter, text message or over the phone.
The school's 34-credit core curriculum consists of 12 courses, including principles of bible study, world religions, and writing across the disciplines. Clarks Summit accepts online learners looking to complete associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs. The school's wide array of online programs make it one of the most desirable online schools in PA for students at all levels.
Clarks Summit University provides special resources to accommodate online learners, such as its online writing center. In addition, students who opt to take all of their courses online are eligible for discounted tuition. Students also have assistance from the university in searching for other financial aid sources.
Located in downtown Pittsburgh, Point Park University is a liberal arts university that offers 79 undergraduate programs and 20 graduate degrees. More than 4,000 on-campus and online students enroll in Point Park's four schools each semester. Point Park prides itself on its fast growth among online colleges in Pennsylvania.
Students may choose from 24 online programs, including the BA in writing for screen and media, which helps students launch their careers in television and digital media. Bachelor's degrees can be completed in as little as two years, and courses last eight weeks.
Point Park requires a minimum GPA of 2.0 for admission. Transcripts from colleges and universities must include at least 12 credits or six months of enrollment. Online undergraduate and graduate students pay discounted tuition as compared to their on-campus counterparts.
Geneva College was founded in Northwood, Ohio in 1848, and relocated to Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania in 1880. Geneva is a private Christian liberal arts school that was a founding member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. The college offers online bachelor's degrees across seven fields, including aging services, human resources, and public relations.
Geneva's online bachelor of professional studies program requires 36 credit hours of coursework in addition to core requirements. Students who completed foundational courses at another institution can finish their bachelor's degree in as little as 16 months through Geneva's accelerated programs. Online courses are self-paced and conducted through video lectures and virtual discussions.
Geneva College is one of the top online schools in Pennsylvania, and 96% of graduates are employed or in graduate school just one year after completing their degree.
Members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit founded Duquesne University, a private Catholic university, in 1878. It is Pennsylvania's first Catholic university and caters to over 10,000 students and more than 75,000 alumni. The university offers more than 180 programs of study spanning 10 academic colleges, including liberal arts, environmental sciences, law, business and pharmacy. Among the university's alumni are two Roman Catholic bishops and two Roman Catholic cardinals.
Duquesne University offers online baccalaureate, master, doctoral and certificate programs. Online bachelor's degrees include behavioral science and professional communication. Online master's degrees include leadership and nursing. Doctoral degree offerings include nursing and instructional technology. Available certifications include forensic nursing and family nurse practitioner.
Resources available to online students include an online writing center, technical support and an online library with librarians available via live chat, email, text message or over the phone.
Founded in 1847, Saint Francis University is the oldest Catholic-Franciscan college in the United States. The private liberal arts university offers more than 50 undergraduate, graduate, and adult degrees in four areas: arts and letters, business, health sciences, and sciences.
Online learners may choose from 17 distance education programs, which are taught in both hybrid and fully online formats. Some distance programs require a few on-campus courses, while others give students the option to attend in-person classes.
Many of Saint Francis's online courses are self-paced, and some are offered during the summer semester. A pioneer among online colleges in PA, Saint Francis University was one of the first institutions to introduce an online master's degree in health science. Students are free to move through this program at their own pace, and most earn a degree in 18 months.
Immaculata University is a private Roman Catholic university founded in 1920. It initially opened as Villa Maria College, the first all-female college in Philadelphia and the surrounding area. The university became co-ed in 2005, but still maintains Villa Maria Academy, a school for girls. The university has approximately 4,000 students in attendance.
Immaculata University offers associate’s and baccalaureate degree programs through its College of Lifelong Learning. Associate’s degree options include business administration, while bachelor’s degree offerings include emergency planning, finance, health information management and human resource management.
Resources made available to online students include online writing assistance via GoToMeeting, technical support and an online library with librarians available via email or over the phone.
Established in 1865, Peirce College is a private institution located in Philadelphia. An early adopter of online schooling in PA, Peirce introduced its first online courses in 2000. Today, Peirce focuses on educating working adults, and offers 13 fully online programs of study. Some hybrid programs are also available, such as the bachelor of paralegal studies.
Online learners have the option to take some of their courses in an intensive format. These intensives, offered online and on campus, allow students to complete an eight-week course in just three weeks. Students must be in good academic standing, with at least a 2.0 GPA, to enroll in intensive courses.
Peirce assists students through a variety of scholarships and grants, and students can apply to several scholarships at once by submitting the Peirce Common Scholarship Application.
Founded in 1863 by the Brothers of the Christian Schools, La Salle University is a private Roman Catholic university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. La Salle offers 16 online degrees, including 13 fully online graduate programs.
One unique program is the online MS in economic crime forensics, which prepares students to detect and analyze financial crimes. As with many of La Salle's online programs, courses are eight weeks long, and are delivered synchronously. Many programs allow students to take courses in the fall, spring, and summer semesters.
La Salle strives to be one of the more affordable online colleges in Pennsylvania, and the school recently reduced its undergraduate tuition by 29%.
Located in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, Messiah College is a private evangelical liberal arts college that was founded in 1909. The school offers more than 150 undergraduate programs, and 27 graduate and certificate programs.
Messiah provides flexible learning options like accelerated programs and online summer courses, and several graduate programs are available in distance formats. Most distance programs are a blend of on-campus courses or intensives and online work. For example, the online MA in higher education requires students to attend a weeklong intensive in July, and gives online learners the option to take some in-person courses.
While Messiah does not currently offer fully online undergraduate programs, the college does offer online undergraduate courses during the summer. Due in part to unique distance programs such as the online master of music in conducting, Messiah College is known as one of the top online schools in PA.
Founded in 1925, Eastern University is a private Baptist institution located in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. The school began as a seminary, and now offers 132 academic programs through seven schools.
Students may complete 32 of these programs online, with blended and fully online formats available. Eastern University's distance programs are asynchronous but not self-paced. While students are not required to log on together, live discussion sessions are frequently held through Zoom, a feature of Eastern University's online learning platform.
Some programs are available in an accelerated format, with classes starting every seven weeks. For example, Eastern University offers one of the fastest MBA tracks among online colleges in Pennsylvania. Students can complete the accelerated MBA in as little as 12 months.
Established in 1933, Wilkes University is a private institution located in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Students may choose from more than 80 areas of study, and Wilkes University awards online degrees in education, nursing, creative writing, and business. In total, students may choose from more than 15 online bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate programs.
Some programs, such as the accelerated bachelor of business administration, can be completed fully online. Many other programs require some on-campus visits. For example, the online master in creative writing allows students to choose from attending courses four weekends per semester or two eight-day residencies in January and June.
Unlike many online schools in PA, Wilkes University provides merit scholarships to all students, regardless of financial need. Freshmen and transfer students at this school may be eligible for merit scholarships based on their SAT scores or GPA.
Gwynedd Mercy University is a private Catholic institution located just 30 miles outside Philadelphia, in Gwynedd Valley. The school offers more than 40 undergraduate and graduate programs across 28 fields of study. Students may choose from 23 online programs in business, counseling, education, nursing, and psychology.
Courses at this college are self-paced, and some distance programs are available in an accelerated format. Students in the accelerated bachelor of business administration program take courses one at a time in five-week blocks. Gwynedd Mercy offers accelerated master's courses as well, which are delivered in seven-week blocks.
While most online programs do not require visiting campus, students in Gwynedd Mercy's hybrid nursing programs must complete an in-person practicum experience. Prospective students must have at least a 2.0 GPA to be eligible for Gwynedd Mercy's bachelor's programs, and at least a 3.0 GPA for the school's graduate programs.
Founded in 1884, Temple University is a public research university located in Philadelphia. The school is a leader in research among online colleges in Pennsylvania, and its research spending ranks in the top four percent of all U.S. universities. Temple serves close to 30,000 undergraduates and more than 10,000 graduate students.
Temple University prides itself on unique courses such as chemistry of wine, psychology of food, and the hip hop revolution. Online learners may choose from 35 distance programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and certificate levels. Programs are delivered in blended and fully online formats; some programs are asynchronous, while others are synchronous.
Temple grants distance students access to helpful resources like the online writing center and the Center for Learning and Student Success (CLASS). Through CLASS, online learners can take advantage of virtual tutoring, live review sessions, and group study sessions.
The University of Pittsburgh was founded in 1787, making it one of the oldest higher education institutions in the U.S. One of the most research-focused online schools in PA, the University of Pittsburgh developed the first polio vaccine in 1955.
Today, the school offers programs through 17 undergraduate and graduate schools, including a law school and a medical school. Online learners gain access to 23 academic programs across six schools. One unique program for distance students is the joint master of public policy and doctor of nursing practice degree.
Most courses are fully online and delivered asynchronously. While these programs do not require students to log on at specific times, all online courses follow the same 12-15 week term as on-campus courses. In addition, students can accelerate the path to a degree through online summer courses. Pitt's out-of-state online students pay the same tuition as in-state distance learners.
Online Colleges in Pennsylvania Ranking Guidelines
We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.
Here at TheBestSchools.org, 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.
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 AcademicInfluence.com, 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.
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.
|Career||Annual Mean Salary (2020)||Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)||Education Required|
|General Internal Medicine Physicians||$251,540||-1%||Doctoral|
|Family Medicine Physicians||$218,310||6%||Doctoral|
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.
|Career||Annual Mean Salary (2020)||Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)||Education Required|
|Computer and Information Systems Managers||$145,460||10%||Bachelor's|
|General and Operations Managers||$131,060||6%||Bachelor's|
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
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.
- BLOOMSBURG UNIVERSITY
- CALIFORNIA UNIVERSITY
- CHEYNEY UNIVERSITY
- CLARION UNIVERSITY
- EAST STROUDSBURG UNIVERSITY
- EDINBORO UNIVERSITY
- INDIANA UNIVERSITY
- KUTZTOWN UNIVERSITY
- LOCK HAVEN UNIVERSITY
- MANSFIELD UNIVERSITY
- MILLERSVILLE UNIVERSITY
- SHIPPENSBURG UNIVERSITY
- SLIPPERY ROCK UNIVERSITY
- WEST CHESTER UNIVERSITY
The Pennsylvania colleges with the lowest acceptance rates include University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College, and Carnegie Mellon University.
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