The Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania

| TBS Staff

Are you ready to discover your college program?

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

Pennsylvania State University - World Campus View School Profile University Park, PA The Penn State World Campus is regionally accredited by The Middle States Commission of Higher Education (MSCHE).

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 View School Profile Philadelphia, PA Drexel University is regionally accredited by The Middle States Commission of Higher Education (MSCHE).

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 - RMU Online View School Profile Moon Township, PA Robert Morris University is regionally accredited by The Middle States Commission of Higher Education (MSCHE).

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 View School Profile California, PA California University of Pennsylvania is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

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 View School Profile Philadelphia, PA Saint Joseph's University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

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 View School Profile Center Valley, PA DeSales University is regionally accredited by The Middle States Commission of Higher Education (MSCHE).

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 View School Profile Philadelphia, PA Jefferson University is regionally accredited by the Middles States Association of Colleges and Schools.

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.

Villanova University View School Profile Villanova, PA Villanova University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

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 University View School Profile Dallas, PA Misericordia University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Misericordia's online business programs are accredited by the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE). Its nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

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.

Slippery Rock University View School Profile Slippery Rock, PA Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The online BSBA program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). The online BSN program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

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 View School Profile Clarion, PA Clarion University is regionally accredited by The Middle States Commission of Higher Education (MSCHE).

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.

Clarks Summit University View School Profile South Abington Township, PA Clarks Summit University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

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.

Point Park University View School Profile Pittsburgh, PA Point Park University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

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 View School Profile Beaver Falls, PA Geneva College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

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.

Duquesne University View School Profile Pittsburgh, PA Duquesne University is regionally accredited by The Middle States Commission of Higher Education (MSCHE).

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.

Saint Francis University View School Profile Loretto, PA Saint Francis University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

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 View School Profile Immaculata, PA Immaculata University is regionally accredited by The Middle States Commission of Higher Education (MSCHE).

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.

Peirce College View School Profile Philadelphia, PA Peirce College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The online programs in paralegal studies are approved by the American Bar Association.

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.

La Salle University View School Profile Philadelphia, PA La Salle University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. La Salle's programs in the school of business are accredited by the AACSB. The online nursing program is accredited by the CCNE.

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%.

Messiah College View School Profile Mechanicsburg, PA Messiah College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

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.

Eastern University View School Profile Saint Davids, PA Eastern University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

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.

Wilkes University View School Profile Wilkes-Barre, PA Wilkes University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

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 View School Profile Gwynedd Valley, PA Gwynedd Mercy University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

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.

Temple University View School Profile Philadelphia, PA Temple University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

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.

University of Pittsburgh View School Profile Pittsburgh, PA The University of Pittsburgh is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

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.

Best Online Colleges

Online Colleges in Pennsylvania Ranking Guidelines

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

The motto of TheBestSchools.org is Finding the best school for you. Here is how we do it:

The value of any ranking list of schools and/or degree programs depends on having a methodologically sound assessment of each school’s/program’s characteristics, especially insofar as these can be objectively measured. A college or university is a complex entity, with numerous factors to consider, and distilling these down to the place where meaningful comparisons can be made to form a defensible ranking list becomes part science and part art.

To meet this challenge—and thereby provide you with the most useful and insightful educational rankings on the Internet — TheBestSchools.org formulates our rankings based on five informational categories (six, when considering online schools). The major metrics and qualities for which we rank are these (with expanded, detailed considerations and weights listed):

1. Academic excellence based on a school’s curriculum generally or within the selected discipline [weight = 25%]

  • Weighs school against known leading schools in that discipline
  • Weighs number of core curricula listed as advanced courses within that discipline and compares against introductory courses
  • Weighs school’s curriculum against known knowledge needs of major employers in that discipline
  • Considers number and types of specializations offered within that discipline
  • Considers faculty expertise in that discipline
  • Considers range of electives within that discipline
  • Considers quality of online environment offered to students (if applicable), particularly within that discipline

2. Strength of faculty scholarship [weight = 25%]

  • Considers education background of the faculty
  • Considers years of faculty experience both inside and outside of academia.
  • Considers faculty membership and leadership within relevant, prominent associations
  • Considers academic papers published by faculty in relevant, prominent periodicals
  • Considers awards and recognitions given to faculty members from prominent organizations and from other sources

3. Reputation [weight = 20%]

  • Considers a school’s reputation among academic peers and employers regarding the following:
    • Faculty
    • Curriculum
    • “Freshness” of academic knowledge
    • Adaptability to changes in employment sectors
    • Suitability of graduates for the workplace

4. Financial aid [weight = 10%]

  • Mandatory: Requires full accreditation from an agency endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and listed on the federal register to accept student federal financial aid
  • Considers range of school-sponsored financial aid such as scholarships and grants

5. Range of degree programs [weight = 20%]

  • Considers range of degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral and professional
  • Considers range of degree subjects offered, such as art & design, computers & technology, education & teaching, criminal justice, and business

6. Strength of online instruction methodology (if applicable) [weight = 25%; subtract 5% from each of the above for online schools/programs]

  • Considers the following of the online classes:
    • Types of online technology used to deliver content
    • Pedagogy style: asynchronous, synchronous, or both (depending on the degree)
    • Extent and quality of the online, community learning environment, including options for communication, interactivity, and collaboration between students and also between students and instructors
    • Variety, breadth, and depth of coursework, and its support, including project options and online tutoring
  • Considers the following of instructors:
    • Extent of training for teaching within an online learning environment
    • Amount of timely, consistent feedback to students
    • Extent of collaboration with prospective employers to ensure suitability of instructional materials for achieving desired skills
    • Ratio to number of students in a class
  • Number and quality of internships in a student’s geographical area for applicable degrees

Because students tend to review a variety of information when choosing a school, the weight a student gives any one criterion will vary. For instance, it’s not enough to offer a carefully constructed ranking of great schools if many are too expensive or too difficult to get into.

To better serve the needs of prospective students, we are therefore increasingly offering filters that help you better use our rankings to find the schools that match your specific needs. These supplement our ranking criteria and include:

  • Accreditation
  • Public or private status
  • Acceptance rate
  • Retention rate
  • Graduation rate
  • ACT/SAT requirements
  • Cost in-state / out of state
  • Undergrad, grad, or both offered
  • Region
  • State
  • City

Get the best rankings here AND get them to suit your personal needs. That’s TheBestSchools.org advantage!

If you have any questions about our ranking methodology, please contact us.

Citations: For a broader account of our ranking methodology, especially as it relates to TheBestSchools.org's underlying educational philosophy and, in other ranking articles, looks beyond academic excellence (as here) to such factors as return on investment or incidental benefit, see our article "Ranking Methodology: How We Rank Schools at TBS." Reputation of schools and degree programs can at least in part be gauged through the school or department's publishing activity, citations, and desirability. At TheBestSchools.org, we keep track of such social and peer validation: "Making Sense of College Rankings." For nuts-and-bolts information about colleges and universities, we look to the National Center for Education Statistics and especially its College Navigator. Insofar as salary and inflation data are relevant to a ranking, we look to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, nothing beats contacting schools and degree programs directly, which our researchers often do, with the result that all the entries in this article should be considered as belonging to this citation!

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

true 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?

  • 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

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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