Online Colleges in DC
The District of Columbia, otherwise known as Washington, D.C., is more than just the U.S. capital — it is a hotbed of history, culture and (of course) jobs. Sandwiched between Maryland and Virginia, D.C. proper is just one portion of a sprawling metropolitan that includes other major cities, like Alexandria, Va., and Baltimore, Md. Nearly 6 million people live here in all, so it is fair to say the region needs a booming job market to support them. Not surprisingly, the federal government is the region's primary employer: According to a 2013 report from The Atlantic's City Lab, about 14 percent of D.C. workforce is comprised of federal employees. What is surprising is that this generous share only places the metro fourth nationally in terms of its concentration of government workers. Colorado Springs, Virginia Beach and Honolulu each boast higher percentages of government employees (thanks primarily to their large military bases) Lucky for job-seekers, there are several other industries represented in Washington and dozens of schools that feed into them.
Washington D.C. career prospects
When the United States faces any major economic shift, such as the Great Recession of 2008, Washington D.C.'s labor force lies in the wake. As budgets are slashed, so are federal jobs. The Washington Post reported that the metro's job market was finally beginning to rebound in 2013, albeit slowly. Congressional motions that ensured government funding through at least 2015 gave rise to several new government jobs, and a quick stroll through USA Jobs, the government's official job site, shows new opportunities across a number of specialties, like accounting and finance, public health, business and even information technology.
Of course, the government is not the only industry adding jobs. In fact, many of the region's fastest growing careers are not government-related at all. The Department of Labor's CareerOne Stop projects that the following careers will grow the fastest in Washington D.C. between 2010 and 2020:
- Home Health Aides
- Biomedical Engineers
- Personal Care Aides
- Software Developers
- Veterinary Technicians
- Database Administrators
- Physical Therapy Assistants
- Market Research Analysts
The fastest growing jobs in Washington D.C. may come from a diversity of industries, but many share one important characteristic: They require formal training. Fortunately there is no shortage of colleges and career schools in D.C..
Washington D.C. colleges and universities
Washington D.C. is not just an educated city — it is one of the most highly educated areas in the country. According to a 2013 report from Lumina Foundation, Washington D.C.'s 55 percent college attainment rate ranked it first among the 25 most populated metros in the nation in 2012. While market demand for college educated workers has likely helped shaped this educational landscape, it has always been known as an educational mecca. Some of the nation's oldest and best-known schools are in D.C., including:
- Georgetown University
- George Washington University
- Howard University
- Gallaudet University, which specializes in educating deaf students.
Washington D.C. colleges include public, private nonprofit and private for-profit institutions. Technical and career schools are prevalent, too. Many schools in D.C. proper extend in-state residency status to any student living in the surrounding states (think: Virginia and Maryland), so students need not live in the district to get affordable tuition. While not all students attend schools in D.C. in hopes of landing government jobs, these institutions can serve as a solid stepping stone for those who do, especially since the government is known to frequently recruit local graduates and stage district-wide and on-campus job fairs.
Students who are unable to find programs that appeal to them locally, or whose lives make it difficult to attend traditional colleges, can look to a growing share of online schools in D.C.. Many online programs are offered through for-profit colleges and career schools, but public and private nonprofit Washington D.C. colleges are expanding their online course catalogs — and fast. Some schools, like Georgetown University, have even begun to experiment with a new class of online learning called massive open online courses, or MOOCs. These courses are typically free and open to anyone with an Internet connection, but they rarely offer college credit. Still, the trend speaks to the metro's willingness not just to experiment with new modes of learning, but to actually serve as a national leader in the evolving realm of higher education.
Financial aid in D.C.
Area students attending public Washington D.C. colleges may be able to reduce costs by taking advantage of their in-state residency status, especially those who start at two-year community colleges and technical schools, which are typically cheaper. However, most students still need a little help paying for school. Government-backed financial aid — including subsidized and unsubsidized loans, grants and work-study arrangements — can be an excellent place to start. Students can apply for this aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid online. Another often overlooked source of federal aid is scholarships, grants and work-trades from various government agencies, like the Central Intelligence Agency or the National Science Foundation.
Federal aid is not the only way to manage costs, however. Many private lenders and trusts also offer loans and scholarships. While some of these programs are need-based, meaning they are reserved for students who fall under a certain income threshold, others are merit-based. Merit-based aid is typically awarded based on academic, athletic or artistic talent, and it can be a lifeline for students who either do not qualify for most need-based aid, or who need additional help bridging the gap between existing aid and their ultimate education costs. In addition to contacting their school of choice for tips, students can search for private scholarships through online databases such as FastWeb and Scholarships.com.
Fastest-Growing Occupations: District of Columbia, CareerOne Stop,
Careers & Internships: Student Opportunities, Central Intelligence Agency,
"America's Federal Employment Belt," Richard Florida, CityLab, Nov. 15, 2013,
"Forecasts for the D.C. area economy in 2014: Better, but not great," Sarah Halzack, The Washington Post, Jan. 5, 2014,
"A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education: College attainment in the 25 most populous metropolitan regions in the continental U.S.," Lumina Foundation,
Find Funding, National Science Foundation,
Job Search: District of Columbia, USAJOBS,