Online colleges in Florida

There were nearly 400 colleges, universities, career schools and other postsecondary institutions in the Sunshine State as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). If you've been thinking about enrolling at one of the campus-based or online schools and colleges in Florida, it can help to know a few things about the academic landscape before picking your school and going all-in.

To find out more about Florida's school options and potential careers, explore the different sections of this guide. They include:

Snapshot of Florida education

Here's a table of data on traditional, campus-based Florida schools and the number and type of degrees being offered at public, private and for-profit institutions:

Campus-based schools in Florida
Institution type No. offering bachelor's degrees No. offering associate degrees No. offering certificates and other non-degree awards No. offering advanced degrees (master's, Ph.D., etc.)
Public 39 41 74 13
Private nonprofit 66 46 8 17
Private for-profit 38 90 30 50

Students at traditional as well as online colleges in Florida can benefit from living in a city where the needs of an academic life can be met locally. Here's a table of cities in Florida with a considerable portion of students in their population, which may suggest the presence of bookstores, tutoring and other components of academic infrastructure:

City Total estimated population
(U.S. Census, 2015)
No. of enrolled students
(NCES, 2016)
Student presence as a % of permanent resident population % of residents with bachelor's degrees
(U.S. Census, 2015)
Gainesville 130,128 65,412 50.26 percent 42.6 percent
Orlando 270,934 122,171 45.09 percent 33.4 percent
Miami 441,003 121,552 27.56 percent 23.5 percent
Boca Raton 93,235 34,571 37.07 percent 52.1 percent
Coral Gables 46,776 16,825 35.97 percent 62.1 percent
Fort Lauderdale 178,590 82,893 46.42 percent 33.9 percent
Lake Worth 37,498 29,616 78.98 percent 19.7 percent
Tampa 369,075 91,663 24.84 percent 33.7 percent

The College Board reports that the average annual tuition for students at four-year Florida schools came to $6,360 in 2015-16, but some institutions charged quite a bit more or less than that number. Tuition and fees at University of Miami in Coral Gables and Rollins College in Winter Park were the highest in the state in 2016, at $47,004 and $46,520 respectively, while the lowest yearly tuition of all Florida schools belonged to Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth, Valencia College in Orlando and Eastern Florida State College in Cocoa, each of which cost less than $2,500 per year for in-state students.

Online education in Florida

Advantages of online education at most institutions include flexible course scheduling and typically lower tuition costs, which can be great for mid-life career changers and working parents hoping to go back to school. Here's some NCES data on the online degrees being offered online from each of the three types of Florida schools:

Online schools in Florida
Institution type No. offering 4-year degrees No. offering 2-year degrees No. offering certificates and other non-degree awards No. offering advanced degrees (master's, Ph.D., etc.)
Public 23 24 25 12
Private nonprofit 32 18 5 32
Private for-profit 13 23 18 9

Ranking information for traditional and online schools in Florida

Several of the campus-based and online colleges in Florida have earned acclaim from national and international academic ranking agencies. Here's a quick rundown of some of the top-rated Florida schools:

Rankings for campus-based and online schools in Florida
School name
Ranking agency
University of Miami No. 44 (tie) National Universities U.S. News & World Report
University of Florida No. 59 Global Universities Center for World University Rankings
University of Florida No. 14 (Tie) Top Public Schools U.S. News & World Report
University of South Florida No. 164 Global Universities Center for World University Rankings
Rollins College No. 2 Best Colleges for Veterans U.S. News & World Report
Rollins College No. 2 Regional Universities (South) U.S. News & World Report
Stetson University No. 5 Best Colleges for Veterans U.S. News & World Report

Top degree programs at online colleges in Florida

Some of the best distance education programs in the country can be found at online schools in Florida. Here's some info on the top online programs in force at Florida schools, according to U.S. News & World Report:

Top-ranked online programs in Florida
School name
Degree program
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Online bachelor's degrees No. 1 (tie) This Daytona Beach school got a perfect score for its robust online student services program, as well as a near-perfect 95 out of 100 for the credentials and training of its online faculty.
University of Florida Teacher education No. 1 (tie)

Online education degrees aren't the only University of Florida offering making a strong showing -- the Gainesville institution also took home the No. 4 spot for its online MBA.

Florida State University Criminal justice No. 5 FSU is perhaps the most decorated among online colleges in Florida, with additional top five rankings for its graduate business and teacher education programs.
Florida Institute of Technology Computer information technology No. 11 (tie) Students cover programming, database management, system maintenance and more in this Melbourne school's career-oriented online IT degree.

Industries and degrees to get in Florida

Thanks to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity's Labor Market Information (LMI) reports and the biannual analyses conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) at the U.S. Department of Labor, it's possible to sketch a reasonably clear picture of trends on the job market over the next several years. Here are a few of Florida's hottest jobs, according to LMI and BLS data, along with some educational requirements and suggestions for anyone hoping to chase one of these emerging positions:

Hot degrees and top jobs for Florida graduates
Why it's hot
Degrees that can help
Statistician As the importance of Big Data continues to assert itself in the business world and beyond, jobs for skilled quantitative analysts are well on the rise. Statisticians are the fastest-growing occupational group in Florida, according to the LMI, with employment growth of 59.7 percent expected between 2014 and 2024. What's more, the BLS reports a mean annual wage of $63,420 for statisticians in Florida in 2015, and the top 10 percent of earners in the state took home more than $108,500 for the year. Most statisticians need a master's degree in statistics, mathematics, economics, computer science or another field with a heavy quantitative emphasis. Employers' educational requirements may vary depending on the focus of their business -- statistician jobs in manufacturing may prefer applicants with a background in engineering, while statistical positions in the pharmaceutical industry may ask for formal training in biology, chemistry or other hard sciences. Candidates for research or academic jobs are likely to need a Ph.D. or other terminal degree.
Nurse Practitioner Health care jobs are hot all over the country, and this vital area of practice is the No. 1 health care job in Florida according to LMI numbers. Statewide job growth of 46.8 percent is expected among these advance practice registered nursing (APRN) positions by 2024, even faster than the national growth average of 31 percent, and the mean annual salary of $95,780 for nurse practitioners in Florida is more than double the state's average yearly wage across all occupations. APRNs need at least a master's degree before they can earn the additional state license needed to practice at their advanced level. The most common path to a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree includes a few years' experience as a registered nurse (RN) in a clinical environment and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from one of the many traditional or online programs in Florida. Certain institutions may also offer combination BSN/MSN programs that can accelerate an RN's transition to APRN status.
Veterinary Technician National job growth for veterinary technicians, or vet techs, is a rapid but still somewhat modest 19 percent. Florida's statewide projections outdo that figure by nearly double: LMI data forecasts a 35.2 percent increase in job openings for vet techs in the Sunshine State, thanks in part to the increasing use of highly trained assistants in the delivery of veterinary services. Florida vet techs earned an statewide average annual wage of $30,080 in 2015, with those in the Naples, Gainesville and Miami areas earning closer to $35,000.

According to the BLS, veterinary technicians typically complete a two-year training program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) before stepping into their professional roles. Veterinary technologists, a similar but somewhat more skilled position, usually undergo a full four years of training before entering the field. The Florida Veterinary Technician Association (FVTA) requires applicants for vet tech certification to take and pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) before they can be cleared to work in a vet clinic or animal hospital.

Computer Systems Analyst Personal computers and networked mobile handsets are such a significant part of modern professional life that it's hard to imagine a world in which we lived without them. Opportunities for computer systems analysts are on a rapid rise in Florida, with the most recent LMI projections showing an expected employment increase of 33.7 percent between 2014 and 2024 -- more than 1.5 times the national average rate of growth. Annual wages for computer systems analysts in Florida averaged to $82,120 in 2015, according to the BLS. Although the minimum reported education requirement for computer systems analysts is just a bachelor's degree, the level of competitiveness in the field tends to vary from company to company and position to position. A master's degree in computer science can help candidates for senior positions assert their value in the hiring process, and industry certifications such as the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE), Linux Professional Institute Certification (LPIC) and CompTIA Security+ credential can bolster your resume regardless of your academic degree.

Featured schools in Florida

Many of the campus-based and online schools and colleges in Florida provide students with selections of study plans that are among the most diverse on the national university scene. Take a look at this list of top-rated programs from just a handful of Florida schools:

Campus-based and online programs in Florida
Institution name
Online degrees?
Top programs
University of Florida Yes Teacher education (on campus and online), nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy, physician assisting, medical research, health care management, public health, occupational therapy, primary care medicine, veterinary medicine, criminology, law, chemistry, physics, engineering (on campus and online), psychology, sociology, MBA (online), part-time MBA, Earth sciences, math, statistics
Florida State University Yes Graduate business (online), teacher education (on campus and online), criminology, criminal justice (online), library and information studies, public affairs, social work, sociology, psychology, law, chemistry, nursing (on campus and online), statistics, engineering, computer science (on campus and online), economics, English, political science, MBA (online)
University of South Florida Yes Computer science (online), public health, audiology, engineering (online), library and information studies, criminology, industrial/organizational psychology, rehabilitation counseling, pharmacy, nursing, teacher education (on campus and online), speech-language pathology
University of Miami Yes Physical therapy, psychology, nursing, Earth sciences, graduate business (on campus and online), medical research, teacher education (on campus and online), primary care medicine, health care management, biological sciences, math, English, history, sociology
University of Central Florida Yes Nursing (on campus and online), criminology, atomic physics, health care management, criminal justice (online), nonprofit management, engineering, medical research, teacher education, speech-language pathology, social work, public affairs, computer science
Florida International University Yes International business, health care management, nursing, criminal justice (online), engineering (on campus and online), MBA (online), public affairs, occupational therapy, Earth sciences, law, fine arts, social work, history, teacher education (online)

How can I enroll in a Florida school?

College admissions processes for online and campus-based colleges are both similar and commonly laid out clearly on official websites. The first step toward enrolling in a college program is usually identifying the right school and learning format for you -- there are some important considerations, however. Here are a few tips:

  • Confirm programs are accredited before submitting an application. Most financial aid awards and graduate schools require applicants to attend accredited colleges.
  • Know and respect all deadlines.
  • Request letters of recommendation, transcripts and any other necessary items ASAP in the process
  • For financial aid, fill out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) online and submit it on time. You will need your -- and maybe your parents' -- tax and other financial information.
  • Choose to have all schools on your prospect list receive your FAFSA.

Then, you can check out schools and potential careers right here on our site. Choosing whether you would like to attend a campus-based or online school in Florida requires a little research and a lot of introspection -- and reaching out to a college admissions advisor at a school of interest can't hurt either.

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2. QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, accessed September 23, 2016, http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/00
3. U.S. News & World Report, accessed September 23, 2016: Colleges in Florida, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/fl?_mode=list&_sort=enrollment&_sort-direction=desc; University of Florida, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/university-of-florida-1535; Florida State University, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/fsu-1489; University of Central Florida, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/ucf-3954; Florida International University, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/fiu-9635; University of Miami, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/university-of-miami-1536; University of South Florida, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/usf-1537; Best Online Bachelor's Programs, http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/bachelors/rankings; Florida Institute of Technology, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/florida-tech-1469; Rollins College, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/rollins-college-1515/overall-rankings; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/embry-riddle-1479; Stetson University, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/stetson-university-1531;
4. Labor Market Information, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, accessed September 23, 2016, http://www.floridajobs.org/labor-market-information
5. Top Universities, Center for World University Rankings, accessed September 23, 2016, http://cwur.org/2016.php
6. Tuition and Fees by Sector and State over Time, The College Board, accessed September 23, 2016, https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-fees-sector-state-over-time
7. Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed September 23, 2016: Statisticians, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Math/Statisticians.htm; Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm; Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm; Computer Systems Analysts, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Computer-and-Information-Technology/Computer-systems-analysts.htm;
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9. Florida, May 2015 State Occupational and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed September 23, 2016, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_fl.htm
10. Recent Graduate Certification, Florida Veterinary Technician Association, accessed September 23, 2016, http://www.thefvta.net/event-2135738
11. Veterinary Technician National Examination, American Association of Veterinary State Boards, accessed September 23, 2016, https://www.aavsb.org/vtne/
12. Best IT Certifications for 2016, Tom's IT Pro, accessed September 23, 2016, http://www.tomsitpro.com/articles/best-it-certifications,1-1352.html

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