Online colleges in Florida
There's plenty of sun, sand, nightlife and outdoor activity in Florida, but it's also a great place to get an education. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) shows a total of 322 traditional and online colleges in Florida where students can pursue a degree, study up on skills in one-off courses or become professionally certified.
If you're thinking about enrolling in online schools in Florida, it can be helpful to surround yourself with an existing culture of learning. Studying alongside other students in libraries and coffee shops can help keep your head in the game and your mind on the material. The five Florida cities with the highest student populations, according to 2014 enrollment data collected by the NCES, are Miami, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Tallahassee. But for students who prefer more of a small-town feel to their college atmosphere, Gainesville, Daytona Beach and Boca Raton have also got considerable student populations among cities that didn't make the top five.
To find out more about attending college in Florida, explore the different sections of this guide, including:
•Major industries & in-demand degrees
The general benefits of online education — namely location flexibility and a generally lower cost of tuition than can typically be found at brick-and-mortar universities — certainly apply to online schools in Florida just as much as they do anywhere else in the country. There are also some state-specific benefits to earning a degree online, however, and one of the big ones has to do with teacher education.
School systems, colleges and universities are listed among the top regional employers by Chambers of Commerce all around Florida. Here are just a few examples of educational institutions with high-volume employment in the Sunshine State:
- The University of Florida is far and away the largest employer in Gainesville, providing jobs for approximately 27,870 members of the workforce in 2014.
- Orange County Public Schools in Orlando has a larger workforce than every regional employer other than Disney World.
- The public school system in Miami-Dade County, comprising 392 schools as of 2015, provides employment for more than 40,000 people in the South Florida area.
- The University of South Florida near Tampa employed nearly 10,000 Hillsborough County residents in 2011, and the local public school district employed more than 25,000 the same year.
What's more, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) shows that jobs for special education teachers at all levels are expected to increase more than 20 percent between 2014 and 2022. With all this opportunity in the education sector, it's no wonder that many online colleges in Florida offer teacher education programs both part- and full-time.
If you're interested, start exploring what online degrees might be offered near you by checking out this map, which shows the location of all colleges in Florida that have online offerings, based on 2013 data from the NCES. (Mobile users will need to visit the full Schools.com site to use the map.)
Florida online schools to check out
Aspiring teachers can look into the online graduate education program at Florida State University, which ranked No. 2 in the nation in 2015 according to U.S. News and World Report, and the special education teaching program at the University of Florida ranks in the top five among all American universities.
Teacher education isn't the only hot program at online schools in Florida, either. Florida International University earned high marks for its online graduate programs in engineering, business and criminal justice, and Palm Beach Atlantic University placed among the top 25 online bachelor's programs nationwide in 2015.
Of course, one of the benefits of attending college online in Florida is that you can branch out to institutions located in other states. Distance learning initiatives at top national universities like University of Illinois - Chicago and Penn State World Campus are also available to Florida residents learning in the virtual classroom.
Opportunities abound in the education sector, but the Florida economy also thrives on tourism, hospitality, retail and health care services.
Opportunities abound in the education sector, but the Florida economy also thrives on tourism, hospitality, retail and health care services. Walt Disney World Resorts is a large employer in the state, and Florida employers Publix Super Markets, Inc. and Office Depot, Inc., both sit comfortably among the top 250 companies on the 2014 Fortune 500.
If you take into account state and national employment projections and recent statewide economic trends, it's possible to target your education to try and meet the particular demands of the Florida workforce. Here's a list of some degrees available at traditional or online schools in Florida that can help prepare you for employment in one of the state's top economic sectors:
- Today's culture of rapidly advancing technology in the medical field is creating a demand for biomedical engineering professionals to design new prosthetic limbs, artificial internal organs, automatic diagnostic machinery and other high-tech biomedical devices. Employment of biomedical engineers is expected to grow 27 percent nationwide, and growth in Florida was even more impressive at 55 percent. The pay is particularly high for a job that typically requires just a bachelor's degree, also; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that biomedical engineers in Florida earned a mean salary of $76,280 in 2014.
- Marketing is a booming field all over the U.S., and employment growth for market research analysts in Florida reflects the growing demand nationwide. Projections from the Florida DEO indicate an expected employment increase of 31 percent between 2014 and 2022, leading to thousands of new statewide jobs in the field, and the BLS reports a 2014 mean annual wage of $57,560 for marketing analysts in Florida. Most firms that hire market research analysts prefer candidates who have earned at least a bachelor's degree, and positions of high responsibility may require some graduate education.
- Technical occupations in health care have been making big employment gains the last few years, and diagnostic medical sonography may be the sleeper hit of that field. Florida DEO data indicates a better than 35 percent rate of employment growth expected statewide by 2022, and the BLS shows an average annual wage of $60,080 for Florida sonographers in 2014. On top of all that, most entry-level positions require just an associate degree or certificate from qualified applicants, and some employers may provide continuing education at on-site facilities to help workers stay up on the latest tech and techniques.
Though no degree can guarantee you a job after graduation, concentrating your academic efforts on the career field of your choice can help you approach potential employers with confidence once the time comes to enter the workforce.
- The weather in Florida can be pretty nice sometimes, but statistics still show that jobs in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC/R) continue to grow throughout the state. Employment projections indicate that the Florida career market will grow to include nearly 10,000 new jobs for HVAC mechanics and installers by 2022. The BLS indicates that the postsecondary education necessary to compete for HVAC jobs can take as little time as 6 months for entry-level positions, although some employers may prefer candidates with Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) or other two-year degrees.
- Professionals with degrees in supply chain and logistics are some of the most important backstage players in the world of big business. Any company that deals in consumable or durable goods — like top Florida employers Publix Super Markets and Office Depot, Inc. — requires a tightly organized supply and inventory process to run smoothly. Logisticians in Florida should see a 27 percent increase in jobs between 2014 and 2022, according to the state DEO, and Florida logisticians in 2014 earned a mean annual wage of $68,850.
Of course, there's no degree available at any of the campus-based or online colleges in Florida that can guarantee you a job after graduation, but concentrating your academic efforts on the career field of your choice can help you approach potential employers with confidence once the time comes to enter the workforce.
A big question remains, though: Once you know what degree you're after, which one of the campus-based and online colleges in Florida is the right one for you? Here's some basic information about a few Florida colleges that might help you get your search started off on the right foot:
|Institution name||Online degrees?||Top programs|
|University of South Florida||Yes||Nursing, medicine, criminology, audiology, public health, library and information studies, industrial/organizational psychology, rehabilitation counseling, graduate business (online), graduate engineering (online), graduate education (online)|
|University of Florida||Yes||Biological engineering, agricultural engineering, graduate education, MBA (online), special education, tax law, chemistry, clinical psychology, audiology, ceramics, pharmacy, occupational therapy, veterinary medicine, online bachelor's, graduate engineering (online)|
|Florida State University||Yes||Library and information studies, undergraduate business, graduate education (online), public affairs, natural sciences, law, speech-language pathology, graduate business (online), graduate criminal justice (online)|
|University of Central Florida||Yes||Undergraduate business, undergraduate engineering, nonprofit management, physics, health care management, computer science, graduate education, online bachelor's, graduate nursing (online)|
|Florida International University||Yes||Law, graduate nursing, international business, occupational therapy, health care management, public affairs, graduate business (online), graduate engineering (online), graduate criminal justice (online)|
|Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University||Yes||Aerospace engineering, aeronautical engineering, astronautical engineering, online bachelor's, graduate business (online), MBA (online)|
To learn more about online schools in Florida and elsewhere, explore the links below or contact an admissions representative to ask a few questions or schedule a visit.
1. Employment Projections, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, accessed April 9, 2015, http://www.floridajobs.org/labor-market-information/data-center/statistical-programs/employment-projections
2. Fortune 500 2014, Fortune, accessed April 9, 2015, http://fortune.com/fortune500/
3. Major Employers, Gainesville Chamber of Commerce, accessed April 9, 2015, http://www.gainesvillechamber.com/economic-development/site-selection/gainesville-overview/major-employers/
4. Miami-Dade County Public Schools, accessed April 9, 2015, http://dadeschools.net/
5. College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed April 8, 2015, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=FL&ct=1+2+3&ic=1+2&of=1&od=0&pg=3
7-8. Online Programs, U.S. News and World Report, accessed April 9, 2015: Palm Beach Atlantic University, http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/palm-beach-atlantic-university-west-palm-beach-136330; Pennsylvania State University - World Campus, http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/pennsylvania-state-university-world-campus-6965/bachelors
9. Top Employers, Orlando's Top 10, accessed April 9, 2015, http://www.orlandostop10.com/Employers.aspx
10-16. Overall Rankings, U.S. News and World Report, accessed April 9, 2015: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/embry-riddle-aeronautical-university-133553/overall-rankings; Florida International University, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/florida-international-university-133951/overall-rankings; Florida State University, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/florida-state-university-134097/overall-rankings; University of Central Florida, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/university-of-central-florida-132903/overall-rankings; University of Florida, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/university-of-florida-134130/overall-rankings; University of Illinois - Chicago, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/university-of-illinois-chicago-145600/overall-rankings; University of South Florida, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/university-of-south-florida-main-campus-137351/overall-rankings
17. Largest Employers by County on the Florida Suncoast, Suncoast Jobs, accessed April 9, 2015, http://www.suncoastemployers.com/
18. Florida Economy at a Glance, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, accessed April 9, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.fl.htm