Online schools in Minnesota

Colleges and universities in Minnesota are no strangers to breaking new ground — the first open-heart surgery and first bone marrow transplant in history were performed at the University of Minnesota in the 1950s and '60s, respectively — so it was true to form when U of M jumped in as early adopters of online education in 1996. Since then, more and more online colleges in Minnesota have stepped up to the plate and started making education more accessible for students all around the state and across the country.

If you're thinking about continuing your education online, having the right environment for studying and other scholarly work can make a big difference in the experience. Not only can it help to be surrounded by other people who are also working toward their degrees, but the infrastructure of reference libraries, bookstores, greenspace, study rooms and other student-focused amenities can make your own academic journey go all the more smoothly.

The general cost of living can sometimes be more expensive in large urban areas like the Twin Cities, but the comparatively lower cost of tuition at online schools in Minnesota might give you few extra dollars each month to spend on housing and transportation. What's more, larger population centers tend to have more diverse career markets, which can be an advantage to new graduates entering the workforce for the first time. The top five cities for overall student population in Minnesota, according to 2014 enrollment numbers published by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), are Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Saint Cloud, Duluth and Winona.

To find out more about the state, its educational options and potential careers, explore the different sections of this guide. They include:

• Online education in Minnesota
• In-demand degrees & industries
• Colleges in Minnesota

Online colleges in Minnesota

NCES figures show no fewer than 115 campus-based and online colleges in Minnesota, including 53 public schools and 35 private nonprofit institutions. Among those, students seeking bachelor's, master's or doctoral degrees have more than 40 schools to choose from. Wherever in the state you choose to live, it's likely that the right degree program for you is within your reach.

The advantages to earning a degree online rather than on campus are somewhat well known by now — schedule flexibility, frequently lower tuition, professional certifications and career-focused degrees, etc. — but there are a few Minnesota-specific reasons that attending school in the virtual classroom may be the right thing for you. For one, it can be a real advantage to not have to shovel your driveway to go to class, particularly during that period of sub-zero average temperatures between November and March.

Top-ranked programs at traditional and online schools in Minnesota

Multiple national agencies rank universities according to the quality, accessibility and reputation of their educational programs, and several campus-based and online schools in Minnesota show up near the top of the rankings lists each year. In 2015, the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota came within a few spots of cracking the overall top 100 on Forbes' college rankings — placing at No. 108 nationwide — and landed at No. 48 among national research universities.

Online education in Minnesota might be the way to go — it can be a real advantage to not have to shovel your driveway to go to class, particularly during that period of sub-zero average temperatures between November and March ...

Individual programs at the University of Minnesota also took some top national honors in 2015, according to the program-specific rankings calculated by U.S. News & World Report. Degrees in chemical engineering, information systems, applied mathematics, primary care medicine, pharmacy, public health and psychology at U of M all placed among the top 10 programs in their field nationwide, as did numerous teacher education specialties at the graduate level.

Best online colleges in Minnesota for education degrees

Students looking for a slightly closer-knit educational experience from the online colleges in Minnesota can check out the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, which landed at No. 113 on the national universities list and offers online graduate programs in education that ranked among the U.S. News top 200.

Plenty of other online schools in Minnesota placed among the best online graduate degrees in education in the country, as well. Here's a quick list of them all, alongside their exact U.S. News ranking if one was published:

  • College of St. Scholastica: No. 42
  • Concordia University - St. Paul: No. 60
  • St. Catherine University: No. 86
  • University of St. Thomas: No. 157
  • Bethel University
  • St. Mary's University of Minnesota

What's more, Concordia University - St. Paul also has a top-40 criminal justice graduate program available online, and it joins the College of St. Scholastica in offering online bachelor's degrees that are ranked among the 50 best in the country. The non-MBA graduate business programs at Concordia also placed in the top 75 for 2015, along with similar programs offered at St. Mary's University of Minnesota.

Of course, taking your education in the virtual classroom means that it's not necessary to apply to online schools in Minnesota only. The best online bachelor's programs in the country are offered just on the other side of the Great Lakes at the Pennsylvania State University - World Campus, and the top three national schools for online MBA programs — including Indiana University - Bloomington and Temple University in Philadelphia — are equally available to Minnesota residents as they are to qualifying students anywhere in the world.

Best degrees to get in Minnesota

According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), the labor market in the state is poised to expand by 7 percent overall between 2012 and 2022. Certain professions, however, may see as much as five or six times more growth than the statewide average, and students with the right combination of education and experience in one of these fields may be able to capitalize on the current characteristics of demand in the regional career market.

  • It may not be a career that's on everyone's radar, but industrial-organizational psychology has the distinction of being the nation's fastest-growing career on the most recent report produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The U.S. at large is projected to see an upswing of 53 percent in jobs for industrial and organizational psychologists by 2022, and the University of Minnesota is home to the nation's No. 1 ranked degree program in the field.
  • The health care industry is experiencing significant growth as well, and degrees in physician assisting are increasing in value all over the country. Projected growth of 35 percent in Minnesota between 2012 and 2022 should lead to around 600 new jobs in the state, and the BLS indicates a mean annual wage of $103,890 for physician assistants in Minnesota in 2014. Interested in-state students can apply to School of Health Sciences at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, which reports an excellent outlook for placement of physician assistants after graduation.
  • Registered nursing is another hot health care field in Minnesota, where DEED figures indicate 17 percent growth and nearly 10,000 new jobs by 2022. Registered nurse training typically takes two or three years, culminating in either an associate degree or a professional diploma, depending on the individual program and institution. The mean annual salary for registered nurses in Minnesota was $71,450, according to the BLS.

Industrial-organizational psychology has the distinction of being the nation's fastest-growing career on the most recent report produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics — and the University of Minnesota is home to the nation's No. 1 ranked degree program in the field.

  • A 2011 report by the Minnesota DEED shows that two of the 10 largest employers in the state are Target and Wal-Mart, retailers who rely on a multinational supply chain to keep their business running. A bachelor's or master's degree in logistics can prepare you to help retail giants like these manage the complex system of relationships necessary to ensure a smooth flow of goods and capital across borders and into customers' hands. Raw job growth for logisticians is expected to be considerable, also; a projected 20 percent increase in employment should produce around 500 new jobs in Minnesota by 2022.
  • It's no secret that networked systems and the data sciences have turned the business world on its head in the last several years, and formal education in computer science, information systems or a related discipline can give you the knowledge, skills and context you need to tackle the challenges of this growing and changing field. Jobs for information security analysts and computer systems analysts in Minnesota are projected to grow 20 and 17 percent, respectively, between 2012 and 2022, with 2014 annual salary averages falling between $85,000 and $89,000 for both positions.

While there's no degree that can guarantee employment in any particular field after graduation, focusing your academic and extracurricular efforts toward the demands of a particular professional field might help you navigate the working world with a little more confidence.

Minnesota colleges

Here's some information about a few select traditional and online schools in Minnesota, along with a short list of degree programs available at each one that stand out from the crowd:

Institution name Online degrees? Top programs
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities Yes Industrial-organizational psychology, developmental psychology, nonprofit management, health care management, chemical engineering, technical/vocational education, business information systems, primary care medicine, nursing informatics, computer science, law, math, economics
University of St. Thomas Yes Graduate education (online), social work, health care management, law, engineering, graduate business, part-time MBA,
St. Cloud State University Yes Social work, rehabilitation counseling, graduate business, graduate education, speech-language pathology, engineering
College of St. Scholastica Yes Nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, MBA (online), graduate education (online)
Concordia University - St. Paul Yes Graduate business (online), criminal justice (online), graduate education (online), MBA (online)
Hamline University Yes Public affairs, health care law, part-time law, dispute resolution


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