Online colleges in North Carolina

North Carolina's dynamic workforce and business-friendly tax policies make it an economic powerhouse. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, North Carolina has one of the ten fastest-growing economies in the country.As more companies move in to do business in the state, workforce needs shift. One thing remains constant, however: North Carolina needs more college graduates.

The U.S. Department of Labor projects that nearly two dozen North Carolina careers will grow by at least 30 percent between 2014 and 2024. Of the top 25 jobs in highest demand, all but two require certificates or degrees. The state must look to its more than 200 colleges, universities and career schools for the skilled labor force it so desperately needs. The only catch is figuring out which school is right for you.

Consider this guide your starting point for researching on-campus and online programs in North Carolina. To find out more about North Carolina, its school options and potential careers, explore the different sections. They include:

Snapshot: Live and learn in North Carolina

North Carolina's pool of colleges and universities makes it a hotbed of cultural growth and economic activity. Deciding to attend one is the first step toward making the most of these new opportunities; choosing the right school and program is just as vital. The following tables highlight some of the best colleges — and college towns — in North Carolina.

North Carolina's top college towns

North Carolina's reputation for having some of the best college towns America is not simply a product of regional pride: objective national publications confirm the sentiment time and time again. The table below highlights just some of the state's most popular college towns and the type of press they generate.


What to Know


Biggest College


Asheville is a laid-back, lakeside college town tucked in the Blue Ridge mountains. It's a haven for artists and writers and is well known for its social activism.

- "Top Seven Places to Live in the U.S." by Frommer's

- "Best Beer Cities" by Condé Nast Traveler

- "Top 25 Small Cities for Art" by AmericanStyle

- "Best city in America for locavores" by The Daily Meal

University of North Carolina at Asheville

Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill's iconic, 200-year-old Franklin Street is a hotspot for street performers, restaurants and quirky shops. The vibe during the NCAA basketball season is electric.

- "Best College Town in America" by Thrillist

- "10 Best… Colleges Cities And Towns In the U.S". by Forbes

- "Best college towns in America" by Business Insider

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Charlotte's sheer number of colleges, cultural highlights and dynamic job market make it one of the best college towns in North Carolina. Its compact downtown is stocked with restaurants, museums and performing arts centers.

- "Happiest Cities for Job-Seekers and College Graduates" by Career Bliss

- "Most-Well Read Cities" by Amazon.com

- "Cities Where (Your) Paycheck Will Go the Furthest" by Forbes

University of North Carolina at Charlotte


Raleigh's historical roots run deep, as does its charm: art and music centers; historical must-sees and award-winning restaurants are only the beginning.

- "Six Best Big Cities" by Money Magazine

- "Best Midsize Metros for Job Seekers by American Institute for Economic Research

- "America's Friendliest Cities" by Travel and Leisure'

- "America's Friendliest Cities," - "America's Coolest Towns" by GQ Magazine

North Carolina State University

North Carolina colleges grouped by interest

As vital as it is, choosing the right school requires more than a simple program search. All North Carolina schools have their own strengths and vibes. Check out this table to explore some of the state's top colleges based on student interests. You can visit our 10 best community colleges in North Carolina ranking to learn more about the state's two-year institutions.

I am looking for a…

Recommended school

True college town

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Big campus experience

North Carolina State University (Highest enrollment, 2015)

Great first-year experience

Appalachian State University*

Nationally-ranked university

Duke University*

Nationally-ranked public school

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill*

Top-ranked community college (School.com, 2016)

College of the Albemarle

High-ranked online program (bachelor's)

North Carolina State University*

Myriad of online options (bachelor's)

UNC Online

Myriad of online options (associate)

Virtual Learning Community (North Carolina Community College System)

Nationally-ranked liberal arts college

Davidson College*

Best-value university (4-year)

Duke University*

Top historically black university

North Carolina AT&T State University*

Top school for veterans

Duke University*

* Based on 2017 College Rankings, U.S. News & World Report

Online programs in North Carolina

Online programs found a home in higher education's mainstream. According to the Babson Survey Research Group, the growth rate of online enrollments now easily outpaces those of traditional campuses. States have also begun to invest more funds in online learning programs at all levels of education. What drives these efforts? Government officials see how effectively online education transcends hectic schedules and geographical barriers that once held learners back.

North Carolina certainly does. In 2005, the General Assembly of North Carolina created the 2 + 2 E-learning Initiative — a collaborative effort by the North Carolina Community College System and the University of North Carolina General Administration to make degree programs more affordable and manageable for its residents. Today, there are several focused 2 + 2 programs in high-demand fields. The journey begins with online associate degrees from NCCCS institutions and ends with online bachelor's degrees from the UNC system. Graduates enjoy greater earning and advancement potential while the state develops a higher-skilled workforce attractive to businesses.

Notable online schools in North Carolina

There is no shortage of highly-regarded online programs in North Carolina, of any size or type. Here are just a few of them:


School type

Featured program

Fast facts

North Carolina State University

Public research university

Online bachelor's degree

NCSU has a number of ranked online graduate degrees, but U.S. News & World Report ranked the University's online bachelor's program in the top 50 nationwide in 2017.

Duke University

Private doctoral research university

Online nursing

Duke University is known for many things, including its online degrees. U.S. News & World Report ranked Duke's online nursing program fifth in the United States in 2017.

College of the Albemarle

Public 2-year community college

Online courses and 2-year degrees

Nearly 75% of students take online courses at this high-ranked community college, making it one of the most active online colleges in North Carolina.

University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

Public research university

Online MBA

U.S. News & World Report ranked UNC's ever-popular Online MBA no. 3 nationally in 2017.

Lees-McRae College

Private Presbyterian institution

Online RN to BSN

North Carolina needs more advanced nurses, and LMC's Online RN to BSN offers the flexibility practicing nurses need to fill it.

Careers & degrees in North Carolina

Over the last several decades, North Carolina's economy evolved from a heavily manufacturing-based market to one increasingly based on skills and knowledge.While furniture manufacturing and textile jobs remain plentiful, several technology, green energy, engineering and financial services employers established roots in the state. Simply knowing which North Carolina jobs and sectors are trending upward helps future students make more informed decisions about their futures.

Six N.C. industries to watch

The Economic Partnership of North Carolina highlights many of the state's fastest-growing and most promising industries. Here are just a few of them:

  • Information technology: The EDPNC reports that new opportunities in North Carolina from employers like Google, Cisco and SAS helped cultivate the second-faster IT industry in the nation.
  • Banking: North Carolina is one of the largest financial centers in the country. Bank of America, Wells Fargo and other major banks have major operations in the state.
  • Energy: North Carolina's energy sector runs the gambit from nuclear plants and fossil fuel to green energy and smart grids.
  • Business: According to the EDPNC, North Carolina's low corporate income tax and affordable cost-of-living have made it a magnet for corporations like Bank of America, Lowe's and Nucor, all of which have headquarters in the state..
  • Aerospace and defense: The Tar Heel State's legacy of flight extend well beyond Wright brothers. Today's North Carolina is an aviation and defense powerhouse claiming Honda Jet, Lockheed Martin and GE Aviation among its largest employers.
  • Biotechnology: North Carolina's three Tier 1 research universities — Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University — makes it major research center that draws companies like Merck and Novo Nordisk.

What to study: In-demand careers, degrees

Finance: Finance is a promising field for students at online colleges in North Carolina, with Wells Fargo and Bank of America both cracking the top five employers in the state. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the state's financial analysts earned an average salary of $88,200 in 2015:



Minimum degree level

Projected growth in N.C., 2014-2024

Operations Research Analyst

Operations Research

Management Science


40 percent

Nurse Practitioner

Nursing - Advanced Practice


39 percent

Personal Financial Adviser





39 percent

Occupational Therapy Assistant

Occupational Therapy Assistance


38 percent

Biomedical Engineer

Biomedical Engineering



35 percent

Veterinary Technologist

Veterinary Technology


33 percent

Web Developer

Web Design

Computer Science

Computer Programming

Associate or Bachelor's

32 percent

Featured schools in North Carolina

These are a few schools with various programs, to give you a sample of the spread across the state:


Examples of top programs

Online degrees

UNC Chapel Hill

Marketing, management, accounting, family medicine, environmental law, public affairs, developmental psychology


UNC Greensboro

Education, clinical psychology, library and information studies, speech-language pathology, graduate nursing (online)


Duke University

Biomedical engineering, physician assisting, executive MBA, international law, medical research, clinical psychology

Professional certificates only

Wake Forest University

Nursing, education, clinical psychology, library science, graduate counseling (online)

Counseling MA only

East Carolina University

Rehabilitation counseling, social work, physician assisting, occupational therapy, graduate nursing (online), graduate business (online)


North Carolina State University

Nuclear engineering, chemistry, computer science, graduate IT (online), graduate engineering (online), graduate education (online)


North Carolina A&T State University

Civil engineering, environmental sciences (online), criminal justice (online), graduate IT (online)


Appalachian State University

Social work, education, public affairs, graduate business, graduate education (online)


How do I enroll in on-campus or online colleges in North Carolina?

Colleges worked to simplify admissions procedures in recent years. Today, students can learn about, see requirements for and apply to North Carolina colleges online. Perhaps the most difficult part of the process is finding the right school and program for you. You can begin researching your options by reviewing the featured colleges below and students looking for two-year programs can check out our best community colleges in North Carolina.

1. Babson Survey Research Group, Babson College, Babson Study: Distance Education Enrollment Growth Continues, Accessed September 30, 2016, http://www.babson.edu/news-events/babson-news/Pages/2016-babson-releases-2015-survey-of-online-learning.aspx
2. Career OneStop, U.S. Department of Labor, Fastest-Growing Occupations, North Carolina, Accesed September 26, 2016, https://www.careerinfonet.org/oview1.asp?printer=&next=oview1&level=Overall&optstatus=101000000&id=1&nodeid=3&soccode=&stfips=37&jobfam=&group=1&showall=no
3. The North Carolina College System Report on The NCCCS 2 + 2 E-Learning Initiative, The North Carolina General Assembly, Accessed September 30, 2016, http://www.ncleg.net/documentsites/committees/JLEOC/Reports%20Received/2016%20Reports%20Received/NCCCS%202%20plus%202%20E-Learning%20Initiative.pdf
4. Key Industries, Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, Accessed September 28, 2016, https://edpnc.com/industries/
5. Operation Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accessed September 28, 2016: Financial Analysts, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132051.htm; Nurse Anesthetist, Nurse Midwife or Nurse Practitioner, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm; Operations Research Analysts, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/math/operations-research-analysts.htm; Personal Financial Advisors, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/personal-financial-advisors.htm; Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapy-assistants-and-aides.htm; Biomedical Engineers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/biomedical-engineers.htm; Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm; Web Developers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/web-developers.htm
6. School pages, Accessed September 29, 2016: Appalachian State University, http://www.appstate.edu; College of the Albemarle, http://www.albemarle.edu; Duke University, http://www.duke.edu; Lees McRae College, http://www.lmc.edu/; North Carolina AT&T State University, http://www.ncat.edu;; North Carolina State University, http://www.ncsu.edu; University of North Carolina, http://unc.edu; Virtual Learning Community, North Carolina Community College System; Wake Forest University, http://www.wfu.edu
7. City and college rankings, Accessed September, 2016: Ashevile Convention and Visitors Bureau, Asheville Accolades, https://www.exploreasheville.com/press-room/ranked-rated/; Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, Charlotte's National Rankings and Accolades, http://charlottechamber.com/ed/clientuploads/Economic_pdfs/Charlotte_Accolades.pdf; Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau, Area Accolades, http://www.visitraleigh.com/about-raleigh-nc/area-accolades/; Town of Chapel Hill, Awards, http://www.townofchapelhill.org/residents/about-chapel-hill/awards; U.S. News & World Report, Best Colleges, Colleges in North Carolina, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/nc

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