Online Colleges in North Carolina

With abundant schools and even more abundant career possibilities, North Carolina is a great place to go to college. The numbers don't lie: The Employment Security Commission of North Carolina reports that nearly a dozen careers in the state are expecting 50 percent or better job growth between 2012 and 2022, and the National Center for Education Statistics reports that the Tar Heel State is home to more than 200 colleges, universities and career academies that can train you to meet the challenges of those emerging careers.

To find out about different educational options in North Carolina, check out the different sections of this guide:

Online colleges
Top degrees in North Carolina
Traditional colleges

Online options for North Carolina students

Traditional in-state universities that offer distance learning programs can be usually good places for prospective online students to start looking, since the campuses may be within reach for visits or hybrid coursework. North Carolina colleges that offer online degrees include the following:

  • University of North Carolina (UNC)
  • University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW)
  • North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T)
  • North Carolina State University
  • Western Carolina University

If you don't see the program you're looking for at a local school, fully online colleges and universities can also provide a quality education in many subjects. If you do venture away from local universities in your search for the perfect online program, be sure to spend time exploring the course offerings, checking on school accreditation, and speaking with current or former students.

The colleges based in North Carolina number nearly 200, and many of the schools have online or hybrid learning options. Prospective students who want to explore colleges near them can start by checking out this map, which shows the location of all schools in North Carolina, based on 2013 data from the National Center for Education Statistics. (To see the map, mobile users will need to check out the full site.)

North Carolina colleges lat & long - Google Fusion Tables

Online education can be a great idea for students just about anywhere in the world, and, in particular, those studying online at North Carolina colleges may have access to advantages unavailable to students in other regions.

1. Reasonable living costs

Affordable living expenses can really help you maintain peace of mind while in school, especially for working students who have to balance their coursework with a job. According to the Council for Community and Economic Research, housing costs in North Carolina are around 15 percent less than the national average, with utility and transportation costs also lingering below the midline.

2. Cutting-edge degree plans

Certain highly specialized programs of study may not meet the enrollment requirement necessary to pass muster on campus, but the online format provides a forum for professors and administrators to break new ground. Course materials can also be altered or supplemented mid-semester, allowing professors to ensure that students study the most up-to-date information.

3. Regional campus locations

Some degree plans contain a practical component that may require access to a fully equipped laboratory or other brick-and-mortar facility. As you can see from the image, college campuses dot the state map, which means that you're likely to have access to an accredited facility whose hands-on courses may transfer in to satisfy requirements for your online degree.

What are the best degrees to get in North Carolina?

Career paths from all walks of life are represented in the employment landscape of North Carolina, and just about all of the state's top industries and employers need well-trained professionals to help them succeed in a changing marketplace. Here are a few strong degrees for online students in the area to consider, based on data reported from the North Carolina Department of Commerce and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

Industrial-organizational psychology recently grabbed the top spot among fast-growing careers nationwide,and North Carolina's growth is expected to be even faster.

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 during Q1 2014. Financial analysts in the state earned a mean figure of $91,620 in 2013, according to the BLS, and financial examiners made an average of $82,170 the same year.

Industrial-organizational psychology recently grabbed the top spot among fast-growing careers nationwide, with analysts projecting a national growth rate of 53 percent between 2012 and 2022. North Carolina expects even faster growth, believe it or not, as in-state numbers indicate a whopping 78 percent increase in opportunities by 2022.

Information security brings a wide range of benefits to business enterprise, and opportunities are growing. Information security analyst jobs are projected to increase 40 percent in North Carolina between 2012 and 2022, and the state's mean annual wages for the position checked in at $85,580 in 2013.

Supply chain management may not sound exciting, but it's actually quite interesting, and nearly all of North Carolina's top employers rely on tightly coordinated supply chains to function properly. Well-trained and capable logisticians can make a world of difference for large retail concerns like Lowe's, Wal-Mart and Harris Teeter and manufacturers like Smithfield Foods and IBM.

Diagnostic medical sonography is a hot health care career all over the country, and North Carolina is no exception. State analysts expect 50 percent growth in sonography jobs between 2012 and 2022, and its statewide mean annual salary of $63,260 makes it one of the better-paying careers available with an associate degree or undergraduate certificate.

Dental hygiene may not be the first degree you think of when it comes to comfortable, secure employment, but students at North Carolina colleges would do well to consider it. Dental hygienists and dental assistants are both on the list of the top 15 fastest growing careers in the state, with expected growth rates of 56 and 41 percent, respectively.

Physician assisting usually culminates in a two-year master's degree, after a bachelor's, so it may be a longer educational plan than some, but the rewarding work and the considerable salary are likely to make up for your investment. Physician assistant positions in North Carolina are projected to increase 43 percent by 2022, and in-state salaries averaged $92,310 in 2013.

Marketing is a fast-moving field with tons of advancement potential, particularly for educated professionals. Marketing operatives in North Carolina should see growth of 37 percent in the field by 2022, leading to thousands of new positions, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a large employer in the state who didn't employ dozens of market analysts and marketing specialists.

North Carolina colleges

Not all students are going to be suited to online colleges in North Carolina, and not all North Carolina colleges offer a wide range of online degrees. But traditional campus-based education can be a great choice, even for nontraditional students. Along with the detailed map above, this table should shed some light on a few of the more basic questions about some of the top colleges in the region, listed in no particular order:


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)


There are also more than 60 public and private North Carolina community colleges, which may offer specialized online degrees not covered by the state's 4-year institutions. If you're looking to get your foot in the door of one of the top jobs in Charlotte or another North Carolina metropolis, be sure not to overlook the distance-learning programs that North Carolina colleges have to offer.

1. Appalachian State University, http://www.appstate.edu/
2. Top 50 Fastest-Growing Occupations, North Carolina, Career InfoNet, http://www.careerinfonet.org/oview1.asp?printer=&next=oview1&level=Overall&optstatus=001000000&id=1&nodeid=3&soccode=132011&stfips=37&jobfam=13&group=1&showall=no
3. Cost of Living Data Series: Third Quarter 2014, Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, Missouri Department of Economic Development, http://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/index.stm
4. College Navigator: North Carolina, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=NC
5. Duke University, http://www.duke.edu/
6. East Carolina University, http://www.ecu.edu/
7. "North Carolina's largest private employers ranked in order according to first quarter 2014 employment size," North Carolina Department of Commerce, Aug. 19, 2014, http://www.nccommerce.com/Portals/47/Documents/EMPLOYERS%202014/Manufacturing%20and%20Non%20Manufacturing%20Employers_2014.pdf
8. North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, http://www.ncat.edu/
9. North Carolina State University, http://www.ncsu.edu/
10. "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
11. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, http://www.unc.edu/
12. The University of North Carolina Greensboro, http://www.uncg.edu/
13. May 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
14. May 2013 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates for North Carolina, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014, www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_NC.htm
15. Best Colleges, U.S. News and World Report, Accessed Dec. 26, 2014, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/
16. Online Master of Arts in Counseling, Wake Forest University, http://counseling.online.wfu.edu/

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