Online schools in Pennsylvania

If you're looking into traditional or online schools in Pennsylvania, then you probably already know that the state has a lot to offer prospective students. Whether you prefer the big-city life in Philadelphia or the laid-back pace of country townships that back up to forested wilderness, there's likely to be at least one among Pennsylvania's 311 two- and four-year institutions that can give you the educational environment you're after.

What's more, the job market for college graduates has some significant strong spots in the Keystone State. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2013 that 27.5 percent of Pennsylvania residents over the age of 25 hold college degrees, but that figure varies quite a bit at the regional level. In York, Pennsylvania, for example, the bachelor's-educated workforce composed less than 10 percent of the adult population in 2013, while more than a third of Pittsburgh residents held at least a bachelor's degree the same year.

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

Education in Pennsylvania
Job outlook
Pennsylvania colleges

Online education in Pennsylvania

As the technology necessary to deliver engaging educational content becomes more widely available and easier to use, more and more traditional universities are beginning to offer degree plans that take place mostly or entirely in the virtual classroom. The list of online schools in Pennsylvania includes some prestigious institutions, including an Ivy League school and several with more than 150 years of history.

There are also some benefits to distance learning that apply specifically to Pennsylvania residents. Here are a few of the advantages that Pennsylvania online students enjoy alongside the location flexibility and generally lower tuition rates available to online students anywhere:

Affordable living costs in Pennsylvania may let students stretch their education budget a bit further than in other states where housing comes at a higher price. In 2015, Sperling's Best Places reports an average Pennsylvania housing expenditure 15 percent lower than the average nationwide, with an overall cost of living that also sits below the national mean.

Dozens of new degree plans are emerging from Pennsylvania schools, and a large percentage of them are slated to serve the online segment of the student population. Among the institutions of the Pennsylvania State University System alone, the last couple of years have seen the emergence of newly minted online degrees in cybersecurity, nutrition, applied mathematics, criminal justice administration and more.

A higher education support network supplements Pennsylvania's many top-tier universities, and includes libraries, public two-year institutions and other entities that can provide a wealth of resources for in-state students. There's also a total of 31 community colleges in Pennsylvania, which can help students build study skills and tackle many of their general education requirements before transferring to a four-year school to concentrate on the subject-specific work of their degree.

A large percentage of new degree programs emerging from Pennsylvania schools are slated to serve the online student population.

Many Pennsylvania universities are notable in their commitment to online education, and a few stand out specifically from the pack both statewide and nationally. Here are a few of the top online colleges in Pennsylvania:

  • Penn State World Campus - Penn State was a trailblazer in the world of distance education, offering its first correspondence courses over 100 years ago and debuting its online offerings in 1998. U.S. News and World Report ranks Penn State World Campus as not only Pennsylvania's best online college but also the best online bachelor's program in the country. The school continues to lead the pack in online education, working on projects ranging from its recent initiative that provides veterans and other military personnel easier access to academic degrees, to its recent expansion of online master’s degree programs and areas of emphasis in education.
  • Drexel University - This longstanding private research university offers online degrees to undergraduates, graduates and professionals in numerous fields of study. Drexel also maintains three campuses around Philadelphia, so online students in the metro area should have fairly ready access to on-campus facilities.
  • Edinboro University of Pennsylvania - Edinboro is one of the online schools in Pennsylvania with a traditional education history that stretches back the better part of two centuries. The Erie County institution offers undergraduate and graduate programs online, as well as a list of courses offered through video conferencing (ITV).

Students interested in a more complete list of Pennsylvania-based institutions offering online degrees can start by exploring this map, which shows the location of all colleges in the state based on 2013 data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Once you identify schools that are located nearby, it's easy to explore what online degrees might be offered near you. (Mobile users will need to visit the full Schools.com site to use the map.)

Best degrees to get in Pennsylvania

High tech is big business all over the U.S. in 2015, and Pennsylvania is no exception. Opportunities in advanced manufacturing, materials science, aviation and bioengineering abound, and the interdisciplinary sciences behind the state's big agribusiness and food production economies are advancing in step with other technological fields.

STEM degrees aren't the only game in town, though, with the business administration and management fields holding up as strong as ever in Pennsylvania's urban areas. Top Pennsylvania employers like Walmart, Giant Foods and others in the grocery and retail industries need skilled managers and logisticians to keep their operations running. Public policy and higher education organizations also employ thousands of people throughout the state, and government agencies like the Department of Defense have a significant economic presence as well.

Here's a quick list of degrees available at traditional and online schools in Pennsylvania that can help students prepare to meet the state's particular workforce demands once they enter the career market:

Degree field Education level required Why it's hot
Biomedical Engineering

Bachelor's degree

Biomedical engineers are in high demand all over the country, and Pennsylvania specifically should see a 40.5 percent increase in employment opportunities between 2012 and 2022.
Business Administration Master's degree (MBA) The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that management careers were among the highest paying of all fields in Pennsylvania in 2013, with a mean annual wage of $115,750 across the occupational category.
Diagnostic Medical Sonography Associate degree or certificate Sonography careers come with some impressive upside, including expected statewide job growth of 36.3 percent by 2022 and a mean annual wage of $59,620 in 2013.
Cybersecurity Bachelor's degree Large organizations need a strong information security presence, and the presence of both large private and federal agencies in Pennsylvania can translate to strong opportunities for candidates with cybersecurity training.
Industrial Engineering Bachelor's degree Jobs for industrial engineers aren't hot everywhere in the U.S., but the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development reports a statewide commitment to revolutionizing industrial facilities and techniques.
Supply Chain Management Bachelor's degree Large retail operations are among the top employers in Pennsylvania, and keeping just-in-time inventory systems running smoothly earned Pennsylvania logistics personnel a mean annual 2013 salary of $71,260.
Statistics Bachelor's degree Sharp statisticians are the unsung heroes of marketing and corporate research, and Pennsylvania expects 6,100 brand new positions to open up in the market research field by 2022.
Industrial-Organizational Psychology Master's, doctoral or specialist degree Industrial-organizational psychology shows the fastest growth projections of any U.S. career in 2015, and Pennsylvania psychologists should see their industrial-organizational ranks swell by 35.5 percent by 2022.

Pennsylvania colleges

Pennsylvania's rich educational climate contains a wide variety of schools, and every one has its own unique learning environment and institutional characteristics. Each of these schools has a good reputation for traditional, classroom-based coursework, but online options may be available as well:

Pennsylvania State University - With 24 campuses and close to 100,000 students, Penn State has come a long way since its founding as a land-grant college for agricultural scientists. Along with its head-of-the-class online bachelor's degree program, U.S. News also lists it at No. 14 among stateside public colleges and No. 52 among all universities worldwide.

California University of Pennsylvania -Hands-on experience takes center stage at this public institution in the southeastern section of the state, where students in nearly all of its programs engage in clinical practice, fieldwork, student teaching or another practical application of their classroom learning. Online education at Cal U is no slouch either, with graduate programs in education and nursing that rank among the nation's best.

University of Pennsylvania - Founded more than 250 years ago by Benjamin Franklin, this old-guard institution graduated its first class in 1757. Penn is consistently held up as one of the best schools in the U.S., with Forbes placing it at No. 12 overall and U.S. News ranking it in a tie at No. 8. Students at Penn may take some courses online, although full-fledged degrees may be hard to come by.

Lehigh University - This Bethlehem institution is home to the third oldest collegiate stadium in the country and counts among its graduates the men who built the Golden Gate Bridge and the Panama Canal. It also ranks among the top 50 universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and its online graduate programs in business and engineering are highly esteemed as well.

Central Penn College - With a main campus, a satellite location and a robust online presence, Central Penn focuses on training students for gainful working lives once they're out of school. According to data gathered on the school's One-Year Graduate Follow-Up Report, more than 85 percent of its graduates find employment in their chosen field after graduation.

Carnegie Mellon University - Founded by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie and steeped in tradition, this Pittsburgh institution checks in at No. 59 in the Forbes rankings and shows up on more national lists of academic excellence than we have space here to list. Its business school, the Tepper School of Business, offers an online-hybrid MBA that U.S. News puts among the top 10 nationwide.

Villanova University - Just a train ride from Philadelphia is located this austere Roman Catholic institution, named by U.S. News as the best university in the northern region and home to a men's basketball team that's seen considerable success. Its online graduate programs in business and engineering have won national recognition, and it's considered one of the best educational values available in the country.


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