Online Colleges in Virginia

As the home of the College of William & Mary, the second-oldest institution of higher education in the U.S., Virginia can claim an academic tradition that's been around for nearly a century longer than the United States itself. Dozens more colleges, universities and other centers of learning have opened around the state in the centuries since that first campus was chartered, and the opportunities for educated members of the state workforce have grown right along with them.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there were 189 campus-based and online schools and colleges in Virginia in 2016. Here's data to show how many of each type of institution is represented among Virginia schools:

Campus-based Schools in Virginia
Institution type No. offering bachelor's degrees No. offering associate's degrees No. offering certificates and other non-degree awards No. offering advanced degrees (master's, Ph.D., etc.)
Public 15 27 34 14
Private nonprofit 31 18 19 29
Private for-profit 26 42 59 12

Students have a tendency to thrive when there's a robust student culture around them, and some cities in Virginia have considerably higher percentages of student residents than others. Here's a table of student population information, including some additional data from the U.S. Census Bureau for context:

City Total estimated population
(U.S. Census, 2015)
No. of enrolled students
(NCES, 2016)
No. of students as a percentage of total population % of residents with bachelor's degrees
(U.S. Census, 2015)
Harrisonburg 52,538 23,000 43.78 percent 42.3 percent
Williamsburg 15,052 8,484 56.36 percent 48.6 percent
Virginia Beach 437,966 18,685 4.27 percent 33.5 percent
Blacksburg 44,215 32,663 73.87 percent 69.3 percent
Fairfax 24,013 37,232 155.04 percent 53.5 percent
Norfolk 246,393 57,147 23.19 percent 25.6 percent
Richmond 220,289 47,910 21.75 percent 35.4 percent

An average tuition of $11,819 per year was reported across all campus-based and online schools and colleges in Virginia, although there were naturally some outliers that fell far to either side of that figure. Virginia State University in Petersburg and Norfolk State University in Norfolk reported the lowest yearly tuition in 2016, charging in-state students just $8,226 and $8,366 (respectively) for the year, while the state's private liberal arts schools like University of Richmond and Washington and Lee University cost the most, to the tune of $48,090 and $46,417 (respectively) in 2016.

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

Online Education in Virginia

If you're thinking about going back to school but can't quite make it work in terms of travel, scheduling or overall cost, you might find what you're looking for among the online programs in Virginia. Perks:

  • Students who live in rural areas can save themselves the trouble of commuting to class by attending lectures online
  • Often, it's the case that online courses come with a lower price on tuition, fees, textbooks and other expenses than the campus-based variety.
  • Online schools and colleges in Virginia are far from scarce

Here's a table of NCES data that shows the type and number of online programs in Virginia as of 2016:

Online Schools in Virginia
Institution type No. offering 4-year degrees No. offering 2-year degrees No. offering certificates and other non-degree awards No. offering advanced degrees (master's, Ph.D., etc.)
Public 6 16 18 10
Private nonprofit 14 8 6 16
Private for-profit 6 7 5 7

Ranking Information for Traditional and Online Colleges in Virginia

Numerous Virginia schools have been recognized by national and international rankings agencies. Here's a table that shows that ranking information for just a few of the schools in the state that posted strong showings from U.S. News & World Report and the Center for World University Rankings in 2016:

Rankings for Campus-based and Online Virginia Schools
School Name
Ranking Agency
University of Virginia No. 50 Global Universities Center for World University Rankings
Washington and Lee University No. 14 (tie) National Liberal Arts Colleges U.S. News & World Report
College of William and Mary No. 34 (tie) National Universities U.S. News & World Report
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) No. 70 (tie) National Universities U.S. News & World Report
Longwood University No. 28 Regional Universities (South) U.S. News & World Report
Virginia Commonwealth University No. 259 Global Universities Center for World University Rankings
George Mason University No. 397 Global Universities Center for World University Rankings

Top Degree Programs at Online Colleges in Virginia

As well as ranking schools as a whole, U.S. News & World Report also analyzes campus-based and online degrees in several subjects. A few online programs available in Virginia have made some high marks on their recent surveys:

Top-ranked Online Programs in Virginia
School name
Degree program
Virginia Tech Computer information technology No. 2 In addition to having the second-best computer and IT engineering program available online, Virginia Tech is also ranked in the top 25 overall for engineering schools in the U.S.
Regent University Bachelor's degrees No. 17 (tie) Many top schools have just begun to offer bachelor's programs in the virtual classroom, but this Christian college in Virginia Beach has been educating undergraduates online since 2003.
Liberty University Criminal justice No. 35 The credentials and training of online criminal justice faculty stood out at this Lynchburg institution that offers degrees primarily online.
George Mason University Executive MBA No. 34 (tie)

Students can choose between a Global MBA track and a National Defense MBA track at the online graduate program in business at this Fairfax-based school.

James Madison University Information security MBA No. 28 (tie) A deep understanding of vital information security principles — including preparation for the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification exam — comes along with this MBA from JMU.

Industries and Degrees to Get in Virginia

Job projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Virginia Workforce Connection show that employment expected to grow much faster in certain occupations than others. Here's a quick info sheet on the degrees you need to position yourself for some of the fastest-growing jobs in the Commonwealth:

Hot Degrees and Top Jobs for Virginia Graduates
Why it's hot
Degree information
Personal Financial Advisor Projections released by the Virginia Workforce Connection show an expected employment increase of 44.1 percent for personal financial advisors between 2014 and 2024 — higher even than the national average of 30 percent for the same period — and Virginia's mean annual salary for the position was $120,330 in 2015. A Bachelor of Science (BS), Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) or Bachelor of Arts (BA) in finance can be a great start. According to the BLS, certification and financial industry experience can also increase your stock as a candidate, and master's degrees in business are commonly offered online.
Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Health care is one of the fastest growing sectors of the career market nationwide, and highly skilled nurses are an especially hot commodity in Virginia. Statewide growth projections for nurse practitioners (43.2 percent), nurse midwives (39.5 percent) and nurse anesthetists (28.7 percent) all outpace the national averages, and the state's nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists made average salaries of $98,960 and $167,930 (respectively) in 2015. Most APRNs start out by earning a certificate, diploma or associate degree in registered nursing and working in the field for a few years before returning to school. You'll need both a bachelor's degree — typically a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) — and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) to qualify you for APRN status. Many nursing schools offer online BSN or MSN degrees to accommodate the busy schedules of working nurses.
Statistician -or- Operations Research Analyst Awareness of the importance of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields is growing in both academic and professional circles, and the demand for quantitative skills on the job market is surging. Statisticians in Virginia earned a mean annual salary of $86,400 in 2015 and are projected to see employment growth of 38.9 percent by 2024, while operations research analysts are growing slightly slower (35 percent) but average a somewhat higher annual salary of $105,430. Most professionals in either field hold both bachelor's and master's degrees in subjects such as mathematics, economics, computer science or statistics itself, although it is possible to enter into a quantitative master's program with an undergraduate degree in the arts, humanities, life sciences or another discipline provided you have the necessary prerequisites.
Web Developer Websites and online apps are essential to a company or organization's public outreach in our ferociously digital times, and Web developers are often responsible for the full range of elements that go into making online experiences useful and enjoyable for the public. Web developers in Virginia earned a mean annual salary of $80,440 in 2015 — the fourth highest in the nation that year — and state employment projections show an expected jobs increase of 28.5 percent. If you want some cutting-edge training on the tools, technologies and techniques of Web development, there are campus-based as well as online schools in Virginia that can help you get the skills you need. Although the BLS reports that an associate degree as the typically required level of education for this position, some employers may prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree or focus their evaluation of applicants moreso on a portfolio of past work than on educational credentials.

Featured Online Schools in Virginia

Students interested in a more complete list of Virginia-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 may need to visit the full Schools.com site to use the map.)

Virginia Colleges - Google Fusion Tables

We can't feature every one of the campus-based and online schools and colleges in Virginia, but there are a few that stand out in terms of degree rankings or national prestige. Here's some info on a few top schools in the region and the degree programs they do best:

Institution Name
Online Degrees?
Top Programs
Virginia Tech Yes

Computer information technology (on campus and online), graduate engineering (on campus and online), industrial engineering, environmental engineering, civil engineering, veterinary medicine, part-time MBA, chemistry, math, statistics, earth sciences, economics, clinical psychology, public management

University of Virginia Yes Business, management, law, medical research, nursing, primary care medicine, graduate nursing, English, history, graduate engineering (on campus and online), education, economics, computer science, clinical psychology, social science, public affairs
George Mason University Yes MBA (online), part-time MBA, criminology, graduate education (online), nursing, health care management, part-time law, education, computer science, economics, political science, public affairs, social work, fine arts
Virginia Commonwealth University Yes Education (on campus and online), nursing, graphic design, ceramics, painting, sculpture, pharmacy, primary care medicine, occupational therapy, physical therapy, psychology, social work, rehabilitation counseling
James Madison University Yes MBA (online), graduate education (online), graduate nursing (on campus and online), audiology, occupational therapy, physician assisting, speech-language pathology, public affairs, part-time MBA
Old Dominion University Yes

Graduate education (on campus and online), nursing (on campus and online), physical therapy, public affairs, MBA (online) psychology, physics

Liberty University Yes Criminal justice (online), graduate education (online), nursing (online), MBA (online), graduate business (online)

How can I Enroll in an Online or On-campus School in Virginia?

Every school that offers a degree maintains its own set of admissions standards and application requirements, but it's true across the board that reaching out to an admissions representative is a strong first step toward enrollment. Browse through our Virginia school listings below, find the institutions that seem right for you and get in touch to find out how you're best set to move forward.

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3. Top Universities, USA, Center for World University Rankings, accessed August 24, 2016, http://cwur.org/2015/usa.html
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6. Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed August 24, 2016: Personal Financial Advisors, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Business-and-Financial/Personal-financial-advisors.htm; Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners, 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; Statisticians, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Math/Statisticians.htm; Web Developers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/web-developers.htm
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