Online Schools in Virginia

In recent years, more and more people are discovering why Virginia is a great state to call home. According to Sperling's Best Places, the state's population has grown more than 13 percent since 2000. That could be because people are discovering the state's mild climate, endless outdoor recreation options, low unemployment (4.8 percent in December 2014, compared to a national average of 5.6 percent), rich history, Southern hospitality, proximity to the country's capital and educational traditions.

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

Education in Virginia
Online education
Job outlook
Virginia colleges

The strong tradition of education in Virginia

Education is a point of pride in Virginia, a state where, according to the U.S. Census, 35.2 percent of adults have earned a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to the national average of 28.8 percent. To further advance those numbers, the Virginia legislature has made higher education a leading priority in the state. A few years ago, the lawmakers passed the Virginia Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2011, with the goal of increasing undergraduate degrees by 100,000 by the year 2025.

That's because in this commonwealth, education pays off. According to a State Council of Higher Education for Virginia report, earning potential is strongly affected by degree attainment. The report, titled "Post-Completion Wages of Graduates," looked at wages of men and women 10 years after graduation, and found that, on average, those who have earned a bachelor's degree earn $44,000 per year, while those with their associate earn about $34,000 and those with no credential earn about $31,000.

With hundreds of institutions to choose from — including vocational schools, four-year public universities, private nonprofit institutions, private for-profit institutions, and the many community colleges in Virginia — there really is a program to fit all interests. U.S. News & World Report notes that many of the state's institutions are notable in their historical significance. For instance:

  • The College of William and Mary, founded in 1693, is the second-oldest college in the U.S. and one of the oldest colleges still in operation.
  • The Virginia Military Institute, established in 1839, is the oldest state-supported military college in the country.
  • The University of Virginia was founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson as the country's first nonreligious university.

Online education options

While enrollment in Virginia's public universities fell for the 2014-15 school year — the first decline since 1994 — many of its private nonprofit universities, including online schools, are seeing numbers grow. Liberty University, for example, enrolled 81,459 students in 2014, or nearly 60 percent of all private college enrollment in the state, according to The Roanoke Times.

Online schools in Virginia offer a wide choice of majors and minors and a flexible schedule without the rising price tag. Public institutions are realizing the benefits of these learning options as well, and many of the state's largest institutions have added this type of degree. For example, the following Virginia schools are among those offering online degrees:

Averett University: Founded in 1859, this accredited four-year institution offers traditional programs as well as online degrees for working professionals. The main campus is in Danville. Online programs include associate of science in business, bachelor of science in sociology and criminal justice and a variety of master's degrees.

Bluefield College: This Christian liberal arts college has a campus in Bluefield (and offices in Richmond and Roanoke), and also offers online programs that cater to working adults and veterans. Online programs include criminal justice, e-business and entrepreneurship, early childhood education, management and leadership, and nursing.

E.C.P.I. University: East Coast Polytechnic Institute offers technology, criminal justice, business, health science and culinary programs on campus at eight locations throughout the state or online. The college works with employers to ensure relevant skills and training that meet current job needs.

Enrollment at Virginia's public universities fell in the 2014-15 school year, but its private nonprofit universities — including online schools — are seeing their numbers grow.

Liberty University: With a campus in Lynchburg and online programs offered across the world, students at this private Christian university can choose from 450 degree options.

Virginia College: This career-centric school has locations throughout the south and southeast of the country, including a campus in Richmond, as well as an extensive online degree program, offering certificates, associate, bachelor's and master's degrees.

George Mason University: With its main campus in Fairfax, this public university offers traditional classes, online classes or a blended model. Whether taking courses online or in the classroom, Virginia-based students can qualify for the in-state tuition rate. Online programs include education, business, health and human services, engineering and more.

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 will need to visit the full Schools.com site to use the map.)

Virginia Colleges - Google Fusion Tables

Job outlook in Virginia

According to the Virginia Employment Commission, the biggest employers in the state include the U.S. Department of Defense, Wal-Mart, Fairfax Public Schools and Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc.

The Virginia Employment Commission produced a "Virginia Job Outlook" report through 2020, highlighting the areas of the growth. Industries with the largest growth projections for the number of new jobs include:

  • Professional, scientific and technical services: 141,266 jobs
  • Healthcare and social assistance: 137,096 jobs
  • Educational services: 82,677 jobs
  • Construction: 64,487 jobs
  • Retail trade: 56,487

Knowing the largest growth industries leads to great insights about top jobs in Virginia. The "Virginia Job Outlook" highlights a number of high-growth occupations in the state. Those occupations, coupled with the degree needed to pursue a job, are listed in the table below.


Growth by 2020

Median wage

Typical entry-level degree

Software developers, systems software

16,813 jobs


Bachelor's in computer science or software engineering

Management analyst

14,699 jobs


Bachelor's degrees, particularly in the business sector

Computer systems analyst

9,954 jobs


Bachelor's degree in computer or information science

Elementary school teacher

9,578 jobs


Bachelor's degree, elementary education

Registered nurse

14,733 jobs


Bachelor or associate in nursing or diploma from nursing program

Traditional colleges and universities

While online schools offer a flexible, convenient option, many students prefer to learn on campus. The following schools, from public universities to popular community colleges, offer extensive educational opportunities:

University of Virginia: This public institution in Charlottesville is synonymous with history and tradition. Ranked No. 23 in the "National Universities" category by U.S. News and World Report's "Best Colleges" guide, the school offers affordable in-state tuition ($12,998 for 2014-15) and reputable graduate schools in business, engineering, law, education and medicine.

Virginia Tech: The second-largest school in Virginia, this research institution in Blacksburg offers 215 degree programs to its 31,000 students. Its 2,600-acre campus also includes an airport and a corporate research center. Undergraduate colleges include agriculture and life sciences, architecture and urban studies, engineering, liberal arts and human sciences, natural resources and environment, business and science.

George Mason University: Named one of Princeton's Review's 150 Best Value Colleges, the Fairfax-based school has locations throughout the country and offers an extensive online education program. Top majors here include accounting, biology/biological sciences and psychology.

Northern Virginia Community College: With six campuses across Northern Virginia, many students enroll here to get their associate degree or get a jump start on credits and then transfer to a four-year school. The Extended Learning Institute offers dozens of online degree programs, which can also be blended with on-campus classes.

College of William and Mary: The second-oldest college in the nation is now known for its cutting-edge research. As a public university, this Williamsburg university offers a rigorous education at an affordable price, and is considered a "Public Ivy." Forbes recently named the school to its "Top Colleges" list.

Keep in mind that these campus-based offerings are far from the only options, however. Use the map above or the SchoolFinder to start comparing Virginia colleges near you. Checking out your educational options is a great first step to figuring out which locally available or online degrees might be a good fit.

1. "America's Top Colleges of 2014," Caroline Howard, Forbes, July 30, 2014, http://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinehoward/2014/07/30/americas-top-colleges-2014/
2. "Virginia Tech Gains Enrollment, Becomes the State's Second Largest Public University," Karin Kapsidelis, Roanoke Times, Jan. 9, 2015, http://www.roanoke.com/virginia-tech-gains-enrollment-to-becomesstate-s-second-largest-public/article_b68441dc-7f96-5be5-9a8a-c85f8d2f8682.html
3. George Mason University, The Princeton Review, Accessed Jan. 9, 2015, http://www.princetonreview.com/GeorgeMasonUniversity.aspx
4. Best Places to Live in Virginia, Sperling's Best Places, http://www.bestplaces.net/state/Virginia
5. "Degree Attainment and Student Success in the Commonwealth," State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, Accessed Jan. 19, 2015, http://www.richmond.com/pdf_0b400908-e8f3-11e3-98c9-001a4bcf6878.html
6. "Post-Completion Wages of Graduates," State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, Accessed Jan. 19, 2015, http://research.schev.edu/apps/info/Articles.First-Look-Post-Completion-Wages-of-Graduates.ashx
7. State & County QuickFacts: Virginia, U.S. Census Bureau, Accessed Jan. 19, 2015, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/51000.html
8. Economy at a Glance: United States, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Accessed Feb. 24, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.us.htm
9. Economy at a Glance: Virginia, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Accessed Feb. 24, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.va.htm
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. Colleges in Virginia, U.S. News and World Report, Accessed Jan. 19, 2015, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/va
12. "Virginia Job Outlook," Virginia Employment Commission, March 2013, http://virginialmi.com/content/pdfs/outlook_brochure_2013.pdf
13. 50 Largest Employers in Virginia, Virginia Labor Market Information, Accessed Jan. 19, 2015, http://bi.virginialmi.com/rdPage.aspx?rdReport=lmitools_industry&tabsIndustry=tpnlLargestEmployers&rdNoShowWait=True&rdWaitCaption=Loading…
14. Schools: Averett University, http://www.averett.edu; Bluefield College, http://www.bluefield.edu; College of William and Mary, http://www.wm.edu/; ECPI University, http://www.ecpi.edu; George Mason University, https://www.gmu.edu; Liberty University, http://www.liberty.edu; Northern Virginia Community College, http://www.nvcc.edu/; University of Virginia, http://www.virginia.edu/; Virginia College, http://www.vc.edu; Virginia Tech, http://www.vt.edu

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