Online Schools in Washington

It's no secret that Washington is full of natural beauty and opportunities for outdoor recreation, just like most of the Pacific Northwest, but it may be less well known that the Evergreen State is also a great place to get a degree and start a career.

For one thing, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates a mean annual wage of $52,090 for Washington workers in all industries — more than 12 percent per year above the national average — and there's no state income tax. What's more, the National Center for Education Statistics counts more than 120 colleges, universities and community colleges in Washington available to serve students statewide. And that's not even including the options for online education in Washington. From Puget Sound to the Spokane River and all points in between, Washington colleges can help you start down the path to the career you've always wanted.

To learn more about the various educational options in Washington state, check out the different sections of this guide:

Online education
Top degrees in Washington
Traditional colleges

Online education in Washington

Online education can be advantageous to students all over the globe, but there are some reasons that students at Washington colleges might appreciate the virtual classroom more than most. Here are a few ways that online colleges in Washington can help empower students to continue their education.

1. Location independence

With a few exceptions, the state's colleges are generally clustered in the northwestern quadrant of the state, and residents of the wide swaths of rural land in eastern and southwestern Washington may not live within a comfortable commuting distance to a campus. Online schooling can allow students in all parts of the state to pursue their education without the extra friction of having an hours-long drive to class.

2. Lower potential cost

A recent report by the College Board indicates that average yearly tuition for students at four-year public Washington colleges came to $10,846 in the 2014-15 academic year, which is an increase of more than $4,000 over the previous decade. By contrast, students in online programs may be able to find cheaper tuition and fees than their campus-based counterparts, due to a wider variety of schools to choose from, and they may be able to save when it comes to on-campus housing, transportation and textbooks as well.

3. Diverse degrees

Students in Washington who choose to earn their degrees online potentially have access to colleges and universities all over the world. The virtual classroom format also tends to allow degree program designers to offer cutting-edge plans designed to suit a rapidly changing world. Students looking for degrees in media arts, software development or networking administration can often find the most up-to-date instruction in online classrooms.

Traditional universities all over the country are stepping up and offering online degrees, and schools in Washington are no different. For example, online options abound at these and other Washington colleges:

  • Washington State University
  • University of Washington
  • Central Washington University
  • City University of Seattle

Prospective students who want to explore online or hybrid options at local colleges can use this map to find out which schools are nearby. It shows the location of all the colleges in Washington state, based on 2013 data from the National Center for Education Statistics. (To see the map, mobile users will need to visit the full Schools.com site.)

Washington Colleges - Google Fusion Tables

In addition to the regionally located options, national online institutions like Western Governors University work to meet the needs of Washington students looking to study education, business, health, IT and other disciplines.

What are the best degrees to get in Washington?

Washington is home to a diverse business climate, from the corporate headquarters of Starbucks, Microsoft and Amazon.com to satellite offices of global technological and environmental firms. Here are a few of the top degrees available to students at online colleges in Washington, based on major regional employers and current employment trends as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Washington State Employment Security Department:

Environmental engineering is a career field to watch, particularly in areas where the wealth of natural resources holds a prominent position in the regional character. National BLS data indicates a faster-than-average projected growth rate of 15 percent for environmental engineers between 2012 and 2022, and statewide numbers show an even faster rate of 19 percent in Washington during the same period.

Nursing degrees at the bachelor level and beyond can help established health care pros gain a foothold in nursing education, one of the fastest growing careers on Washington's job market. State sources indicate that nursing educators should see a whopping employment increase of 46 percent between 2012 and 2022.

Health care administration is another supporting role in the medical and health industry that can be a path to a comfortable career after graduation. Medical and health services managers in Washington were paid an average of $97,600 in 2013, compared to the national health care administration median of $90,940 the same year.

Aerospace engineering is a highly specialized field of study, but students at Washington colleges may find themselves better suited to the local job market than aerospace graduates in other areas. Between the offices of Boeing's commercial airplanes division and the corporate headquarters of Alaska Airlines, aerospace students in Washington have major professional resources nearby.

Between Boeing and Alaska Airlines, aerospace students in Washington have major professional resources nearby.

Computer science is a generally good choice for a degree all around these days, but Washington boasts a feature of the IT landscape that not every state can claim. While the nationwide median annual wage for computer programmers was $76,140 in 2013, Washington's labor market data shows a median programmer salary of $111,600 the same year.

Conservation science can pay off in Washington more so than many other places in the country. State and national parks abound in the region, and the BLS indicates that conservation scientists in the Seattle area earned $11,000 more than the national median salary for their position in 2013, taking home a regional average annual wage of $72,620.

Diagnostic medical sonography graduates are facing favorable job prospects all across the country, with the BLS expecting employment to increase 39 percent nationwide between 2012 and 2022. With demand for diagnostic services on the rise and health and medical centers serving as some of the top employers in Washington, prospects should be good.

Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees are still a go-to in business education, and Washington's numerous regional and multinational companies are always looking for talented managers, financiers and other operatives to help their businesses thrive. Mean wages for management occupations in Washington came in at $113,290 in 2013, above the national average.

Traditional colleges in Washington

Whether you're looking for a degree in class or online, colleges in Washington understand that students need options. Even students who are primarily focused on online education might want the option to visit the school's campus or take some of their courses in a traditional format. For those students, a Washington-based institution is most likely the best fit when it comes to choosing a school.

In conjunction with the above map, this table should help students answer a few questions about some of the institutions in the state (listed alphabetically) and the types of degrees they might offer:


Examples of top programs


Central Washington University

Fine arts, undergraduate business


City University of Seattle

Education (online), accounting (online), healthcare administration (online), graduate business (online)


Evergreen State College

Students create their own courses of study, making individual degree programs difficult to rank


Gonzaga University

Nursing, law, nursing anesthetics, part-time MBA, undergraduate engineering, graduate accounting


Seattle University

Undergraduate business, macroeconomics, legal writing, accounting, nursing, part-time MBA


University of Washington

Education, special education, tax law, family medicine, rural medicine, computer science, clinical psychology


Washington State University

Criminology, health care management, veterinary medicine, graduate business (online), graduate education (online)


Western Washington University

Graduate business, speech-language pathology, rehabilitation counseling


This is all not to mention the state's nearly 40 community colleges, which continue to serve the academic and professional needs of students on campus and online. If you've ever given any thought to attending online college in Washington, now could be a great time to look a little deeper and find out if it might be right for you.

1. State Profile: Washington, Career InfoNet, http://www.careerinfonet.org/state1.asp?next=state1&id=11&nodeid=12&soccode=&menuMode=&stfips=53&x=48&y=18
2. Central Washington University, http://www.cwu.edu/
3. Online Education Programs, City University of Seattle, http://www.cityu.edu/about/flexstudy/online.aspx
4. Tuition and Fees by Sector and State over Time, Trends in College Pricing, The College Board, http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-fees-sector-state-time
5. The Evergreen State College, http://www.evergreen.edu/
6. Gonzaga University, http://www.gonzaga.edu/
7. Washington's Largest Employers, JobBank USA, http://www.jobbankusa.com/jobs/washington_wa/job_employment_largest_employers.html
8. College Navigator: Washington, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=WA
9. Seattle University, http://www.seattleu.edu/
10. University of Washington, http://www. uw.edu/
11. May 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: United States, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
12. May 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: Washington, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014, www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_wa.htm
13. May 2013 Occupation Profiles, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_stru.htm
14. "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
15. Best Colleges, U.S. News and World Report, Accessed Dec. 23, 2014, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/university-of-north-carolina-at-greensboro-199148/overall-rankings
16. Washington State University, http://www.wsu.edu/
17. Western Washington University, http://www.wwu.edu/

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