Online schools in West Virginia

The tradition of higher education in West Virginia is older than the state itself. West Virginia was established as a state by presidential proclamation in 1863, but West Liberty University, the oldest postsecondary institution in West Virginia, was formally established almost 30 years before that proclamation was made.

If you're thinking about attending one of the campus-based or online colleges in West Virginia, it can be helpful to live in an area where student culture is a force in the region. The six cities with the largest overall populations of college students, according to enrollment data reported by the NCES, are, in order: Morgantown, Huntington, Fairmont, Martinsburg, Shepherdstown and Wheeling.

There's also an upshot of this list that says a lot about the value of online schools in West Virginia. Even though it houses the headquarters of American Public University System (APUS), which had nearly 44,000 students on the rolls in 2015 and stood as the state's largest institution by enrollment in 2015, the city of Charles Town is conspicuously absent.

The reason is simple, really. The distribution of population in West Virginia includes many rural areas, and fully online schools like APUS can help residents in any area around the state get the education they need. The students enrolled at APUS schools may live anywhere in the state, urban or rural, and many live on military bases in other states or outside the borders of the U.S.

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

• Online education in West Virginia
In-demand degrees
Colleges in West Virginia

Online colleges in West Virginia

West Virginia has long been a stronghold for military servicemembers and their families, and the state's approach to higher education makes plain its commitment to the men and women of our armed forces. Two of the ten best colleges for veterans in the South are housed in West Virginia, for one thing, according to U.S. News and World Report. Also, the aforementioned American Public University System was founded as one of the first online colleges in West Virginia or anywhere in order to deliver reliable distance education that meets the scheduling and location needs of the active-duty military.

If you're interested, start exploring what online degrees might be offered near you by checking out this map, which shows the location of all colleges in West Virginia, based on 2013 data from the NCES. (Mobile users will need to visit the full Schools.com site to use the map.)

Top subjects at traditional and online schools in West Virginia

Nursing can be a rewarding career with advancement potential and great financial upside, and multiple training programs at campus-based and online colleges in West Virginia are there help aspiring nurses get the education they need. When the time comes to move up the ladder to an advanced practice nursing or nurse educator position, and Wheeling Jesuit University has an online graduate nursing programs that placed in U.S. News' top 40 for 2015.

Health care systems are the top employers in multiple counties across West Virginia, which is good news for aspiring nurses, and the solid-fuel industry also holds a dominant position in the state economy. Alpha Natural Resources, Inc., employs nearly 50,000 West Virginians, and the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University is a testament to the value of coal mining in the Mountain State. Degrees in mining engineering are available at all levels from WVU, from a Bachelor of Science on up to a Ph.D.

Online business degrees at home and nationwide

Not only is it a top online education provider in the West Virginia itself, but the American Public University System was hailed by U.S. News as having one of the top online bachelor's programs in the nation. Business administration, one of the most popular programs at APUS, has historically been a degree with its roots in the realities of the working world — any company in existence needs executives, managers and departmental directors who are well-trained and capable of helping guide the organization to prosperity.

One of the major advantages of online education is the ability to search for programs offered outside of your immediate area, including those from the highest-rated schools in the country. West Virginia residents may be able to take certain courses at lauded national institutions, if not apply to earn their entire degree at a top national university. If you can't seem to find what you're looking for in a graduate business degree from the selection of online schools in West Virginia, the University of Texas - Dallas and Indiana University - Bloomington business schools are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, on the U.S. News list of graduate business programs.

Best degrees to get in West Virginia

In 2014, the West Virginia Department of Economic and Labor Market Information (DELMI) released a list of occupations that are projected to grow faster or much faster than average. Many of the West Virginia 'Demand Occupations,' as they're called, require applicants to have a college degree or at least some formal training from traditional or online schools in West Virginia.

Although no particular degree can function as a guarantee of employment after graduation, solid credentials in education may have the potential to make or break a close race in the application process. Here are a few of the subject areas where a college education can prepare you to fill an emerging position in one of West Virginia's most in-demand careers:

    • Skilled back-office personnel are an important part of a successful business, and an accounting degree can help train your bookkeeping brain and eye for detail to a sharp point. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates a 2014 annual wage of $59,520 for accountants in West Virginia, and DELMI numbers show that more than 2,000 job openings for accountants are expected to emerge between 2012 and 2022.

    The health care system is changing, thanks to insurance reforms and the relentless advance of technology, and the value of a degree in physician assisting is on a steady upward trend.

    • Formal training in registered nursing is in demand all over the country, and West Virginia is no exception. DELMI data shows a statewide expectation of no fewer than 635 job openings per year until 2022, and BLS salary data indicates a 2014 registered nurse salary average of $56,390 in West Virginia. Nursing instruction is also a hot career in the state, with around 29 percent job growth expected by the DELMI, and can become available after completing graduate programs in nursing like those mentioned above.
      • For several years, pharmacy flew under the radar of the national business culture, but lately it seems like the secret's out. CNNMoney named it among the top 20 jobs in the U.S., thanks to the reportedly low amount of stress necessary to earn the relatively high average salary for the profession — pharmacists in West Virginia earned mean annual wages of $116,010 in 2014, according to the BLS. Licensed pharmacists must earn Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degrees, which require several years of school beyond your bachelor's, but students in some online schools may be able to find accelerated programs.
        • The health care system is changing, thanks to insurance reforms and the relentless advance of technology, and the value of a degree in physician assisting is on a steady upward trend. West Virginia physician assistants should see a massive 34 percent employment increase between 2012 and 2022, and the $87,750 statewide average annual wage reported to the BLS is more than twice the average across all occupations in West Virginia.
          • The ancient builders of the Acropolis and the aqueducts of Rome used surprisingly similar theories of civil engineering to those employed in the construction of roads, bridges, high-rise buildings and other major construction projects in modern West Virginia. Projected nationwide job growth of 20 percent by 2022 is expected to lead to more than 600 new positions for West Virginia civil engineers, and the state's mean annual salary in the field was $70,170 in 2014.

            West Virginia colleges

            Many of the campus-based and online colleges in West Virginia have many subject areas in which they shine. Here's a quick profile of a few West Virginia institutions and the degrees for which they're best known nationally:

            Institution name

            Online degrees?

            Top programs

            Notable rankings

            West Virginia University


            Graduate business, MBA (online), graduate nursing, graduate education (online), engineering, law, medicine, nursing, psychology, pharmacy, fine arts, rehabilitation counseling, physical therapy

            Best national universities (No. 168); Top public schools (No. 93); Best national colleges for veterans (No. 55)

            Marshall University


            Business, engineering, psychology, nursing, medicine, speech-language pathology, public affairs, biological sciences, graduate education (online)

            Best regional universities - South (No. 46); Top public schools - South (No. 17)

            Wheeling Jesuit University


            Nursing, physical therapy, graduate education (online), graduate nursing (online)

            Best regional colleges - South (No. 11); Best colleges for veterans - South (No. 3); Best online bachelor's programs (No. 125)

            American Public University System

            Yes (Online only)

            Business administration, criminal justice, transportation and logistics, homeland security, public health, psychology, management, sports and health sciences

            Best online bachelor's programs (No. 27)

            West Liberty University

            No (Individual online courses available)

            Education, athletic training, criminal justice, health sciences, business administration

            Best regional colleges - South (No. 52); Top public schools - South (No. 6)

            West Virginia Wesleyan College

            No (Individual online and hybrid courses available)

            Business administration, accounting, nursing, engineering, environmental science, geophysics

            Best regional colleges - South (No. 12); Best value schools - South (No. 8)

            Ohio Valley University


            Energy management, elementary education, graduate education (online), behavioral sciences, biblical studies

            Best regional colleges - South (No. 59); Best colleges for veterans - South (No. 18)

            1. West Virginia Operations, Alpha Natural Resources, accessed April 23, 2014, http://www.alphanr.com/about/Quick%20Facts/West%20Virginia%20Facts.pdf
            2. American Public University System, accessed April 23, 2015, http://www.apus.edu/
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            14. Best Colleges for Veterans, Regional Colleges (South), U.S. News and World Report, accessed April 23, 2015, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/rankings/regional-colleges-south/veterans
            15-21. Overall Rankings, U.S. News and World Report, accessed April 23, 2015: American Public University System, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/american-public-university-system-449339/overall-rankings; Marshall University, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/marshall-university-237525/overall-rankings; Ohio Valley University, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/ohio-valley-university-237640/overall-rankings; West Liberty University, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/west-liberty-university-237932/overall-rankings; West Virginia Wesleyan College, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/west-virginia-wesleyan-college-237969/overall-rankings; West Virginia University, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/west-virginia-university-238032/overall-rankings; Wheeling Jesuit University, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/wheeling-jesuit-university-238078/overall-rankings
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            28. Statewide Occupational Tables, West Virginia Occupational Projections, WORKFORCE West Virginia, accessed April 23, 2015, http://www.workforcewv.org/lmi/occproj/longterm/StateWide.htm

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