Online Colleges in Wisconsin

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) counts more than 100 universities, vocational academies and other campus-based and online schools and colleges in Wisconsin, according to 2016 data, and degree programs available all across the state can help you enhance your knowledge and energize your career.

To get a feel for Wisconsin's educational options, like its schools and strong industries, explore the different sections of this guide. They include:

Snapshot: Education in the Badger State

Here's a detailed breakdown of how many of each type of institution were tallied by the NCES in 2016:

Campus-based schools in Wisconsin
Institution type No. offering bachelor's degrees No. offering associate degrees No. offering certificates and other non-degree awards No. offering advanced degrees (master's, Ph.D., etc.)
Public 14 26 17 14
Private nonprofit 25 6 10 25
Private for-profit 18 18 42 6

Students in traditional as well as online degree programs can benefit from living in a place where the needs of an academic life may be met by local businesses and other organizations, which can happen when a strong enough student presence exists in an area. Here's what the student presence in several Wisconsin cities looks like:


City Total estimated population
(U.S. Census, 2015)
No. of enrolled students
(NCES, 2016)
Student presence as a percentage of permanent resident population % of residents with bachelor's degrees
(U.S. Census, 2015)
Appleton 74,139 12,458 16.80 percent 31.9 percent
Eau Claire 67,778 16,609 24.51 percent 32.6 percent
Madison 248,951 78,121 31.38 percent 55.0 percent
Milwaukee 600,155 64,195 10.70 percent 22.8 percent
Kenosha 99,858 16,130 16.15 percent 23 percent
La Crosse 52,306 17,290 33.06 percent 30.6 percent
Green Bay 105,207 17,727 16.85 percent 23.1 percent
Oshkosh 66,555 14,051 21.11 percent 22.8 percent
Fond du Lac 42,933 8,393 19.55 percent 22.1 percent

The average annual tuition cost for Wisconsin schools equipped to award bachelor's degrees was $8,815 in the 2015-16 academic year, according to a report released by The College Board, but certain colleges and universities in Wisconsin came with a much higher or lower average expense. In-state students at the University of Wisconsin - Parkside paid the state's lowest tuition and fees in 2016, with a yearly average of $7,387, while Beloit College charged the state's highest average of $47,060 the same year.

Online education in Wisconsin

The ability to study at online colleges and schools in Wisconsin can be a relief to busy parents, working professionals, rural students trying to continue their education without making the commute to an urban campus and several other groups of students in non-traditional circumstances. Here's a table of the institutions offering online programs in Wisconsin:

Online schools in Wisconsin
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 13 16 11 12
Private nonprofit 8 2 2 13
Private for-profit 5 5 4 4

Ranking information for traditional and online Wisconsin schools

Many traditional as well as online colleges in Wisconsin have received favorable attention from national and global university ranking agencies. Here are just a few of the Wisconsin schools that made national or international lists this year:

Rankings for campus-based and online schools in Wisconsin
School name
Ranking agency
University of Wisconsin - Madison No. 25 Global Universities Center for World University Rankings
Lawrence University No. 60 (tie) National Liberal Arts Colleges U.S. News & World Report
Beloit College No. 62 (tie) National Liberal Arts Colleges U.S. News & World Report
Marquette University No. 53 (tie) Best Colleges for Veterans U.S. News & World Report
Milwaukee School of Engineering No. 11 (tie) Regional Universities (Midwest) U.S. News & World Report
Wisconsin Lutheran Colleges No. 20 Regional Colleges Midwest U.S. News & World Report
Medical College of Wisconsin No. 308 Global Universities Center for World University Rankings

Top degree programs at online colleges in Wisconsin

Some of the degree programs available at online schools and colleges in Wisconsin have ranked among the nation's best in recent U.S. News surveys. Here's some ranking information on the top programs available online at Wisconsin schools:

Top-ranked online programs in Wisconsin
School name
Degree program
University of Wisconsin - Madison Engineering No. 6

Several online graduate degrees in engineering can be earned at UW Madison, each with a project-based curriculum that focuses on solving real-world engineering problems.

University of Wisconsin - Whitewater Online bachelor's degrees No. 7 (tie) Specially trained online faculty teach the online bachelor's degree courses at UW Whitewater, and the school's residency-independent online tuition rates include the cost of textbooks.
Marquette University Computer information technology No. 20 Working professionals looking for a career change in the IT realm may appreciate the online IT degree at Marquette, which the Milwaukee institution has designed for maximum flexibility.
University of Wisconsin - Platteville Criminal justice No. 28 (tie) Online criminal justice study plans at UW Platteville include three emphasis areas -- criminal justice theory, criminal justice management and victim and offender services.

Industries and degrees to get in Wisconsin

The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the nationwide job market will grow by about 7 percent between 2014 and 2024, although certain occupations have a much rosier growth outlook than the average. Here are a few of the hottest jobs for graduates of standard and online schools and colleges in Wisconsin, along with state-focused employment data from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and salary figures calculated by the BLS:

Hot degrees and top jobs for Wisconsin graduates
Why it's hot
Degrees that can help
Statistician The importance of thorough and detailed statistical analysis is growing in several fields, from business to sports to politics, and demand for trained statisticians is growing right along with it. The DWD projects 40.4 percent employment growth among Wisconsin statisticians between 2014 and 2024, even more than the 34 percent growth expected nationally. Statistician salaries are also on the rise in the Badger State, according to the BLS — the statewide mean annual wage of $75,790 is up more than $10,000 from the 2011 report. A master's degree is typically required for a professional statistician to find a job in the field, although degrees in quantitative fields other than statistics itself may also be acceptable. A master's degree in mathematics, for example, may also give you the skills you need, and many types of computer science degrees can prepare you for the quantitative modeling tasks that statisticians often perform. If you're hoping to find a job conducting independent research or teaching statistics at the highest levels of academia, however, you'll probably need a Ph.D.
Biochemist Jobs for biochemists and biophysicists are only expected to grow by about 8 percent nationally by 2024, but the Wisconsin DWD projects the statewide increase to be nearly three times greater. Biochemists in Wisconsin should see job growth of 22.2 percent over the next several years, according to recent projections, particularly in the areas around Madison and Milwaukee. Members of this highly skilled profession earned a mean annual salary of $66,110 in 2015, with the top 10 percent of earners taking home $99,960 or more. Biochemistry and biophysics are primarily research occupations, and as such most aspiring bio-scientists will need a Ph.D. to earn the career's full set of professional responsibilities. Most students start studying the sciences early in their college education, earning bachelor's degrees in such fields as biology, chemistry, physics and engineering with some training in quantitative subjects like math and computer science. Certain positions in the biochemistry industry may be available to graduates with just a bachelor's or master's degree, particularly if they have some practical experience in a related field.
Personal Financial Advisor As more people come to realize that a sound personal finance strategy can make life a little more manageable, financial advisors are enjoying a sturdy upward surge in job growth all over the country. Projections from the Wisconsin DWD show an expected 26.3 percent increase between 2014 and 2024, leading to more than 1,300 new jobs being created statewide. Salary compensation for personal financial advisor positions is robust in the state as well, with the 2015 mean annual pay of $91,060 representing a $13,000 increase over the mean salary reported in 2011.

The BLS reports that personal financial advisors need at least a bachelor's degree in business, finance, accounting, economics, mathematics or law, but employers may also provide on-the-job training that allows graduates with other degrees to get their foot in the door. In competitive job markets, a master's degree or certification such as Certified Financial Planner (CFP) may help your chances of standing out from the field of applicants. The CFP credential requires a bachelor's degree, three years of relevant work experience and the successful completion of an exam that covers such topics as investment, risk management, retirement planning and more.

Software Developer There's no denying that today's world relies more heavily on software applications than any generation that's come before, and the code wizards who produce those applications are in high demand at multiple levels of the job market. Employment of applications software developers in Wisconsin is projected to increase 18.8 percent by 2024, and the annual pay figures for the occupation are encouraging: the statewide mean annual applications developer salary was $83,680 in 2015, and the top 25 percent of earners made $98,380 or more for the year. Most employers require at least a bachelor's degree from their candidates for software developer jobs. Degrees in subjects such as computer science or software engineering are typically most desired, although graduates in mathematics or other branches of engineering may also have the necessary skills. Senior positions or jobs with highly competitive firms may require further education, perhaps asking for a master's or Ph.D. in computer science or a related field, and IT certifications such as the Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) and Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) for Developers credentials can also help your hiring chances.

Featured schools in Wisconsin

Whatever your academic ambitions, chances are that at least one of the traditional or online Wisconsin schools can take you where you want to be. Here's a quick list of some of the best-rated programs, from sources like U.S. News & World Report or the Center for World University Rankings, at a few of the top schools in the state:

Campus-based and online programs in Wisconsin
Institution name
Online degrees?
Top programs
University of Wisconsin - Madison Yes Graduate education, engineering (on campus and online), agricultural sciences, economics, Earth sciences, math, physics, chemistry, biological sciences, law, primary care medicine, psychology, computer science, history, pharmacy, physical therapy, library and information studies
Marquette University Yes Physical therapy, nursing, computer science (on campus and online), physician assisting, speech-language pathology, history, law, chemistry, engineering, psychology, biological sciences
University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh Yes Graduate business, graduate nursing (on campus and online), MBA (on campus and online), doctoral nursing
University of Wisconsin - La Crosse Yes Occupational therapy, physical therapy, physician assisting, health information management (online), graduate business
University of Wisconsin - Whitewater Yes MBA (on campus and online), graduate business, speech-language pathology, online bachelor's degrees
Concordia University Wisconsin Yes Graduate nursing, doctoral nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, MBA (online), pharmacy


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