2021 best online degree programs as ranked by US News

Online education programs give students the flexibility to juggle their learning with a job and other obligations.

More recently, they’ve become an appealing option amid public health restrictions.

“They tend to be for folks who have previously earned some college credits,” said Anita Narayan, managing editor of education for U.S. News & World Report. “And now, they may be working adults … and they’re looking to complete a degree.”

And because this type of learning is different from an in-class experience, U.S. News has another set of rankings separate from its well-known Best Colleges list.

On Tuesday, U.S. News unveiled the latest edition of its Best Online Programs rankings.

Leading the list of best online bachelor’s programs is Florida-based Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, up from the No. 2 spot last year. The University of Illinois-Chicago and the University of Florida round out the top three.

There were a few regional standouts in the bunch: George Washington University was ranked No. 19, while Regent University ranked No. 53 and Old Dominion University was ranked No. 86.

Also, for the first time, U.S. News ranked online programs for two popular undergraduate majors.

Among the best online bachelor’s programs in business, Arizona State University and the University of Florida tied for the top spot, followed by Oregon State University at No. 3. Those three schools fared well, too, with bachelor’s programs in psychology: All three were tied for second in the rankings behind Penn State at No. 1.

Also ranked: the best bachelor’s programs for military veterans and active service members. Embry-Riddle tops this list as well, followed by Florida and Oregon State.

U.S. News reviewed over 1,600 online degree programs. The rankings use data provided by each school on things like student services and technology; faculty credentials; and student engagement. They also focus on programs that are offered primarily online by accredited institutions.

Here are some of the schools that topped the honor roll for online master’s programs:

MBA 

1. Carnegie Mellon University (tied)
1. University of North Carolina (tied)
3. Indiana University

Criminal justice / criminology

1. University of California-Irvine
2. Boston University (tied)
2. Sam Houston State University (tied)

Education

1. University of Florida
2. Clemson University
3. University of Illinois

Engineering

1. Columbia University
2. University of California-Los Angeles
3. Purdue University

Nursing

1. Rush University (tied)
1. University of South Carolina (tied)
3. Duke University (tied)
3. Ohio State University (tied)

In addition, three regional schools did well in that master’s-in-nursing category: Catholic University (No. 5); George Washington University (No. 7); and Johns Hopkins University (No. 9).

Hopkins also made the top three among online master’s degree programs for computer information technology, tied for second with the University of Southern California — behind No. 1 Columbia University. Virginia Tech was fourth on this list, and Old Dominion was ranked 27th.

Narayan reminds would-be students to use the rankings as “a start not an answer.”

“You should really use it as a jumping off point to help create a list of schools and programs that interest you,” she said.

Check out the full rundown of rankings on the U.S. News site.

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