Enrolling in an online program can often be a more affordable and flexible alternative to an in-person degree, especially for students juggling a job or family responsibilities.
While online learning increased in popularity at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, many institutions — like some ranked in the 2023 U.S. News Best Online Programs — were ahead of the curve, having offered online degree options for years.
The online bachelor’s level ranking does not use standardized tests, instead relying on other factors such as faculty credentials and training, services and technologies available to students, student engagement and expert opinion on the academic quality of programs. Master’s degree programs, in addition to these criteria, are also ranked based on student excellence.
Blended learning programs — a combination of both face-to-face and distance instruction — are not included in the rankings.
Graduate programs are categorized based on the following areas of study: non-MBA business, criminal justice, computer information technology,education, engineering and nursing. Online MBA programs are ranked separately from other master’s business degrees. U.S. News also ranks the Best Online Programs for Veterans.
Here are some of the top online degree programs in the 2023 rankings.
Best Online Bachelor’s Programs
The University of Florida once again topped this year’s list at No. 1 for bachelor’s programs. Another Florida-based institution, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University–Worldwide, moved down one from it’s previous ranking to tie with the University of Illinois–Chicago at No. 2.
Nine schools made the top 10 list for at least the second year in a row. Tying at No. 4 with the Medical University of South Carolina and the University of North Carolina–Charlotte, Texas A&M University–College Station is the only newcomer to the top 10 this year. The school was not ranked last year.
There were significant gains in the rankings outside of the top 10, such as for Syracuse University in New York, which moved up from a tie at No. 59 to a four-way tie at No. 21. Climbing from its previous position of a tie at No. 122, Lees-McRae College in North Carolina now ties with six other schools for the No. 42 position.
Some colleges have strength in a specific major. For example, Arizona State University and the University of Florida were rated as the No. 1 schools for the Best Online Bachelor’s in Business Programs. Rounding out the top three in a tie were Pennsylvania State University–World Campus and the University of Massachusetts–Amherst.
There is also a ranking for Best Online Bachelor’s in Psychology Programs. Pennsylvania State University–World Campus emerged in the top in this ranking, as well, tied with Oregon State University and the University of Central Florida at No. 1.
Best Online Programs for Veterans
To qualify, schools must appear in the top half of the Best Online Programs rankings; be certified for the GI Bill; and either be Yellow Ribbon Program participants or public institutions that charge in-state tuition, which can be fully paid through the GI Bill for out-of-state applicants.
Additionally, a minimum of 25 veterans and active service members must be enrolled for a bachelor’s program to qualify for the rankings, with 10 needed for a master’s program.
The top two online bachelor’s programs for veterans switched rankings positions from last year. The University of Florida is now at No. 1, with Embry-Riddle taking the No. 2 spot. Two Arizona schools — ASU and the University of Arizona — once again took the No. 3 and No. 4 spots. Rounding out the top five, in a tie at fifth place, are CUNY School of Professional Studies in New York and Utah State University.
Best Online MBA Programs
For the No. 1 spot among online MBA programs, there was a two-way tie between Indiana University–Bloomington’s Kelley School of Business and the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. Previously tied for first, the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business fell to No. 3. For veterans, the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business and USC topped the list at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.
As for specialties, Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business in Pennsylvania ranked the highest for business analytics. And UNC reached No. 1 again, but this time for the areas of finance, general management and marketing.
Best Online Master’s in Business Programs
In addition to MBA programs, U.S. News also ranks the Best Online Master’s in Business Programs, which include degrees in accounting, finance, insurance, marketing and management.
For another year, IU claimed the No. 1 spot while the remaining top 10 included several ties. There was a two-way tie for the second spot, Carnegie Mellon and USC, as well as for the No. 4 spot — the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business and the University of Tennessee–Knoxville. One of the largest ties is at No. 9, with five schools claiming the position: ASU, Boston University, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in North Carolina, the University of Texas–Dallas’ Naveen Jindal School of Management and the University of Massachusetts–Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management.
Some non-MBA online graduate business programs climbed significant spots in the rankings. Butler University’s Lacy School of Business in Indiana, for example, jumped from a tie at No. 95 to a five-way tie at No. 33. Also in the top 50 now, in a three-way tie at No. 49, Pepperdine University’s Pepperdine Graziadio Business School in California previously tied at No. 75.
Best Online Master’s in Education Programs
Tied for No. 147 in the prior year, the University of Wisconsin–Madison rose to No. 4, tying with the University at Albany–SUNY in New York and the University of North Texas. Wisconsin’s leap is attributed to several factors, including being tied for the highest average rating among other programs in peer assessment. Additionally, unlike in the previous edition, U.S. News was able to calculate a three-year graduation rate for the University of Wisconsin’s education program this year.
Another large jump in the rankings was Drake University in Iowa, which soared from a tie at No. 108 to a tie at No. 43. A three-year graduation rate for the program was calculated in this edition, unlike the year prior.
As for specialties, ASU ranked highly in two out of four categories, including educational administration and supervision, and educational/instructional media design. Michigan State University ranked No. 1 for curriculum and instruction while the University of Kansas took the top spot for special education. The University of Georgia took the top spot for veterans.
Best Online Master’s in Nursing Programs
The University of South Carolina ranked No. 1 among online nursing master’s programs for the third consecutive year. But this year, there was a three-way tie for the No. 2 spot. Moving up from a tie at No. 11, the University of Alabama — which was also No. 1 for veterans — now ties with Duke and Ohio State University, who were previously No. 5 and No. 1, respectively.
In addition to being in the top two overall, Duke swept first place in three specialty areas: nursing administration, nursing education and family nurse practitioner.
Best Online Master’s in Engineering Programs
After ranking at No. 2 the prior year, the University of California–Los Angeles’ Henry Samueli School of Engineering claimed the top spot in the rankings of online master’s in engineering programs. Purdue University–West Lafayette in Indiana and Pennsylvania State University–World Campus — which was also No. 1 for veterans — rounded out the top three.
Several schools in the Midwest ranked high in specialty areas. Purdue was No. 1 for electrical, industrial, management and mechanical engineering while the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign’s Grainger College of Engineering topped the list for civil engineering.
Best Online Master’s in Information Technology Programs
Like last year, Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University’s G.W.C. Whiting School of Engineering in Maryland and Virginia Tech ranked as the top three, in that order, among online graduate information technology programs. Also in the top 10, North Carolina State University experienced the largest shift — from a tie at No. 28 to No. 9.
Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Programs
The online graduate criminology program at the University of California–Irvine was No. 1 for the third consecutive year. The University of Massachusetts–Lowell also reclaimed its No. 2 spot, this time alone, while Sam Houston State University moved down one position to No. 3.
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