Since North Dakota is mostly rural with long distances between cities, attending an online college in the state may make sense for you. It can give you the chance to earn an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree online at your home or any other convenient location. You can select from more than a dozen online colleges in North Dakota. Here's an overview of available options:

  • Of the 16 online colleges in North Dakota, 11 are public and 5 are private, including two faith-based colleges and one tribal college.
  • Online associate and bachelor's degree programs are available at 12 colleges, while master's degrees can be earned at 7 of them.
  • Rasmussen College-North Dakota has the most online degree programs available, and across the North Dakota University System (NDUS), more than 1,000 courses are available online.
  • Students who choose an online college in North Dakota can choose from a plethora of majors such as business management, accounting, marketing, early childhood education, nursing, and human services.

If you've already earned some college credits either in North Dakota or in another state and you're looking to go back to school, a number of state initiatives in North Dakota can help you transfer those credits.

To find the 10 best online colleges in North Dakota and see why we think those colleges are top-notch choices, keep reading. Scroll down to also learn more about financial aid options that may be available, such as North Dakota-specific grants and scholarships.

What Makes a Good Online College in North Dakota? has created multiple rankings of the best online colleges in North Dakota, allowing students to compare North Dakota schools and find the one that best suits their educational and financial needs.

Every institution in these rankings is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency. The Higher Learning Commission is the regional accrediting body for the central U.S., and it accredits most colleges and universities in North Dakota. However, some of the state's smaller institutions are accredited by national or faith-related accrediting agencies instead. Students can learn about why accreditation matters in our article "What is College Accreditation?" or learn more about state-specific accrediting information from North Dakota's State Board of Higher Education.

Students can use our rankings to compare relevant data about the online colleges they are interested in — data such as graduation rates, the percentage of students receiving federal financial aid, cost of in-state tuition and more. Read about all the factors we use to craft our rankings in the "What Makes a Good Online College?" section of our "About Us" page.


Best Online Colleges in North Dakota for 2019-20

If you're curious about online learning in the state of North Dakota, your best first step is researching programs and schools. To help with your search, we used data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to see how the online colleges of North Dakota stack up to one another, looking at factors such as accessibility, graduation rate and net cost.

Visit our methodologies page to learn more about how we use official data to evaluate schools.


University of Mary

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
School Type

What is UMary like?

Founded in 1959 as Mary College by the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery, the University of Mary is now the largest degree-granting educational institution in the capital city of Bismarck.

UMary is also the sole private Catholic university in the state and one of the most affordable private universities in the country. has also ranked UMary as one of the best Christian schools to offer higher education degree programs online.

What online programs are at UMary?

Canvas is UMary's main online learning platform. The school's distance learning options are either entirely available online or blended with a small amount of on- campus coursework. In fact, all UMary academic programs have at least partial online availability or some required courses offered in evening classes held in more than half a dozen physical locations.

UMary is one of the highest-ranking online schools for nursing, with two noteworthy BSN to MSN programs. The nursing education-based master's degree option can be completed fully online at an accelerated pace, while the nursing leadership and management-based variant is blended, with online coursework as well as practical fieldwork. The latter is also available as an ADN to MSN program.

The school's marketing offerings are similarly ranked as some of the best available online. The bachelor's in marketing program features rolling enrollments every five weeks, with a 100 percent distance learning format or with occasional on-site courses.

What online resources does UMary offer?

UMary offers round-the-clock online tutoring to all its students through Smarthinking. The school's department of nursing also offers weekly live tutoring sessions.

Military personnel and veterans are more than welcome at UMary, a designated Yellow Ribbon School. Other VA educational benefits can also be applied to the school's tuition fees.


Valley City State University

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
School Type

What is VCSU like?

Valley City State University was established as a teacher's college in 1890 and is currently one of the more than 10 member institutions of the North Dakota University System. Even with dozens of undergraduate degree programs in various fields like business and fine arts, VCSU continues to maintain its special focus on education-based academic offerings.

Notable VCSU alumni include former state Rep. Earl Pomeroy, former Secretary of the Interior Thomas Kleppe, sculptor Paul Fjelde and composer James D. Ployhar.

What online programs are at VCSU?

VCSU's online programs range from short non-credit options offered in partnership with Ed2go and continuing education courses via CE Credits Online to full-on distance learning degree programs. For the latter, the school uses Blackboard Learn as its primary online learning platform.

The school's online Master of Education program has half a dozen different concentrations to choose from, from elementary education to library and information technologies. Coursework is mostly flexible and online, though the program also requires field experience. Apart from this, VCSU also offers a Master of Arts in Teaching option.

What online resources does VCSU offer?

VCSU has a list of collected student resource tools to aid in assignment writing, reading improvement, studying and test preparation. The school is also justifiably proud of its One-Stop Career Services, which assist in career advisement and assessment.

To honor its history in teacher preparation, VCSU also offers special scholarships specifically for students of its graduate programs in education.


University of North Dakota

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
School Type

What is UND like?

Founded in 1883, the University of North Dakota is the oldest and largest educational institution in the state. A well-known public research university, the school maintains a strong liberal arts background while working toward being an innovator in fields like aviation and medicine.

UND's Cora Smith Hall is named for alumna Dr. Cora Smith King, suffragette and first woman medical practitioner in the state. Other notable UND alumni include NBA bigwig Phil Jackson, author Chuck Klosterman and actor Sam Aderson.

What online programs are at UND?

The school's preferred learning management system is Blackboard, which is used to manage an impressive variety of UND online programs. Most of these distance learning options are offered entirely over the internet, without any on-site campus requirements.

UND lists numerous distance learning certificate and degree program options, the most noteworthy of which are in the field of medical laboratory science. The discipline leads to "critical need" careers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. UND's Medical Laboratory Science (M.S.) program, like many of its other offerings, can be completed on a mostly asynchronous schedule. Undergraduate degrees and certificates in medical laboratory sciences may also be earned online.

On top of full programs, UND also offers individual Enroll Anytime online courses that are self-paced and priced at the level of the school's in-state tuition rate.

What online resources does UND offer?

UND offers 24-hour online tutoring services through Smarthinking via Blackboard. The school has also partnered with an online proctoring service called ProctorU that allows online students to take secure exams anywhere, as long as they have an internet connection and a webcam.

The school website's Online Help Center links to an extensive self-help knowledgebase, as well as ticket-based submission forms for specific tech support and assistance requests.


Mayville State University

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
School Type

What is MSU like?

Mayville State University was established in 1889 as a teacher's school and continues to be an affordable and accessible public educational institution in North Dakota. At MSU, the tuition fee rate is the same for students living in and out of the state.

Distance learners can expect their online education to be supplemented with live and real-time collaboration with instructors and other students through the North Dakota Interactive Video Network (IVN) and video conferencing applications like Pexip and Real Presence.

What online programs are at MSU?

MSU uses Blackboard as its learning management platform of choice, as do all schools in the state's University System. The institution's extended learning programs offer varied flexibility for distance learners of all kinds, especially working students and online learners within the area. Some distance education programs are fully online, while some may be taken off-campus but at designated MSU Distance Program locations.

The school is particularly noted for its online math and statistics program offerings. For example, the transfer-friendly B.S.ED. in Mathematics Education program focuses on covering the skills and knowledge needed to teach mathematics at the secondary level. As part of the curriculum, students complete a minor in addition to core coursework, rounding out their education by learning about a subject such as special needs, library media and information science, or general science.

What online resources does MSU offer?

A distinctive feature of MSU's academic admissions process is the fact that credits do not expire. Even if the previously completed coursework is decades old, they may still count toward a new MSU degree.

MSU partners with Smarthinking to provide round-the-clock online tutoring services. ProctorU is also available as an online proctoring service for online students to take secure examinations in real-time and at no extra cost.


Minot State University

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
School Type

What is MSU like?

Established in 1913 as a normal school, Minot State University has since grown to be the third-largest educational institution in North Dakota. MSU is a public university offering a collection of liberal arts and professional academic programs, both on-site and online. As a member of the state's University System, it is sometimes referred to as MiSU to be differentiated from Mayville State University.

MSU notable alumni include former North Dakota senators Stanley W. Lyson, David O'Connell and John Warner. Well-known physicist Ernst Ising and actor Josh Dumahel are also former MSU students.

What online programs are at MSU?

MSU's online learning portal of choice is Blackboard, which manages courses offered through the school's Minot State Online initiative. The latter lists MSU certificate, undergraduate degree and graduate degree programs that can be completed from anywhere, entirely online.

Among the online degree programs available, the international business options are particularly attractive due to the opportunities they create, both in and out of the classroom. MSU has more than half a dozen student-run business organizations that participate in competitions and other events all over the country, and the school's Office of International Programs may assist in applications to internship opportunities abroad. These programs are part of the reason has ranked MSU as one of the best schools for international business in the U.S.

What online resources does MSU offer?

MSU uses Starfish, a communication tool that allows for the monitoring of student performance and behavior by faculty, and helps students ask and receive better and more specific support from their instructors and MSU support staff.

The school also maintains a substantial Veterans Services department, which helps military personnel and active-duty members apply for and use VA and other federal and military educational benefits for themselves or their dependents.


Lake Region State College

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
School Type

What is LRSC like?

Founded in 1941 as an extension of the state's public school system, Lake Region State College is currently a member of the North Dakota University System. The school's name comes from its location, which is right by the largest natural body of water in the state: Devils Lake.

The public junior college provides students with programs and individual courses that can lead to completion certificates, diplomas or degrees, as well as seamless credit transfers to baccalaureate-granting universities.

What online programs are at LRSC?

LRSC offers multiple distance learning courses and degree programs through its preferred online learning platform, Blackboard. Online students can choose from diverse disciplines such as fitness training or speech-language pathology.

Of note is LRSC's versatile business administration program, which is ideal for distance learners hoping to earn an associate degree or planning to continue on to a baccalaureate college. The LRSC business administration associate degree program offers three concentrations: accounting, management and marketing.

What online resources does LRSC offer?

Full-time learners may look into the LAUNCH! program, a partnership between LRSC and UND designed to help students meet eligibility requirements for university enrollment through successfully completing a number of transferable credits at LRSC.

The school also offers round-the-clock remote tutoring services via Smarthinking, as well as TRiO Student Support Services in conjunction with the LRSC PowerSkills Center. Apart from professional tutoring, TRiO and PowerSKills help with academic and career advisement, financial literacy training and disability support.


North Dakota State College of Science

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
School Type

What is NDSCS like?

The North Dakota State College of Science is one of the oldest public technical colleges in the country, having been founded in 1903. As a member of the state's University System, NDSCS stands by the quality of its career-focused education. If a graduate hasn't found employment within six months of graduation or is employed by an establishment certifying the graduate's lack of expected competencies, NDSCS provides a minimum of six more credits for retraining.

Notable NDSCS alumni include former North Dakota representatives Rick Berg and James Kerzman, as well as former state senator Russell T. Thane and professional wrestler Gene Anderson.

What online programs are at NDSCS?

The school uses Blackboard as its learning management platform of choice for its online degree, certificate and diploma programs. Courses are accessible from anywhere and at any time once the semester starts. However, NDSCS online classes cannot be self-paced and have limited flexibility.

Distinctive online options listed by NDSCS include the related disciplines of paramedic technology and pharmacy technology. Both are available as certificate and associate degree programs, and both require some fieldwork or on-site learning. The paramedic technology programs are affiliated with the F-M Ambulance Service in Fargo, and the Pharmacy Technician A.A.S. is actually a hybrid program with live video and face-to-face coursework.

What online resources does NDSCS offer?

Similar to most North Dakota University System member institutions, NDSCS offers Smarthinking online tutoring services and convenient secure proctoring services for distance learners. Support for online students also includes 24/7 help desk support for Blackboard and other technology-based troubleshooting.

The NDSCS Division for Workforce Affairs creates and maintains initiatives to meet the workforce needs of the state. Distance learners may participate in correspondence courses offered by this division to boost skills development and impart vocational training.


Dakota College at Bottineau

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
School Type

What is DCB like?

The Dakota College at Bottineau's 35-acre campus is also the location of North Dakota's Forest Service headquarters. This comes as no surprise, as the DCB was established in 1906 initially as a forestry school and to this day calls its mascots Lumberjacks and Ladyjacks. With a focus on community-based liberal arts and technical education, DCB's distance delivery initiatives are particularly important in expanding the school's reach.

Notable DCB alumni include NHL player Dustin Penner and state politicians Merle Boucher and Marvin Nelson.

What online programs are at DCB?

As part of the state's University System, DCB uses Blackboard to manage more than 100 online classes. These may be taken individually or as part of a full distance learning program.

DCB is rated as one of the best online colleges in the field of medical assistance. Online students may pursue the field either at the associate degree level or through an undergraduate certification program. A Medical Administrative Assistant path is also possible for students who have already earned a related associate degree or medical coding certification.

DCB is also known for its online learning options in the field of photography. The associate degree in photography program includes classes tackling photo editing software and photography business practices, on top of traditional topics such as photography equipment and skills. Yearly study abroad photo trips are also organized by DCB.

What online resources does DCB offer?

Designated as a military-friendly school, DCB is a small yet helpful college offering one-on-one assistance to veterans and active-duty personnel seeking to enroll both on-campus and online. Apart from the usual VA educational benefits and tuition assistance, the school also mentions the General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant, which awards grants to eligible Air Force member dependents.


Dickinson State University

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
School Type

What is DSU like?

Dickinson State University was founded as a teacher's school on a hilltop in 1916, earning it the nickname "College on the Hill" that persists to this day. More than 100 years later, the list of illustrious DSU alumni includes tribal leader Edward Lone Fight, Olympic gold medalist Ramon Miller, and former Miss Montana 2006 Jill McLain.

This public institution goes to particular pains to maintain a collaborative approach with other North Dakota schools. Administrative support is maintained for collaborative students earning degrees from DSU while taking courses at other schools within the state's University System in the same term.

What online programs are at DSU?

Being part of the state's University System, DSU uses Blackboard as one of its learning management systems. However, the university also continues to use Moodle for selected coursework.

Through the school's distance learning initiative, DSU Online, students can pursue certificate and degree programs such as the ADRN-to-BSN program. This bridge program focuses on entry-level RN competencies such as communication, therapeutic nursing interventions and critical thinking.

Among the most relatively unique DSU Online listings, on the other hand, is the horse production certificate program, which is designed to enhance online students' comprehension of the equine industry. An associate in agricultural sales and service program is also available with a choice of six concentrations, including equine management or equine training.

What online resources does DSU offer?

Distance learners can expect to use Hoonuit and Tegrity to supplement online coursework. The former provides a substantial library of online content to meet distance education needs, while the latter increases class engagement through its remote proctoring and video capture services. There are also several institutional and external scholarships available.

In addition, DSU is a military-friendly school that honors VA and other military benefits eligibility under programs such as Survivors and Dependents Assistance, National Guard and Reserve Assistance, the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and more. The school also offers essential career resources and vocational trade school guides for veterans.


Williston State College

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
School Type

What is WSC like?

Williston State College is a school dedicated to constant improvement. Its accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission is different from most: WSC is part of the HLC's Academic Quality Improvement Program, in which school and agency work together to promote continuous improvement within the school's educational approach.

What online programs are at WSC?

WSC's distance education options are typically in one of two slightly different formats: online or IVN learning. The former uses the Blackboard system to deliver coursework to students, while the latter makes use of two-way live and synchronous communications between instructors and students.

Two noteworthy distance education WSC degree programs are delivered online. First is the A.A.S. in Speech-Language Pathology Paraprofessional degree offering, which is offered through collaborations between other schools in the state like LRSC, MSU and WSC. This associate degree may also open doors to a state-valid speech-language pathology paraprofessional certificate. The other is the A.A.S. in business management program, which combines a focus on computers and communication with critical thinking, reading and writing skills.

What online resources does WSC offer?

Distance learners located in-state may benefit from WSC's offered EdReady and ACCUPLACER placement exam schedules. These assessment tests can uncover student knowledge gaps and assist in personalizing study paths. The school may generate pre-registration ACCUPLACER vouchers for institutions closer to students, should they be unable to travel to WSC.

WSC also has the Re-InVET Yourself Program to assist military personnel and veterans with personalized academic and financial counseling and advisement. School staff can be expected to help eligible students with applications to and management of VA and other similar educational benefits awarded through federal initiatives.

Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2018-19, National Center for Education Statistics,

Affordable Online Colleges in North Dakota for 2019-20

The following list describes schools in North Dakota that offer online degrees at the lowest tuition costs — a factor that is important to prospective students. The tuition data cited is what the schools reported to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, a branch of the National Center for Education Statistics.

Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2018-19, National Center for Education Statistics,

Financial Aid Resources in North Dakota

Source: Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of CollegeXpress, a division of Carnegie Dartlet. Copyright © 2020 by CollegeXpress.

Student Loans in North Dakota

North Dakota does not provide any state-based education loans, preferring to focus their efforts on offering a multitude of scholarships and grants instead. There are, however, two state programs that can help to reduce loan indebtedness for college graduates who work in teaching or STEM-related fields identified as having shortages. You should look into any and all scholarship and grant opportunities for which you are eligible, and pursue federal or private loans as a secondary source of funding. If you do seek federal financial assistance for your degree, keep in mind that you will need to fill out the FAFSA with details about your family's financial situation in order to apply. Private lenders have their own application process.

Learn more about student loans in the Ultimate Guide to Student Loans.

Additional Resources for Financial Aid in North Dakota

  • North Dakota University System details all of North Dakota's state-based scholarships and grants, as well as the state's loan forgiveness programs and information on possible tuition and fee reductions for applicable students.

Costs for Out-of-State Students in North Dakota

North Dakota is a member of the 16-state Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), through which out-of-state students pay no more than 150 percent of in-state tuition at participating intuitions. For instance, if you are from California — a state with a generally high cost of living — looking to attend school in the Midwest, this could be a great program to take advantage of.

Several North Dakota universities have a variety of special programs available to make more affordable tuition fees a reality for out-of-state students. For instance, the University of North Dakota offers the following:

If you want to become a resident, North Dakota certainly won't make it difficult for you, especially the University of North Dakota, which only requires you to reside in the state 30 days prior to the first class day of the semester. Talk to you admissions counselor about the many ways you can get resident tuition or almost- resident tuition at North Dakota universities. 

Best Careers In North Dakota

Perhaps the best way to qualify for one of the many high paying jobs in North Dakota is to earn a college degree in a relevant field. To understand what that might mean, we've used data from the BLS to assess what jobs are in demand in North Dakota. With the following section, students can compare statewide employment, average salaries, job projections and more to make informed decisions about what to study in college.

EmploymentEmployment GrowthMedian High School SalaryMedian Bachelor's Salary

Top North Dakota Industries

*Industry rankings determined by annual mean wage, employment, projected growth and location quotient. Data is sourced from the BLS, 2019 dataset.

Top IndustriesEmploymentProjected GrowthAverage Salary
Pipeline transportation127,74017%$70,536
Oil and gas extraction179,65016%$65,343
Petroleum and coal products manufacturing165,65014%$62,887
Ambulatory healthcare services289,64012%$60,284
Monetary authorities-central bank78,71013%$66,220
Hospitals; state, local, and private325,92012%$59,361
Support activities for mining183,30016%$62,694
Lessors of nonfinancial intangible assets (except copyrighted works)99,69012%$64,964
Postal service115,40011%$63,187

Like Texas and Alaska, oil is the main economic driver of North Dakota's economy. In 2018 the state produced more than 460 million barrels of oil, second only to Texas. In 2017, the oil industry in North Dakota had an estimated statewide economic impact of $32.6 billion.

This robust industry accounts for many of the best jobs in North Dakota, including pipeline transportation, oil and gas extraction and petroleum manufacturing. Roughnecking on an oil rig isn't the only profession in the industry, though. The energy industry requires skilled workers in a variety of occupations, including finance, legal, human resources and management -- all fields that students at online colleges in North Dakota can pursue.

Technology is another of North Dakota's rising industries. The state houses facilities for Amazon, Microsoft and Northrop Grumman. Manufacturing, meanwhile, accounts for more than 10 percent of the state's GDP. North Dakota is also home to many industrial equipment makers, including Bobcat, John Deere, Case and Caterpillar. These companies and many others require talented financial and legal professionals, as well as analysts and risk managers. Advancing the tech industry in North Dakota has also required assistance from utilities workers -- electrical workers and repairmen -- and monetary authorities -- banks and other loan agents to help entrepreneurs start and expand their businesses.

In the sections below, we'll spotlight several high demand jobs in North Dakota's two largest metropolitan areas.

Fargo, ND-MN Metro Area

Total Population
Median salary for high school grads
Median salary with a bachelor's degree
% of the population enrolled in college or grad school
Median rent

Healthcare is far and away the biggest industry in Fargo, between employers such as Sanford Health, Essentia Health, and Noridian Healthcare Solutions. Particularly high paying jobs in Fargo that come from this industry include anesthetists and pharmacists.

Outside of healthcare, Fargo boasts a diverse economy with a range of industries to consider. For this reason, general and operations managers are well-positioned to find work in Fargo, as their skills can be useful in the majority of the area's industries, from energy to technology to manufacturing.

Fargo is also a city concerned with the improvement of its community and infrastructure. Initiatives such as the Downtown Community Partnership Business Improvement District have created multiple productive opportunities for civil engineers.

Best CareersMinimum EducationAverage SalaryEmployment
General and Operations ManagersBachelor's degree$118,0702,560
Civil EngineersBachelor's degree$78,530450
Financial ManagersBachelor's degree$143,710590
PharmacistsDoctoral or professional degree$86,180750

*Career rankings determined by annual mean wage, employment, projected growth and location quotient. Data sourced from the BLS, 2019 dataset.

Bismarck, ND Metro Area

Total Population
Median salary for high school grads
Median salary with a bachelor's degree
% of the population enrolled in college or grad school
Median rent

North Dakota's booming economy has led to a spate of new construction over the last half-decade, and the construction industry is a major employer throughout the Bismarck area. Civil engineers head our list of the high demand jobs in Bismarck, with construction managers in high demand as well.

Major employers in the region include the state of North Dakota, Sanford Health, CHI St. Alexius and the Bismarck Public School District. These large organizations are also creating need for capable managers who can help elevate the Bismarck community, in particular social and community service managers or medical and health services managers.

Best CareersMinimum EducationAverage SalaryEmployment
Civil EngineersBachelor's degree$87,470460
Social and Community Service ManagersBachelor's degree$79,440160
Medical and Health Services ManagersBachelor's degree$113,930200
Construction ManagersBachelor's degree$100,890190
General and Operations ManagersBachelor's degree$95,5101,240

*Career rankings determined by annual mean wage, employment, projected growth and location quotient. Data sourced from the BLS, 2019 dataset.