By 2020, 67 percent of the jobs in Virginia are expected to require education beyond high school, according to a Georgetown University study. Luckily, the strong presence of online colleges in Virginia can help those who want to prepare for a higher-skill job. Pursuing an online degree program in healthcare or business, for example, can still allow you to work, care for your family, and fulfill other responsibilities. It also means that that you can begin or advance your career by completing a degree at your own pace.

Here's a brief overview of online colleges in Virginia:

  • The 60-plus online schools in Virginia are about equally split between public and private institutions.
  • Associate degrees can be earned more than 40 of these colleges and bachelor's degrees can be attained at more than 35. For online graduate degree programs, 35-plus institutions award master's degrees and more than a dozen confer doctorates.
  • The most online programs are available through two of the best online Virginia colleges — Liberty University and Old Dominion University.
  • More than a dozen Christian institutions in Virginia offer online degree programs, including our top-ranked Regent University.

Virginia also participates in the Southern Regional Education Board's Electronic Campus, an online database that lists thousands of degree programs and courses from colleges across the South. Commonwealth leaders hope that by growing the availability of online programs, especially in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health, they can make Virginia the best-educated state in the U.S. by 2030.

Keep reading to learn about our rankings of the top online colleges in Virginia, the importance of attending an accredited online degree program, and how you can help pay for your education through Virginia-specific scholarships and grants.

What Makes a Good Online College in Virginia?

When creating our rankings, we only look at schools that have achieved official accreditation. That is because schools accredited by organizations like the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools have been found to meet state-established standards for factors such as curriculum, faculty, and research produced by the institution. More information about accreditation and its relationship to educational quality is described on the Virginia Department of Education's website and our "What is College Accreditation?" page. To learn about the criteria we use to choose the schools on our lists and why we chose them, see the "What Makes a Good Online College?" section of our "About Us" page.


Best Online Colleges in Virginia for 2020-21

For each of our top 10 online colleges in Virginia, you can read about what makes each institution noteworthy, from the kinds of online programs it offers to how it delivers online education and the other services available to its online students. Visit our methodologies page to learn more about how we use official data to evaluate schools.


Old Dominion University

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

What is ODU like?

The first institution in our list of the best online colleges in Virginia has a long history of offering distance education. Founded in 1930, Old Dominion started offering distance education through portable media in the 1980s, and then moved to a satellite delivery system in the 1990s. Old Dominion now offers all of its distance education online. ODU has held on to the top spot in our rankings for the second year in a row.

What online programs are at ODU?

Distance learners can pursue 100-plus programs through ODU Online, the university's web portal. ODU offers dozens of online bachelor's degree and bachelor's completion programs; graduate students can chose from an array of online master's degree programs. ODU uses the Blackboard content management system. Classes may be delivered through a highly customized blended format with regular meeting times as well as 100-percent online. Some online classes are held in real time, while others are asynchronous.

What online resources does ODU offer?

ODU aims to provide distance learners with expert coaching and advising from enrollment through graduation. Students can meet with professors through web conferencing during virtual office hours, and they may also engage this way with classmates as well. Other student resources include technical support, tutoring, software and more.

ODU also offers a Student Outreach & Support (S.O.S.) service that may help students overcome personal or academic roadblocks to success.


Regent University

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

What is Regent like?

Regent University is a small private Christian college founded in Virginia Beach in 1977. Educational curriculum is designed to foster Christian leaders who pursue lives of purpose and service. Regent has been honored with many awards for its programs, and its School of Education has produced more than 850 "Teachers of the Year." Regent has been deemed a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

What online programs are at Regent?

Regent offers more than 60 online undergraduate degree programs through its college of arts and sciences, and 50-plus online advanced or dual-degree programs through its seven graduate schools. One of the best online colleges in Virginia, this institution is a popular choice for Christ-centered grad students who want to pursue one of the many different online master's programs in education, healthcare, psychology, and business leadership. Regent delivers its online programs through the Blackboard learning management system.

What online resources does Regent offer?

Student resources for distance learners includes academic advising, career and talent management, mental health counseling, success coaching, and tutoring services in writing, math and other core subjects. Regent offers a "Keys to Successful Learning" orientation to help students adapt to being an online student.


Liberty University

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

What is LU like?

This private Evangelical university was founded at Lynchburg in 1971 by Rev. Jerry Falwell. Liberty is one of the largest private Christian colleges in the world with an annual student enrollment of more than 100,000 students. The student body is made up of students from all 50 states and 80 countries. However, their online classes are small with a student-to-faculty ratio of 17:1. Additionally, 88 percent of LU students receive some financial aid.

What online programs are at LU?

LU offers a vast selection of online programs — more than 450 — in nearly every field of study imaginable. Distance learners may pursue online associate programs in religion, business, criminal justice and early childhood education. Students may also choose from online bachelor's degrees in law, aviation, behavioral sciences, and nursing, among others. LU also has a wide range of online master's or online doctoral programs. Classes are held in eight-week blocks with eight different start dates each year, and students may study entirely at their own pace.

What online resources does LU offer?

LU provides distance learners with an online writing lab and other forms of supplemental instruction, as well as academic advising, counseling and week-long intensive courses for students who desire to engage with Liberty staff, faculty and students at the Lynchburg campus.

Students may be able to earn credits for life and work experience enabling them to complete their degrees in a shorter period of time. Students are also given electronic textbooks at no charge.


George Mason University

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

What is Mason like?

Founded in 1949 in Fairfax as a branch campus of the University of Virginia, Mason has grown to become the largest public research university in the state. It holds the R1 designation from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The university is a military-friendly institution — nearly 1 of every 10 students is affiliated with the military.

What online programs are at Mason?

All of the 50-plus degree programs offered through Mason Online are offered either fully online or in a hybrid format that requires some face-to-face meetings on campus. Courses may be either synchronous or asynchronous. GMU has a range of online bachelor's and master's programs in business, including specializations in telecommunications, cybersecurity and conflict analysis and resolution. Other available online degree options are in the fields of education, health, mathematics and more. Online learning at Mason is offered through the Blackboard learning management system.

What online resources does Mason offer?

GMU supports distance learners in many ways, such as its online writing lab, technical support and help center, access to its five prestigious libraries, and more. Their Office of Disability Services and Assistive Technology Initiative also works to ensure accessibility to Mason's online programs. Students may also benefit from software at no charge or at discounted rates.


Mary Baldwin University

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

What is MBU like?

MBU is a private Presbyterian liberal arts university located at Staunton. Founded in 1842 as a women's college, Mary Baldwin became a co-educational institution for day and graduate students in the 1970s. In 1977, MBU became the first Virginia college to establish a program specifically for people to earn their degrees later in life. MBU's small class sizes with average student to faculty ratios of 10:1 may allow students to get the attention they need to succeed.

What online programs are at MBU?

Mary Baldwin University offers more than 30 different online bachelor's' and master's degree programs through MBU Online. Some of the many online undergraduate programs include studies in criminal justice, healthcare administration, history and psychology. MBU Online accepts up to 90 transfer credits in its undergraduate online degree programs. There are 13 online master's degrees from which to choose, although some programs, such as gifted education, reading education and ESOL, require students to complete fieldwork in Virginia. MBU uses the Blackboard content management system for delivery of all online curricula.

What online resources does MBU offer?

MBU's Center for Student Success supports both on-campus and distance learners through academic advising, tutoring in math, writing and other subjects, access to the Grafton Library, and technical support. MBU also offers scholarships specifically for online students to help make their education more affordable.


University of Virginia-Main Campus

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

What is UVA like?

UVA's main campus at Charlottesville is the flagship institution of the University of Virginia System. The university was founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson, America's third president and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. UVA's School of Medicine and School of Nursing are both part of the state's UVA Health System. UVA has moved up to the sixth spot in our rankings from No. 8 last year.

What online programs are at UVA?

UVA's School of Continuing and Professional Studies is the home for many distance education programs, including online bachelor's programs in interdisciplinary studies and health sciences management. Online graduate-level programs, like an executive MBA or an M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction, may be offered through one of UVA's eleven schools. UVA also offers a long list of graduate and undergraduate certificate programs. UVA's online courses are delivered through a centrally supported online learning environment called UVACollab.

What online resources does UVA offer?

Distance learners work closely with academic advisors and graduate coordinators to ensure they stay on track. Each student is assigned a faculty advisor who may help them with course selection before the beginning of each term as well as provide other academic assistance. Additional student support includes career services and access to UVA library resources.


Virginia Commonwealth University

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

What is VCU like?

The first new entrant on our list this year, VCU, is a public research university with its main brick-and-mortar campus in Richmond. Its emphasis on research really shows as it has been named among the top 100 research universities by the National Science Foundation and is one of 54 universities to be deemed "Community Engaged" with "Very High Research Activity" by the Carnegie Foundation.

What online programs are at VCU?

VCU offers a mixture of hybrid, synchronous, and asynchronous programs depending on the field of study. Students may earn bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees online along with graduate certificates. Online programs are offered by nine VCU schools and colleges in fields that range from social work to mechanical and nuclear engineering. Doctoral degrees are offered by the:

  • School of Education
  • School of Nursing
  • College of Health Professions

Online classes are delivered via video conferencing or through Blackboard.

What online resources does VCU offer?

VCU offers its students a number of online tools to help them achieve their educational goals including:

  • online tutoring
  • peer-assisted study sessions
  • remote writing support
  • academic coaches

Students also have access to career services and may find personal support through VCU's University Counseling Center. Library services include access to e-books, licensed streaming media, digitized primary resources, and journal articles along with research assistance, and more. Additional perks include anti-virus software and Microsoft Office at no charge.


Norfolk State University

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

What is NSU like?

Moving up from No. 10 last year to the eighth spot is Norfolk State University, a historically black college founded in 1935. NSU's commitment to high quality standards for online programs is reflected by their membership and participation in several organizations that specifically focus on distance education: Quality Matters, the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, and the U.S. Distance Learning Association.

What online programs are at NSU?

Norfolk State University offers seven online bachelor's degree programs, including health services management, tourism and hospitality management, psychology and interdisciplinary studies, which allows students to create a program aligned to their specific career goals. NSU's online master's programs include elementary education, cybersecurity and urban education. NSU utilizes the Blackboard content management system to deliver all online curricula.

What online resources does NSU offer?

NSU's online students may receive help through the college's writing center, and the student success center offers peer mentoring, academic advising and more. Through the SmartThinking system, students have online access 24/7 to more than 1,500 qualified tutors in a multiple subjects. Students may also access online text books and other course content from multiple publishers.


Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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

What is Virginia Tech like?

This public land-grant university has its flagship campus at Blacksburg with an additional campus location at Roanoke and facilities throughout Virginia and the National Capital Region. The university was founded in 1872 as an agricultural and mechanical college, and many of Virginia Tech's degree programs adhere to the university's roots in those fields.

What online programs are at Virginia Tech?

The university delivers an array of online master's degrees through VT Online, its portal for distance education. Programs that harken back to Virginia Tech's roots include aerospace engineering, systems engineering and ocean engineering. The university also offers degrees in literature, information technology and political science, among others. Certain degree pathways include synchronous online coursework where students participate in live lecture and discussions with professors and classmates. The university delivers online content through the Canvas content management system.

What online resources does Virginia Tech offer?

Online students may receive academic advising, technical support, individual counseling, and student collaboration through the Graduate Life Center. Students may find all the resources they have access to through the OneCampus portal which acts as a search engine built for Virginia Tech. The university also has a Women's Center that aims to promote "a Virginia Tech community that is safe, equitable, and supportive for women."


ECPI University

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

What is ECPI like?

Rounding off our list this year is another new entrant, the East Coast Polytechnic Institute, or ECPI University. Among the youngest universities in our rankings for Virginia, it keeps its courses relevant by maintaining strong tabs on industry and employer requirements and revising curricula as needed. It has been designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CD) by the National Security Agency (NSA) and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

What online programs are at ECPI?

Students at ECPI may earn online bachelor's and master's degrees in the following fields:

ECPI also helps its students earn professional certifications in their chosen fields at discounted rates to give them a head start on graduation. Online courses include an emphasis on hands-on learning through simulations and virtualizations. Courses are typically held in five-week formats and students are encouraged to take two at a time. ECPI also offers accelerated programs.

What online resources does ECPI offer?

ECPI offers robust career planning services which include developing resume-writing and interviewing skills. Career Services advisors can help students procure externships, even if they are not a requirement for graduation. Students also have access to tutoring services, virtual library access, IT support and more. ECPI University also offers its graduates the chance to earn and share digital badges to demonstrate their academic achievements.



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

Affordable Online Colleges in Virginia for 2019-20

The following list presents some of the most affordable schools in Virginia. Tuition figures are reported by the schools to the National Center for Education Statistics and reflect in-state tuition.

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

Financial Aid Resources in Virginia

The State Council for Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) is the body that circulates information about financial aid opportunities to Virginia college students. Through their website, students can gain a wealth of helpful information, such as an introduction to Virginia529, the country's largest tax-incentive college savings plan. For more information on how the state of Virginia sets its college students up for financial success, read our summary of Virginia's scholarships, grants and loans below.

What Grants and Scholarships are Available in Virginia?

Most of Virginia's scholarship opportunities for online college students can be found through the state's institutions of higher learning. Students should check with their chosen online college for a complete list of the scholarship opportunities available to them. However, some scholarships and most grants are still offered to students directly, rather than through a college or university. Let's take a look at some of the options open to Virginia students.

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.

Want more on grants and/or scholarships? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Grants and Ultimate Guide to Scholarships.

Student Loans in Virginia

The state of Virginia no longer offers college loans to students directly. SCHEV, which sets the rules for state financial aid, has passed the responsibility of handling applications for student loans to the individual institutions of higher learning. For example, the University of Virginia, like many universities in the state, processes their student loans through the federal government. The first step for any loan is to apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines a student's eligibility for financial support. In addition to federal loan programs, the state offers two loan forgiveness programs. See the details below for more information.

With this program, a teacher who has taught full-time for five years in educational settings that serve low-income families could be eligible for forgiveness on certain loans.


  • Application deadline:  Check with the Virginia Department of Education for more information.
  • Award amount:  Check with the Virginia Department of Education for more information.
Employees at government organizations and not-for-profit organizations may be eligible for this program, which forgives the remaining balance on Direct Loans. Candidates must work full-time and have made at least 120 payments.


  • Application deadline:  Contact your federal loan servicer for more information.
  • Award amount:  Contact your federal loan servicer for more information.

For more information on loans, read the Ultimate Guide to Student Loans.

Additional Resources for Financial Aid in Virginia

Costs for Out-of-State Students in Virginia

A recent national survey placed three Virginia universities — UVA, Virginia Military Institute and the College of William and Mary — in the top three spots on a list of the most expensive U.S. colleges for out-of-state students. That said, there are ways by which non-resident students can defray some of the traditional costs of out-of-state tuition.

  • Undergraduates in participating states from Delaware to Texas can make use of the Academic Common Market, a regional student exchange program maintained by the Southern Regional Educational Board (SREB) that offers in-state tuition rates to out-of-state students planning to study in specialized fields.
  • Graduate students who have been awarded assistantships as a part of their admission package may be able to receive waivers for the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition.

If you want to avoid out-of-state tuition by the conventional route, Virginia requires that you first establish residency by engaging in a range of the following duties while living in the state:

  • Paying income tax
  • Registering a vehicle
  • Registering to vote
  • Becoming employed
  • Obtaining a VA driver's license
  • Owning real property

If you're a dependent student, questions about the above requirements pertain to your parents instead of you personally. For more information, check with the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia or reach out to a registrar or adviser at your intended university.

Best Careers in Virginia

Virginia's economy is powered by a diverse range of industries, from finance to manufacturing to technology. Many Fortune 500 companies are housed in Virginia, including Freddie Mac, Capital One, Dollar Tree and Northrop Grumman. These large companies, as well as the state's smaller businesses, can provide plenty of opportunities for good careers in Virginia. Of course, Virginia employers expect the workers they hire to have learned specific skills and knowledge during their education, so it's imperative for students to find schools that can teach them what they need to know.

EmploymentEmployment GrowthMedian High School SalaryMedian Bachelor's Salary

Top Virginia Industries

Perhaps the most prominent industry in Virginia is the financial industry. The state supplements its profitable banking industry with plenty of other forms of financial support, such as insurance, securities and investments, credit intermediation and more. The busy economy of Virginia also creates demand in other industries that are important to the process, such as telecommunications and data processing. In fact, the state is home to more than 700 companies that work in the IT sector, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership reports — creating many of the top jobs in Virginia for students who earn degrees in information technology, cybersecurity and computer systems.

Another critical player in the state's economic health is the healthcare industry. Top medical facilities in Virginia include the VCU Medical Center in Richmond and University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville. Students who pursue online degree programs in healthcare management, nursing and related fields are well-positioned for great jobs in Virginia in the state's large healthcare industry.

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

Top IndustriesEmploymentProjected GrowthAverage Salary
Monetary authorities-central bank932,03011%$85,993
Oil and gas extraction1,664,5209%$75,678
Insurance carriers and related activities2,310,81010%$68,597
Securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and related activities1,516,4309%$74,831
Air transportation1,530,44010%$72,530
Ambulatory healthcare services2,784,78013%$67,211
Broadcasting (except Internet)1,428,2409%$75,348
Data processing, hosting, and related services1,565,3008%$76,713
Credit intermediation and related activities1,893,7708%$70,102

Students can receive a low-cost education for many of the hot jobs in Virginia courtesy of the state's New Economy Workforce Credential Grant and its community colleges. Occupations like medical assistant and information security analyst are but a few of the many qualifying high-demand jobs in Virginia that can be found in the industries listed above. But what other jobs in Virginia may be worthwhile for students? To answer that question, let's look at some of the top careers in the state's most robust metropolitan areas.

Best Jobs in Washington-Arlington-Alexandria

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 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

This major metropolitan region houses some of America's most well-known employers, as well as the Pentagon building at Arlington. Major corporations in the region include Inova Health System, Booz Allen and Hamilton and United Airlines. Large public or federal employers include the Department of Defense, County of Fairfax and the Department of Homeland Security. These employers make the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria region a prime spot for students who earn degrees in mathematics, cybersecurity and computer information systems -- fields of study connected to high-demand jobs in Virginia.

Best CareersMinimum EducationAverage SalaryEmployment
Information Security AnalystsBachelor's degree$117,81015,470
StatisticiansMaster's degree$106,1904,650
Operations Research AnalystsBachelor's degree$107,3608,380
Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts and TestersBachelor's degree$118,11070,780
Computer and Information Research ScientistsDoctoral or professional degree$138,8103,590

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

Best Jobs in Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 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

Newport News Shipbuilding, the country's largest shipbuilder and sole builder of the U.S. Navy's aircraft carriers, employs more than 20,000 people, making it a good match for students who pursue engineering and maritime architectural degrees. Given the shipbuilder's close connection to the military, it's also not surprising that information security analysts are yet another of the area's careers in demand. Virginia Beach, meanwhile, is home to Sentara Healthcare. Sentara employs 5,200 people, including scores of nurses and family and general practitioners.

Best CareersMinimum EducationAverage SalaryEmployment
Management AnalystsBachelor's degree$93,7205,570
Family Medicine PhysiciansDoctoral or professional degree$217,520740
Aerospace EngineersBachelor's degree$119,190810
Information Security AnalystsBachelor's degree$98,1801,120
Marine Engineers and Naval ArchitectsBachelor's degree$89,9101,520

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

Best Jobs in Richmond

Richmond, VA 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

Richmond has been the commerce capital of Virginia for several hundred years. The region is home to many of the most-needed jobs in Virginia through leading industry clusters such as biotechnology, advance manufacturing, transportation, finance and health and life sciences. Major Richmond employers include Altria Group, Dominion Energy, Capital One, SunTrust Bank and healthcare company HCA Holdings. These organizations and many others rely on a pipeline of college-educated students to fill many of the most high-demand jobs in Richmond.

Best CareersMinimum EducationAverage SalaryEmployment
Nurse PractitionersMaster's degree$112,3101,250
Operations Research AnalystsBachelor's degree$90,4301,540
Family Medicine PhysiciansDoctoral or professional degree$224,860640
Information Security AnalystsBachelor's degree$97,1301,190
Management AnalystsBachelor's degree$85,2206,280

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