Online degree programs in North Carolina can offer students the opportunity to choose an education path aligned with the state’s growing industries, whether you’re just starting your career, looking to change your occupational focus, or wanting to move up the career ladder by earning a more advanced degree. The flexibility offered by distance education means that programs can be completed around your current job or family schedules.

Here's an overview of your options for online colleges in North Carolina:

  • The Tar Heel State is home to almost 90 public and private institutions that provide online degree programs at the associate, bachelor's, and/or master's level.
  • Of the more than 60 public online colleges or universities in North Carolina, East Carolina University, one of our top-ranked colleges, offers the most online degree programs.
  • The 17 institutions making up the University of North Carolina offer students about 400 fully online degree and certificate programs.
  • Of the state's 26 private nonprofits that offer online degree programs, 20 are faith-based institutions, including our top-ranked Apex School of Theology.

Narrowing down the online North Carolina college that's right for you can be overwhelming, so we’ve tried to make it easier with the following guide. In addition to rankings of North Carolina colleges based on certain criteria and state-specific information about how to afford your education, we’ve also provided a snapshot of North Carolina’s top occupations in its largest metro areas.

What Makes a Good Online College in North Carolina?

Through the use of carefully selected criteria, has created multiple rankings of the best online schools in North Carolina. These schools have all been accredited by a body such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) or the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS). Visit our "What is College Accreditation?" page to learn about the importance of accreditation, or the North Carolina State Board of Education for details on how it works in the Tar Heel State. Additional information can be found in the "What Makes a Good Online College?" section of our "About Us" page.


Best Online Colleges in North Carolina for 2019-20

Our rankings are designed to help students identify the right online school in North Carolina for their needs and preferences. For each top-ranked school we display data such as the number of online programs offered. We’ve also highlighted specific aspects of each school’s online programs, including how they are delivered, as well as resources the school provides to its online students.

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


Apex School of Theology, Durham

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

What is ASOT like?

Founded in 1995 in a Baptist church, the Apex School of Theology crafts their Christian educational experiences to foster "civic, social and religious responsibility." Worship is directly linked to education at this school, and the school curriculum is designed to help mature, bi-vocational and commuting students prepare for both theology and general education.

ASOT is notable for moving from the No. 3 ranking on our 2018-19 list of best colleges in North Carolina to the No. 1 spot on this year's ranking.

What online programs are at ASOT?

Distance-based learning is delivered through the school's ApexDE program, with options ranging from an online associate degree program in Christian education to online master's programs in divinity or Christian counseling. Additionally, more than 60 individual courses, using a faith-based curriculum, can be taken through ApexDE. For the individual coursework, students can choose independent study or be part of a study group. Continuing education and independent study are also available.

What online resources does ASOT offer?

Apex's online students can benefit from institutional financial aid awards and articulation agreements with several other schools, i.e., the Seminary Extension of the Southern Baptist Convention. The school is also a member of the Services Members Opportunity Colleges, which offers benefits and help to eligible veterans, and may be especially suitable for those interested in a ministry career.


East Carolina University - Greenville

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

What is ECU like?

East Carolina University not only made our list of best accredited online colleges in North Carolina for a consecutive year, but also is notable for having the first named School of Entrepreneurship in the entire UNC system. The institution's commitment to education also aims to create social mobility opportunities for students who may come from traditionally disadvantaged areas in the state.

What online programs are at ECU?

Undergraduate programs, graduate degree programs and graduate certificate programs are among the offerings available online at ECU. Post-master's and post-doctoral certificates in nursing and alternative teacher licensure also can be pursued online. Distance-based students use the Blackboard learning management system and can access admissions information, the course catalog and email through ECU's PiratePort.

What online resources does ECU offer?

At ECU, technology and computing training are available in virtual and in-seat training, for both students and staff. Training sessions can help students to build skills in areas like the WordPress or WebEx platforms. Students also can access tech help through the school's Help Desk, available by chat, phone or ticket request.


North Carolina State University at Raleigh

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

What is NC State like?

A research institution, North Carolina State University at Raleigh is known for excellence in education, engineering, math, technology and more. The school has received more than $300 million in research awards and has 20-plus online faculty who are members of various professional academies. The school also returns to our list of best online schools in North Carolina for a subsequent year.

What online programs are at NC State?

Distance-based options at NC State include face-to-face learning offsite as well as fully online and hybrid degree programs. Most of the virtual degrees are offered entirely online through the school's WolfWare website, although occasional on-campus attendance may be required. Students can choose from more than 90 degree programs in areas like aerospace engineering, design, leadership in the public sector and many others.

What online resources does NC State offer?

Online learners at NC State can start their academic career with a virtual orientation that provides them with tips and resources for succeeding. A virtual advisor is available to answer questions about classes and coursework and the Online and Distance Education Support Center provides a two-directional question-and-answer page about online learning.


Fayetteville State University

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

What is FSU like?

Founded in 1867, Fayetteville State University is the second-oldest public institution in North Carolina's higher education system. The school is recognized as an historically black college, but also can be commended for its online education offerings. FSU also took the No. 2 ranking on this year's list of the most affordable colleges in North Carolina.

What online programs are at FSU?

At the undergraduate level, students can enroll for online degree completion (ODC) programs in nearly a dozen disciplines. These ODC programs let students complete the upper-level coursework of their program online to obtain an online bachelor's degree. Curriculum offerings at the graduate level range from an online business administration program to an online criminal justice program. Students at FSU can access their online coursework using the Canvas learning management system.

What online resources does FSU offer?

Online enrollment is easy to access through the FSU banner page. Learners can start their classes the first day of the term and find support with electronic resources offered through FSU's Chesnutt Library. Students can conduct online research with EBSCO, look through newspapers and yearbooks online or follow the library blog all from a distance.


North Carolina Central University, Durham

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

What is NCCU like?

"Dream, Believe, Achieve" is a motto at North Carolina Central University, which has provided higher education for more than 100 years. Its excellence in education extends to faculty, with nearly a dozen professors receiving Quality Matters certification for their online courses. Although NCUU made our "Featured list of Online Colleges for Education Technology," its online offerings extend into criminal justice, hospitality, nursing and additional disciplines.

What online programs are at NCCU?

An array of online bachelor's, master's and certificate programs can be completed at NCCU. Hybrid programs, which combine both on-campus and distance-based learning, are available in the criminal justice discipline. Students complete assignments using the Blackboard learning management system and can use either on-demand help or Help Desk assistance for the web-based platform.

What online resources does NCCU offer?

Resources at NCCU for students include academic advising, career support and internship opportunities. Online learners interested in great jobs in North Carolina can take advantage of the networking connections proffered through NCCU's career services. An introductory online learning session, library services and online tutoring are other resources available to online learners at NCCU.


Grace College of Divinity

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

What is GCD like?

Grace Divinity College was formed in the fall of 2000 to provide ministry, biblical education and divinity degree programs to students interested in a faith-based career and learning. The school is housed on a church site in Fayetteville, North Carolina, but also does outreach into countries like Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Guyana, and Honduras. Global students and national students alike can take advantage of GCD's online courses and degree programs.

What online programs are at GCD?

Boasting low tuition rates and a desire to make education affordable, FNU offers online associate and bachelor's degree programs in addition to online certificate programs. These degrees can be earned entirely online as can master's degrees in Christian Leadership or Divinity. The Master's in Divinity also is acceptable in the various U.S. Armed Forces branches for the Chaplain candidacy program.

What online resources does GCD offer?

Students can log on through the "MyGCD" portal to obtain access to student forms, scholarship applications, registration and student records. An online bookstore allows for the easy purchase of class materials and texts while the online library provides access to research and the Open Access Digital Theological Library.


University of North Carolina at Greensboro

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

What is UNCG like?

Founded in 1891 as a women's college, UNCG is now a co-ed public institution attracting a diverse and inclusive student body. More than 1 million hours of community service are logged by students every year and funded research projects involve more than 700 students annually. Returning to our list of best online universities in North Carolina for another year, UNCG also has study abroad opportunities and an international student association.

What online programs are at UNCG?

Affordable tuition rates and financial aid opportunities help to make UNCG's online degree programs accessible. Students can find online bachelor's and master's degree programs in liberal studies, nursing education, public health and much more. An impressive 40-plus online offerings, including graduate certificate programs, can provide rich learning opportunities. A four-year Ph.D. in Business Administration program recently came online and incorporates 60 hours of coursework and a dissertation.

What online resources does UNCG offer?

Online students can connect to the larger UNCG community through social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Students wanting guidance and information on good careers in North Carolina may want to turn to the Student Success Center or Career Services at UNCG for help.


Winston-Salem State University

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

What is WSSU like?

"Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve" is the motto at Winston-Salem State University, a historically black college founded in 1892 as part of the state's public higher-education system. The school offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs while the school's Division of Nursing is reported to be the third largest producer of traditional nurses in the Tar Heel state.

What online programs are at WSSU?

Students interested in online learning at WSSU can enroll for individual courses in the arts, business, education and the health sciences. Online courses at WSSU are delivered through the Blackboard learning management system, but some classes may have on-campus requirements. Testing typically occurs through Blackboard, although some instructors may use a proctoring system. About a half-dozen online degree programs also are available, including an RN-to-BSN degree, comprised of six modules.

What online resources does the WSSU offer?

The Banner Rams Online Link provides students a way to upgrade personal information, check their grades and see their selected classes. Students also have access to disability services, financial aid and technology help. Additionally, online tutoring -- at no charge -- became available in 2017.


University of North Carolina Wilmington

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

What is UNC Wilmington like?

UNC Wilmington university has received recognition from the U.S. Department of Education for it efforts to help students toward degree completion, and it offers more than 50 majors, 30-plus master's degree programs and several doctoral programs. One of 17 schools in the state's public higher-education system, the University of North Carolina Wilmington is also part of a national initiative to help educate the future biopharmaceutical workforce.

What online programs are at UNC Wilmington?

Nearly 17,000 students take classes at UNC Wilmington every year. For online education, students can choose bachelor's programs in elementary education, criminology, clinical research and other areas or master's programs in close to a dozen disciplines. Numerous business degree programs, ranging from executive MBAs to MBAs with various specializations, also are available online.

What online resources does UNC Wilmington offer?

Distance learners can access help through the Technology Assistance Center, Distance Education and Video Network Services, and IT Quick Links. The UNCW SeaNet Secure Portal is useful for accessing course materials while the Career Center may be helpful to students wanting to prepare for one of the careers in demand in North Carolina.


University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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

Light and liberty are founding principles at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which holds a strong commitment to excellence, diversity and inclusiveness. In addition to offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs, the university boasts academic enrichment, internships, study abroad and honors coursework opportunities. UNC at Chapel Hill also returns to our list of best online colleges in North Carolina for another year.

What online programs are at UNC Chapel Hill?

Individual classes, self-paced courses and full degree programs are offered online through UNC Chapel Hill. Students interested in more online degree programs in North Carolina can access UNC Online, offered through many of the public North Carolina higher education institutions. The UNC Core program also allows military students, members of the reserve and the National Guard to complete their general education courses through distance education.

What online resources does UNC at Chapel Hill offer?

Online learners have access to a plethora of resources at Chapel Hill ranging from advising to the library system, the learning center and more. Career-related programs available through University Career Services may additionally help students to learn more about high-demand jobs in North Carolina and what degrees may fit for them.

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

Affordable Online Colleges in North Carolina for 2019-20

When it comes to selecting a school, tuition is one of the most important considerations for many students. has analyzed tuition rates for online colleges in North Carolina and found the following have some of the lowest costs. Tuition figures are sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and reflect in-state tuition (when in-state tuition is available) for all students, including online students.

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

Financial Aid Resources in North Carolina

In North Carolina, college-bound students have a lot of educational and financial support from the state. The College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC) is a particularly important organization for North Carolina students to be aware of. It promotes access to higher education by assisting families with college planning and career planning, as well as through financial aid programs.

Here's a closer look at some financial aid programs that North Carolina students can count on.

What Grants and Scholarships are Available in North Carolina? 

Some of North Carolina's state financial aid is awarded to students who have demonstrated academic excellence, while others require a combination of merit and financial need. Grants and scholarships can be a great way to offset the cost of college, since they do not have to be repaid.

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.

Be sure to read the Ultimate Guide to Grants for advice and strategies on finding grants. And our Ultimate Guide to Scholarships can help students who are looking for scholarships.

Student Loans in North Carolina

As of 2017, North Carolina does not offer a state-based student loan program. However, students are encouraged to fill out the FAFSA in order to become eligible for federal students loan programs. Oftentimes, borrowing can help families meet the total cost of attendance, so finding loans with favorable rates and terms can be a great investment.

Find out how student loans work and where to find them in the Ultimate Guide to Student Loans.

Additional Resources for Financial Aid in North Carolina

Costs for Out-of-State Students in North Carolina

Perhaps you didn't have North Carolina on your mind when you were thinking about your college plans, but now you find yourself headed to the Tar Heel State, which has many universities. Perhaps you live close to the South Carolina border, were transferred here for work, or your parents moved here. Whatever the reason, we understand that out-of-state tuition may be a deterrent, but there are options for you in North Carolina to make tuition more affordable.

For instance, the University of North Carolina System makes it easy for you to determine if you qualify for residency for tuition purposes with this handy online interview. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill works hard to make its tuition affordable, even for international and out-of-state students, and the numbers speak for themselves: the 2018 class of students hailed from 44 states as well as 40 countries and included 773 out-of-state students and 3,553 from North Carolina. Located in picturesque Chapel Hill, UNC offers a variety of scholarships that are not linked to residency.

For more insight into what to expect as an out-of-state student in NC, be sure to speak with an adviser or registrar at your school or the one you're considering. 

Best Careers in North Carolina

Forbes has designated North Carolina as the best location in the country for business for the last two years, based in part on the state's expected double-digit job growth rate. The following information — at the state and metro area levels — may be helpful for students who want to plan for a career in one of North Carolina’s top industries or in one of the state’s most in-demand jobs. Of course, there’s no one “best” occupation for everyone, but we hope that seeing data about North Carolina’s employment numbers, entry-level education requirements, and average salaries can help you decide which degree program to pursue at one of North Carolina’s online colleges.

EmploymentEmployment GrowthMedian High School SalaryMedian Bachelor's Salary

Top North Carolina Industries

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

Top IndustriesEmploymentProjected GrowthAverage Salary
Pipeline transportation1,206,79010%$72,384
Lessors of nonfinancial intangible assets (except copyrighted works)1,236,16011%$75,194
Monetary authorities-central bank873,37012%$78,258
Ambulatory healthcare services3,138,35012%$64,528
Oil and gas extraction1,764,66010%$69,113
Chemical manufacturing2,350,9909%$62,743
Data processing, hosting, and related services1,629,62010%$70,372
Securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and related activities1,551,85010%$68,640
Hospitals; state, local, and private3,432,43012%$62,398

Top employers in North Carolina include Duke University Hospital, North Carolina Children's Hospital, the Carolinas Medical Center and many others. These employers reflect the state's heavy emphasis and employment in healthcare services; you may notice that on the list above, ambulatory healthcare services and hospitals both feature the largest employment numbers out of all 10 industries, and that both are projected to grow even more in the coming years. The College Foundation of North Carolina reports that the most-needed positions in healthcare include nurse practitioners, physician assistants and physical therapy assistants -- positions that may be earned after completing an online degree program in the nursing or allied healthcare field from one of best online colleges in North Carolina.

However, North Carolina does not rely on healthcare alone to employ its residents. The state's financial industry is quite strong as well, with employers such as Spectrum and Bank of America Corporation relying on professionals in monetary authorities, securities, commodity contracts and financial investments. There is also a large emphasis on information technology, with need for data processing and telecommunications being driven by large employers such as SAS and research institutions such as Research Triangle Park (RTP).

Between the many medical, financial and data-driven industries in North Carolina, it's important that North Carolina's workforce is well trained for the future, and the state's governor is taking steps to make this happen. The NC Job Ready plan incorporates employer leadership, education and skills attainment, local innovation and more in order to help preserve and plan for future career needs. Partners in this initiative have created 30-plus Certified Pathways across the state, connecting higher-education schools with specific counties and workforce development boards.

Of course, if you are asking yourself, "What are the best jobs in North Carolina?" you may be looking for details that are relevant a little closer to home. Let's investigate careers and employers in two of the most prominent metro areas in the state to help shed some more light on the best jobs in the Tar Heel State.

Raleigh, 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

Individuals seeking high-paying jobs in Raleigh might look for opportunities in the IT field, particularly in software development or systems software. In fact, job growth for systems software developers is predicted to reach 16 percent in upcoming years, potentially leading to 1,300-plus new positions. Top area employers, like IBM, Cisco Systems, Inc., and Verizon Business, might offer opportunities for those interested in high-demand jobs in Raleigh.

As well, North Carolina State University or Wake Technical Community College, also included in the area's top employers, could be excellent venues for those wanting to teach in the health specialties field at the postsecondary level.

Best CareersMinimum EducationAverage SalaryEmployment
Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts and TestersBachelor's degree$108,66014,600
Computer and Information Systems ManagersBachelor's degree$143,7503,700
Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Technical and Scientific ProductsBachelor's degree$104,5704,140
StatisticiansMaster's degree$112,920490
Electrical EngineersBachelor's degree$91,6101,350

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

Greensboro-High Point, 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

According to the Guilford County Economic Development Alliance, targeted industries in the Greensboro-High Point area include aerospace, the life sciences, specialized business services and others. Employers in these industries could provide leads to high-demand jobs in Greensboro-High Point, including at companies such as P&G, Bank of America or Lab Corp.

Overall, 62 percent of the population in the area has attended college or a university. Degrees in information security, statistics, software development and other high-industry fields might be available through the online colleges in North Carolina listed on this webpage.

Best CareersMinimum EducationAverage SalaryEmployment
Industrial EngineersBachelor's degree$80,0701,010
Industrial Production ManagersBachelor's degree$107,440710
Financial ManagersBachelor's degree$137,4701,190
General and Operations ManagersBachelor's degree$125,7104,650
Mechanical EngineersBachelor's degree$83,060890

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