Best online colleges for working adults: Our picks for 2022

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Online colleges with flexible learning options can be a good fit for working adults hoping to earn a degree.

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Working while pursuing a higher education degree may seem like a huge undertaking — but it is possible. Some of the best online colleges for working adults offer flexible, affordable degree paths. 

Whether you want to finish your bachelor’s degree or pursue a graduate degree, the online colleges below can help. Explore the top schools below to take the next step in advancing your career.

Enrolling in online college as a working adult: What to know

Online colleges often provide flexible schedules that can adapt to working adults’ schedules. 

Many offer asynchronous classes, meaning that students can work on assignments at any time. The schools may provide pre-recorded lectures and weekly discussion post requirements. Students can complete the homework at their convenience while still meeting assignment deadlines.

Self-paced online colleges are another common option. These programs typically use a competency-based model. Once students prove topic mastery, they can move on in the curriculum. This format can allow motivated students to complete their degree much quicker. 

Online degree completion time varies. Some working adults can complete an online degree in the same amount of time as on campus. Choosing a self-paced program and transferring credits can even save time. 

Accelerated bachelor’s degrees also offer a quicker path. Common accelerated degrees include online MBAs or RN-to-BSN bridge programs.

But some working adults prefer studying part time. This may lengthen the degree-completion time compared to traditional on-campus programs. 

No matter your availability, you can find an online college that fits your work schedule. As you consider the top online colleges below, consider how much time you can commit to studying. Make sure to establish a work-life balance before adding school into the mix. 

Also, consider what type of learner you are. Self-motivated learners may excel in competency-based programs, while others thrive with a synchronous schedule. 

Top online colleges for working adults in 2022

When selecting the top online colleges for working adults, we prioritized affordability and flexibility. The schools listed below offer cost-effective rates. The class formats also include asynchronous or self-paced options to fit into your work schedule.

We also considered the school’s experience in offering distance learning programs and the number of available degree options. Another contributing factor was alternative credit options. Several schools below offer credits for work, military, and life experience.

Find a program that fits your work schedule from the list below. These schools, organized alphabetically, are  accredited institutions offering 100% online degree programs. 

Please note that the information provided below is accurate as of the publication date. Explore each college’s website for more information about enrollment, fees, and tuition.

1. American Public University
Charles Town, West Virginia

For the past 30 years, the American Public University System has offered flexible education to military service members and working adults. As part of that system, APU primarily serves working adults.

Despite its name, APU is a private, for-profit college.

Learners can choose from the over 200 degree and certificate programs in several fields. APU also offers NanoCert programs in topics like entrepreneurship and counterintelligence.

Cost per credit: $285 (undergraduate); $370 (graduate)

Programs:

  • BS in sports and health sciences
  • BS in cybersecurity
  • BA in homeland security
  • BA in management
  • BA in psychology

Accreditation: American Public University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). 

2. Arizona State University
Phoenix, Arizona

ASU Online provides students with over 300 certificate and degree paths. They can also access several services, including counseling and time-management coaching. Like on-campus students, online learners can apply for study abroad programs and schedule tutoring sessions. 

ASU Online serves over 6,000 military service members. The university also reports that 80% of its students receive financial aid. Likewise, 80% of students land a job within six months of graduation. 

Cost per credit: $561-$661 (bachelor’s); $543-$1,343 (master’s)

Programs: 

  • BA in sustainability
  • BS in political science
  • BS in nursing; RN-to-BSN
  • MBA
  • MS in business analytics

Accreditation: Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

3. Bellevue University
Bellevue, Nebraska

BU caters to working adults with flexible online and on-campus degree programs. The online degree paths offer small classes and career-focused curricula. 

Adult students may complete certain degrees through an accelerated cohort program. They also work with a student coach throughout the degree program. BU offers online students career services, writing help, and tutoring sessions.

Cost per credit: $440 (undergraduate); $630 (graduate)

Programs:

  • BS in healthcare management
  • BS in public health
  • BA in graphic design
  • MS in instructional design and technology
  • MS in accounting

Accreditation: Bellevue University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

4. Colorado State University Global
Fort Collins, Colorado

Part of the Colorado State University system, CSU Global provides dozens of online degree and certificate options. Curricula focus on in-demand skills. Students learn the material through simulations and multimedia lectures.  

A GI-approved school, CSU Global offers discounted tuition to military service members. Students can receive credits for military training, prior work experience, and completing skills assessments.

Cost per credit: $350 (undergraduate); $500  (graduate)

Programs:

  • Bachelor’s in cybersecurity
  • Bachelor’s in human services
  • Bachelor’s in marketing
  • MS in teaching and learning; education leadership
  • Master’s in healthcare administration

Accreditation: Colorado State University Global is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

5. Grand Canyon University
Phoenix, Arizona

Working adults can choose between two class formats at GCU: evening or online. Both formats offer a cheaper cost per credit than GCU’s traditional on-campus courses. 

This private Christian university serves over 90,000 working adults through its online platform. It offers over 200 online degrees, including bridge programs and several concentration options. 

Military personnel and their spouses receive tuition discounts.

Cost per credit: $410-485 (undergraduate); $400-$715 (graduate)

Programs:

  • BS in early childhood education
  • BS in applied business analytics
  • BA in communications
  • MS in mental health and wellness; family dynamics 
  • MA in youth and family ministry

Accreditation: Grand Canyon University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

6. Purdue University Global
West lafayette, Indiana

Purdue Global offers online degree programs as part of the Purdue University system. Students can select a more traditional online experience or opt for the competency-based ExcelTrack programs.

Students can shorten their degree-completion time through Purdue Global’s Alternative Credit Center. They can earn credit for work experience, skill assessments, and open learning courses. 

Cost per credit: $280-$371 (undergraduate); $378-700 (graduate); $1,700-$3,200 per session for ExcelTrack

Programs:

  • BS in healthcare administration
  • BS in fire and emergency management
  • BS in analytics
  • MBA
  • MS in educational psychology

Accreditation: Purdue University Global is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

7. Southern New Hampshire University
Manchester, New Hampshire

Since its founding in 1932, SNHU has provided flexible career-focused programs. It offers over 200 online degree programs, including several concentration options for certain degree paths. 

SNHU has not increased tuition for 10 years. It also supports military service members by providing a tuition discount and credits for experience.

Cost per credit: $320 (undergraduate); $627 (graduate)

Programs:

  • BS in software engineering
  • BA in mathematics
  • BS in accounting finance
  • MS in management
  • MA in clinical mental health counseling

Accreditation: Southern New Hampshire University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

8. Strayer University
Washington, D.C.

Strayer takes a storytelling approach to online education. Each class includes documentary-style videos and reading materials that students review on their own time. 

Strayer also offers students several ways to save. Eligible students can take free general education courses. They can also earn free courses as they progress through their program. 

Cost per course: $1,480 (undergraduate); $1,680-$3,850 (graduate)

Programs:

  • BS in networking
  • BBA in entrepreneurship
  • BS in management
  • Master of human resource management
  • Master of education in curriculum instruction and assessment

Accreditation: Strayer University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

9. Western Governors University
Salt Lake City, Utah

WGU offers flexible degree paths that cater to working adults. Instead of paying per credit, enrollees pay a flat rate per term, no matter the number of classes. This approach to tuition may lower overall costs and degree-completion time.

Each program follows a competency-based model. Students spend as much time as needed on each topic to prove mastery. On average, WGU learners complete a bachelor’s degree in just over two years.

Cost per term: $3,475-$5,930

Programs:

  • BA in educational studies
  • BS in cloud computing
  • Accelerated BS to MS in IT management
  • MBA in healthcare management
  • MS in nursing leadership and management; BSN-to-MSN

Accreditation: Western Governors University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).