Online colleges have grown in number in the last decade, with many top colleges and state universities now offering distance education through online degrees. Unlike the perception just a few years ago, today, many graduates of accredited online colleges report high satisfaction with their choice to earn a degree online.

Online programs provide a great alternative, allowing anyone to earn a degree that meets their goals in a flexible, affordable format.

The number of students taking online classes topped 6 million in fall 2016, according to a 2018 report from Babson Survey Research Group, with around 3 million of those learners exclusively taking distance education classes in either graduate and undergraduate programs. The report, based on U.S. Department of Education data, indicates that the number of students in distance education courses increased by 5.6 percent over the previous year.

With so many options available to students, U.S. News has ranked the Best Online Programs for the eighth consecutive year. U.S. News ranked online bachelor’s degrees as well as master’s programs in business, education, nursing, engineering, computer information technology and criminal justice. Online MBA programs were split from other business degrees and ranked separately.

Here are some of the top online degree programs in the 2019 rankings.


Among online colleges, Embry-Riddle claimed No. 1, improving from a tie for No. 2 last year. Arizona State came in at No. 2, up from No. 4. Ohio State University—Columbus, last year’s No. 1, slipped in the 2019 rankings to No. 3, tied with Oregon State University, which improved from the No. 6 spot.

Schools that made big leaps in the online bachelor’s programs rankings include the University at Buffalo—SUNY, which came in tied for No. 8, a drastic improvement from being tied for No. 60 last year, and the University of Alabama—Birmingham, tied at No. 12, up from a previous tie at No. 77.


Indiana University—Bloomington’s Kelley School of Business and the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School tied at No. 1 in the rankings of online MBA programs. Last year, Indiana tied for No. 2 and UNC landed at No. 4. Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business moved to No. 3, down from a tie at No. 2 last year.

Among the big shifts in online MBA programs, Villanova University surged from a tie at No. 61 last year to a tie for No. 13. Similarly, Creighton University climbed the ranks to a tie at No. 17, up from a tie at No. 54 in the 2018 rankings.

Business (master’s, non-MBA)

In the rankings of online business master’s programs, Indiana University—Bloomington moved up to No. 1 from a tie for No. 2 last year. Villanova Universitymoved down one spot from No. 1 in 2018 to a tie for No. 2 this year with the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, which previously came in at a tie for No. 13. Arizona State University’s Carey School of Business slipped from a tie at No. 2 to No. 6.

Education (master’s)

Among online master’s in education programs, Clemson University’s Moore School of Education maintained its No. 1 ranking from last year, though now in a tie with the University of Florida for the top spot. Florida was ranked No. 2 in education last year. Some programs made big leaps in these rankings; for example, Virginia Commonwealth University shot up from No. 115 last year to a tie for No. 3 with Utah State University, which was previously tied at No. 5.

Nursing (master’s)

John Hopkins University climbed to No. 1 in this year’s rankings of online nursing graduate programs, up from a tie at No. 5. Ohio State University maintained its spot at No. 2, and St. Xavier University came in at No. 3, falling from the top spot that it held in 2018.

Engineering (master’s)

The top online engineering programs stayed the same as last year, with Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science coming in at No. 1, and a tie for No. 2 between the University of California—Los Angeles Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering.

Computer information technology (master’s)

The University of Southern California once again boasts the No. 1 online computer information technology program. New York University came in at No. 2 and Virginia Tech at No. 3; the two schools were previously tied for second place in these rankings, which take into account computer science and computer engineering programs.

Criminal justice (master’s)

The University of Nebraska—Omaha landed at No. 1 in the 2019 rankings of online criminal justice programs, up from its previous tie for No. 3 with the University of California—Irvine, which rose to No. 2 this year. Sam Houston State University ranked No. 3, slipping from the top spot it held last year in these rankings, which include criminology programs.


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