Last Updated: December 1, 2016
Though the reasons to attend school in Florida are innumerable (beaches, weather, outdoor recreation), there are as many reasons to enroll in an online bachelor or masters program at one of Florida’s many universities and colleges.
There are literally hundreds of colleges, universities, and health and technical institutions in the Sunshine State, many of which offer whole degree programs that can be attained fully online, recognizing that many of their students do not reflect the experience of the “traditional student.” That is, so many students these days are now working professionals, veterans, and single parents, and with the change and growth in distance learning the stigma of earning a degree online has dropped precipitously. Furthermore, many colleges and universities do not even formally differentiate between a degree earned on campus and one earned online. So, whether you wish to complete your program fully online or to do a hybrid program—one that combines both on-campus and distance learning—there are many great reasons to consider it.
At College Choice we strongly emphasize doing the same amount of research for online programs as you would a traditional program. There are many advantages to taking classes online, completing a distance education degree, or enrolling in a hybrid program. But you will still want to connect with admissions counselors. Inquire about what resources and services are available to you as an online student, ensuring you will receive similar if not equivalent support as traditional students. And be sure the program you enroll in is accredited by a recognized agency.
What are the Best Online Universities in Florida?
Below are the 17 best online programs offered by Florida universities and colleges. We have collated the average credit hour cost, the amount of financial aid students receive, the academic reputation of the university, and PayScale’s average early career salary for the school’s graduates, and have thus arrived at, hands down, the state’s best online programs. And, clearly, “best” for us means reputation, but also affordability, return on investment, and accessibility. Our information comes from PayScale, U.S. News & World Report, U.S. Department of Education, and the universities and colleges’ websites.
University of Florida
College Choice Score: 94.72
Located in Gainesville, Florida with a campus population of over 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students, the University of Florida is a flagship university that offers a huge array of degree programs. It is also, impressively, home to more than 150 research facilities and centers. This access is one of the many reasons why the University of Florida tops our list for best online colleges in the state. Even though most of these research institutes, initiatives, and programs take place on campus, online students receive the same access and opportunities as “traditional” students.
In addition to the many online bachelor’s degrees offered by the University of Florida, students can also attain masters and doctoral degrees, as well as certificates and specialist training. For those seeking either a BA or BS, there are nearly twenty online degree options, including but not limited to: business administration, computer science, sport management, psychology, nursing (RN to BSN), microbiology and cell science, health education and behavior, anthropology, and much more.
The University of Florida also boasts the top spot on our list because its online platform incorporates the same curriculum, delivered by the same faculty, as the on-campus classrooms. Students can therefore expect the same amount of rigor. The University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
College Choice Score: 98.26
Though its main campus is based in Daytona Beach, there are over one-hundred branches of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University located throughout the country and world. The school is most known for its aeronautical science and engineering programs, though thousands of students are also enrolled in one of its many other degree programs, from homeland security to business. Embry-Riddle has contributed in big ways to aviation research throughout its history and is currently expanding its areas of focus and research emphasis.
In addition to the online undergraduate degrees in aeronautics, aviation business administration, aviation security and maintenance, online students can also earn bachelor degrees in communication, engineering technology, interdisciplinary studies, homeland security, project management, and more. There are also several certificate, associate, masters, and doctoral degree options.
Embry-Riddle’s huge online student population is uniquely privileged by the university’s worldwide expansion efforts. With 130 campuses throughout the country and world, students can take classes online while, most likely, being in proximity to a campus. Embry-Riddle is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Florida Institute of Technology
College Choice Score: 89.18
Also known as Florida Tech, the Florida Institute of Technology is a highly regarded private research university located in Melbourne. This STEM-focused university is comprised of five academic departments, each of which offer online degrees: engineering, science, aeronautics, business, psychology, and liberal arts. The research coming out of Florida Tech has made a big impact in several areas, notably, global climate change, energy systems, biomedical science, optics, and software engineering.
Florida Tech undergraduate degrees that can be attained fully online include computer information, criminal justice and homeland security, criminal justice, business administration (with concentrations in management, marketing, healthcare management, computer information, and accounting), aviation management, and psychology, among others. Florida Tech online students receive individualized attention from faculty who are working professionals and experts in their respective fields.
Florida Tech receives solid accolades and rankings from Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Times Higher Education, and Washington Monthly. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Florida State University
College Choice Score: 87.78
At Florida State University (FSU) you can earn an online undergraduate degree in public safety and security (with three concentration tracks to choose from), computer science, criminology, or social science. However, for the distance education student FSU requires she have sixty or more completed credit hours that can transfer first before applying to become an online student. That makes this degree a perfect option for those who already have some college under their belt but they just need to finish their degree and are looking for the most flexible, affordable option possible.
A leader in the State University System of Florida, Florida State University is based in Tallahassee and is a public research institution with space- and sea-grant recognition. It is known for its emphasis on and contributions to research and its many well-ranked academic departments, including the clinical psychology, criminology, education, library information, public affairs, and speech pathology departments.
Florida State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. It is made up of over a dozen colleges and schools, more than one-hundred research centers, and nearly four-hundred programs of study.
University of South Florida
College Choice Score: 83.43
Though the University of South Florida does not offer the broadest selection of online degrees, its excellence in teaching ensures its distance education students receive the best academic experience. Undergraduate online degree options include two BA programs—in criminology and in women’s and gender studies—and six BS programs: information systems (an applied science degree), public health, general information systems, information technology, nursing (RN to BSN), and criminal justice.
In addition to the bachelor degrees, the University of South Florida provides opportunities for students to earn many graduate degrees and certificates, to participate in professional development, and for those lifelong learners who are fifty years or older, USF has a program that helps seniors develop computer skills or take liberal arts classes.
Ranked as among the top one-hundred universities nationally by ARWU and Washington Monthly, the University of South Florida’s research endeavors are growing exponentially, especially in its focus on biomedical health science, sustainability, and transportation research. USF is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Palm Beach Atlantic University
College Choice Score: 78.78
A small school of approximately 2,500 undergraduates, Palm Beach Atlantic University is a interdenominational Christian institution that emphasizes leadership and service in addition to learning. Comprised of nine schools, Palm Beach Atlantic offers over fifty areas of study, though for those who wish to earn an online degree, the options are a bit smaller. Currently, those who desire to study full-time online can earn a bachelors in ministry, organizational management, psychology, or nursing (RN to BSN). Palm Beach Atlantic also proffers a fully online MS in Leadership degree.
Many of Palm Beach Atlantic’s online students are those leading full lives, either working professionally and/or raising a family. For that reason, the university has gone to great lengths to ensure a high-quality distance program that can meet their students where they’re at and help them advance their careers. The Office of Online Learning is part of the Center for Teaching Excellence and it provides connections, resources, and services to both its students and faculty, including training on the e-learning platform.
Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, West Palm Beach Atlantic University is often regionally ranked among the best by The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report. For students with a busy schedule who want a degree incorporating Christian values, West Palm Beach may be the best fit.
University of Central Florida
College Choice Score: 76.55
Located in Orlando, the University of Central Florida is one of the largest in the country with a total population of around 65,000 undergraduates and grad students. It is known for its close partnerships with the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. In addition to being nationally and globally ranked as a whole, many of UCF’s individual departments and programs receive accolades from U.S. News & World Report including its computer science, criminology, education, healthcare management, and psychology departments.
Furthermore, U.S. News & World Report recognizes UCF as having one of the best online undergraduate experiences in the country. Offering twenty online majors as well as literally dozens of minors, the diversity of options at UCF is nearly unmatched. Some of the online BAs include degree programs in anthropology, communication and conflict, creative writing, history, interdisciplinary studies, Latin American studies, sociology, and much more. BS degrees include those in nursing, technical education, health services administration, health informatics, and more.
The University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. It is a high-research university that collaborates closely with corporations such as Lockheed, Boeing, and Siemens.
Saint Leo University
College Choice Score: 76.55
A Roman Catholic university located north of Tampa, Saint Leo University is a private liberal arts school. Of all the online programs on this ranking, Saint Leo’s Center for Online Learning platform was created in 1998, making it the longest-running distance learning program on our list.
Students can choose from among twenty fully online degree programs, in addition to four minors that can be paired with their chosen major. There are four Bachelors in Business Administration programs—logistics, management, marketing, and project management—as well as degrees in accounting, computer information systems, cybersecurity, health care management, criminal justice, liberal studies, psychology, HR management, homeland security, and more. Clearly, the options are those that place emphasis on and prepare students for professional success.
From being named one of the “Top Universities in the South” to being recognized as having one of the best online platforms in the country, Saint Leo receives a lot of praise for a range of programs and services. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Nova Southeastern University
College Choice Score: 75.5
Nova Southeastern University is a small school located in Fort Lauderdale. Through its eighteen colleges and schools, NSU offers nearly two-hundred academic areas of study, most of which are professional programs, such as its law, business, pharmacy, dentistry, optometry, and nursing degrees. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Nova Southeastern University is recognized as a high research institution ranked by both U.S. News & World Report and Washington Monthly.
Nova Southeastern’s SREB (Southern Regional Education Board) certified electronic campus offers four bachelor degrees and a plethora of masters degrees that can be achieved fully online. The undergrad programs include BS degrees in business management, health science, psychology, and nursing. The masters programs include everything from cross-disciplinary studies to biomedical informatics, accounting, business administration, education (with nearly twenty areas of concentration), counseling, health law, nursing, and much more.
Additionally, there are options to gain specialist training online, a doctoral degree, and graduate certificates. The SREB-certified e-campus is comprised of faculty-student forums, real-time online classrooms, and access to the electronic library and online databases.
College Choice Score: 67.22
A private university located in Fort Lauderdale, Keiser University is most known for its degrees in the health professions—such as its nursing, administration, and health research degrees—and computer and information sciences. Keiser University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and is an active member of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida organization.
Keiser University’s online division not only provides a number of degree options for those students desiring to earn their degree fully online, but it provides those students with professional assistance, giving resume guidance and preparation help, helping students hone interview skills, offering professional development workshops, and connecting students to the online career center for job postings. In addition to the ten associate degrees Keiser offers online, students can earn one of nearly twenty bachelor degrees. Those programs cover accounting, criminal justice, imaging sciences, legal studies, public safety administration, and more.
There are also five post-bachelor online degree opportunities at Keiser: business administration, educational leadership, instructional design and technology, management, and nursing. Finally, unique to Keiser, is an online program for those students with very little or no proficiency in English: the course completion certificate in English for speakers of other languages. Completion of this program allows students to enroll in an academic program without having taken the TOEFL test.
College Choice Score: 63.37
A small Catholic university with approximately 3,000 undergraduates, Barry University is situated in a northern suburb of Miami that offers business, health, and education degrees in addition to dozens of liberal arts degrees. Barry University is known for its commitment to knowledge and truth, social justice, inclusive community building, and collaborative service. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Primarily designed with working adults in mind, Barry’s online programs allow students to creatively construct their curricular and academic experience. Barry offers several online classes in addition to four fully online bachelor degrees—in public administration, general administration, emergency management, health services administration—and two fully online masters degrees, in general administration and public administration.
For those Barry students who wish to take some courses online while still attending classes on campus, Barry makes available many online classes, most of which have a management, business, and computer science focus. Though students can also take Critical Approaches to Liberal Studies online, as well as classes on academic writing, the environment, literature, and modern trends in the humanities.
Florida Atlantic University
College Choice Score: 59.49
Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) is a public research school based in Boca Raton (though there are also five satellite campuses throughout the state). A member of the twelve-campus State University System of Florida, FAU offers nearly two-hundred academic programs of study to its 30,000 students.
FAU offers online degrees in a range of disciplines. It has four bachelors in business administrations degrees—in marketing, leadership, hospitality and tourism, and accounting—that can be achieved fully online. Additionally, students can find online undergraduate programs that cover an array of topics: geography, nursing, computer science, and more. FAU also boasts the largest amount of online masters degrees on our list, ranging from education to engineering.
Not only do online students have access to FAU’s research facilities and materials, they receive an education well-ranked by Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, The Princeton Review and Washington Monthly. Student life at Florida Atlantic University is marked by an active social student body, one energized by FAU’s athletic platform, the number of clubs and organizations, and the wide variety of labs, theaters, rec facilities, and more.
Florida International University
College Choice Score: 59.26
With its two main campuses located in Miami, Florida International University (FIU) belongs to the twelve-member State University System of Florida. With around 56,000 students and nearly three-hundred programs of study, this large university is known for its research activity and strong rankings from Forbes, Washington Monthly, and U.S. News & World Report. FIU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
There are over twenty online undergraduate degree programs offered by FIU that span an array of disciplines. BA degrees include women’s and gender studies, sustainability and the environment, sociology and anthropology, religious studies, psychology, interdisciplinary studies, and a number of bachelors in business administration programs. FIU also makes many BS degrees available online, including those in criminal justice, early childhood education, hospitality management, nursing (RN to BSN), and more.
There are many reasons to consider an online degree from FIU: you can demo a course to get a sense of the online classroom, you are guaranteed a rich and diverse student experience, there are lots of opportunities to get involved and participate in student life, and FIU makes some scholarships available, on top of its already affordable tuition rate.
College Choice Score: 54.93
A private university affiliated with the United Methodist Church, Bethune-Cookman University is a historically black school and is part of the US National Register of Historic Places. It is a relatively small university with around 4,000 enrolled undergraduates and it is comprised of a relatively small amount of academic departments, offering around forty undergraduate degrees. Bethune-Cookman University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The online platform at Bethune-Cookman is made up of eight bachelors degrees and three graduate degrees, all of which can be fully completed online. The undergraduate degrees include liberal studies, sociology, psychology, accounting, information systems management, international studies, and hospitality management. The masters degrees are in criminal justice administration, transformative leadership, and education (in exceptional student education). Though all of these are online, some do require internships, practicums, or clinical experiences that should be fulfilled in your community.
Unique to Bethune-Cookman’s online education is its willingness to accept transfer credits from other online degree programs, and its commitment to accepting as many credits as possible.
University of West Florida
College Choice Score: 50.18
The University of West Florida (UWF) is located in Pensacola and is also part of the State University System of Florida. It is a moderately sized school known for its commitment to research and its accolades from Forbes, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and The Princeton Review, among others. It is also frequently recognized and praised for its online education, both its value and breadth. In fact, UWF offers over four-hundred online courses, as well as several online undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, and certificate programs.
Some of the undergraduate degree options include career and technical education, engineering technology, exceptional student education, health sciences, information technology, nursing (RN to BSN) and maritime studies. Some of its popular graduate degrees include the MBA, the education programs, the MSN, the public health degree, and more. Finally, the literally dozens of certificate options allow students to specialize without spending too much time or money. These range from certification in Arabic language and culture to geospatial cybersecurity.
The University of West Florida is committed to keeping tuition rates low, and it even offers out-of-state tuition waiver opportunities. UWF is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Johnson University Florida
College Choice Score: 47.02
A Christian university located in Kissimmee, Florida, Johnson University Florida is the smallest school on our list with under five hundred undergraduates. However, its online education system is one of the best in the state. In addition to the three online Bachelors in Business Administration degrees—in management, marketing, and sports management—Johnson University also allows students to earn degrees in ministry leadership, intercultural studies, nonprofit administration, and pastoral care and counseling, all of which can be fully achieved online.
Johnson University Florida is also home to one online PhD, in leadership studies, and three masters degrees, in the New Testament, intercultural studies, and business administration. If you are not looking for advanced education, but wish to earn an associate’s degree or certification, Johnson offers an array of choices, including those in biblical studies, Christian ministries, spiritual formation and leadership, Bible translation, and more. Clearly, Johnson University specializes in theology, spirituality, and leadership education. So if you find yourself eager to advance your career in ministry, business, Christian education, or counseling, these online degrees may be the best fit for you.
Johnson University Florida is nationally accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education and regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
College Choice Score: 46.76
Known for its online and distance education, Rasmussen College is a private institution that offers associate’s and bachelor’s degrees that have a professional and career-oriented emphasis. One important thing to note about getting your online degree from Rasmussen is that some of the degrees vary depending on your location. However, there are many fully online undergraduate programs to choose from, all of which are divided into seven departments: business, design, education, health sciences, justice studies, nursing, and technology.
Whichever kind of degree you seek—and Rasmussen offers an eclectic list of options, from a degree in medical coding to an animation and motion graphic design degree—the curriculum is specifically designed to ensure students secure job placement soon after graduation. Rasmussen supplements the curriculum with an active and resourceful career center that online students have total access to. There Rasmussen students can research job opportunities, connect with alumni, find information on career fairs, and much more.
Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, Rasmussen has been serving an online community of learners since 2002. The over 13,000 students at Rasmussen are enrolled in one of nearly seventy degree programs.