Online Colleges in Washington
Top Online Programs
With a growing economy and multiple job openings in the business, technology, and healthcare sectors, Washington offers strong career potentials for candidates with college degrees. By 2020, more than 70% of Washington jobs will require postsecondary education, and candidates with a college degree often earn higher salaries and qualify for advanced career opportunities. With multiple Fortune 500 companies, including Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, Costco, and Nordstrom in the state, professionals with a college degree in Washington pursue fulfilling and lucrative career paths.
Many students benefit from attending online colleges in Washington state, which offer more flexibility and savings than on-campus programs. By earning an online degree, professionals increase their salary potential and job opportunities. Our list ranks the best online colleges in Washington state and provides information on the job outlook, best majors, and financial aid and scholarship opportunities for online Washington students.
Job Outlook for Students with College Degrees in Washington
Washington state offers many job opportunities for candidates with college degrees. In 2017, CNBC named Washington the top state for business because of its strong economy, with a growth rate of almost two and a half times the national rate in 2016. Washington also offers the highest concentration of workers in STEM fields compared to other states.
In Washington, the average worker earns $27.63 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is nearly $7,000 more than the national average wage for all workers. Some in-demand fields, including business, technology, and healthcare, offer the potential for even higher salaries.
Though Washington's unemployment rate is higher than the national average at 4.3%, the state benefits from a large population of educated workers. U.S. News & World Report places Washington state in the top ten when it comes to the education level of the population. Professionals with college degrees benefit from a significantly lower unemployment rate than professionals without degrees. While the national unemployment rate sat at 4.3% in January 2017, college graduates faced a much lower unemployment rate of 2.5%, according to the BLS.
Unemployment Rate, August 2018
Annual Mean Wage, May 2017
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Cost of Online Colleges in Washington
Prospective students considering online colleges in Washington state should research the tuition costs at different institutions. In addition to tuition, students should plan to pay for books, transportation, and living expenses. Online programs generally charge the same tuition rates as on-campus programs. Out-of-state students at public institutions, however, save a significant amount in tuition compared to on-campus students who are not Washington residents.
The following table lists the average tuition costs for public two-year and four-year institutions in Washington compared to the national average. Tuition at online community colleges in Washington state costs slightly more than the national average. Four-year institutions, however, cost less than the national average.
Average Price for In-State Tuition and Fees by Institution Type, 2018-19
|Public Two-Year||Public Four-Year|
Source: The College Board
In-State vs. Out-of-State Tuition in Washington
Public schools receive financial support from the state government. In exchange, they offer low tuition rates to state residents. In Washington, residents pay an average of $9,760 a year in tuition to attend public four-year institutions, or slightly less than the national average. However, out-of-state students pay $29,790 a year in tuition, or higher than the national average of just over $26,000 a year.
However, non-resident online students attending Washington colleges and universities benefit from much lower tuition rates than non-resident on-campus students. For example, at Washington State University, residents pay $507 per credit for online classes, while out-of-state students pay $565.
Average Tuition and Fees, 2018-19
|Public Two-Year||Public Four-Year|
Source: The College Board
Financial Aid in Washington
Students attending online schools in Washington can find many financial aid opportunities. Under the federal financial aid program, online students qualify for loans, grants, and work study opportunities. Students also qualify for federal aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every year. The FAFSA considers a student's expected financial contribution, the cost of their program, and other factors to determine a financial aid package.
Washington state also provides financial aid opportunities for students. For example, Washington residents qualify for state need grants, which funded nearly 73,000 students in the 2018-19 school year. Other need-based programs include the College Bound Scholarship and the state's work-study program. Qualifying low- and middle-income students benefit from part-time jobs to help cover their educational expenses.
Washington also offers financial aid for students pursuing degrees in high-demand fields, including healthcare and education. Healthcare professionals who complete a three year service obligation can participate in the Health Professional Loan Repayment Program, while the Teacher Conditional Scholarship Program covers the cost of earning a teaching degree in a shortage area. The Washington Student Achievement Council provides additional information on opportunities.
State Grant Aid per Full-Time Equivalent Undergraduate Student, 2016-17
Source: The College Board
Scholarships and Grants for Washington College Students
Washington college students qualify for many scholarship and grant opportunities. Some carry residency requirements, such as graduating from a Washington high school, while others grant awards to any student attending a Washington college or university, including online students.
Who Can Apply: Washington high school graduates attending two- or four-year colleges qualify. Applicants must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA and a record of leadership or community service.
Who Can Apply: The Seattle Public Library Foundation offers this scholarship to students who live, work, or attend school in Seattle. Applicants must possess a Seattle Public Library card.
Who Can Apply: Americans of Asian or Pacific Islander descent who plan on pursuing careers in healthcare qualify for this award. The scholarship provides three years of funding at an accredited college or university.
Amount: $5,000 per year
Who Can Apply: Washington residents who are members of the American Quarter Horse Association qualify for this two-year award. Recipients must attend an accredited institution, including accredited online colleges in Washington state, and maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA.
Amount: $5,000 per year
Who Can Apply: Washington residents qualify for multiple merit-based scholarships. Applicants should be full-time students at an accredited Washington college or university with a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Amount: $3,000 annually
Who Can Apply: Residents of Washington who live east of the Cascades qualify for the Marsden scholarship. Applicants must provide transcripts, SAT or ACT scores, and three letters of recommendation.
Who Can Apply: Applicants apply to over 60 scholarships with one application, and anyone attending a Washington state college or university qualifies. Scholarships are awarded to students who come from LGBTQ+ families or identify as LGBTQ+ or straight allies.
Who Can Apply: Currently licensed Washington teachers can receive this award to complete the educational requirements for a teaching license endorsement in a shortage area such as special education, science, elementary education, and bilingual education.
Who Can Apply: High school seniors in the western states qualify for the Region IV scholarship. Applicants submit transcripts and SAT or ACT scores to demonstrate academic promise.
Who Can Apply: Washington residents who demonstrate financial need qualify for the scholarship. Applicants must hold a minimum 2.75 GPA, attend an eligible Washington state college or university, and pursue a STEM or healthcare major.
Best Majors for Online Students in Washington
Students attending online colleges in Washington state pursue diverse majors; however, certain majors offer the greatest potential for lucrative and in-demand employment opportunities. With Washington's growing economy, several career paths report high projected growth in the coming years. The Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) reports on the in-demand occupations in Washington, including in business, healthcare, and technology.
The ESD projects high annual growth rates in many managerial positions that require a bachelor's degree, including financial managers, marketing managers, and human resources managers. Business administration majors qualify for all of these roles, and many online programs, including WSU Global Campus, offer business degrees with specializations. In addition, Washington's strong technology sector attracts majors in information systems, computer science, and software engineering. With these degrees, graduates work for some of the top companies in the world with headquarters in Washington state. Nursing may also be an attractive major for students, considering Washington's nursing shortage and high salaries for nurses.
BusinessA major in business prepares graduates for versatile careers in management, human resources, accounting, marketing, and finance. In Washington's economy, business majors find opportunities working for top companies in lucrative career paths. Financial managers, for example average over $135,000 a year in Washington, and the ESD projects strong growth in the field.
Information SystemsMajors in information systems or information systems management build strong IT skills geared for the business environment. Students gain technical, managerial, and business knowledge and design information systems. With Washington state's strong tech industry, an information systems major can lead to lucrative opportunities.
NursingWith a bachelor's degree in nursing, graduates work in medical facilities, hospitals, and doctor's offices. Washington reports high demand for nurses, who earn an average annual salary of over $83,000. The ESD projects 17,327 new registered nurse positions in Washington state between 2016 and 2026.
Resources for Online College Students in Washington
Washington Student Achievement Council: A state agency, WSAC supports students attending in-person and online colleges in Washington. The site provides an overview of financial aid resources for students taking Washington online college courses, including need-based grants, the state work-study program, and scholarships for high-demand areas.
Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education: WICHE offers many resources for students in its 16 member states. The organization provides tuition discounts for out-of-state residents, reports on college costs in Washington and other western states, and the internet course exchange program, which lets students access online courses from out-of-state member institutions.
Western Undergraduate Exchange: Run by WICHE, the WUE lets students from member states receive tuition discounts on out-of-state tuition. Students outside of Washington can use the program to save on attending online colleges in Washington state.
Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges: The site provides information on becoming a student at a Washington community or technical college, with resources on how to fund a college degree. Students can also access a list of Washington community and technical colleges.
WICHE Washington: Run by WICHE, the Washington page provides an overview of the benefits for students attending a Washington college or university. This overview includes Washington's participation in the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, which advocates for technology-enhanced learning, the Interstate Passport initiative to make it easier to transfer credits, and mental health programs.