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Choosing the ideal online college is vital for busy working adults. It’s like finding the right pair of shoes—you want a comfortable fit.

When it comes to earning a degree, working adults need flexibility to juggle their work responsibilities and academic goals. Balancing work and college can be a challenge, but with the right online college, you can achieve your academic aspirations. Explore this list of the 10 best online colleges for working adults seeking flexible degree programs.

Balancing School, Work, and Life

For many working adults, the decision to earn a degree is often driven by a desire for advancement, higher income opportunities, personal development, or a career change. As nontraditional students, their college experience may significantly differ from the conventional path, and there are key elements they often look for when determining the right school to help meet their academic and career goals.

Affordability, flexibility, high retention, and reasonable admission criteria are important considerations, ensuring a smooth transition into education without compromising existing commitments. Students who opt for online education typically prioritize schools that offer flexibility in order to accommodate their work and life demands.

An affordable average tuition ensures that pursuing education remains financially feasible. Additionally, a high retention rate indicates student satisfaction and success, reinforcing the value of the degree. A reasonable admission rate allows access to opportunity for a wide range of students.

Universities to Consider

Western Governors University

Western Governors University (WGU) is an accredited online university known for its innovative competency-based programs and flexibility for adult learners. More than 70 career-focused degree programs are available at the bachelor’s and master’s level in business, IT, education, healthcare, and nursing.

Coursework is self-paced and available online 24/7 with no set log-in times. This allows students to work on coursework any time their schedule allows. The competency-based education model lets students accelerate their progress based on prior knowledge and experience.

WGU has a generous transfer policy for community college students, making it even easier for working adults to earn a degree. Military students will find that WGU degree programs are approved for tuition benefits. A Program Mentor is assigned to each student upon enrollment to help students stay on track through graduation. WGU awarded more than $20 million in scholarships in 2022, and has helped more than 300,000 students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused online degree programs.

Average annual tuition: $8,010

Retention rate: 72%

Admission rate: 100%

Students enrolled: 150,116

Institution type: Private, nonprofit

Baker University

Baker University is a good option for busy adults with work and life commitments. The small, private college offers online bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees plus recertification and professional development courses for educators. Popular degree programs include business, psychology, criminal justice, education, and nursing.

The university emphasizes flexibility and acceleration for those with time constraints. Baker University is military friendly, offering potential tuition discounts to veterans, active-duty service members, and their spouses. All students can earn an online degree at Baker University without relocating or leaving a full-time job.

Average annual tuition: $33,200

Retention rate: 64%

Admission rate: 99%

Students enrolled: 1,206

Institution type: Private

Bethel University

Bethel University stands out as a top choice for working adults seeking a faith-based education. With 35 online programs including undergraduate, graduate, and seminary offerings, the Christian university can accommodate working adults in a variety of academic pursuits.

Flexible program formats, including fully online and blended online/in-person options, allow working professionals to balance education with their busy schedules. Some degree programs offer on-campus intensives to further enrich the learning experience and encourage a sense of community to online degree seekers.

Average annual tuition: $39,920

Retention rate: 74%

Admission rate: 89%

Students enrolled: 4,700

Institution type: Private, not-for-profit

Clayton State University

Clayton State University’s online degree programs cater to the needs of busy working adults striving for a flexible option. The university offers a broad array of online associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees plus certificate programs.

Online learning at Clayton State University is accessible anytime, anywhere, allowing students to fit classes into their busy schedules. Most courses are traditional 16-week semesters; however, some courses follow a condensed 8-week schedule and require attendance at scheduled online meetings. Transfer students with a minimum of 30 credits are eligible to apply for enrollment.

Average annual tuition: $16,290

Retention rate: 54%

Admission rate: 63%

Students enrolled: 5,836

Institution type: Public

Fresno Pacific University

For nontraditional students looking to complete a bachelor’s degree or take the next step with a graduate degree, Fresno Pacific University (FPU) offers more than 20 fully online programs. This private Christian university offers a two-year transfer guarantee for ADT Pathways students from within the California Community College system. Additionally, the FPU Degree Completion program guarantees students can complete their degree in just two years upon meeting certain requirements and responsibilities.

FPU offers general education courses available in either 6- or 12-week options toward degree completion programs such as business, criminology, early childhood development, and Christian ministries.

Average annual tuition: $34,960

Retention rate: 71%

Admission rate: 78%

Students enrolled: 3,600

Institution type: Private

Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion

Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion stands out as a top choice for busy working adults seeking online degrees. With a focus on flexibility and efficiency, their accelerated programs offer six- and eight-week courses designed to accommodate hectic schedules.

Students can choose from a variety of degree programs, including certificates, and associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees for in-demand fields like business, technology, education, health, humanities, math, music, tourism, and more. Taught by experienced Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion faculty, these online degree programs provide a high-quality education that aligns with the demands of today’s job market.

Average annual tuition: $31,168

Retention rate: 72%

Admission rate: 92%

Students enrolled: 2,268

Institution type: Private

Keiser University

Since 1999, Keiser University has provided online bachelor’s degree programs that allow busy adults to strike a balance between career demands and educational aspirations. Degrees are career-focused across fields such as business, criminal justice, engineering, IT, healthcare, nursing, and psychology.

What sets Keiser apart is its commitment to convenience, with recorded and archived classes that allow students to access lectures on their schedule. Small class sizes, online coursework, and in-demand degrees are designed for busy working adults.

Average annual tuition: $27,072

Retention rate: 72%

Admission rate: 97%

Students enrolled: 13,000

Institution type: Private, not-for-profit

LeTourneau University

Choose from more than 120 online, on-campus, or hybrid courses at this Christian polytechnic university. Options for earning a certificate or an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree are available online or through a hybrid approach of in-person and online courses.

Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, LeTourneau University offers degrees in aviation and aeronautical science, education, arts, engineering, business, technology, health sciences, and theology.

Average annual tuition: $33,490

Retention rate: 51%

Admission rate: 54%

Students enrolled: 3,000

Institution type: Private

Maryville University of Saint Louis

Offering over 30 flexible bachelor’s programs, Maryville University of Saint Louis accommodates busy schedules with flexible start dates, personalized support, and 100% online coursework. Collaborations with industry leaders like Boeing and Edward Jones ensure relevant education for future job demands.

Maryville emphasizes innovation and leverages high-tech platforms, such as Canvas, for an enhanced educational experience. With streamlined admissions and comprehensive student support, Maryville University offers online learning and degree completion to fit in with the lives of busy working adults.

Average annual tuition: $24,766

Retention rate: 71%

Admission rate: 92%

Students enrolled: 5,809

Institution type: Private

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)

Offering more than 200 career-focused degree programs in business, education, health, liberal arts, social sciences, and engineering, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) is a top choice for working adults seeking career advancement through education.

Flexible scheduling and 100% online accessibility allows individuals to fit school around their busy lifestyle. SNHU is accredited by the New England Commission for Higher Education (NECHE).

Average annual tuition: $15,450

Retention rate: 39%

Admission rate: 92%

Students enrolled: 170,000

Institution type: Private, nonprofit

Choosing the Right College as a Working Adult


Flexibility is key for working adults who are pursuing higher education. The best online colleges for working adults offer a variety of course options so students can choose times that fit their schedule. Flexible offerings could include evening and weekend courses, as well as asynchronous online courses that allow 24/7 access to coursework.

Additionally, the ability to work on their studies at their own pace is essential in order to accommodate various learning styles, personal schedules, and course loads. Accommodating the flexibility needs of working adults can allow them to integrate education into their busy lives while balancing work and personal responsibilities.

Earns credit based on knowledge and past experiences

Competency-based courses assess students based on their existing knowledge, skills, and experiences. Instead of requiring a set number of hours in a classroom, competency-based programs focus on the student’s ability to demonstrate proficiency in the subject matter. Colleges offering competency-based courses present an attractive option to working adults, emphasizing knowledge over the traditional approach of seat time and credit hours.

Accepts transfer credits

Many students have already earned credits from other accredited colleges that can help them graduate faster. A school with a generous transfer policy is an attractor for students seeking degree completion. Top online colleges recognize the value of prior education and work experience, and know that allowing students to transfer credits can provide a head start on their academic journey. This helps busy adults balance work, life, and education as they return to college.

Resources and support for online students

Having adequate resources and support is crucial to success when it comes to online education. For busy working adults pursuing degrees through online colleges, support is even more vital. This assistance can include program mentors, advisors, tech support, virtual study groups, job search assistance, and an alumni network. These resources help create an enriching and rewarding online learning experience for working adult college students.

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