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Online Degrees in Pennsylvania (PA)

A new study from the Lumina Foundation sheds some light on educational attainment in Pennsylvania and where it might be headed. According to the study, 38.6 percent of the state's working age population held at least an associate's degree in 2011, up from 37.9 percent in 2008. That 2011 figure includes 589,625 adults with an associate's (8.76 percent) and 1,258,688 with a bachelor's degree (18.70 percent). Another 748,113 individuals, or 11.11 percent of the adult population, held a graduate or professional degree as well. Furthermore, as much as 17.64 percent, or 1,187,489 adults, had some college experience, but no degree.

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No matter how you look at it, those figures go to show just how important higher education is in Pennsylvania. After all, the numbers reveal that more than 56 percent of working age adults in the state have at least attempted to earn some college credit. Fortunately, students who wish to pursue on-campus or online education in Pennsylvania will find plenty of options. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the state is home to 140 colleges and universities where students can earn a bachelor's degree.

  1. Why Should I Earn a Degree in Pennsylvania?
  2. What Makes Pennsylvania Ideal for Online Education?
  3. Top 10 Degrees in Pennsylvania
  4. Top Cities and Metros for Pennsylvania College Students
  5. College Roadmap
  6. Scholarships and Financial Aid
  7. Discover Degree Opportunities

Why Should I Earn a Degree in Pennsylvania?

Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show that Pennsylvania is home to 5,616,820 workers, who earn a mean annual wage of $45,280. Although workers are spread throughout many industries within the state, the following jobs employ far more than their share of college graduates:

Occupation

Number of Workers in 2013

Registered Nurses

124,750

General and Operations Managers

62,640

Elementary School Teachers

56,250

Accountants and Auditors

54,180

Secondary School Teachers

53,310

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

36,060

Lawyers

24,990

Computer User Support Specialists

22,870

Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists

22,330

Computer Systems Analysts

22,200

Management Analysts

19,360

Child, Family, and School Social Workers

15,780

The state of Pennsylvania is made up of 14 different metropolitan statistical areas, the largest of which are the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, Pittsburgh, and Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton metros. Although Pennsylvania contains both big cities and rural areas, a diverse array of industries call the state home. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, key industries in the state include energy, technology, advanced manufacturing and materials, agribusiness, tourism, life sciences, and film. In the field of life sciences alone, more than 250 bio-health related firms launched in Pennsylvania from 2008 to 2011.

Students who wish to pursue a degree in any of these fields will find plenty of opportunity to do so in the state. In addition to the many unique private schools in the state, Pennsylvania is also home to Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education, a collaborative education system that currently includes 14 schools. According to their website, the PSSHA includes schools that offer the lowest cost bachelor's degrees in the state and allows for an easy transfer of credits between member schools. College Board statistics show that average tuition and fees for a four-year public college or university in Pennsylvania came in at $12,802 for the 2013-14 school year.

Beyond educational attainment, the state of Pennsylvania has a lot to offer in terms of history, culture, and entertainment. Here are five interesting facts about Pennsylvania that might surprise you:

  • Philadelphia was home to the federal government from approximately 1776 to 1800. Both the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were written in the state.
  • Hershey, Pennsylvania is home to Hersheypark and considered the "Chocolate Capital of the United States."
  • The Philadelphia Zoo was the first zoo built in the United States. It was founded by Benjamin Franklin.
  • The state of Pennsylvania has the highest percentage of Amish citizens in the United States. Many travelers flock to the state in order to observe the Amish and take a peek into the past.
  • Groundhog Day is celebrated each February in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Americans travel from near and far to find out how many more weeks of winter are left.

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What Makes Pennsylvania Ideal for Online Education?

Students pursuing online education in Pennsylvania are in good company. Throughout the state, many Pennsylvania residents are currently in the midst of earning a degree or already have one. And some parts of the state report higher educational attainment than others, including these counties:

  • Chester: 58.04 percent
  • Montgomery: 55.80 percent
  • Centre: 49.79 percent
  • Allegheny: 49.58 percent
  • Delaware: 45.98 percent
  • Butler: 44.18 percent
  • Cumberland 43.93 percent

Those who seek out distance learning in Pennsylvania can also access a whole host of resources via PA Universities Online. The online consortium, which includes 14 state universities that collectively make up the PA State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), was formed in order to increase access to online higher education within the state. In addition to the online consortium of schools, many other colleges and universities have begun offering online degree programs or courses alongside their traditional offerings.

Students who are able to take advantage of online education in Pennsylvania will find themselves in a particularly powerful position when it comes to the management of their own time, says Dr. Scott Hammond, an online educator that works for Utah State University. That's because students can spend less time dealing with the logistics of their learning experience and use it to learn something instead.

"You don't need to circle campus looking for a parking place, or run through crowded halls," says Hammond. "You don't need to find a front row seat, because online, all rows are front rows."

However, as Hammond points out, that shouldn't be the main reasons students choose an online degree program, nor will it work for everyone. Each students has his or her own needs and learning style to take into consideration and online learning is certainly not "one size fits all."

"Students should NOT pick online degree programs for convenience," Hammond warns. "Learning style is very important, and if social interaction stimulates your learning then online might not work for you."

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Top 10 Degrees in Pennsylvania

The U.S. Department of Labor predicts plentiful employment opportunities in a wide range of fields and occupations. Based on that list, the following associate and bachelor's degrees could be particularly promising in Pennsylvania during the coming decade:

Biomedical Engineering

A bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering typically leads to a career as a biomedical engineer. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Labor and Bureau of Labor Statistics predict that demand for biomedical engineers could increase as much as 41 percent in Pennsylvania from 2012 to 2022. Several schools offer degrees in this field, but the following colleges and universities stand out:

  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Gannon University

Sonography & Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Most students who pursue a degree in sonography do so in order to begin a career as a diagnostic medical sonographer or cardiovascular and vascular technologist. Because of an overall high demand for health care, the U.S. Department of Labor projects employment of diagnostic medical sonographers to increase 36 percent in Pennsylvania between 2012 and 2022. Meanwhile, Projections Central predicts 27.2 percent job growth for cardiovascular technologists and technicians during the same timeframe. The following top Pennsylvania schools can help you earn this in-demand degree:

  • Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences
  • Lackawanna College
  • Misericordia University

Computer Science

Earning a degree in computer science could lead to a career in almost any field that uses technology and computers. Some of the most popular career paths for this degree include software programming, information security, software development, and computer systems analysts. Many of these careers are expected to grow significantly in Pennsylvania over the coming decade. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts demand for information security analysts to increase 34 percent in Pennsylvania from 2012 to 2022. Meanwhile, jobs for computer systems analysts are expected to surge 25 percent during that time frame. The following Pennsylvania schools offer top-notch computer science degrees:

  • York College of Pennsylvania
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

Hospitality Management

Pennsylvania's bustling tourism industry needs professionals who can manage its many facets. Students who pursue this degree often end up working in hotel or resort management, tourism, or as meeting, convention, and event planners. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that employment of meeting, convention, and event planners will increase 29 percent during the decade leading up to 2022. The following schools offer excellent programs that can help you get your foot in the door:

  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Indiana University of Pennsylvania
  • Pennsylvania College of Technology

Marketing

Students who pursue a degree in marketing often end up working as marketing managers, marketing specialists, or market research analysts. Thanks to heavy growth in this field, job opportunities for marketing specialists and market research analysts, specifically, are expected to increase 28 percent in Pennsylvania between 2012 and 2022. The following Pennsylvania schools offer top-notch marketing degrees:

  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Pennsylvania College of Technology

Financial Planning

Students who pursue financial planning degrees or certification in Pennsylvania commonly do so in order to work as financial advisors or become Certified Financial Planners (CFPs). The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that employment of personal financial advisors will increase 27 percent in the state from 2012 to 2022. The following Pennsylvania schools can put you on the fast track to this degree or certification:

  • Pennsylvania State University Online
  • Pennsylvania College of Technology
  • Saint Joseph's University

Occupational Therapy Assistant

Earning a degree in occupational therapy assisting is the best way to begin a career as an occupational therapy assistant. And thanks to the demand in this field, demand for occupational therapy assistants is expected to grow 27 percent in Pennsylvania from 2012 to 2022. The following Pennsylvania schools offer this degree to students:

  • Harcum College
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Pennsylvania College of Technology

Logistics

Earning a degree in logistics could help you begin a career that deals with any part of the supply chain, although many pursue this degree in order to work as a logistician, inventory specialist, materials planner, or in supply chain management. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts plenty of opportunity for logisticians, with an expected job growth of 26 percent between 2012 and 2022. These top schools offer logistics degrees in Pennsylvania:

  • Shippensburg University
  • Harrisburg Area Community College
  • Pennsylvania State University

Petroleum Engineering

A degree in petroleum engineering can put you on the fast track toward a career as a petroleum engineer in any facet of the gas extraction industry. Because of our continued dependence on petroleum products, employment in this field is expected to surge 22 percent in Pennsylvania from 2012 to 2022. Several schools in Pennsylvania offer exemplary programs in this field, including the following schools:

  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Saint Francis University
  • University of Pittsburgh

Respiratory Therapy

Respiratory therapy degrees can qualify students for several careers in the field of health care. However, most students earn this degree in order to begin a career as a respiratory therapist. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, job openings for respiratory therapists should increase 20 percent between 2012 and 2022. The following Pennsylvania schools offer top-notch respiratory therapy programs:

  • Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences
  • Millersville University
  • Community College of Philadelphia

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Top Cities and Metros for Pennsylvania College Students

Philadelphia

With over 1.5 million residents according to 2013 U.S. Census estimates, Philadelphia is the largest city in the state of Pennsylvania by far. And, because of its sheer size, it isn't surprising that there are plenty of on-campus and distance learning opportunities to be found within the city limits. As U.S. Census data shows, 23.2 percent of the city's working age population held at least a bachelor's degree in the years 2008-2012, compared to 80.4 percent who had at least a high school diploma. With a median housing value of only $142,300, Philadelphia sets itself apart as a fairly affordable place to put down roots on the country's east coast. As the economic center of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia is also home to a wide range of industries and Fortune 500 companies, in addition to the Philadelphia Stock Exchange. The following top-notch schools also call Philadelphia home:

Drexel University

As one of the largest private universities in the country, Drexel University boasts an enrollment of over 26,000 students from around the globe. In addition to campuses in Philadelphia and other regional sites, Drexel is proud to offer Drexel Online, an online college that offers distance learning in Pennsylvania and beyond. During the 2014 school year, Drexel Online hosted 1,752 undergraduate and 3,435 graduate students. Here are a few of the degree programs Drexel is famous for:

  • Online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
  • Online Bachelor of Science in Health Services Administration
  • Online Master of Business Administration

University of Pennsylvania

With a total enrollment of over 24,000 students, the University of Pennsylvania is one of the biggest schools in the state of Pennsylvania. However, size isn't a factor when it comes to one-on-one learning. The school still has a student-to-faculty ratio of 6:1. Tuition for the 2014-15 school year came in at $47,668 for undergraduate students, and the school is known for the following degree programs:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Architecture
  • Bachelor of Science in Engineering
  • Bachelor of Arts in International Relations

LaSalle University

With a total student body of 6,732 students from 39 states and 43 foreign countries, LaSalle University has maintained a focus on high quality, affordable higher education ever since its inception in 1863. Currently, the school offers 49 undergraduate majors, 43 minors, 22 graduate programs, and 55 separate certificate programs. The school is known for the following degree programs:

  • Bachelor of Science in Public Health
  • Online RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Online Master of Science in Computer Information Science

Pittsburgh

U.S. Census Bureau estimates show that Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was home to approximately 305,841 citizens in 2013. More than 35 percent of the city residents ages 26-64 held at least a bachelor's degree in 2008-2012, compared to the 89.8 percent who held a high school diploma. The Pittsburgh economy is known for being heavy on steel, as well as its involvement in the aluminum, gas, shipbuilding, and transportation industries. Pittsburgh also has many world-renowned museums, art galleries, parks, and libraries that not only add value to the city, but also add to its cultural diversity. Pittsburgh is also known for the following colleges and universities:

University of Pittsburgh

With almost 25,000 undergraduate and over 10,000 graduate students, the University of Pittsburgh is a force to be reckoned with in the region. However, a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1 ensures that no students will be left behind. Current tuition and fees vary depending on degree program, but average out to approximately $17,000 per year for in-state students. The University of Pittsburgh is known for the following degrees:

  • Bachelor of Science in Actuarial Mathematics
  • Bachelor of Science in Bioinformatics
  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science

Chatham University

Chatham University is a tiny, private college with 145 years of history and only 2,170 undergraduate and graduate students. The school has a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio and 88 percent of school faculty members have the terminal degree in their field. Tuition for full-time students averages out to $16,117 per term for the 2014-15 school year. Chatham is known for the following degree programs:

  • Online RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminology
  • Bachelor of Science in Mathematics

Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University is a global research university with more than 12,000 students and an award-winning faculty. Students who pursue a degree here can choose to study at one of the seven colleges and schools available. Carnegie Mellon is known for the following top-notch degree programs:

  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
  • Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering
  • Master of Business Administration

Allentown

Allentown is the third largest city in the state of Pennsylvania with 118,577 residents in 2013, according to U.S. Census estimates. Among those residents, only 16.2 percent of working adults held a bachelor's degree or higher from 2008-2012. However, 75.9 percent had earned at least a high school diploma. As part of Lehigh County, Allentown also sits on the Lehigh River, one of the more prominent bodies of water in the area. Allentown is known as the city where the Liberty Bell was hidden from British soldiers during the American Revolutionary War. Because of that, the city holds a significant place in our nation's history. Several schools call Allentown home, including these top colleges and universities:

Cedar Crest College

Founded in 1867, Cedar Crest College is an institution of higher education aimed at helping women earn degrees that can put them on the fast track toward a career. In addition to its on-campus offerings, Cedar Crest also offers a wide range of online degree options and courses. Undergraduate tuition costs averaged out to $943 per credit hour for daytime courses and $505 per credit hour for evening, weekend, and online courses. The school is known for the following degree programs:

  • Bachelor of Science in Accounting
  • Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education
  • Master of Science in Forensic Science

Muhlenberg College

As a small liberal arts school with an enrollment of approximately 2,200 students, Muhlenberg College offers pre-professional studies in an intimate learning atmosphere. Tuition costs for the 2014-15 school year came in at $54,480 including tuition, fees, and room and board. Muhlenberg is known for the following degree programs:

  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering
  • Master of Occupational Therapy

Lehigh Carbon Community College

Lehigh Carbon Community College has several campuses in the state, including one in Allentown, Pennsylvania. As a community college system, LCCC focuses mainly on two-year degrees and career preparation programs, including specialized diploma programs. Tuition and fees for full-time in-state students averaged out to $3,500 for the 2014-15 school year, although adding costs such as books, room and board, and transportation brings the total cost to nearly $12,000 per year. The school is known for the following degree programs:

  • Associate of Applied Science in Business Management
  • Associate of Applied Science in Occupational Therapy Assisting
  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Technical Leadership

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College Roadmap

Now that you have your heart set on pursuing a degree in Pennsylvania, it's time to learn more about the state itself. What better way to do that than to take a road trip through Pennsylvania and check it out in person? Doing so might be the only way to see what kind of environment the state offers both students and families. If you decide to go for it, this college roadmap can help:

Start your adventure out west in Pittsburgh. There, you can explore the city itself and check out the campuses of colleges like the University of Pittsburgh, Chatham University, Duquesne University, and Carnegie Mellon University. Next, head slightly north to check out Westminster College and Allegheny College near the Allegheny National Forest.

Once you've explored the lush greenery and colleges in the northwestern part of the state, it's time to head south and east toward Williamsport, Mechanicsburg, and Elizabethtown. There, you can spend some time in the state's more rural areas and check out the campuses of schools like Lycoming College, Messiah College, and Elizabethtown College. Of course, heading east will bring you to a few of the most prestigious schools in the nation including Swarthmore College, Bryn Mawr College, and Haverford College.

Once you've taken in the beauty of those historic campuses, drive north to Allentown where you'll find Muhlenberg College and Cedar Crest College, in addition to several community colleges. After that, finish out your trip in beautiful Philadelphia. Take in the big city atmosphere and spend some time getting a feel for the campuses at the University of Pennsylvania and LaSalle University.

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Scholarships and Financial Aid

Pennsylvania students may qualify for certain types of federal financial aid including Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants, and Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants. In order to determine eligibility, students need to fill out a FAFSA form and submit it as soon as they begin searching for the right school. Many grants and scholarships are available to residents, although eligibility is based on a variety of factors. The following list offers a sample of the many state-specific scholarships available in Pennsylvania:

  • Greater Pittsburgh Golf Course Superintendents Association Scholarship
  • Jack E. Barger, Sr. Memorial Nursing Scholarship
  • Kids' Chance of Pennsylvania Scholarships
  • Michael Baker Corporation Scholarship Program for Diversity in Engineering
  • Nathaniel Alston Student Achievement Scholarship
  • Nightingale Awards of Pennsylvania Scholarship
  • Pennsylvania Engineering Foundation Grant
  • Pennsylvania Knights Templar Educational Foundation Scholarships
  • Pennsylvania Oratorical Contest
  • Pennsylvania Society of Public Accountants Scholarship
  • Pennsylvania State Grant Program

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Sources:
"A Stronger Nation through Higher Education," Lumina Foundation, http://www.luminafoundation.org/stronger_nation/report/#pennsylvania
"Bureau of Labor Statistics," May 2013 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Pennsylvania, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_pa.htm
"CareerOneStop," U.S. Department of Labor, http://www.careerinfonet.org/oview1.asp?next=oview1&Level=edu3&optstatus=&jobfam=&id=1&nodeid=3&soccode=&stfips=42&ShowAll=
"Key Industries," Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, http://newpa.com/business/key-industries
"National Center for Education Statistics," http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=PA&l=93
"PA Universities Online," http://www.pauniversitiesonline.edu/SitePages/splash.aspx
"Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education," http://www.passhe.edu/Pages/default.aspx
"Projections Central," https://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
"State and County Quickfacts," U.S. Census, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/42/42101.html
"Tuition and Fees by Sector and State Over Time," College Board, http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-and-fees-sector-and-state-over-time

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