According to a recent study from the Lumina Foundation and its corresponding report, A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, the rate of higher education in the state of Washington remains relatively high. Specifically, approximately 43.8 percent of the working age population (ages 25-64) in Washington held a two-year or four-year degree in 2013, which is up from the 42 percent reported in 2008.
Breaking the numbers down further reveals more about educational attainment in the state. According to figures from the Lumina Foundation, 22.16 percent, or 832,190 Washington residents ages 25-64, held a high school diploma in 2013. Meanwhile, 24.68 percent, or 927,005 adult residents, had some college experience but no degree.
The percentage of degreed adults in Washington at each academic level is as follows: Associate degree holders accounted for 10.3 percent of the population in 2013, or 386,979 residents; those with a bachelor's degree made up 21.92 percent of the adult population, or 822,996 residents; and 11.57 percent, or 434,532 adult residents, possessed a graduate or professional degree.
The key takeaway here is this: Although many Washington residents already have a college degree, many more do not. As we mentioned above, almost 25 percent of Washington residents ages 25-63 have some college credit, but no degree.
Fortunately, there are plenty of colleges and universities that offer on-campus and distance learning in Washington. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are currently 46 colleges and universities in Washington where students can earn a bachelor's degree. Furthermore, another 56 Washington schools offer students the opportunity to earn an associate degree. Both on-campus and online degrees in Washington are available, making it possible for nearly anyone to return to college to finish earning their diploma.
- Why Should I Earn a Degree in Washington?
- What Makes Washington Ideal for Online Education?
- Top 10 Degrees in Washington
- Top Cities for Washington College Students
- College Roadmap
- Scholarships and Financial Aid
- Discover Degree Opportunities
Why Should I Earn a Degree in Washington?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 2.9 million Washington residents were part of the state's workforce in May of 2014, and those workers earned a mean annual wage of $52,540. Although many industries call the state home, some industries and occupations employ a bigger share of the state's workers than others. BLS data shows the following occupations as some of Washington's most popular for college graduates in 2014:
Number of Workers in 2014
Software Developers, Applications
Business Operations Specialists
Elementary School Teachers
Accountants and Auditors
Computer Systems Analysts
Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists
Human Resources Specialists
Major metropolitan areas in Washington state include the Lewiston metro area, the Moses Lake-Othello area, the Seattle metropolitan area, and the Wenatchee-West Wenatchee metro area. Other major areas include those that spill out into neighboring states, such as the Portland metropolitan area and the Pullman-Moscow ID-WA metro area.
Colleges that offer on-campus and online education in Washington are spread throughout the state. Washington State University has campuses in Seattle, Richland, Pullman, and Vancouver, for example. Meanwhile, a vast array of community colleges and trade schools are scattered throughout the state. While some schools offer mainly on-campus learning, many offer online degree options, which can be earned from anywhere a student can find an internet connection.
According to tuition data from College Board, college tuition in Washington has remained relatively stable. As of the 2014-15 school year, tuition at public two-year schools averaged out to $4,291, while tuition and fees at public four-year institutions came out to $10,846. Tuition at private nonprofit four-year schools was significantly higher however at $35,527 that same year.
Students who graduate with on-campus or online degrees in Washington will be greeted with a number of diverse industries that are currently experiencing exceptional growth. According to the Washington Department of Commerce, the biggest industries in the state include aerospace, clean technology, information and computer technology, life sciences and global health, advanced manufacturing, maritime, agriculture and food manufacturing, and military and defense. These bustling industries and the many jobs they offer are one of the main reasons people choose to pursue degrees in Washington. With so many potential careers and future industries to choose from, the state has become an attractive area for people both young and old.
But jobs aren't the only thing that bring people to Washington. In addition to the excellent employment prospects the state has to offer, several interesting facts and factors continue to attract residents in droves. Here are a few:
- Ever heard the saying, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away?" If that saying is true, you'll be in good shape in Washington. It produces more apples than any other state in the union.
- Washington state is beautiful and scenic with three national parks, over 1,000 areas on the National Register of Historic Places, and 186 state parks.
- Washington is America's coffee capital, with the first Starbucks in existence and more bean roasters than any other region in the state.
- According to government data, Seattle boasts the highest concentration of aerospace jobs in the United States.
- Love beer? Washington state growers produce more than 70 percent of the nation's hops.
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What Makes Washington Ideal for Online Education?
No matter how you look at it, it's plain to see that educational attainment in Washington is on the rise. However, certain counties are leading the charge with the most adults holding a two-year degree or higher:
- Whitman: 63.49%
- King: 56.98%
- San Juan: 46.13%
- Whatcom: 44.51%
- Thurston: 43.23%
- Kittitas: 42.63%
- Spokane: 41.89%
The fact that higher education has become so popular among Washington residents isn't by accident. The fact is, more and more occupations require a degree or specific certifications to get started, and the state's residents have taken notice. Fortunately, there are a ton of options for online education in Washington students can take advantage of.
One such online school is Western Governor's University of Washington. According to Jean Floten, chancellor of the online university, her school and others in the area offer a vast array of online options geared to students who prefer the flexibility that comes with these type of programs.
And in Washington State, the ability to study from home may be especially important. According to Chancellor Floten, commuting can be a challenge in certain regions of the state.
"Particularly in my home state of Washington, where most university campuses are concentrated in the Puget Sound region and the easternmost portion of the state, the online modality is an excellent option for both place-bound students -- those unable to commute to a brick-and-mortar university -- and working adults who want to complete a degree," she explains.
But the lack of a commute isn't the only reason distance education has become so popular in Washington. In addition, as Floten notes, online education is much easier to customize.
"A big difference between the online model and that of traditional, brick-and-mortar universities is customization and personalization. Access to far and deep reaching metrics is greater in an online setting," she says. "We have precise data about how quickly a student is progressing, as well as where and when they need support. It's so precise mentors can even tell exactly how long a student spent reading a certain section of a text."
According to Floten, students who seek out online degrees in Washington should first make sure their potential school is accredited. Next, they should seek out rigorous programs that will challenge them to truly increase knowledge and learn new skills.
"I'd advise anyone considering an online education to do their research. The higher education landscape is teeming with online options," warns Floten. "Find an institution that is accredited. Accreditation is a process of validation in which colleges and universities are measured -- and it means the degree a graduate leaves with will be valued and respected."
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Top 10 Degrees in Washington
U.S. Department of Labor data predicts exceptional growth for certain careers in the state that require a college degree. We used that data, along with employment projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, to compile this list of top degrees in the state:
Growing demand for health care nationwide is expected to contribute to a rise in job opportunities for workers in sonography. Typically, students pursue a degree in this field to begin a career as a diagnostic medical sonographer. According to BLS data, employment of diagnostic medical sonographers is expected to increase 37 percent in Washington from 2012 to 2022. The BLS reports that these workers earned a mean annual wage of $82,550 in the state in 2014. Students considering this career should check out these top-notch Washington schools:
- Bellevue College
- Seattle University
- Spokane Community College
Hospitality and tourism continue to thrive in Washington, which means additional jobs in this field. One career with exceptional expected growth is meeting, convention, and event planning, which typically requires a degree in hospitality management or a related field. According to the BLS, jobs for meeting, convention, and event planners are expected to increase 36 percent in Washington from 2012 to 2022. These professionals earned a mean annual wage of $50,950 in the state in 2014. Meanwhile, another career that can result from this degree, lodging managers, earned a mean annual wage of $51,530 that same year. If you want to learn more about this degree and field, check out these schools:
- Northwest Indian College
- South Seattle College
- Washington State University
English and Foreign Language
The use of foreign languages is growing all over the country, and Washington is no exception. Because of this, jobs for interpreters and translators, which typically require a degree in English and/or a foreign language, are expected to surge 35 percent in the state from 2012 to 2022. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, interpreters and translators in Washington earned a mean annual wage of $45,150 in 2014. If you want to learn more about this exciting career and degree, check out these schools:
- Central Washington University
- Pacific Lutheran University
- Seattle Pacific University
Multimedia Arts and Animation
Being able to bring drawings and computer graphics to life is a skill that is coveted by employers in the media arts and animation. According to the BLS, demand for multimedia artists and animators in Washington is expected to increase by as much as 34 percent from 2012 to 2022. Meanwhile, job opportunities for film and video editors and art directors are expected to rise 28 percent over the same period. With large demand comes high pay as well. As the BLS reports, multimedia artists and animators in Washington earned a mean annual wage of $75,740 in 2014. If you have some artistic ability and a creative mind, look into these programs:
- Central Washington University
- Olympic College
- Shoreline Community College
Our growing population can only mean one thing -- increased demand for housing, commercial buildings, and other developments. Because of this, job opportunities in construction management and cost estimating are expected to increase over the coming decade. Specifically, the BLS predicts employment of cost estimators in Washington to rise 34 percent from 2012 to 2022, while employment of construction managers is expected to surge 30 percent. Cost estimators earned a mean annual wage of $69,190 in Washington in 2014, while construction managers in the state earned $98,320. If you want to learn more about a degree in construction management, check out these schools:
- Central Washington University
- Edmonds Community College
- Washington State University
The court of law and its importance aren't going anywhere, which is why jobs in this field will always be in demand. Although a degree in paralegal studies can also lead to a career as a legal assistant, it is primarily earned by those who want to begin working as a paralegal. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of paralegals and legal assistants is expected to increase 33 percent in Washington from 2012 to 2022. Additionally, these workers earned a mean annual wage of $56,590 in the state in 2014. If you want to learn more, check out these schools:
- Clark College
- Highline College
- Tacoma Community College
Physical Therapy Assisting
Most people who earn a degree in physical therapy assisting do so for an obvious reason -- to become a physical therapy assistant. And because of the growing demand for all jobs in healthcare, this might be a good bet. The BLS reports that job opportunities for physical therapy assistants in Washington could increase by as much as 31 percent during the decade leading up to 2022. Even better, the mean annual wage for these workers was $55,450 in 2014, and all for a job that only requires an associate's degree. Interested in learning more? Check out these top-notch Washington schools:
- Green River Community College
- Spokane Falls Community College
- Whatcom Community College
The Internet continues to grow at an incredible pace with no end in sight, which is why professionals who hone their web development skills might have a leg up on the rest. Most people who pursue a degree in web development or design do so in order to work as a web developer or computer programmer. According to the BLS, jobs for web developers especially are expected to be in good shape over the next decade. Employment for these workers is expected to increase 29 percent in Washington from 2012 to 2022. Meanwhile, web developers in Washington earned a mean annual wage of $82,420 in 2014. Students who want to learn more about these programs should check out these schools:
- Bellevue College
- Peninsula College
- Clover Park Technical College
Earning a degree in veterinary technology is the fastest way to get your foot in the door as a veterinarian technologist or technician. And because animals will always need care, jobs in this field are expected to be plentiful in coming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job openings for veterinarian technologists and technicians in Washington are expected to surge 28 percent from 2012 to 2022. And according to the BLS, these professionals earned a mean annual wage of $34,900 in 2014. If you love animals and want to learn more, consider exploring these Washington-based schools:
- Bellingham Technical College
- Renton Technical College
- Yakima Valley Community College
Earning a degree in actuarial science is one of the best ways to get started in a career as an actuary. Because of the demand for advanced math and professionals who can harness its power, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of actuaries in Washington should increase 27 percent from 2012 to 2022. According to the BLS, actuaries earned a mean annual wage of $98,550 in Washington in 2014. Want to find out more? Check out these schools:
- Central Washington University
- Washington State University
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Top Cities for Washington College Students
According to U.S. Census Bureau data, Washington's largest city, Seattle, was home to roughly 652,405 residents in 2013. Approximately 57.4 percent of the adult population ages 25-64 held at least a bachelor's degree at that time, compared to only 31.9 percent statewide. The median housing value in Seattle came in quite high at $433,800 from 2009-2013, but so are incomes. As the U.S. Census notes, the median household income in Seattle was $65,277 during the same timeframe.
Seattle sits in the Seattle metropolitan area, a region of the country known for its natural beauty and the many technology firms that call the area home. Meanwhile, it is also known for a number of colleges and universities that feature both on-campus and online options. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 26 colleges, universities, and trade schools reside in the Seattle area. The following schools are a few that stand out:
Seattle Central College
Seattle Central College is a public four-year school that offers dynamic, in-demand degrees in a number of popular fields. Currently, their degree options include seven transfer associate degree programs, 22 associate degree programs, 16 professional-technical certificate programs, and two four-year bachelor's degree programs. Tuition and fees came out to $3,893 during the 2014-15 school year for in-state students, and the student-to-faculty ratio is reported at 19:1. According to the latest data, approximately seven percent of the school's 16,336 students take advantage of their e-learning opportunities. Here are a few of the most popular degree programs offered:
- Associate of Arts with emphasis in Global Health
- Associate of Applied Science in Nursing
- Bachelor of Applied Science in Allied Health
North Seattle College
North Seattle College is a two-year school aimed at both readying students for the workforce and preparing them for transfer to a four-year university. Fall 2013 enrollment included 5,907 students, with 30 percent attending school full-time. The school conferred approximately 1,147 degrees during the 2012-2013 school year, and the vast majority of those were associate degrees. Tuition was only $3,862 for in-state students during the 2014-15 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. A few of their most popular degree programs are as follows:
- Bachelor of Applied Science in International Business
- Associate of Applied Science in Accounting
- Associate of Applied Science in Medical Assisting
South Seattle College
South Seattle College is another two-year school that shares the goal of helping students earn a two-year degree or transfer to a four-year school. The total number of students in attendance as of 2013 was 6,356, and average tuition that year came out to $3,824 for in-state students. As much as 41 percent of the school's student population worked full-time or part-time during the 2013 school year. Some of their most popular programs are:
- Associate of Applied Science in Engineering Technology
- Associate of Applied Science in Aerospace Composites Technology
- Computer Support Specialist Certificate
As the county seat of Spokane County, Spokane is the largest city in the region. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, the area had 210,721 residents as of 2013, with a median household income of $42,092. Educational attainment in Spokane has remained rather low compared to the rest of the state. According to the most recent data, only 28.6 percent of the city's adult population held at least a bachelor's degree from 2009-2013. The median price of homes in the area remains low, however, at only $160,500 in that same time period. Although the Spokane area only features a handful of schools, it is still an excellent city to earn a degree and live in due to its unique vibe and glutton of affordable housing. Check out these Spokane schools for more information on earning a degree in the area:
Washington State University Spokane
Washington State University Spokane has a current enrollment of 1,458 students, with an average age of 29. The vast majority of its students pursue studies in either nursing or pharmacy, although they offer a number of degree programs in majors outside of healthcare. Tuition and fees are currently $11,570 for undergraduate students, although a large percentage of the student population does qualify for financial aid. Some of their most popular programs are:
- Master of Health Policy & Administration
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing
- Doctor of Pharmacy
Moody Bible Institute - Spokane
Moody Bible Institute is a four-year private school aimed at preparing students for careers in religion. Full-time students can expect to pay approximately $4,030 per semester, and live off or on campus. Some of their most popular degree programs are listed below:
- Bachelor of Arts in Youth Ministry
- Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Language
- Bachelor of Arts in Intercultural Ministries
As part of the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan division, Tacoma is home to approximately 203,446 residents. As the U.S. Census Bureau notes, only 24.9 percent of Tacoma's adult population held a bachelor's degree from 2009-2013, and the median household income was reported as $50,503. Median housing value came in at $216,700, which is almost on par with the national average.
Tacoma exists in the beautiful Puget Sound region of Washington, which serves as a bustling center of economic activity. Some of its largest employers include Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Multicare Health System, and the state of Washington. Students who choose to pursue on-campus or online education in the Tacoma area have several options to choose from, including these schools:
Everest College - Tacoma
Everest College of Tacoma is a small, career-oriented school aimed at preparing students for the real world by means of hands-on instruction, dedicated instructors, and small work teams and classes. The school currently offers six diploma programs, with an average of tuition of $13,500 for the 2014-15 school year. The Tacoma campus enrolls approximately 859 students and features a student-to-faculty ratio of 30:1. Students flock to these innovative diploma programs:
- Dental Assistant Diploma
- Medical Assistant Diploma
- Pharmacy Technician Diploma
Tacoma Community College
Tacoma Community College offers 38 career and technical programs aimed at preparing students for real world careers. Almost 14,000 are enrolled at any given time, and tuition works out to $109.59 per credit hour for resident students, although many qualify for financial aid. With both transfer and career training programs available, students who choose Tacoma Community College have plenty of options. Some of their degree programs stay full year-round, including these:
- Associate of Applied Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography
- Associate of Applied Science in Radiologic Science
- Associate of Science in Nursing
University of Washington - Tacoma
The University of Washington - Tacoma accepts both first-year and transfer students. With a total enrollment of 4,501 for the 2014-15 school year, the school offers a vast array of undergraduate and graduate degree programs aimed to please anyone's academic needs. Tuition for the 2014-15 school year came out to $12,262 for in-state students, although approximately 70 percent qualified for financial aid. The Tacoma campus is accredited as a unit of the University of Washington by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges, and features 20 separate buildings on 46 acres. Many UW Tacoma students choose to pursue one of these three degree programs:
- Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering
- Bachelor of Arts in Healthcare Leadership
- Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice
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Once you've decided to pursue on-campus or online education in Washington, you still have plenty of research ahead of you. If you really want to see what the schools in Washington are like, you could always take a road trip through the area to see for yourself. If you do, consider this college roadmap:
Start your journey in the eastern part of the state in Spokane. There you can check out the campuses of both Spokane Community College and Washington State University at Spokane, while also learning the best way to navigate the state's unique landscape.
Since most schools in Washington reside in the Puget Sound area, you'll want to head straight west on I-90 from there. Starting in Tacoma, you can check out both Tacoma Community College and the University of Washington at Tacoma. Next up, explore the Bellevue area and the campus of Bellevue College, which just so happens to offer the largest selection of online degree programs in the area.
In Seattle, explore the campuses of Seattle Central College, North Seattle College, and South Seattle College.
Then, finish your journey by heading slightly north to Bellingham. There you'll find schools such as Bellingham Technical College, Northwest Indian College, Western Washington University, and Cascadia College, to name a few.
After taking in all these schools, you should have a better idea of which is right for you. And whether you decide to pursue traditional or online education in Washington, it's important to find a school that reflects your personality and academic goals.
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Scholarships and Financial Aid
One of the easiest ways to determine whether you qualify for financial aid is to fill out a Federal Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA form. Types of federal aid can include Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants, or Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants.
Meanwhile, the Washington Student Achievement Council lists a number of state-specific aid opportunities on their website, including these:
- State Need Grant
- College Bound Scholarship
- State Work Study
- American Indian Endowed Scholarship
- John R. Justice Loan Repayment
- Aerospace Loan Program
- Alternative Routes to Teaching
Also make sure to determine whether your school of choice offers any aid opportunities you might qualify for. While some aid may come in the form of scholarships and gifts, other kinds must be paid back over time. Before you accept any financial aid package, it's up to you to make sure you know the difference.
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"A Stronger Nation through Higher Education," Lumina Foundation, Washington, http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/#washington
College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
Financial Aid Overview, Washington Student Achievement Council, http://www.wsac.wa.gov/sfa-overview
"May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_wa.htm
"Our Key Sectors," Washington Department of Commerce, http://choosewashingtonstate.com/why-washington/our-key-sectors/
Seattle, State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/53/5363000.html
Spokane, State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/53/5367000.html
Tacoma, State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/53/5370000.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