Online Degrees in Illinois

When it comes to higher education, Illinois residents are in a class of their own. According to recent research from the Lumina Foundation, 41.7 percent of adults in the state ages 25-64 held at least a two-year degree as of 2011. including 563,984 individuals with an associate degree, 1,463,138 with a bachelor's degree, and 844,670 residents with a graduate or professional degree. In addition to the state's degree-holders, another 1.5 million residents (or 21.88 percent) have some college, but no degree, bringing the total percentage of Illinois adults with some college experience to over 63 percent.

The sheer number of Illinois residents who have pursued a college education shows just how important higher learning is to the state's residents. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the state of Illinois is home to 100 institutions of higher education where students can earn a bachelor's degree and 103 schools where students can pursue an associate's. Many of these schools offer traditional on-campus programs in addition to flexible, online courses -- or even online degree programs. In fact, distance learning in Illinois is on the rise and the trend is clear when you see just how many online programs the state has to offer.

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

Illinois is home to a large workforce that operates within a diverse array of industries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2013 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, the state boasts 5,704,700 workers, and a mean annual wage of $47,680. Residents are employed in careers in almost every industry, but the following professions employ an impressing number of the state's college graduates:

Number of Workers
Average Salary
Office and Administrative Support Occupations915,900$37,760
Sales and Related Occupations579,000$42,090
Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations501,550$23,060
Transportation and Material Moving Occupations473,430$36,840
Production Occupations434,220$37,150
Management Occupations425,610$111,130
Education, Training, and Library Occupations373,290$57,480
Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations341,890$76,250
Business and Financial Operations Occupations323,350$73,730
Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations207,630$49,000
Retail Salespersons186,820$27,950
Computer and Mathematical Occupations177,360$85,340
Construction and Extraction Occupations175,450$64,400
Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations169,140$30,350
Healthcare Support Occupations166,980$30,470
Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

The state of Illinois contains many metropolitan areas, including such bustling cities as Chicago, Champaign, Bloomington, Danville, Peoria, and Springfield. All of these areas, and others in the state, are home to colleges and universities that offer traditional educational opportunities as well as online degrees in a flexible, web-based format. Many of these programs can help prepare students for employment in one of the state's growing industries.

According to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, key industries in the state include advanced manufacturing, agribusiness, coal technology, energy and recycling, life sciences, logistics, and technology. Manufacturing is the number one business in Illinois as of 2014, employing 577,400 workers, or about 10 percent of the state's total workforce. Illinois is also home to several of the biggest life sciences companies in the world, including Abbott, Baxter, and Takeda.

As if that weren't enough, Chicago also contains the third largest intermodal port in the world, making it a main player in the world of logistics and supply. These industries, and others, add to the overall economic power of the state of Illinois -- a power that all residents and students who live there benefit from.

Now that we know about the industries and educational opportunities Illinois has to offer, it's time to learn more about this unique and dynamic state. From the big city scene in Chicago to its open plains, Illinois has something to offer everyone. Some fun facts for those considering distance learning in Illinois:

  • Illinois is home to some of the biggest and most successful sports franchises in history, including the Chicago Bears, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Cubs, and Chicago White Sox.
  • The state is full of cultural attractions students and families can enjoy, such as the Krannert Art Museum in Champaign-Urbana, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, and the Luthy Botanical Garden in Peoria.
  • Illinois' state animal -- the white-tailed deer -- can still be found roaming wild within the state. Other mammals calling Illinois home include raccoons, groundhogs, muskrats, red fox, and river otters.
  • The mythical home of Superman, Metropolis, is a city that actually exists in southern Illinois.
  • Taste of Chicago, held on the city's lakefront, is the world's largest outdoor food festival.


When it comes to online learning, Illinois has plenty to offer potential students. For example, Illinois Community Colleges Online (ILCCO) is a consortium of community colleges who have banded together to put their online offerings in one place. Furthermore, the University of Illinois and other big schools in the state have created special websites that showcase the online degree programs they offer. Although tuition costs vary depending on the school you choose, the College Board estimates that Illinois residents should expect to pay $12,500 on average for in-state tuition and fees for the 2013-14 school year. However, distance learning in Illinois is frequently less expensive due to several factors, including the lack of a need for a physical building and the sheer number of students online schools can reach.

Thanks to the state's ongoing dedication to higher education, students should have no problem finding online degrees in Illinois that meet their needs. In fact, the Illinois Community College Board reports that at least 48 community colleges in the state offer online courses or online degrees and certificate programs. Beyond community college, the vast majority of the state's larger public schools also boast online offerings -- from online associate degrees to doctoral programs and more.

And, according to the experts, there are plenty of reasons why online education continues to grow in popularity. Stephanie Freeman, program director from North Carolina Central University, says one of the biggest draws of online education is the convenience factor.

"You can start and stop your class whenever you want, for example," she says. "If you are a person who needs to gather your thoughts before you complete your class work, online classes may suit you better."

In addition to increased convenience, online students also benefit from being able to learn in the environment that suits them best, adds Freeman. "If you like complete silence as you work, you can create that environment."

While online education certainly has its perks, Freeman and others believe that students can improve their chance for success by considering certain aspects of online learning ahead of time and planning for them. For example, Freeman suggests that online students should work on their time management skills before starting an online degree program.

"Plan your days," she advises. "Stay on top of your assignments! Carve out time in each day to do something class related."

Freeman also suggests taking advantage of any scheduling or planning technology that is available in order to maximize efficiency. Additionally, online students need to master the art of independent learning before they can succeed. "They need to know how to pace themselves and get assignments done without a lot of supervision."

Government data shows that certain careers are expected to grow faster than most in Illinois. Growth projections combined with higher-than-average wages led to the creation of this list of the top ten degrees in Illinois:

Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical engineering degrees generally lead to careers in the life sciences, with the most common being biomedical engineer. Typically, biomedical engineers find work in hospital-based practices, industrial firms, or medical research laboratories. With life sciences on the rise in Illinois, Projections Central estimates that employment of biomedical engineers should increase 38 percent in the state from 2012 to 2022. If you're looking for a program in this field, these schools stand out:

  • Southern Illinois University
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Northwestern University

Physical Therapy

An aging and growing population means that jobs in health care are usually a good bet. Physical therapy degrees are no exception; Projections Central predicts job opportunities for physical therapists to rise 32.4 percent in Illinois between 2012 and 2022. If you're interested in getting started in this growing field, the following Illinois schools are your best bet:

  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Northern Illinois University
  • Bradley University


Companies always need professionals to help them identify their market and sell products, and that is especially true in a growing economy. That's why Projections Central predicts employment of market research analysts will increase 30.8 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations combined. Students looking for exemplary marketing programs in Illinois should look no further than these schools:

  • Illinois State University
  • Northern Illinois University
  • Western Illinois University


Students who earn a degree in sonography typically look for employment as a diagnostic medical sonographer or join a sales force that sells and markets sonography products. According to Projections Central, employment of diagnostic medical sonographers is expected to surge 30.1 percent in Illinois between 2012 and 2022. The following list of schools offer some of the best programs in the state:

  • College of DuPage
  • Triton College
  • Carl Sandburg College

Computer Science

Technology is here to stay in today's modern workforce, and there is nowhere that is more true than in Illinois. That's why students flock to computer science in droves, then use those degrees to start careers in computer programming, software engineering, and more. A computer science degree can also lead to a career as an information security analyst, a career that is projected to see a 30.1 percent increase in employment in Illinois from 2012 to 2022. If you're looking for the best computer science programs in the state, check out these schools:

  • University of Illinois Online
  • Western Illinois University
  • Illinois State University

Physician Assistant

Our need for health care is ongoing and expected to increase exponentially over the coming decades. That's why many students pursue a physician assistant degree and begin a career in this industry. Projections Central predicts 29 percent job growth for physician's assistants in Illinois between 2012 and 2022 in order to keep up with demand. The following schools lead the pack when it comes to degrees in this field:

  • Rush University
  • Midwestern University-Downer's Grove
  • Southern Illinois University


Students who join audiology programs typically do so to begin a career as an audiologist. Fortunately, the future is bright for these professionals in Illinois. Projections Central predicts that employment of audiologists should increase 28.5 percent in the state from 2012 to 2022. The following schools offer some of the best audiologist programs in Illinois:

  • Northern Illinois University
  • Illinois State University
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Management Information Systems

Degrees in management information systems can lead to several careers in technology and business, including database administration, information systems management, or computer systems analyst. As with most technology careers, these jobs are expected to see growth over the next decade. Specifically, Projections Central predicts that employment of computer systems analysts could increase as much as 26.4 percent between 2012 and 2022. Top schools offering degrees in management information systems are as follows:

  • University of Illinois Online
  • North Central College
  • Eastern Illinois University

Occupational Therapy

Most students pursue a degree in occupational therapy in order to begin a career as an occupational therapist or occupational therapy aide. Because of growing demand in this field, Projections Central predicts that employment for both occupations will increase 20.8 percent and 31 percent, respectively, from 2012 to 2022. Many schools offer occupational therapy degrees in Illinois, but the following stand out:

  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Governor's State University
  • Chicago State University


With Chicago playing such a huge rule in international logistics and supply chain management, it makes perfect sense why Illinois students would want to pursue a degree in this field. Fortunately, Projections Central predicts 24 percent job growth for logisticians in the state between 2012 and 2022. The following top Illinois schools offer degrees in this field:

  • Lewis University
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Western Illinois University

Certified Financial Planning

Personal financial advisors typically work toward their Certified Financial Planner (CFP) accreditation in order to boost their credentials and display their knowledge. Because of the prevalence of people who need financial advice, Projections Central expects employment in this field to increase 23.4 percent between 2012 and 2022. The following Illinois schools offer unmatched instruction in financial planning:

  • Northwestern University
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • DePaul University

Business Administration

A degree in business administration could lead to a management position in any facet of operations for a business or non-profit. It could also lead to a career as a management analyst as well -- a career which is predicted to see 21.8 percent growth in Illinois from 2012 to 2022. If you're interested in learning more about leadership in business, look into these top Illinois schools that offer business administration programs:

  • University of Illinois Online
  • Southern Illinois University
  • Northern Illinois University


With over 2.7 million residents, according to 2013 U.S. Census estimates, Chicago is the third largest city in the United States and the largest city in Illinois. Chicago is also the main component of Chicagoland, the term commonly used to describe the Chicago region and its surrounding areas. Because of Chicago's growing population, there are plenty of educational opportunities in the area -- both on-campus and online. U.S. Census data shows that 33.6 percent of adults ages 25-64 held at least a bachelor's degree as of 2012, and 80.5 percent held at least a high school diploma. Beyond educational attainment, there are plenty of reasons why students continue to choose the Chicago area to earn their degree. From its historic parks and public areas to its concert halls, street fairs, and shores on Lake Michigan, the Chicago area has it all. But when it comes to earning a college degree in Chicago, the following schools stand out:

University of Illinois at Chicago

The University of Illinois at Chicago is a public research university with a total enrollment of over 27,000 students. Currently, the school offers a wide range of degree programs to its students, including 82 bachelor's degrees, 93 master's degrees, and 66 doctoral programs. Tuition for the 2013/2014 school year averages $6,617 to $9,113 per semester in-state and $12,812 to $15,308 out-of-state. The University of Illinois at Chicago is known for the following degree programs:

  • Bachelor of Science in Architecture
  • Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management Degree Completion Program
  • Online Master of Science in Health Informatics

The University of Chicago

Founded in 1890 by John D. Rockefeller, the University of Chicago is now home to 5,692 undergraduate and 9,502 graduate and professional students. In addition to being known for academic excellence, the University of Chicago is famous for its beautiful setting on 217 acres in Chicago's Hyde Park region. With over 50 majors and 29 minors for undergraduates to choose from, the school also boasts a wide range of educational offerings. The following programs of study are some of their most popular:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Biological Sciences
  • Bachelor of Arts in Economics
  • Master of Arts in International Relations

Roosevelt University

With campuses in Chicago and Schaumburg, Roosevelt University prides itself on offering a diverse number of degree programs and college courses, both online and on-campus. The school currently offers 116 degree programs and reports current tuition costs of around $26,900 per year for undergraduate students. In addition to a commitment to academic excellence, Roosevelt University also admits all qualified students regardless of their background. Some of Roosevelt's most popular programs:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Information Technology
  • Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies
  • Online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice


According to 2013 estimates from the U.S. Census, Aurora, Illinois is home to around 199,963 residents, and is part of the Greater Chicago region of the state. Reportedly, 30.9 percent of the city's adults ages 25-64 held at least a bachelor's degree from 2008 to 2012, and 77.3 percent had earned at least a high school diploma. The city of Aurora is commonly known as the "City of Lights" since it was one of the first cities in the United States to implement all-electric street lighting in 1881. Aurora has plenty to offer history, entertainment, and culture lovers alike. For example, the city is home to architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous Hollywood Casino Aurora, and a local favorite -- the Paramount Theatre. The following schools also call this unique city home:

Aurora University

Aurora University is a four-year, non-profit liberal arts college with a current enrollment of roughly 4,900 students. With a student-to-faculty ratio of around 15:1, Aurora strives to offer personal attention in addition to high quality instruction. Tuition rates for the 2014-15 school year average $10,560 per semester for full-time students, and room and board costs approximately $9,290 per year. Aurora University is known for the following degree programs:

  • Online RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Online Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Accounting

Waubonsee Community College

With over 30,000 students enrolled in any given year, Waubonsee Community College is known for high quality education at an affordable price. Current tuition rates run at around $97 per semester hour for in-district students, a bargain when compared to tuition at comparable schools. Waubonsee offers a wide range of degree programs to its students, including transfer and career education programs which are geared to students who want to enter the workforce quickly. Here are a few of the school's most popular programs:

  • Associate of Applied Science in Health Information Technology
  • Associate of Applied Science in Laboratory Technology
  • Associate of Applied Science in Business Administration

Rasmussen College

With locations all over the country, Rasmussen College has made a name in the world of career-oriented education, both online and on-campus. Students who attend the Aurora location will find plenty of educational offerings to choose from, and all at a relatively low cost. Some of Rasmussen's most popular degree programs are as follows:

  • Online Bachelor's degree in Public Accounting
  • Online RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Online Associate's degree in Web Programming


Rockford, Illinois is the state's third largest city and home to approximately 150,251 residents, according to 2013 U.S. Census estimates. Only 20.7 percent of Rockford's working adults had earned a bachelor's degree as of 2012, compared to 81.6 percent who held at least a high school diploma. In addition to serving as a hub for higher education, Rockford is also home to many cultural and historical venues such as Anderson Japanese Gardens, Klehm Arboretum, BMO Harris Bank Center, and Coronado Theatre. The following Rockford schools exemplify Illinois higher education at its finest:

Rockford University

Rockford University has been educating students in a wide range of academic fields for over 166 years. The school currently offers over 80 majors, minors, and concentrations, and serves approximately 1,250 part-time and full-time students. Full-time undergraduate tuition for the 2014-15 school year is expected to cost $27,400. Rockford University is known for rigorous instruction that is tailored toward real-life careers. The following degree programs are some of their most popular:

  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
  • Bachelor of Science in Accounting
  • Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education

Rock Valley College

Rock Valley College is a two-year career college focused on preparing students for work experiences in the real world. With an enrollment of around 8,600 part-time and full-time students, Rock Valley offers over 100 courses for transfer, career programs, and certificates. Rock Valley is known for the following career-oriented degree programs:

  • Associate of Applied Science in Nursing
  • Associate of Applied Science in Web Programming and Design
  • Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene

University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford

The College of Medicine at Rockford offers an unparalleled experience for students seeking advanced degrees in the field of health care. Students at the school typically complete their first year of college at another school then transfer to the College of Medicine for their final three years of medical education and hands-on clerkship. With a focus on medicine, the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford is known for the following programs:

  • MD Program
  • Doctor of Pharmacy Program
  • Master of Science in Medical Biotechnology



Now that you've decided to pursue higher education in Illinois, you might want to check out your options firsthand. Follow this college roadmap for an overview of the big cities and educational offerings in the "Prairie State":

Start your road trip at the beautiful shore of Lake Michigan in downtown Chicago. There you can explore the sights and sounds of the city while also taking notice of the colleges and universities in the surrounding area -- schools like the University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago State University, and DePaul University. With Aurora, Illinois nearby, it also makes sense to visit Aurora University and the other schools in the area. Next you'll head northwest on Highway 90 until you hit Rockford. Once there, you can explore all that Rockford has to offer in addition to Rockford University, Rock Valley College, and the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford.

Next you'll want to head west and south to Quad Cities and Peoria, where you can take some time to explore what rural Illinois has to offer, including the campuses of the following schools: Black Hawk College, Western Illinois University, Bradley University, Midstate College, Illinois Central College, and Methodist College. From there, you'll head to the state's capital of Springfield, where you can visit the executive and legislative branches of the state's government, and the campuses of big schools like the University of Illinois at Springfield, St. John's College, and Benedictine University. Then head east to Champaign where you can visit the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Parkland College.

A trip this extensive might sound like a tall order, but it's a great way to really see what kind of experience you can expect before showing up for school. And if you're planning on pursuing your degree online but residing nearby, it might also be a good way to determine where you might want to live as well.


Students in Illinois may qualify for many types of federal aid, including Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants, or Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants. Certain scholarships also apply specifically to Illinois residents pursuing higher education. The following are some examples:

  • Illinois Counties Association Scholarships
  • Illinois Bonus Incentive Grant
  • Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois
  • Greenhouse Scholars Scholarship
  • Thelma Levan Mackey Memorial Scholarship
  • Norwegian National League Scholarship
  • John R. Cervantes Memorial Scholarship
  • Elmhurst Garden Club Scholarship
  • Illinois CPA Society Accounting Scholarship Program
  • Illinois Veteran Grant Program
  • Minority Teachers of Illinois Scholarship Program
  • Illinois National Guard Grant Program

Other scholarships and grants may be available to students who attend certain schools or pursue a degree in a specific field. Students should contact their school of choice to learn more about these opportunities and how to apply.


"A Stronger Nation through Higher Education," Lumina Foundation, http://www.luminafoundation.org/stronger_nation/report/#illinois
"Key Industries," Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity," http://www.illinois.gov/dceo/whyillinois/KeyIndustries/Pages/default.aspx
"Long Term Occupational Projections," Projections Central, http://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
"May 2013 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates," Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 1, 2014
National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=IL&l=93&ic=1
"Online Learning," Illinois Community College Board, http://www.iccb.state.il.us/online.learning.html
"Quick Facts," U.S. Census, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/17/1714000.html
"Quick Facts," U.S. Census, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/17/1703012.html
"Quick Facts," U.S. Census, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/17/1765000.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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