Oklahoma ,the Sooner State is enjoying a period of economic growth, which is good news for those earning online degrees in Oklahoma. The energy sector — oil and gas in particular — is responsible for the state's current prosperity.
Unfortunately, the state's workforce doesn't possess the required professional qualifications to fill the jobs that are growing fastest in the state, and Oklahoma is facing a critical skills shortage. Whether you are a working professional or a high school student you can be eligible for many of these in-demand jobs by earning a degree online.
Online degree programs offer the flexibility you need to balance life, family and studies, at a pace that is convenient for you. Students who are considering online degree programs in Oklahoma are ideally positioned to observe employment needs, earn needed credentials and take advantage of the state's economic boom.
Why Earn an Online Degree in Oklahoma?
Job market is good
In 2018 Oklahoma's nonfarm employment growth outpaced that of the U.S. In fact, the BLS ranked Oklahoma City, the state's capital and largest city, among the top 25 metro areas in the country with the fastest job growth. Meanwhile, its unemployment rate in October 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, was at just 3.4 percent — lower than the national rate — placing Oklahoma at a competitive 17th among all states.
Shortage of postsecondary credentials
Today, 40 percent of the state's workers have some postsecondary training, but projections from the Lumina Foundation indicate that 77 percent will need to have some level of education beyond high school in 2025.
The jobs with the most critical shortages and greatest demand in Oklahoma over the coming decade require at least some postsecondary training — certificates, associate degrees or bachelor's degrees.
While the manufacturing industry was reported to be the largest and highest-paying employer in Oklahoma, jobs in supersectors like professional and business services, mining and logging, leisure and hospitality as well as education and health services grew significantly in 2017. The state of Oklahoma predicts a 9 to 15 percent job growth rate by 2026 for occupations such as accountants, registered nurses, child care workers, as well as general and operations managers.
Higher degrees often translate to higher pay
Research repeatedly demonstrates that more education correlates to higher salaries. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, high school graduates saw median earnings of $27,468 in 2016, while those with even some college or associate degrees received about $5,000 more that year. Salaries continue rising with education level, with a bachelor's degree translating to a salary of $43,204, and a graduate or professional degree leading to $55,001 per year. Unemployment rates among adults with bachelor's degree are also considerably lower, at just 3 percent, whereas high school graduates or those without diplomas and 7 and 10 percent rates, respectively.
Convenience and flexibility of online degree programs
Online degrees in Oklahoma enable students of all ages and skill levels to obtain training more conveniently — students can complete studies from anywhere at times that fit into their existing schedules. And many online degree programs in Oklahoma are offered at an accelerated pace and, in some cases, less expensively than traditional on-campus programs.
Top Online Colleges in Oklahoma
Whether you're a recent high school graduate, a working adult looking to complete a degree begun long ago and never finished, a career changer or a professional interested in enhancing your skills with an advanced degree or certification, you're sure to have a list of requirements for any prospective online college.
Fortunately, we've done much of this for you. Using a methodology that considers such factors as graduation rate, tuition, the program's prominence and more, we've put together this list of the top Oklahoma colleges that offer online degree programs.
Top Online Degree Programs in Oklahoma
In general, colleges develop online programs in response to workforce demands. We've drawn upon data from the National Center for Education Statistics and state economic data to create this list of the top online degree programs in Oklahoma.
Quality of Online Education in Oklahoma
To increase college-education attainment, Oklahoma's leaders have developed several initiatives, including Reach Higher, an accelerated adult degree-completion program for adults who have previously earned some college credit. It includes flexible scheduling, additional web-based resources and activities and recognition of prior learning, as well as accelerated pacing so students can earn degrees sooner than traditional programs.
Increasing quantity is important, but it's also essential to maintain and improve the quality of online programs. Efforts to do this have included the development of the Oklahoma Online Excellence Award, which recognizes individuals and groups that demonstrate exemplary leadership, collaboration and results that advance online learning in Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education formed the Task Force on the Future of Higher Education in 2017, to find ways to improve degree completion and innovate higher education. Among the Task Force's four subcommittees is one tasked with reviewing best practices in academic program delivery and online education and delivering recommendations to improve educational innovation, eliminate barriers to online education and maintain academic rigor — of considerable benefit to students considering online colleges in Oklahoma.
What to Look for in Online Degree Programs in Oklahoma
Oklahoma is a member of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), meaning that students have more access to educational opportunities, enjoy lower college expenses for approved NC-SARA programs across state lines and benefit from knowing that participating online colleges in Oklahoma must meet rigorous standards of quality.
NC-SARA recommends that prospective online students ask themselves several questions about any program they're considering:
- What do you expect of the program, and what will it expect of me? First, understand your needs as a student. Does the program provide the training you need for the career you're aspiring to and deliver the level of individual attention and rigor you desire?
- What learning experiences are involved in the program? Are courses delivered synchronously — meaning that you'll take part in activities in real time — or asynchronously, so that you can complete the work at times that are convenient for you? Do the program activities suit your style of learning? What kinds of practical or hands-on activities are required?
- What student support services are available? Many schools offer online students the option to receive free online tutoring, online peer mentorship, online counseling, online writing and math centers or even dedicated advisers strictly for online students.
- Can I afford it? It's important to understand what you'll be financially responsible for, how much financial aid you can receive and whether it ultimately fits with your budget. Check which fees are charged to online students and which aren't.
- What are the technology requirements? Will you have access to the technology that's required in the program? Does the school offer free or discounted equipment or software? Be sure your technology access and capabilities align with the program's requirements.
- Is it accredited? Accreditation is critical — it tells future employers that you've met a standard for relevant and rigorous training, and it's essential in order to receive federal student aid.
Top Occupations in Oklahoma
The energy industry is booming in Oklahoma, thanks in large part to its oil and gas resources. Jobs in this sector and many others are continuing to grow. Drawing upon BLS data, we've developed this list of the top 25 occupations in Oklahoma.
Number of Workers
|Office and Administrative Support Occupations||228,520||$36,520|
|Sales and Related Occupations||162,660||$37,330|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations||160,640||$22,180|
|Transportation and Material Moving Occupations||133,640||$36,030|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations||99,790||$72,880|
|Educational Instruction and Library Occupations||97,300||$42,860|
|Construction and Extraction Occupations||91,290||$45,820|
|Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations||77,790||$46,850|
|Business and Financial Operations Occupations||76,500||$66,470|
|Healthcare Support Occupations||59,450||$28,250|
|Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations||43,440||$26,110|
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Oklahoma
The first step in determining whether you can afford an online education in Oklahoma is completing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is required in order to earn federal money for college, through the Pell Grant, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education grant or Iraq and Afghanistan Service grant, not to mention student loans or work study. Additionally many states and college look at the FAFSA first before making decisions about state or institutional grants and aid.
At the state level, online college students from Oklahoma may benefit from is the Oklahoma's Promise Scholarship. Through this program, eight, ninth and 10th graders in Oklahoma whose parents earn $55,000 or less per year may qualify to receive tuition at Oklahoma public two- or four-year colleges, or a portion of tuition at Oklahoma private colleges, or a portion of tuition for approved programs at the state's public technology centers.
Here's a small sampling of other scholarships offered in Oklahoma:
- George and Donna Nigh Public Service Scholarship: Merit-based scholarship for students enrolling full-time in undergraduate programs to prepare for careers in public service.
- Teacher Shortage Employment Incentive Program (TSEIP): Loan reimbursement program (or equivalent cash benefit) for mathematics and science teachers in Oklahoma, to improve recruitment and retention of teachers in the state.
Additionally, individual schools in Oklahoma offer their own scholarships to incoming students, whether they're freshman, returning or transfer students, first-generation, military or graduate students. Some of the schools offering such scholarships include:
- Oklahoma State University system
- The University of Oklahoma (through its Centralized Academic Scholarship Hub, or CASH)
- University of Central Oklahoma
- Southwestern Oklahoma State University
Be sure to check with your prospective schools and programs to determine whether you qualify for any scholarships or grants through them as well.
Tests You May Need To Take
Currently there is no single college entrance exam that all students must take in order to apply to online colleges in Oklahoma. In addition to your application, GPA, background and written materials, incoming college students may be asked to submit test scores from the ACT or SAT.
- ACT: The ACT, which originally stood for American College Testing, is a standardized test that measures high school learning in the areas of English, math, reading and science. This three-hour test features multiple-choice questions and essays, and each subject is scored between 1 and 36, which are averaged to arrive at a composite score.
- SAT: The Scholastic Aptitude Test is offered in two ways: as the SAT Reasoning Test, which asks multiple choice and essay questions in reading/writing and math, with scores ranging from 200-800 per section; and the individual SAT Subject Tests in five subject areas — English, math, history, science and foreign language — also on an 800-point scale.
As of Fall 2018, Oklahoma State University accepted scores from either test, as did the University of Oklahoma, the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and several regional universities. Community colleges may not require them for high school graduates, though students with GEDs may need to also submit ACT scores.
Be sure to check with your prospective school's admissions office to determine what exact materials and test scores you're required to submit.
To be included in our ranking of the best colleges for online degree programs, all colleges had to meet the following five criteria:
- Be an accredited U.S. institution
- Offer either 2- or 4-year degree programs
- Have at least 1 percent of students taking at least some of their classes via distance education
- Be active in the 2015-16 school year
- Report data for all 15 specific ranking variables included in our methodology
We then ranked the remaining 2,169 colleges and universities and scored each on a 100-point scale on these specific. Our data points include:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- The average amount of federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid awarded to undergraduate students, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Full-time Retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students participating fully or partially in distance education to total enrollment, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- No. of degree programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2013-14
- Open admissions policy for all or most entering first-time undergraduate-level students, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Dual credit
- Credit for life experience
- Advanced Placement credit
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Offers credit for military training
- Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2018-19, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- 2018-2020 Critical Occupations, Oklahoma Works, Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development, accessed Nov. 20, 2018, https://oklahomaworks.gov/oklahoma-workforce-data/critical-occupations/
- "Economic Outlook 2018," Dan Rickman and Hongbo Wang, Center for Applied Economic Research, Spears School of Business, Oklahoma State University, Feb. 10, 2018,https://business.okstate.edu/economy/forecasts.html
- "Educational Attainment," 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, American FactFinder, U.S. Census Bureau, accessed Nov. 20, 2018,https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=CF
- "Employment Outcomes Report 2017," Oklahoma State System of Higher Education, Feb. 1, 2018, https://www.okhighered.org/studies-reports/employment-outcomes/employrpt2017.pdf
- Find Scholarships, OKCollegeStart.org, accessed Nov. 20, 2018, https://www.okcollegestart.org/Financial_Aid_Planning/Scholarships/Scholarships.aspx
- Grades to Make, OKCollegeStart.org, accessed Nov. 20, 2018, https://www.okcollegestart.org/College_Planning/Prepare_for_College/grades_to_make.aspx
- "Know Your Tests: College Entrance Exams," FastWeb.com, July 17, 2017,https://www.fastweb.com/college-search/articles/know-your-tests-college-entrance-exams
- "Latest metro jobs data shows continued economic growth in Oklahoma," by Jack Money, NewsOK.com (The Oklahoman), June 28, 2018, https://newsok.com/article/5599572/latest-metro-jobs-data-shows-continued-economic-growth-in-oklahoma
- "Median Earnings in the Past 12 Months (in 2016 Inflation-Adjusted Dollars) By Sex By Educational Attainment for the Population 25 Years and Over," 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, American FactFinder, U.S. Census Bureau, accessed Nov. 20, 2018, https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=CF
- National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), accessed Nov. 20, 2018,http://nc-sara.org
- Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, the State of Oklahoma, https://www.ok.gov/oesc/Labor_Market/Industry_and_Occupational_Employment_Projections/trends.html, accessed November 2018
- Oklahoma Economic Indicators, October 2018,https://www.ok.gov/oesc/documents/lmiEconIndPub.pdf, accessed November 2018
- Oklahoma Online Excellence Award, Oklahoma Online Excellence, accessed Nov. 20, 2018, http://www.onlineexcellence.onenet.net/oklahoma-online-excellence-award/
- "Oklahoma's unemployment rate down in October," Employment & Unemployment - Statewide, The State of Oklahoma, Nov. 16, 2018, https://www.ok.gov/triton/modules/newsroom/newsroom_article.php?id=318&article_id=46771
- Oklahoma's Promise, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, accessed Nov. 20, 2018,https://www.okhighered.org/okpromise/
- Oklahoma Works Post-Secondary Educational Attainment 2017 Study, Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development, accessed Nov. 20, 2018, https://oklahomaworks.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/2017-Oklahoma-Educational-Attainment-Study-Print-and-Release.pdf
- "Report: Oklahoma Behind in Educational Attainment," Associated Press, Best States, U.S. News & World Report, Jan. 29, 2018, https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/oklahoma/articles/2018-01-29/report-oklahoma-behind-in-educational-attainment
- Task Force on the Future of Higher Education, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, accessed Nov. 20, 2018, https://www.okhighered.org/future/
- "Unemployment Rates for States, Seasonally Adjusted," Local Area Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nov. 16, 2018, https://www.bls.gov/web/laus/laumstrk.htm
- "Questions You Should Ask When Choosing an Online Program," National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, June 2018, www.nc-sara.org/files/docs/StudentQuestions_document.pdf