Best Colleges in North Carolina for Associate, Bachelor’s & Master’s

North Carolina College Guide – What You Need to Know

Search Programs

North Carolina is home to several high-quality schools, both public and private. Names like Duke University and the University of North Carolina are probably the best-known schools in the state, but NC boasts a wide array of schools from small liberal arts colleges to NC State, the largest university in the Carolinas.

What are the most popular bachelor's degrees offered in North Carolina?

While the state’s private colleges are a significant investment for those who don’t have federal funding or scholarships, NC’s public universities promise a quality education for less than $10,000 per year.

The most popular bachelor’s degrees in North Carolina are similar to the most popular bachelor’s degrees across the country. Students top picks include majors such as biology, business administration, and psychology, as well as computer science. Here are the top five degrees:

How Much Can You Make by Having a Degree in North Carolina


In general, the higher the degree, the greater the earning potential. It’s important to remember that this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Some fields, like marketing or computer programming, allow you to advance in your career without a master’s degree. Others, like psychology, require a master’s minimum, as your point of entry. Still, getting a bachelor’s degree, or even an associate can help you earn much more than you would with only a high school diploma.

According to data PayScale, bachelor’s degree holders have an average income of about $58,000 per year. Degree type makes a difference; the site reported that those with a Bachelor of Science earned $63,000 on average, compared to those with a Bachelor of Arts who earned about $53,000 on average.

Those figures are likely skewed a bit, as high-paying technical occupations like engineering and computer science majors earn BS degrees. BA graduates span a range of majors, including some sectors where it may be harder to find employment. Associate degree holders earn about $48,000 per year.

Those with a high school diploma, or GED only, are likely to earn considerably less. The BLS reports the median weekly income for those without any formal education credential can expect to make roughly $688 per week.

Education Level & National Average Median Compensation

NO FORMAL EDUCATION HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA ASSOCIATE DEGREE BACHELOR’S DEGREE MASTER’S DEGREE DOCTORAL DEGREE
$30,784* $38,792* $46,124* $64,896* $77,844* $96,772*

Best Associate Degrees in North Carolina


North Carolina has some of the best associate programs in the nation. Some provide a direct path to the best bachelor's degrees in the state, including UNC-Chapel Hill. Whether students are seeking a career in healthcare, social work, education, or engineering, they will find that North Carolina's community colleges offer quality learning, often at reasonable costs.

Montgomery Community College
College Type
2-year, Public
Campus Housing
No
Student Population
918
Graduation Rate
58%
Net Price
$12,447
Grads Salary
$37,300
Johnson & Wales University-Charlotte
College Type
4-year, primarily associate's, Private not-for-profit
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
1,396
Graduation Rate
57%
Net Price
$26,732
Grads Salary
$38,800
Wayne Community College
College Type
2-year, Public
Campus Housing
No
Student Population
2,701
Graduation Rate
48%
Net Price
$5,900
Grads Salary
$27,400
Blue Ridge Community College-Flat Rock
College Type
2-year, Public
Campus Housing
No
Student Population
2,399
Graduation Rate
53%
Net Price
$7,924
Grads Salary
$25,800
Halifax Community College
College Type
2-year, Public
Campus Housing
No
Student Population
988
Graduation Rate
50%
Net Price
$3,514
Grads Salary
$24,100
Haywood Community College
College Type
2-year, Public
Campus Housing
No
Student Population
1,440
Graduation Rate
49%
Net Price
$6,300
Grads Salary
$25,400
Johnston Community College
College Type
2-year, Public
Campus Housing
No
Student Population
4,182
Graduation Rate
37%
Net Price
$5,735
Grads Salary
$29,800
McDowell Technical Community College
College Type
2-year, Public
Campus Housing
No
Student Population
1,048
Graduation Rate
41%
Net Price
$4,415
Grads Salary
$26,700
Stanly Community College
College Type
2-year, Public
Campus Housing
No
Student Population
2,432
Graduation Rate
39%
Net Price
$6,219
Grads Salary
$28,200
Southwestern Community College-Sylva
College Type
2-year, Public
Campus Housing
No
Student Population
2,259
Graduation Rate
45%
Net Price
$5,562
Grads Salary
$25,200
Full Ranking Report

Best Bachelor's Degrees in North Carolina


There are some great bachelor's degrees to be found in North Carolina's colleges and universities. The state has a first-rate public university system and private colleges that offer a variety of high-quality programs that would earn you entry to great jobs all across the nation. Whether students wish to pursue medicine, law, engineering, or any other career field, North Carolina has a top four-year degree program for them. Keep reading to learn about the best bachelor’s programs in North Carolina.

Duke University
College Type
4-year, Private not-for-profit
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
16,172
Graduation Rate
96%
Net Price
$26,932
Grads Salary
$88,100
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
College Type
4-year, Public
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
30,092
Graduation Rate
91%
Net Price
$10,038
Grads Salary
$71,800
North Carolina State University at Raleigh
College Type
4-year, Public
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
36,304
Graduation Rate
84%
Net Price
$14,600
Grads Salary
$75,000
Wake Forest University
College Type
4-year, Private not-for-profit
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
8,789
Graduation Rate
89%
Net Price
$26,324
Grads Salary
$75,500
Davidson College
College Type
4-year, Private not-for-profit
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
55,175
Graduation Rate
93%
Net Price
$28,615
Grads Salary
$69,900
North Carolina A&T State University
College Type
4-year, Public
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
12,753
Graduation Rate
52%
Net Price
$9,541
Grads Salary
$73,000
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
College Type
4-year, Public
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
29,615
Graduation Rate
65%
Net Price
$16,029
Grads Salary
$69,000
Appalachian State University
College Type
4-year, Public
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
20,023
Graduation Rate
73%
Net Price
$10,687
Grads Salary
$59,600
East Carolina University
College Type
4-year, Public
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
28,798
Graduation Rate
65%
Net Price
$15,403
Grads Salary
$63,100
University of North Carolina Wilmington
College Type
4-year, Public
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
17,499
Graduation Rate
74%
Net Price
$17,946
Grads Salary
$60,100
Full Ranking Report

Best Master's Degrees in North Carolina


North Carolina's success as a leader in arts and technology is due in no small part to the quality and variety of its master’s degrees and doctoral programs, made available by local colleges and universities. Doctoral degree programs in North Carolina fueled the rise of Research Triangle Park, and Charlotte's banks are full of professionals with the best MBA degrees. Professionals who are ready to take their careers to the next level should continue reading about North Carolina's advanced degree programs and find the right one for them.

Duke University
College Type
4-year, Private not-for-profit
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
16,172
Graduation Rate
96%
Net Price
$26,932
Grads Salary
$88,100
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
College Type
4-year, Public
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
30,092
Graduation Rate
91%
Net Price
$10,038
Grads Salary
$71,800
North Carolina State University at Raleigh
College Type
4-year, Public
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
36,304
Graduation Rate
84%
Net Price
$14,600
Grads Salary
$75,000
Wake Forest University
College Type
4-year, Private not-for-profit
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
8,789
Graduation Rate
89%
Net Price
$26,324
Grads Salary
$75,500
North Carolina A&T State University
College Type
4-year, Public
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
12,753
Graduation Rate
52%
Net Price
$9,541
Grads Salary
$73,000
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
College Type
4-year, Public
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
29,615
Graduation Rate
65%
Net Price
$16,029
Grads Salary
$69,000
Appalachian State University
College Type
4-year, Public
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
20,023
Graduation Rate
73%
Net Price
$10,687
Grads Salary
$59,600
East Carolina University
College Type
4-year, Public
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
28,798
Graduation Rate
65%
Net Price
$15,403
Grads Salary
$63,100
University of North Carolina Wilmington
College Type
4-year, Public
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
17,499
Graduation Rate
74%
Net Price
$17,946
Grads Salary
$60,100
Western Carolina University
College Type
4-year, Public
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
12,243
Graduation Rate
64%
Net Price
$13,221
Grads Salary
$60,100
Full Ranking Report
Read More about MBA's in North Carolina

Cost of North Carolina College Education & Salaries


There are several things to consider when it comes to selecting the right school for you. North Carolina, fortunately, offers many schools, many of which have a solid reputation and great academics. Still, the top-ranking schools aren’t always going to have the best program for your chosen major.

Earning potential depends more on your field than what school you go to. So, if your primary concern is finding stable, well-paid work after graduation, you’ll want to select a major that paves the way. STEM fields are always a good bet, but areas like business or marketing might also be good bets.

Consider schools that have a low student to staff ratio. This will allow you to get to know professors, who can provide mentorship and career guidance in addition to lectures. When you work closely with a professor, they may be able to leverage their network when it comes time to lock down an internship or first job. On top of mentorship opportunities, consider whether the school offers access to a job center or alumni group; these resources also rely on connections to help recent grads find work.

Many students take these resources for granted, but those who do their research ahead of time and take advantage of what the university offers, will be in the best position to find a job.

Finally, don’t just enroll in the school with the lowest tuition. Sometimes more expensive schools offer larger grants or aid packages to students in need. Explore your options and see what you can get. Still, a school like the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill is about $8,500 per year, compared to Duke or Wake Forest, which cost close to $50,000 annually. UNC has a similar ranking as Duke, but being a public college is considerably more affordable.

College Cost Analysis - North Carolina vs National


Average North Carolina Tuition & Fees at 4 Year Public Schools

In-State Tuition - $7,174

National Average – $9,580

Out-of-State Tuition– $22,968

National Average – $27,437

Percentage of Students Receiving Financial Aid

North Carolina falls firmly in the middle of the pack when it comes to financial aid. 63% of FAFSA applicants secured federal funding and on average, students receive $9,989 in annual support. Student aid generally includes federal loans, grants, tax benefits, and work-study access. However, North Carolina public schools tend to cost less than the national average, so in-state residents may get the most bang for their buck by staying local.

Financial Aid North Carolina Nationally
Received Federal Grants 63% 37.7%
Average $ per Recipient $9,989 $10,927

* Institutional aid represents grant and scholarship funds directly awarded by a postsecondary institution.
* Financial aid data represents 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Best Scholarships for North Carolina


According to the College Foundation of North Carolina, the state offers over $600 million in scholarships and grants. Many require students to fill out the FAFSA before applying to demonstrate need. The application functions as a gateway to many federal and state-funded scholarships, as well as other need-based awards offered through private foundations or organizations.

Students who don’t qualify for need-based assistance can still apply for other sources of funding. Merit-based scholarships are awarded based on test scores or other proof of academic excellence. Other scholarships are offered toward members of a specific group: women, minorities, or the LGBT community. Or specific majors—like nursing students or those pursuing the visual arts.

In any case, there are many different sources of funding available—you may need to do a little research. Here are some scholarships offered to North Carolina students:

TAES_logo

TAES

The ANSWER Endowment Scholarship

http://answerscholarship.org/
Amounts: varies
Deadline: March 1
The Andersen Nontraditional Scholarship for Women’s Education (ANSWER) is awarded to women 25 or older raising school-aged children. Applicants must be enrolled in a four-year degree program at an accredited North or South Carolina institution. Alternatively, those in a two-year nursing or healthcare program are welcome to apply.

NCSIG

North Carolina Student Incentive Grant

https://www.cfnc.org/pay-for-college/scholarship-search/
Amounts: $700 (Varies)
Deadline: FAFSA Deadline
The North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority offers a $700 grant to low-income NC students. To apply, students must fill out the FAFSA and be planning to attend an accredited institution in the state of North Carolina.

NCFN_logo

NCLNASF

North Carolina League for Nursing Academic Scholarship Fund

https://health.uncc.edu/sites/health.uncc.edu/files/media/scholarships/North_Carolina_League_for_Nursing_Academic_Scholarship.pdf
Amounts: $500-$2,000
Deadline: March 15
The NLN offers a $2,000 scholarship to students pursuing a graduate degree in nursing. To qualify, you must have completed six semester hours of coursework and be a legal North Carolina resident.

NCSAS_logo

NCSAS

North Carolina Sheriffs Association Scholarships

https://ncsheriffs.org/about/scholarships
Amounts: $2,000
Deadline: Varies by institution
The North Carolina Sheriffs Association offers 12 scholarships to full-time NC students majoring in criminal justice. The $2,000 awards are provided to each of the 12 schools that offer criminal justice degrees in the state and priority is given to the children or stepchildren of a state sheriff.

FFTCS_logo

FFTCS

Foundation for the Carolinas Scholarship

https://abqcf.org/student-aid/scholarships-for-college-students/
Amounts: Varies
Deadline: March 1
This scholarship is for students pursuing a career in the arts in North or South Carolina. Students must demonstrate some talent in their chosen medium. Additionally, only rising juniors or seniors in good academic standing may apply.

ALBS

Aubrey Lee Brooks Scholarship

https://www.cfnc.org/pay-for-college/apply-for-financial-aid/aubrey-lee-brooks-scholarship/
Amounts: $12,000
Deadline: January 31
The Aubrey Lee Brooks Scholarship is worth $12,000 and goes to 17 graduating seniors from 14 North Carolina counties. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and plan on attending North Carolina State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, or UNC Greensboro. Students must maintain a 2.7 GPA or higher to renew the scholarship.

Search Programs