Online master’s degree programs in business, criminal justice, education and nursing nationally ranked

East Carolina University’s online master’s degree programs in business, criminal justice, education and nursing are among the best in the nation in a new ranking by U.S. News & World Report.

ECU’s College of Nursing is ranked in the top 10% nationally and is the highest ranked public university in North Carolina. The college jumped to 18th place from 29th last year for online master’s nursing programs. Nursing ranked fifth for veterans, up from sixth last year. Additionally, the nursing education program was ranked seventh and the nursing leadership program was ranked 17th in the nation.

“For the first time in five years, we have the top-ranked master’s level online program in the state, and our UNC System sister institutions have very strong programs so that is a high honor,” said Bimbola Akintade, dean of the College of Nursing. “Advance practice Pirate nurses are known nationally for the quality of their education — the rankings that were just announced only reaffirm what we know to be true.”

A student works on her laptop on campus. ECU’s online master’s degree programs in business, criminal justice, education and nursing rank among best in the nation.

A student works on her laptop on campus. ECU’s online master’s degree programs in business, criminal justice, education and nursing rank among best in the nation. (ECU photo by Cliff Hollis)

ECU’s online master’s criminal justice program ranked 19th out of 95 schools. ECU, which ranks in the top 20% in the country, is the highest ranked university in North Carolina. ECU also ranked 14th for veterans. Sixty-one students are enrolled in the graduate program this semester.

“We are proud that our graduate degree remains the No. 1 program in North Carolina, as it has for several years, and that we continue to receive recognition as a national exemplar for the online education of criminal justice leaders,” said Heidi Stone Bonner, chair of the Department of Criminal Justice. “Students learn from faculty who are recognized scholars with a broad spectrum of criminal justice and criminology expertise, and our program is ideal for adult learners with busy schedules seeking to advance their careers. We are also thrilled to be recognized for the first time as one of the top schools for veterans and look forward to continuing to meet the needs of all adult learners in the field.”

ECU’s online master’s education program tied with 10 schools at 58th out of 329 college programs, placing it in the top 20% in the U.S.

“The ECU College of Education continues to provide high quality programs to ensure we are preparing graduates to meet the needs of an everchanging landscape,” said Art Rouse, interim dean of the College of Education. “The faculty provide students a world-class educational experience using cutting edge technology to support the teaching and learning environment. Hence, our graduates are equipped with the skill, knowledge, expertise and disposition to solve problems that positively impact the communities they serve.”

ECU’s online MBA tied with nine schools at 132nd out of 344 schools ranked. ECU’s online MBA also ranked 97th for veterans (tied with two other schools). Of 631 MBA students enrolled this spring, 89% are distance education students.

“Our online MBA program, the first of its kind in North Carolina, is designed specifically to meet the needs of any learner’s career goals,” said Len Rhodes, acting director of the Thomas D. Arthur Graduate School of Business. “The program’s flexibility and value are major reasons why our school continues to produce the leaders of tomorrow.” 

ECU also was recognized for the first time in U.S. News best online master’s in computer information technology programs.

Although the weights given to each category varied among the types of programs, all graduate programs were evaluated by the following criteria and indicators:

  • Engagement: Graduation rate, class size, one-year retention rates and time-to-degree deadline.
  • Faculty credentials and training: Number of faculty with terminal degrees, number of tenured faculty, and preparedness of faculty to teach distance learners.
  • Services and technologies: Student indebtedness, technological infrastructure and student support services.
  • Peer assessment: Based on survey responses from high-ranking academic officials.
  • Student excellence: Acceptance rate of the program and undergraduate GPA of new students.

Only schools ranked in the top half of the overall best online programs were considered for the best for veterans list. To qualify, programs had to be housed in a regionally accredited institution certified for the GI Bill, and had to enroll a critical mass of students with military backgrounds. The ranking order was mostly determined by an institution’s position on the primary ranking list.

Online programs at more than 1,800 colleges and universities were assessed as part of U.S. News 2023 rankings.

Ben Abel, Ken Buday, Lacey Gray, Kristen Martin, Michael Rudd and ECU’s Institutional Planning Assessment and Research office contributed to this story.