Education in Virginia
2013 estimates from the U.S. Census show the state of Virginia was home to approximately 8,260,405 residents that year. And from 2008 to 2012, 34.7 percent of the state's working age adults (ages 25-64) held at least a Bachelor's degree.
Meanwhile, overall educational attainment in the state is on the rise. According to a 2013 report from the Lumina Foundation, 45 percent of working age adults in Virginia held an Associate degree or higher in 2011, compared to only 43.4 percent in 2008. And the Lumina Foundation breaks things down even further by offering percentages of adults in Virginia with each level of degree attainment. For example, they show that 20.70 percent of adults in Virginia had some college experience but no degree in 2011, 7.74 percent held an Associate's degree, 22.07 percent held a Bachelor's degree and 15.15 percent had earned either a graduate or professional degree.
Fortunately, there are plenty of colleges and universities in Virginia where students can pursue a college degree that meets their needs. For example, the National Center for Education Statistics shows that there are at least 91 schools in the state where students can earn an Associate degree, and an additional 76 colleges in Virginia where students can pursue a Bachelor's degree. Furthermore, at least 52 colleges in Virginia offer students advanced degrees as well. Of course, each school has something unique to offer its students, and many colleges in Virginia have opted to offer online education in addition to their traditional offerings. Others also offer hybrid degree programs that remain popular with students who want a balance between on-campus and distance learning.
Meanwhile, National Center for Education Statistics data shows that colleges and universities in Virginia awarded 90,207 four-year degrees and 37,719 two-year degrees during the 2011-2012 school year.
Online education in Virginia
When it comes to online learning, the state of Virginia is ahead of the pack. A wide array of colleges and universities in Virginia are offering fully online degree programs or courses in addition to their on-campus instruction. Some of the colleges in Virginia who now offer distance learning options include Virginia College, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University and Old Dominion University. Currently, there are as many as 84 colleges and universities in Virginia who offer some type of online or hybrid learning option for students.
Students who seek out distance learning opportunities at colleges in Virginia have a lot to gain by doing so. One of the most popular benefits of learning online is the fact that students can typically complete their studies at any date and time of their choosing and can often do so from the comfort of their own home. For busy working adults or parents, online learning could even be the only way they could go back to school in the first place.
Here are some of the highlighted online program offerings in Virginia according to U.S. News and World Report:
- Regent University
- Best Online Bachelor's Programs #11
- Best Online Graduate Education Programs #21
- James Madison University
- Best Online MBA Programs #12
- Liberty University
- Best Online Graduate Criminal Justice #18
- Virginia Tech
- Best Online Graduate Computer Information Technology Programs #2
- Best Online Graduate Engineering Programs #15
Top careers in Virginia
The fact that the state is so close to the nation's capital means many large industries call the area home. Virginia is also has many rural and mountainous areas with industries that serve an entirely different clientele. Regardless, many careers are expected to surge in demand in the coming years in the state.
Using career projections from the U.S. Department of Labor's CareerOneStop and wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), we've compiled this list of top careers in Virginia:
Why It's Hot
Interpreters and Translators
Popular regions in Virginia for this career are as follows: Harrisonburg (210), Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News (160), Richmond (130), Blacksburg-Christianburg-Radford (70), Northwestern Virginia nonmetropolitan area (50), Charlottesville (30)
The U.S. Department of Labor's CareerOneStop reports that employment for interpreters and translators in Virginia could surge by as much as 66 percent from 2012 to 2022. Meanwhile, interpreters and translators were paid an annual mean wage of $65,520 in Virginia in 2013, a sum that is significantly higher than the national annual mean wage for this career. The BLS reports interpreters and translators in Virginia earned the second highest wages in the nation in 2013, with only those in Washington D.C. earning more.
Interpreters and translators need to understand and speak fluent English in addition to at least one other language. Other skills required for this career include active listening and learning, critical thinking, social awareness, cultural sensitivity and reading comprehension.
As O*NET OnLine reports, knowledge of legal procedures is also helpful for interpreters and translators, as is an excellent understanding of the different cultures and family dynamics. Being able to use technology effectively can also be important for those in this career as well since many interpreters and translators are now required to use computers and software programs to perform certain tasks on the job and report data.
According to the BLS, a Bachelor's degree is typically a requirement for this career. A degree in English or another language is an excellent place to start for students who are considering this field.
Occupational Therapy Assistants
According to the BLS, these regions employed many of the occupational therapy assistants in Virginia in 2013: Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News (110), Richmond (110), Southwestern Virginia nonmetropolitan area (90), Lynchburg (60), Roanoke (40)
Because of an expected demand for all health care services, including occupational therapy, CareerOneStop predicts that job openings for occupational therapy assistants in Virginia could surge by as much as 62 percent during the decade leading up to 2022. High wages have also contributed to the popularity for this career, in addition to the fact that an Associate's degree is typically the terminal degree. The BLS reports that occupational therapy assistants in Virginia earned an annual mean wage of $58,820 in 2013.
Because occupational therapy assistants work closely with occupational therapists, they need to understand the many therapies they may be required to perform. According to O*NET OnLine, that is why knowledge of principles, methods and procedures for diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation is crucial for these professionals.
Necessary skills include flexibility, active listening skills and time management skills, as well as the ability to provide excellent customer service and remain professional at all times.
BLS data shows that the vast majority of occupational therapy assistants began their career by earning an Associate's degree in occupational therapy Assisting from an accredited school.
Information Security Analysts
Popular regions for information security analysts include the following: Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News (610), Richmond (460), Northeastern Virginia nonmetropolitan area (70), Charlottesville (70)
U.S. Department of Labor figures show that employment for information security analysts in Virginia could surge by as much as 50 percent in the state from 2012 to 2022. Meanwhile, the annual mean wage for this salary has skyrocketed to $106,350 in the state in 2013. The BLS also reports that Virginia was the second highest paying state for this profession that year. Those factors combined mean that becoming an information security analyst has become an attractive prospect for many Virginia students.
Since information security analysts are in charge of protecting their company's sensitive data and setting up systems that ensure its security, they are required to understand how computers work. Typical tasks include erecting firewalls that protect data, encrypting transmissions, performing risk assessments and creating plans for additional security. Necessary skills include the ability to adapt to a rapidly changing environment, troubleshooting skills and the ability to solve complex problems as well as anticipate them.
The BLS notes that information security analysts usually get started by earning a Bachelor's degree in a computer-related field. Some popular degrees that lead to this career include computer science and computer programming. In addition, many employers prefer candidates that earn a Master's of Business Administration in Information Security Systems.
Atmospheric and Space Scientists
According to BLS data, 30 atmospheric and space scientists worked in the Richmond area in 2013.
U.S. Department of Labor data shows that employment for atmospheric and space scientists in Virginia could increase by as much as 49 percent in the state during the decade leading up to 2022. Meanwhile, the annual mean wage for this career in the state was a hefty $104,870 in 2013. According to the BLS, professionals in this industry in Virginia earned the most in 2013 when compared to workers in other states. High wages and healthy job growth in the state have contributed to the overall popularity of this career.
According to O*NET OnLine, atmospheric and space scientists are in charge of preparing weather reports and severe weather warnings that are then broadcast to the public. They often use complex instruments to perform their job duties, such as anemometers, hygrometers and surveillance systems. Necessary skills include inductive reasoning, listening skills and excellent communication skills, among others.
Excellent eyesight is also a must, however, since atmospheric and space scientists often need to analyze data at a close range.
The BLS reports that atmospheric and space scientists typically need a Bachelor's degree in meteorology or a related earth science in order to gain employment. Furthermore, those who want to work in research positions are often required to earn a Master's degree or even a Ph.D.
The BLS reports that the following regions in Virginia were popular for dental hygienists: Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News (980), Richmond (780), Roanoke (220),Southwestern Virginia nonmetropolitan area (140), Northwestern Virginia nonmetropolitan area (120), Lynchburg (110), Charlottesville (80), Northeastern Virginia nonmetropolitan area (40), Harrisonburg (40), Danville (30)
With more people needing to see the dentist with each passing year, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts that employment for dental hygienists in Virginia will surge by 48 percent during the decade leading up to 2022. Relatively high wages also add to the overall popularity of this career. The BLS reports that the annual mean wage for dental hygienists in Virginia was $79,230 in 2013.
Dental hygienists assist dentists by completing many of the hands-on tasks required for dental care, such as cleaning, taking X-rays and recording patient data. Knowledge of advanced dental care is necessary for this career, as is proficiency with advanced dental tools such as dental probes, lasers and scalers.
Dental hygienists must also have excellent listening and communication skills as well as coordination and manual dexterity. An aptitude for customer service doesn't hurt either since dental hygienists spend a lot of their time with patients.
The BLS reports that dental hygienists typically begin their career by earning an Associate's degree in dental hygiene from an accredited school.
Virginia financial aid
The College Board figures show that tuition and fees for a public four-year school in Virginia averaged out to $10,899 for the 2014-15 school year. Meanwhile, the national average for tuition and fees the same year came out to $9,139. Additional College Board data also shows how Virginia college tuition has changed over the last decade:
Public two-year in-state
- 2004-05: $2,618
- 2014-15: $4,549
Public four-year in-state
- 2004-05: $7,018
- 2014-15: $10,899
Private four-year nonprofit
- 2004-05: $22,245
- 2014-15: $28,395
Fortunately, students pursuing a degree in Virginia have plenty of opportunities for financial aid. The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia offers a wide range of resources for students interested in financial aid that could help make college more affordable.
- Pell Grants- federal aid funds that do not have to be repaid. Certain income requirements apply.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant- grants reserved for students with an exceptional need for financial aid. Like Pell Grants, they do not need to be repaid.
- Federal Work-Study Program- provides jobs where students can earn a real income that can be used to pay college tuition.
- Federal Perkins Loan- low-interest loans for students who meet certain income requirements. Expired as of 9/30/17, although Congressional bills have been introduced that support its extension.
- Federal Stafford Loan- fixed-rate loans available to students who meet certain requirements.
- PLUS Loans- loans available to parents of dependent children attending college.
State Scholarships and Grants:
- Virginia Commonwealth Award Program- Virginia-based aid program designed to provide financial assistance to undergraduate and graduate students. Certain income requirements may apply.
- Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program- a program geared to incentivize school-aged children to set high academic standards in exchange for money for college.
- Tuition Assistance Grant Program- assistance program available to students who attend private, nonprofit colleges in Virginia and meet certain academic and income requirements.
- Brown vs. Board of Education Scholarship Program- scholarship available to students who were affected by certain public school closings from 1954-1964.
- Child Care Provider Scholarship Program- scholarship for Virginia residents who plan to pursue a degree in a childcare-related field.
- Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program- program available to Virginia residents who have served in the military and their dependents.
- Virginia Women's Institute for Leadership- scholarship program for women who pursue a degree at Mary Baldwin College and meet certain requirements.
- Foster Tuition Grant Program- for Virginia residents who have been a part of the foster care system
- Virginia Part-Time Assistance Program- created to assist part-time Virginia students with financial need
- Granville P. Meade Scholarship- merit-based scholarship available to Virginia residents
- Two Year College Transfer Grant- scholarship created to incentivize Associate degree holders to continue their education at a four-year school
- Lee Jackson Scholarship- merit-based scholarship for Virginia residents
- Tobacco Region Scholarship Program- program geared to residents in Southern or Southwest Virginia
- VDOT Civil Engineering Scholarship Program- program available to state residents who pursue civil engineering degrees at colleges or universities in Virginia
- Virginia Army National Guard Tuition Assistance Program- program designed to assist members of the National Guard with financial aid for school
- Virginia Space Grant Consortium- program designed to provide financial assistance to Virginia residents who pursue a degree in a STEM field
- Virginia Teacher Scholarship/Loan Program- scholarship and financial assistance program available to students who plan to teach in regions with a critical teacher shortage
Other types of financial aid may also be available to students depending on their school of choice and college major. Students considering colleges or universities in Virginia can find out what type of federal financial aid they qualify for by filling out a FAFSA form, or free application for federal student aid. Institutional aid may also be verified by speaking with your school's financial aid office.
To find out more about some of the schools and programs available in Virginia, be sure to check out the ones featured in our school listings below.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages: "Interpreters and Translators," May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes273091.htm, "Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides," http://www.bls.gov/oes/CURRENT/oes312011.htm, "Information Security Analysts," May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151122.htm, "Atmosphere and Space Scientists, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes192021.htm, "Dental Hygienists," May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292021.htm
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition: "Interpreters and Translators," http://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/interpreters-and-translators.htm#tab-1, "Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides," http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapy-assistants-and-aides.htm, "Information Security Analysts," http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm#tab-1, "Atmospheric and Space Scientists," http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/atmospheric-scientists-including-meteorologists.htm#tab-1, "Dental Hygienists," http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-hygienists.htm#tab-1
- O*NET OnLine: "Interpreters and Translators," December 2014, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/27-3091.00, "Occupational Therapy Assistants," December 2014, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/31-2011.00, "Dental Hygienists," December 2014, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-2021.00, "Information Security Analysts," December 2014, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1122.00, "Atmospheric and Space Scientists," December 2014, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/19-2021.00
- "A Stronger Nation through Higher Education," Lumina Foundation, http://www.luminafoundation.org/stronger_nation/report/#virginia
- "CareerOneStop," U.S. Department of Labor, http://www.careerinfonet.org/oview1.asp?next=oview1&Level=edu4&optstatus=&jobfam=&id=1&nodeid=3&soccode=&stfips=51&ShowAll=
- "National Center for Education Statistics," College Navigator, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=VA&l=94
- "Postsecondary Completers and Completions: 2011-2012, U.S. Department of Education, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2014/2014033.pdf
- "State and County Quickfacts," U.S. Census Bureau, Virginia, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/51000.html
- "State Council for Higher Education in Virginia," http://www.schev.edu/students/financialAidTypes.asp
- "Trends in College Pricing 2014," College Board, https://secure-media.collegeboard.org/digitalServices/misc/trends/2014-trends-college-pricing-report-final.pdf