Colleges and Universities in Washington

Education in Washington

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the state of Washington was home to 6,971,406 residents in 2013, with 31.6 percent of working age residents (ages 25-64) holding at least a Bachelor’s degree from 2008-2012. Meanwhile, a 2013 report from the Lumina Foundation shows that a full 43.3 percent of the state’s residents held at least an Associate degree in 2011, a figure that’s more than a percentage point higher than it was in 2008 when only 42 percent of the working age population held that degree. When broken down further, the Lumina Foundation also shows that, when you add up all working age adults who have some college experience but no degree (24.87 percent), adults with an Associate degree (10.64 percent), those with a Bachelor’s degree (21.03 percent) and those with a graduate or professional degree (11.61 percent), more than 68 percent of the state’s adult population had either earned a degree or had attempted to at some point by 2011.

And it’s easy to see why so many students have chosen to pursue higher education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there are 55 colleges in Washington where students can earn an Associate’s degree and another 45 colleges or universities in Washington where students can pursue a Bachelor’s degree. Additional NCES data shows colleges and universities in Arizona awarded 58,459 four-year degrees and 40,909 two-year degrees during the 2011-12 school year.

Number of Institutions in Washington

Online education in Washington

When it comes to distance learning or online education, students can choose from a wide range of both four-year and two-year colleges and universities in Washington. Washington State Community and Technical Colleges even collaborated to create WashingtonOnline, a platform that aims to increase access to online education for students in the state. In addition, many prominent colleges in Washington have adopted or created their own online degree programs or course catalogs, including schools like Washington University Online, Washington State University and Central Washington University.

Although there are currently no specific statistics on the number of online college students in Washington, it’s safe to say that the prevalence of online education in the state is on the rise due to the many new programs that come onto the scene with each passing year. And it makes perfect sense why they are so popular. Since online degree programs give students the option to study in their spare time, they are quickly becoming the obvious answer for students who need to continue working or take care of a family while they pursue their degree.

Here’s a brief list of some of the highlight online education offerings in Washington according to rankings from U.S. News and World Report:

  • Washington State University
    • Best Online Bachelor’s Programs #20
    • Best Online MBA Programs #21
    • Best Online Graduate Engineering Programs #29
  • University of Washington
    • Best Online Graduate Engineering Programs #26
  • City University of Seattle
    • Best Online Bachelor’s Programs #27

Top careers in Washington

Washington is home to an array of different industries in the state’s many big cities and rural areas. However, a convergence of factors has created a situation where certain careers in the state are expected to outshine others over the coming years. In some cases, employment could grow exponentially leading to a huge demand and even higher wages.

Using career projections from CareerOneStop and May 2013 wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we’ve compiled this list of top careers in Washington:

OccupationTop RegionsWhy It’s HotNecessary SkillsRelevant Degrees
Diagnostic Medical SonographersAccording to BLS data, the following regions in Washington employed this many diagnostic medical sonographers in 2013: Seattle-Bellevue-Everett (570), Tacoma (190), Spokane (120), Eastern Washington nonmetropolitan area (70), Kennewick-Paso-Richland (70), Yakima (60), Olympia (40), Bellingham (30)The U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop reports that employment for diagnostic medical sonographers in Washington could increase by as much as 37 percent during the decade leading up to 2022.

Since diagnostic medical sonographers are typically only required to earn an Associate’s degree to begin this career, the field of diagnostic medical sonography remains an attractive option for many seeking high pay with a small investment.

O*NET Online reports that diagnostic medical sonographers are required to have a wide range of skills that lend themselves to a broad understanding of scientific principles and an ability to work effectively with the public. Some of the require skills for this job include active listening, critical thinking, decisiveness, an excellent bedside manner, good time management skills and coordination. Beyond those soft skills, some technical skills are also required. Some examples include the ability to effectively use ultrasound and X-ray equipment and the knowledge to accurately interpret results and troubleshoot problems with the equipment as they arise.The BLS reports most diagnostic medical sonographers begin their career by earning an Associate’s degree in diagnostic medical sonography from an accredited institution. However, some job candidates also earn a Bachelor’s degree in sonography instead, or pursue a degree in cardiovascular and vascular technology.
Meeting, Convention and Event PlannersThe BLS shows that the following regions in Washington employed the corresponding number of meeting, convention and event planners in 2013: Tacoma (120), Olympia (60) and Bellingham (40)Job openings for meeting, convention and event planners are expected to increase by as much as 36 percent from 2012 to 2022, notes the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop.Since meeting, convention and event planners are typically in charge of all facets of any major event or celebration, it is their job to understand the rules and regulations that must be followed while also meeting client expectations. Therefore, O*NET Online reports that some of the most important skills required for this career are active listening, critical thinking and reading comprehension, in addition to good decision-making skills and sound judgment.

Good time management skills are also crucial for this career since many events run on tight timelines and have many working parts.

According to the BLS, employers in this field prefer to hire candidates with a degree and experience in hotel and resort management, although many begin this career with a degree in public relations, marketing, communications, or business. Degrees in hospitality management are also popular among workers in this field.
Interpreters and TranslatorsInterpreters and translators may be spread throughout the state, but the BLS reports many of them are clustered in the following regions: Seattle-Bellevue-Everett (620), Mount Vernon-Anacortes (60), Tacoma (60), Kennewick-Pasco-Richland (50), Spokane (30)The U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop reports that employment for interpreters and translators in Washington might increase by as much as 35 percent during the decade leading up to 2022.

A big demand for workers and meaningful pay makes this field popular among students.

Interpreters and translators may perform many different types of tasks on the job depending on their specific role. However, O*NET Online reports that several necessary skills apply to almost all professionals in this field. Some of the required skills for this job include active listening skills, cultural sensitivity, social perceptiveness, critical thinking and excellent reading comprehension. Of course, good speaking skills are also important since communication is the main component of any job in this field.According to the BLS, interpreters and translators often begin their careers by earning a Bachelor’s degree in English or another language. However, the main requirement for this career is fluency in at least two languages the ability to communicate effectively with others who speak them.
Cost EstimatorsAlthough cost estimators are employed all over the state of Washington, the BLS shows several areas where clusters of cost estimators exist: Seattle-Bellevue-Everett (2,770), Tacoma (570), Spokane (310), Kennewick-Pasco-Richland (240), Bellingham (160), Northwestern Washington nonmetropolitan area (90), Southwestern Washington nonmetropolitan area (70), Longview (60), Yakima (60), Wenatchee-East Wenatchee (30), Central Washington nonmetropolitan area (30)Because of an increasing demand in this field, the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop reports that employment for cost estimators could increase in Washington by as much as 34 percent from 2012 to 2022. In addition to a relatively high demand, this career also pays well compared to the state’s annual mean wage for all occupations combined according to the BLS.O*NET Online reports that cost estimators need a wide range of soft skills and technical skills to perform on the job. For example, the fact that they deal with clients and vendors means that cost estimators need excellent listening and communication skills, as well as an aptitude for customer service. Meanwhile, excellent computer, math and problem-solving skills are also a must since cost estimators typically work with complex figures and budgets and in an environment where the stakes are high.The BLS reports a Bachelor’s degree in construction management, engineering, or building science could help you begin a career in this field. However, experience in the construction industry is one of the most important requirements of the job as well and preference may be given to candidates with a background in construction or construction management.
Paralegals and Legal AssistantsPopular regions for this career in the state of Washington include: Seattle-Bellevue-Everett (3,060), Tacoma (580), Spokane (540), Yakima (210), Olympia (190), Eastern Washington nonmetropolitan area (100), Bellingham 90, Wenatchee-East Wenatchee (70), Northwestern Washington nonmetropolitan area (40)CareerOneStop reports employment for paralegals and legal assistants in Washington could increase by as much as 33 percent from 2012 to 2022.Since paralegals and legal assistants work with lawyers and other legal professionals, they must have a command of the English language as well as excellent reading comprehension skills. As O*NET Online reports, paralegals and legal assistants also need to be able to speak and write effectively and manage their time wisely. An understanding of computers and technology can also be helpful to paralegals and legal assistants since online research is often a requirement of the job. Excellent judgment and decision-making skills are also necessary for professionals in this field since paralegals and legal assistants are often put in the position of making snap decisions in important situations.The BLS reports many paralegals begin their career by earning an Associate’s degree in paralegal studies or a Bachelor’s degree in another field coupled with a certificate in paralegal studies. However, some paralegals begin their career with a Bachelor’s degree in another field and ample on-the-job training.

Washington financial aid

College Board figures show tuition and fees for in-state students at public four-year schools came in at slightly over $10,000 for the 2014-15 school year for in-state Washington residents. A further analysis from the College Board also shows how college tuition in Washington has changed over the years:

  • Public 2-year in-state
    • 2004-05: $2,482
    • 2014-15: $4,291
  • Public 4-year in-state
    • 2004-05: $6,181
    • 2014-15: $10,846
  • Private 4-year non-profit
    • 2004-05: $26,728
    • 2014-15: $35,527

Washington Tuition and Fee Costs

Students who want to learn more about resources that can help them pay for tuition and fees at colleges in Washington should reference the Washington Student Achievement Council. According to their website, the following financial resources and aid might be available to students pursuing degrees at colleges in Washington:

Federal grants:

  • 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 loans:

  • 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 grants:

  • State Need Grant– A grant geared to Washington residents whose income falls under a certain threshold.

State scholarships:

  • College-bound scholarship– Need-based scholarship for low-income students in Washington state
  • Passport to College Program for Foster Youth– Special scholarships designated for eligible foster youth
  • American Indian Endowed Scholarship– Scholarship designed for Washington residents with American Indiana heritage
  • Health Professional Loan Repayment and Scholarship Programs– Special program designed for future health care professionals who agree to work in critical shortage areas
  • GET Ready Math and Science Conditional Scholarship– Scholarship available to students who pursue specific fields in math and science

State loans and work-study:

  • State Work Study Program– Work-study program designed to provide part-time jobs to students attending colleges in Washington
  • John R. Justice Loan Repayment– Loan repayment program available for students in certain legal fields in Washington
  • Aerospace Loan Program– Special program designed for Washington students who seek certificate programs in this field.

Other financial aid opportunities exist in Washington, including private scholarships, school-based financial aid and athletic scholarships. Students who want to find out how much aid they qualify for should begin the process by filling out a FAFSA form, or free application for federal student aid. Doing so will help them identify any federal aid options that might be available to them. Once that step is completed students should contact their school of choice to learn more about any other school-based aid that might be available, as well as how to apply.

To find out more about some of the schools and programs available in Washington, be sure to check out the ones featured in our school listings below.

Article Sources


  1. “A Stronger Nation through Higher Education,” Lumina Foundation,
  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: “Diagnostic Medical Sonographers,”, “Meeting, Convention and Event Planners,”, “Interpreters and Translators,”, “Cost Estimators,”, “Paralegal and Legal Assistants,”
  3. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, November 20, 2014: “Diagnostic Medical Sonographers,”, “Meeting, Convention and Event Planners,”, “Interpreters and Translators,”, “Cost Estimators,”, “Paralegal and Legal Assistants,””CareerOneStop,” U.S. Department of Labor,
  4. “Financial Aid Overview,” Washington Student Achievement Council, November 20, 2014,
  5. “National Center for Education Statistics,” College Navigator,
  6. O*NET OnLine, November 20, 2014: “Diagnostic Medical Sonographers,”, “Meeting, Convention and Event Planners,”, “Interpreters and Translators,”, Cost Estimators,, Paralegals and Legal Assistants,, “Postsecondary Completers and Completions: 2011-2012, U.S. Department of Education,
  7. “Trends in College Pricing 2014,” College Board,
  8. “U.S. Census Bureau,” State and County Quick Facts, Washington,

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