The Best Colleges in Washington DC

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Higher Education in Your State:

Choosing where you will go to college is one of the most important choices you will make. A great place to start with this decision-making process is to consider states and cities in which you would like to live. Depending on your situation, you might be privileged enough to have the freedom to choose exactly where you would like to live and then to choose a school in that area.

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If you are considering colleges in Washington DC, you will want to start with a good understanding of what types of schools are operating in that area. This guide will provide you with some information to get you started on colleges to consider in Washington DC. DC is home to some of the most important national universities, as well as local and regional institutions.

The colleges and universities of Washington, DC, are an elite and influential group, close to the seat of government and tied to power. Almost all of DC’s best value colleges and universities are valued because of what they have to offer – some of the strongest connections for graduates outside of the Ivy League. Whether it’s a public or private university, Washington DC colleges are the closest to the seats of power in the US.

Public Colleges and Universities in Washington, DC

  • Inter-American Defense College
  • National Intelligence University
  • University of the District of Columbia (the only public university is the heart of DC)

Private Colleges and Universities in Washington, DC 

  • American University
  • Catholic University of America
  • Gallaudet University
  • George Washington University
  • Georgetown University
  • Howard University
  • Institute of World Politics
  • DC Trinity Washington University
  • University of the Potomac
  • Washington Theological Union
  • Wesley Theological Seminary

Why Choose Washington DC?

Washington DC is one of the most important regions of our country. Not only does DC hold great historical significance, but it is also the heart of our Federal government. For individuals who are hoping to pursue a career in politics, this is definitely one of the best places to be located during your college career and directly after.

DC is also home to many other important institutions such as the Pentagon, The Smithsonian Institute, A National Air and Space Museum, The National Gallery of Art, and much more.

In addition to many institutions that could be important to your career path, Washington DC is also a hub for college-age people as there are many widely respected schools located here and nearby. The Catholic University of America, for instance, is not the oldest catholic university, but it is the only one founded by US bishops. Of course, just across the border in Maryland and Virginia, outside the nation’s capital, you can find options like the public institution Bowie State University or the private Marymount University in Arlington VA.

What Kinds of Colleges are in Washington DC?

Washington DC is home to many different types of educational institutions. This makes it a great location for students because there is literally something for everyone here. Although DC is a compact area, it is filled with many respectable schools, including six law schools. DC students have a wealth of options for their college search.

Along the same route that you find The Capitol, The White House, and the Supreme Court, you will also find twenty schools. These are both private and public institutions. These schools provide studies at both the undergraduate and graduate level. You will also find institutions that provide training and education on a professional level as well.

You can break these institutions down into the following categories:

  • Research institutes- 5
  • Master’s universities- 4
  • Special focus institutions- 10

In addition to these, Washington DC is also home to some of the most prestigious schools of higher education in the country. Both American University and the Columbus School of Law are located here.

DC is also home to two historically black colleges which are members of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund: in Washington DC Howard University and The University of the District of Columbia are significant HBCUs.

Of course, there are also for-profit schools like Strayer University.

Are There Community Colleges in Washington DC?

You might be wondering if DC is only home to bigger colleges and universities. The answer is no. There are also several great community colleges as well.

DC attracts students from all types of different educational backgrounds and all walks of life. The area strives to create opportunities for any student to explore the nation’s history, be immersed in culture, try new hobbies, and enjoy all types of sporting events and festivals.

Regardless of what degree level you are pursuing, Washington DC has something to offer you. If you are not currently looking to enroll in a large college or four year university, you will be happy to know that DC is also home to several great community colleges as well. These institutions provide students with the education and tools they need to succeed.

These schools provide students with the opportunity to pursue an Associate’s Degree or a professional certificate.

Before we detail the community colleges located in this area, let’s take a minute to discuss what you should be looking for in a community college.

  • Choose a school that provides learning opportunities that match your current place in life. If you work or already have family obligations, you will need to make sure that the school provides the right types of learning tools to accommodate your life. This could include flexible class schedules, online classes, or hybrid classes.
  • Choose a school that is offering the type of degree or certificate you are in need of.
  • Choose a school that is going to work for your financial needs.

Community Colleges In Washington DC

University-District of Columbia Community College

This school is located close to Union Station making it an easy commute from several nearby towns and communities. This school offers a wide variety of associates degree programs to fit your career goals.

Prince George’s Community College

Prince George’s Community College provides students with several campus options as they have many locations placed around the Washington DC area. They offer learning paths for many different career options.

Montgomery College

Montgomery College is another DC community college that offers multiple campus locations to accommodate students in the area. This school boasts a richly diverse student body. It is also conveniently located near the DARO apartment community. This school offers associates degrees and certificates in a diverse array of disciplines.

Tidewater Career School

This school makes learning opportunities available for students regardless of their educational background or achievement level. Students from all different levels can find a place at Tidewater to assist them with furthering their career goals.

Northern Virginia Community College

This school provides multiple locations to help students gain access to higher education. In addition to their convenient locations, this school also offers a rich assortment of degree programs to choose from.

What Are The Most Popular Majors In Washington DC?

The collective schools located in Washington DC offer hundreds of majors to choose from. Deciding which major you should choose is a deeply personal choice that will affect your career path significantly. In Washington DC, fields like international relations, law, and political science are big. Here are some ideas of popular majors that are chosen in DC.

Four-year universities- Among the four-year universities located in Washington DC, the following majors are popular choices:

  • Business
  • Education
  • Legal studies
  • Liberal arts and humanities
  • Human development
  • Political science
  • Civil engineering

Community colleges- Among community colleges, associate degree programs are often ranked according to usefulness rather than popularity. Here are a few of the most useful associates degrees you can earn in the Washington DC area:

  • Mechanical Engineering Technology.
  • Health Science.
  • Network Systems Administration.
  • Nursing.
  • Occupational Therapy Assistant Program.
  • Paralegal Studies.
  • Physical Therapist Assistant.
  • Web Development.

How Many College Students Are In Washington DC?

Because Washington DC is home to so many diverse types of educational institutions, there is a big student population. It is estimated that there are almost 300,000 college students attending the many institutions located there. Let’s look at some of the reasons why college students are attracted to this location.

Housing options– Although Washington DC is relatively expensive in terms of housing costs, there are actually a lot of housing options for students. Schools in DC, even many community colleges, provide students with great housing options.

Transportation– DC is set up to be easily walkable or navigated with public transit. This works well for most college students who do not own a car. Most schools are also located conveniently near major public transit locations as well. DC is also home to major airports, which makes it convenient for students who need to travel home during breaks.

Things to do– Washington DC is definitely not a boring place to live. As one of the most important cities on the planet, there is always plenty of opportunities for cultural enrichment, outdoor activities, zoos, an aquarium, libraries, and some of the biggest and most important museums in the country.

Working– If you will need to work while attending school in Washington DC, you’ll be happy to learn that it is a great place to work. For starters, the minimum wage in DC is far higher than in other parts of the country. As of July 2021, the minimum wage for Washington DC is 15.20 an hour for non-tipped workers.

Tipped workers can expect a base wage of 5.00 an hour. As an added bonus for tipped workers, there are regulations that business owners in Washington DC that hire tipped workers must ensure that the worker makes a minimum of 15.20 an hour. This means that if you work in this type of service, and your tips plus base wage do not equal 15.20 an hour during a pay period, the employer is required to make up the difference.

Considering the fact that many college students work as tipped workers, this is a nice feature of the work opportunities in the area.

Work availability– Although DC does see some of the higher unemployment rates in the country, there has been major improvement in this area since the pandemic has calmed some.

What Kinds of Jobs Are Available In Washington DC?

Jobs that are available in Washington DC for students are similar to jobs found around the country. Students living and learning in DC need jobs that pay well but also that work well with their school schedule. Let’s look at a few job options you might want to consider if you are living and going to school in Washington DC.

Dog walker– This might seem like a surprising option, but dog walkers actually make a great income while also having the freedom to create their own schedule. Because many of the people living in DC are professionals, they are in great need of help to carry on day to day household tasks such as dog walking.

Tutor– If you are strong academically, you might want to consider tutoring younger students. You can set your hourly fee and create your own flexible schedule.

Library assistant– DC is home to several amazing libraries. Working in a library is a low stress, well paying position for students.

Transcriber– If you would like a position that lets you stay home or spend more time in your dorm to save money on a commute, you might want to consider being a transcriber.

Bank teller– A bank teller is also a low stress job that provides easy to manage schedules.

Bartender– If you are of age, working as a bartender is a great way to make a lot of money working on a few hours a week. Bartenders often only work in the evenings which works well for a student’s schedule.  

Freelance writing– If you have strong writing skills you might want to consider working as freelance writer while you in school. You can work from home or your dorm room.

Nanny– Many of the people living in DC are professionals who work long hours. There is a big need for helpers who can maintain day to day home tasks and childcare. You can take advantage of this by working as nanny while you are not in class.

Night Auditor– This is a great job choice for an accounting major who is also a night owl. A night auditor works third shift doing the accounting books or other tasks for a hotel. Washington is a hotspot for work travel so there are many hotels in the area.

Hotel Desk Clerk– Because so many people are traveling in an out of Washington DC on a regular basis, there is a huge hospitality industry here. Working as a hotel desk clerk is a great job option for students. This is a low stress job that pays well.

Freelance Photographer– DC is also a hot spot for tourism with many national landmarks. There are lots of photography opportunities here that could benefit a freelance photography business.

Fitness instructors– Fitness instructors are in demand in most US cities, and Washington DC is no exception. A certified instructor doesn’t even need to have a gym as their home base, DC has lots of public parks that make a great location to conduct classes or one on one fitness instruction.

Companions– Older individuals as well as disabled citizens are often in need of a companions. A companion will help their client with household tasks, errands, and by just keeping them company.

Massage therapist– If you are trained as a massage therapist, you can easily find work in DC. Massage is always an in demand service.

Cleaning– Cleaning services provide a great income with maximum flexibility of schedule. Many homes and offices in DC need reliable cleaning services.

Uber– Uber is a popular transportation service in ever city in the US. You only need a valid drivers license and a safe vehicle.

Starbuck barista– You can’t hardly visit a city in the US without seeing a Starbucks. Working as a Starbucks barista has many perks if you are interested in food service. Starbucks provides flexible work schedules to accommodate your education.

Higher Education Value and Influence in the District 

The compact city of Washington DC, the U.S. capital, packs a punch with twenty colleges and universities listed under the Carnegie Classification of Institutes of Higher Education. Lining the same streets as the Capitol building, the White House, and the Supreme court are twenty private and public colleges and universities from the undergraduate to professional levels. Of the twenty colleges in the district, five are research institutions, four are master’s universities, and there are ten special-focus institutions. Of the more prestigious universities, Washington DC is home to American University and the Columbus School of Law. There are also two historically black colleges and universities, both members of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, an organization that supports 47 historically black colleges in the United States through funding opportunities. Those colleges are Howard University and the University of the District of Columbia.

Best Online Colleges in DC

The District’s universities are best known for their advances in medical research, as seen at the Washington Hospital Center and National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, both of which partner with the areas three medical schools: George Washington University, Georgetown University, and Howard University. The Higher Education Financial Services office for Washington DC aims to make “earning a postsecondary degree easier for students by minimizing the overall cost of attending and enrolling in higher education.” As a public service to its residents, Washington DC offers eligible residents a grant of up to $10,000 annually to offset the cost of tuition at any public university in the country. Additionally, residents wishing to attend a two-year private institution in the District, or a public two-year institution nationwide, may be eligible for an annual $2500 to put towards tuition costs.

The Essential Guide to Online Education in the USA:
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Aya Andrews


Aya Andrews is a passionate educator and mother of two, with a diverse background that has shaped her approach to teaching and learning. Born in Metro Manila, she now calls San Diego home and is proud to be a Filipino-American. Aya earned her Masters degree in Education from San Diego State University, where she focused on developing innovative teaching methods to engage and inspire students.

Prior to her work in education, Aya spent several years as a continuing education consultant for KPMG, where she honed her skills in project management and client relations. She brings this same level of professionalism and expertise to her work as an educator, where she is committed to helping each of her students achieve their full potential.

In addition to her work as an educator, Aya is a devoted mother who is passionate about creating a nurturing and supportive home environment for her children. She is an active member of her community, volunteering her time and resources to support local schools and organizations. Aya is also an avid traveler, and loves to explore new cultures and cuisines with her family.

With a deep commitment to education and a passion for helping others succeed, Aya is a true inspiration to those around her. Her dedication to her craft, her community, and her family is a testament to her unwavering commitment to excellence in all aspects of her life.

Find your perfect value college is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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