North Carolina’s Best Graduate Schools of 2021

Graduate school may be a critical step in your higher education, whether you are interested in expanding your knowledge, learning a specialization, or earning advanced credentials required by your profession. The best graduate schools in North Carolina offer advanced degrees, such as master’s and doctoral degrees, as well as opportunities for independent research, mentorships, and professional networking.

North Carolina’s Best Graduate Schools of 2021

Colleges and Universities in North Carolina

Among these schools are over 60 public colleges and universities, including the state’s largest school, North Carolina State University, which serves almost 30,000 students. Tuition costs average about $9,000, just below the national average, and students also have the option to enroll in over 1,000 online courses. Another notable public school is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is one of the country’s oldest universities.

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The 25,000 students who attend UNC will walk the same halls as Francis Collins, Thomas Wolfe, and former president James K. Polk. North Carolina’s private schools have also made a name for themselves, including the well-known Duke University located in Durham. Here, students can earn degrees in some of the top programs, like nursing, political science, and business. Additionally, students can attend one of the many small schools which serve less than 5,000 students, like Campbell University in Buies Creek, or a religiously affiliated school, like Mid-Atlantic Christian University in Elizabeth City.

From its coastal beaches to its lush forests, it’s no wonder the Wright Brothers dreamed of taking flight over North Carolina. This state is rich with history, scenic views, and famous people who once called it home, like John Coltrane and Nicholas Sparks. Students hoping to earn their associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree also have the option of choosing from over 100 schools in the Tar Heel State.

Whether you prefer ocean views or wooded forests, North Carolina has something for everyone. Discover more about the state’s higher learning options.

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What are North Carolina’s Colleges & Universities?

North Carolina’s Best Overall


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There are 16 doctorate-granting universities in North Carolina, 12 of which meet our criteria. The best graduate schools below are composed of both private and public schools that satisfy the following four conditions:

  1. It must be a non-profit institution.
  2. It must be fully accredited.
  3. It must offer doctoral degrees and a broad array of graduate degrees.
  4. It must have a graduation rate greater than 50%.

How do we determine North Carolina's best graduate schools?

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why influence gets at the heart of what is truly best in education. At the undergraduate level, the best colleges and universities are those with the highest concentration of influence. Our Concentrated Influence metric adjusts overall influence by size of undergraduate student body, thus allowing smaller schools to compete with larger schools so long as they have proportionately as strong influential faculty and alums.

But at the graduate level, the combined influence score of a college or university’s top academic influencers is the best indicator of academic excellence. Overall influence, and not influence controlled by other variables, thus becomes the best gauge of academic excellence at the graduate level. Where smaller size is an advantage at the undergraduate level (hence Concentrated Influence), graduate studies benefit from a large and vibrant community of graduate students, who promise to become the new generation of academic influencers.

If you are serious about finding the best graduate schools, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching, and whether their graduates themselves are advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence. Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Influence, as measured by our InfluenceRanking engine, provides a ranking that is free from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

Find out more about our methodology here.

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Best Graduate Schools in North Carolina

  1. #1

    Duke University

    #28 institution's historical influence
    #12 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    8%

    Graduation

    96%

    Student body

    15K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1525/34

    Durham, NC

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    What is Duke University known for?

    Duke University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Law
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

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  2. #2

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    #63 institution's historical influence
    #38 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    25%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1405/30

    Chapel Hill, NC

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    What is University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill known for?

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Law
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    North Carolina State University

    #230 institution's historical influence
    #176 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    46%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    31K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1335/29

    Raleigh, NC

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    What is North Carolina State University known for?

    North Carolina State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Philosophy
    • Physics
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    Wake Forest University

    #322 institution's historical influence
    #48 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    32%

    Graduation

    89%

    Student body

    8K

    Winston-Salem, NC

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    What is Wake Forest University known for?

    Wake Forest University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Law
    • Business
    • Education
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #5

    Appalachian State University

    #1121 institution's historical influence
    #1467 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    73%

    Student body

    19K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1185/25

    Boone, NC

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    What is Appalachian State University known for?

    Appalachian State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Literature
    • Business
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Mathematics
    • Religious Studies

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    University of North Carolina at Charlotte

    #767 institution's historical influence
    #1385 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    27K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1205/24

    Charlotte, NC

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    What is University of North Carolina at Charlotte known for?

    University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Education
    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Communications
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #7

    East Carolina University

    #598 institution's historical influence
    #1186 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    88%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1115/22

    Greenville, NC

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    What is East Carolina University known for?

    East Carolina University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Business
    • Education
    • Biology
    • History
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #8

    University of North Carolina at Greensboro

    #881 institution's historical influence
    #1364 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    88%

    Graduation

    59%

    Student body

    18K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1095/22

    Greensboro, NC

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    What is University of North Carolina at Greensboro known for?

    University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #9

    University of North Carolina Wilmington

    #3065 institution's historical influence
    #1260 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    15K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1245/24

    Wilmington, NC

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    What is University of North Carolina Wilmington known for?

    University of North Carolina Wilmington’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Education
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  10. #10

    Western Carolina University

    #1331 institution's historical influence
    #632 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $4K

    Acceptance

    48%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    11K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1110/22

    Cullowhee, NC

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    What is Western Carolina University known for?

    Western Carolina University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Anthropology
    • Medical
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #11

    High Point University

    #2140 institution's historical influence
    #312 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1175/25

    High Point, NC

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    What is High Point University known for?

    High Point University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Education
    • Literature
    • History
    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Religious Studies
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  12. #12

    Wingate University

    #3638 institution's historical influence
    #1100 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    49%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1030/20

    Wingate, NC

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    What is Wingate University known for?

    Wingate University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Medical
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Communications

North Carolina’s Best Grad School for Your Interest!

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