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

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.

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. The 25,000 students who attend this school 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.

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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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.


Best Graduate Schools in North Carolina

  1. Duke University
    #1

    Duke University

    #31 institution's overall influence
    #12 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    95%

    Student body

    15K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1510/34

    Durham, NC

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    What is Duke University known for?

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

    • Religious Studies
    • Nursing
    • Earth Sciences
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Law
    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    #2

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    #75 institution's overall influence
    #38 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    23%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1375/31

    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:

    • History
    • Law
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Communications
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Nursing
    • Religious Studies
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. North Carolina State University
    #3

    North Carolina State University

    #196 institution's overall influence
    #176 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    47%

    Graduation

    78%

    Student body

    30K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1320/29

    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:

    • Engineering
    • Physics
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Business
    • History
    • Economics
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. Wake Forest University
    #4

    Wake Forest University

    #474 institution's overall influence
    #48 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $53K

    Acceptance

    29%

    Graduation

    88%

    Student body

    7K

    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
    • Business
    • Law
    • History
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Education
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. Appalachian State University
    #5

    Appalachian State University

    #769 institution's overall influence
    #1467 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    69%

    Graduation

    72%

    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:

    • Mathematics
    • Communications
    • Economics
    • Criminal Justice
    • Anthropology
    • History
    • Earth Sciences
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. University of North Carolina at Charlotte
    #6

    University of North Carolina at Charlotte

    #818 institution's overall influence
    #1385 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    26K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1195/24

    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:

    • Anthropology
    • Religious Studies
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Sociology
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Economics
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. East Carolina University
    #7

    East Carolina University

    #765 institution's overall influence
    #1186 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    82%

    Graduation

    61%

    Student body

    26K

    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:

    • Nursing
    • Medical
    • Social Work
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. University of North Carolina at Greensboro
    #8

    University of North Carolina at Greensboro

    #712 institution's overall influence
    #1364 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    84%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    18K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1075/22

    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:

    • Nursing
    • Literature
    • Sociology
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Chemistry
    • Economics
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. University of North Carolina Wilmington
    #9

    University of North Carolina Wilmington

    #2329 institution's overall influence
    #1260 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    61%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    15K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1255/25

    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:

    • Social Work
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Anthropology
    • Communications
    • Literature
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. Western Carolina University
    #10

    Western Carolina University

    #2077 institution's overall influence
    #632 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $4K

    Acceptance

    40%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/22

    Cullowhee, NC

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    What is Western Carolina University known for?

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

    • Nursing
    • Anthropology
    • Literature
    • History
    • Social Work
    • Medical
    • Criminal Justice
    • Education
    • Business
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. High Point University
    #11

    High Point University

    #2103 institution's overall influence
    #312 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1170/24

    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:

    • Anthropology
    • Political Science
    • Economics
    • History
    • Criminal Justice
    • Business
    • Education
    • Sociology
    • Computer Science
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. Wingate University
    #12

    Wingate University

    #7478 institution's overall influence
    #1100 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1075/21

    Wingate, NC

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    What is Wingate University known for?

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

    • Religious Studies
    • Social Work
    • Criminal Justice
    • Nursing
    • Education
    • Communications
    • History
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

North Carolina’s Best Grad School for Your Interest!

Anthropology

Biology

Business

Chemistry

Communications

Computer Science

Criminal Justice

Earth Sciences

Economics

Education

Engineering

History

Law

Literature

Mathematics

Medical

Nursing

Philosophy

Physics

Political Science

Psychology

Religious Studies

Social Work

Sociology

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