Best Research Universities in North Carolina 2023

Best Research Universities in North Carolina 2023

Interested in attending a STEM school in North Carolina? Our ranking of top research universities for bachelor’s degrees displays schools that will best prepare you for STEM careers.

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.


What are North Carolina’s Colleges & Universities?

North Carolina’s Best Overall

Related: Differences between research universities and teaching colleges

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A research university is a great option for students interested in obtaining STEM degrees. Research universities invest heavily in research, which consequently provides meaningful and extensive opportunities for its students and faculty to participate in research. We’ve identified 13 research universities in North Carolina. To be included in our ranking, schools must be a fully accredited universities and must must offer doctoral degrees across the range of STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).

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Best Research Universities in North Carolina 2022

  1. #1

    Duke University

    Durham , NC
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $60K

    Acceptance

    6%

    Graduation

    96%

    Student body

    14K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1520/34

  2. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    20%

    Graduation

    90%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1385/30

    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:

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    47%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    31K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1320/29

    North Carolina State University’s Online Degrees

    BA in Leadership In The Public Sector
    • Required Credits: 12
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  4. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    27K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1195/24

    University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Online Degrees

    BA in Respiratory Therapy
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing (Rn To Bsn)
    • Required Credits: 121
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Engineering Technology
    Degree Concentrations
    • Electrical
    • Fire Safety
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  5. #6

    East Carolina University

    Greenville , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    24K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1095/21

    East Carolina University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Communication
    Degree Concentrations
    • Interpersonal/Organizational
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Hospitality Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Industrial Distribution And Logistics
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSBA in Management
    Degree Concentrations
    • Management And General Business
    • Human Resource Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSBA in Marketing
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSBA in Supply Chain Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSBA in Management Information Systems
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Birth Through Kindergarten (B-K) Teacher Education
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Elementary Education (K-6)
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Family And Consumer Sciences Education
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Middle Grades Education
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Special Education
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in University Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Health Information Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Health Services Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing
    Degree Concentrations
    • Rn To Bsn
    • Required Credits: 125-133
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  6. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    91%

    Graduation

    58%

    Student body

    17K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/22

    University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s Online Degrees

    BA in Entrepreneurship
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Business Administration (Business Studies)
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Information Systems And Supply Chain Management
    • Required Credits: 125
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Peace And Conflict Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Birth-Kindergarten Teacher Education
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Integrated Professional Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BLS in Liberal Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Philosophy
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  7. #8

    Campbell University

    Buies Creek , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $38K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1110/22

    Campbell University’s Online Degrees

    BAS in Accounting
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Accounting
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Information Technology And Security
    Degree Concentrations
    • Management
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Information Technology And Security
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Criminal Justice
    Degree Concentrations
    • Pre-Law
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Criminal Justice
    Degree Concentrations
    • Pre-Law
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Criminal Justice Administration
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Cybersecurity
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Homeland Security
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Homeland Security
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Elementary Education (K-6)
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Christian Studies
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Communication Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Generalist
    • Public Relations And Corporate Communication
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Liberal Arts
    Degree Concentrations
    • Humanities
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Healthcare Management
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing Rn To Bsn
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  8. #9

    Elon University

    Elon , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $39K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    83%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1230/27

    Elon University’s Online Degrees

    BSBA in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Management & Entrepreneurship
    • Marketing & Mis
    • Economics & Finance
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Homeland Security
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Interdisciplinary Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Global Studies
    • Community Services
    • Individualized
    • Security Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  9. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    57%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    12K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1045/19

    North Carolina A&T State University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Economics
    • Required Credits: 179
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Electronics Technology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Information Technology
    Degree Concentrations
    • Business
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Liberal Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • African American Studies
    • Applied Cultural Thought
    • Applied Cultural Thought
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing
    Degree Concentrations
    • Rn Completion Option
    • Required Credits: 31
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Agricultural Sciences
    Degree Concentrations
    • Agricultural Education
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Environmental Health And Safety
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  10. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    16K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1235/25

    University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Online Degrees

    BA in Criminology
    • Required Credits: 24
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Elementary Education
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Clinical Research
    • Required Credits: 83-84
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  11. #12

    Wingate University

    Wingate , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $40K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    61%

    Student body

    3K

  12. #13

    Gardner–Webb University

    Boiling Springs , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    48%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1052/21

    Gardner–Webb University’s Online Degrees

    BA in Business Foundations
    • Required Credits: 9
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSA in Accounting
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Management
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Computer Information Systems
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 30
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Birth-Kindergarten Education
    • Required Credits: 73
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Elementary Education
    Degree Concentrations
    • Teacher Assistants To Teachers
    • Required Credits: 48
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Christian Ministry
    • Required Credits: 38
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Human Services
    • Required Credits: 39
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Rn To Bachelor Of Science In Nursing
    • Required Credits: 30
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
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Find the Best Research Universities in North Carolina for Your Area of Interest

2021 Ranking Archive

Many of our 2022 undergraduate focused rankings look considerably different than 2021. That’s because we took a fundamentally different apporach. For 2021 we utilized our Concentrated Influence algorithm, designed to take away the size advantage larger schools have when we rank their faculty and alumni’s academic influence. Concentrated influence highlights smaller schools that are proportionally as successful as larger universities at cultivating influential alumni and faculty.

  1. Duke University
  2. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  3. Wake Forest University
  4. North Carolina State University
  5. University of North Carolina at Charlotte
  6. Elon University
  7. East Carolina University
  8. University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  9. Campbell University
  10. University of North Carolina Wilmington
  11. Wingate University

Check out our directory of research universities throughout the U.S. for a look at the top research institutions in every state.