Great Degrees for Going Back to School


Get your back-to-school plan in motion by selecting the right degree program.

By Chris Kyle   

The school year is here again and so are those pesky to-do-lists.

But the most important decision of all - especially for adults - may be selecting the right degree or education program.

Do you want to study business? How about health care or paralegal studies?

Those, of course, are just a few of many exciting possibilities at today's colleges and universities. Ohio State, for example, offers more than 175 majors.

To help you decide what to study, we have spotlighted five popular degree options.

Degree #1 - Bachelor's in Health Care Administration

By studying health care administration, you could learn how decisions made by health care executives and personnel in a wide variety of medical settings can help heal patients, and even save lives.

Another potential perk to earning this degree: Health care administration degrees were found to result in the highest percentage of full-time positions for graduates, according to the 2011 Georgetown survey.

Potential paths: Nearly three-quarters of health majors moved into health care management or support careers, according to a 2011 survey by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce. Another 12 percent ended up working in business management or office-related occupations. One possible career, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, is health services manager, a position with an average salary of $93,670.*

Average completion time: Like most bachelor's degree programs, health care administration could take about four years - on average - to complete. For those who already have picked up some college credits or even an associate's degree along the way, your time to completion could be even quicker.

Click to Find Health Care Administration Programs

Degree #2 - Bachelor's in Business Administration

Pop quiz: What's the most popular bachelor's degree in the United States? It's business administration, according to a 2011 study by Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce that analyzed the economic value of 171 college majors.

Potential paths: One of business administration's many appeals may be that it could be applied in so many different careers and industries. Management, sales, and finance are the three most common destinations for business degree grads, according to the Georgetown report. When looking at possible career paths, the U.S. Department of Labor mentions everything from ad sales agent to management analyst, positions with an average salary of $55,020 and $87,260, respectively.*

Average completion time: Most bachelor's in business programs can be completed in about four years, though this can vary depending upon the school and student.

Click to Find Business Administration Programs

Degree #3 - Master's in Business Administration (MBA)

Already have a bachelor's degree but unsatisfied with your place at work? Going back to school for an MBA could be a potentially smart move if you have management ambitions.

Courses in areas like accounting, health care, marketing, and technology may help you develop skills that could add a boost to your resume and career prospects.

Potential paths: Because many MBA students choose to specialize, it's possible to target a specific niche, or stay broad and focus on business administration. A general manager, to use just one career possibility, has an average salary of $113,100.*

Average completion time: Depending upon the business school you choose, you may be able to complete an MBA program in two years, whether it's online or in a more traditional classroom-based program.

Click to Find MBA Programs

Degree #4 - Associate's in Paralegal Studies

Not everyone is fortunate enough to know exactly what career they want to pursue. But if you are planning on pursuing a paralegal career, you don't necessarily need a bachelor's degree.

One potential benefit of this earning an associate's degree in paralegal studies: career opportunities for paralegals are projected to jump 28 percent through 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor says.

Potential paths: Most paralegals have an associate's in paralegal studies, or a bachelor's in another field and a certificate in paralegal studies, according to the Department of Labor. Paralegals have an average salary of $49,640.*

Average completion time: Most paralegal studies students can expect about two years of education before receiving their associate's degree, though this can vary depending on the individual and school.

Click to Find Paralegal Studies Programs

Degree #5 - Associate's in Medical Assisting

Are you considering going to school to improve your career prospects? You may want to consider preparing to pursue medical assisting opportunities.

The U.S. Department of Labor projects that career opportunities for medical assistants are expected to climb 34 percent between 2008 and 2018.

Potential paths: Medical assistant programs generally cover both administrative and clinical tasks, so you'll hopefully be ready to contribute from day one in a career as a medical assistant. According to the Department of Labor, most positions are in the offices of physicians, podiatrists, and chiropractors. The average salary for this position is $29,760.*

Average completion time: Most associate's degree programs in medical assisting will take about two years. For those considering a certificate program, it's possible that your studies will last about a year, though this can vary depending upon your course load and program requirements.

Click to Find Medical Assisting Programs

*All salary info comes from the U.S. Department of Labor using 2010 average national estimates data.

Average completion times represent the average and will vary by factors like full- or part-time status, student level of commitment, school, program, and more.

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