Flexible Degrees Perfect for Adult Students


Looking for a flexible way to go back to school? Consider these six online options.

By Terence Loose

Are you thinking about earning a flexible online degree that could fit into your busy schedule? That thinking is right on track, says Cathy Suma-Wolfe, communications director at the College of Marin in Northern California.

"Online classes are perfect for older students who have busy lives," says Suma-Wolfe. "They're designed to be flexible and allow people to study and complete coursework on their time."

And if you're an "adult student," which Suma-Wolfe (and other educators) defines as students 25 and older, you likely want to earn a degree with career potential.

"In this economy, it's all about jobs," says Suma-Wolfe. "The focus for most students 25 and older is getting into a career. They're interested in practical, solid degrees that lead to employment."

If that sounds like what you want to sign on for, read on for six online degrees that could fit nicely into your busy schedule.

Online Degree #1 - Accounting

Does balancing your checkbook every month give you a sense of pride and satisfaction? You could have the personality to excel in an online bachelor's in accounting program. "It's a great degree because there is such a demand for accountants within organizations," says Suma-Wolfe. "Accounting degrees are popular because they teach practical skills that are in demand with businesses."

And just what are those skills? According to the College Board, an association of colleges and universities that developed tests such as the SAT, accounting majors might learn everything from how to prepare taxes to evaluating a company's efficiency and profitability.

Click to Find the Right Online Accounting Program Now.

And talk about practical. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a bachelor's degree in accounting could help you prepare to pursue a variety of careers. This includes most accountant and auditor positions, which require a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field.

Online Degree #2 - Health Care Administration

Want to gain skills to help you pursue a career in the health care field, but need a flexible way to make it happen? If you're an adult with a crazy schedule, an online bachelor's degree in health care administration could help you get the education you're after.

And earning a degree in health care is a great option for adult learners.

"Anything in health care is a good bet for the future," says Suma-Wolfe. "Health care has great demand and looks like it will for a long time." Just consider the U.S. Department of Labor's March 2012 Projections Overview. It predicts that the health care and social assistance industries will add 5.7 million jobs from 2010 to 2020 - more than any other industry.

Interested in what you might study with this degree? Let's take a look at what the College Board says. According to them, typical courses include health care law, health care finance, long-term care and aging, health care ethics, and anatomy and physiology.

Click to Find the Right Online Health Care Administration Program Now.

What's more, if you're interested in pursuing a career as a medical or health services manager, these courses could offer good preparation. In fact, the Department of Labor says a bachelor's degree in health care administration is held by most medical and health services managers. You'll also want to keep in mind that master's degrees in health services, long-term care administration, public health, public administration, or business administration are also common for this position.

Online Degree #3 - Business Administration

Are you an adult student who's looking for a flexible way to hone your business skills? You're not alone. In fact, many adults returning to school sign up for this online degree because they already have a job and either want to advance or switch careers, says Suma-Wolfe.

"Business courses are very popular because they're good for students who are looking for any kind of an advantage in a business environment," says Suma-Wolfe.

As you'd expect, the College Board says business administration and management students at the associate's and bachelor's degree levels study how to plan, direct, and organize a business's activities, and take courses like finance, accounting, and marketing, among others.

Click to Find the Right Online Business Administration Program Now.

The U.S. Department of Labor notes that a bachelor's degree in business offers good preparation for a career as a personal financial advisor. And if you're an adult student who has experience under your belt, we've got some good news. A bachelor's degree in business, coupled with experience, could prep you to pursue a career as a financial manager, to name just one option.

Online Degree #4 - Computer Science

Are you interested in learning more about the tech world? An online bachelor's degree in computer science could help you scratch that intellectual itch. It's also a flexible degree that fits our technological age - and the busy schedules of adult students.

"Everything is going toward technology," says Suma-Wolfe. "So I think with the burgeoning mobile demand, computer science degrees are a good foundation and background for those who want to grow and specialize in these areas." And when you think about it, it's very fitting to pursue a super techie degree in the age of online education.

Looking at the College Board's description of this major, it seems like you'll definitely get your nightly fill of techie stuff. Just check out this partial list of typical computer science courses: data structures and algorithms, software engineering, artificial intelligence, and digital system design.

Click to Find the Right Online Computer Science Program Now.

Are you ready to create the next great phone app or computer program? That's the job of software developers, who usually have a bachelor's degree in computer science, says the U.S. Department of Labor. So if you're an adult student looking for a degree to help you pursue a techie career, a computer science degree could be a great option.

Online Degree #5 - Communications

If you're a busy adult who's looking for a flexible way to develop your communications skills and get more familiar with the social media craze, you might enjoy an online bachelor's degree in communications. It's a choice Suma-Wolfe says could be very practical.

"Twitter, Facebook, blogging...There are now so many opportunities for businesses to get out their message and communicate with customers, in addition to traditional communications outlets, that I think there are good job opportunities for people who have communication skills," says Suma-Wolfe.

And just like the title says, a degree in communications could teach you how to get a message across more efficiently and effectively. Specifically, says the College Board, this major focuses on teaching you how to write, edit, and speak professionally.

Click to Find the Right Online Communications Program Now.

So, if you're ready to "write, edit, and speak" up to help companies reach their potential customers, a career as a public relations specialist could be for you. And according to the U.S. Department of Labor, PR specialist hopefuls typically need to have a bachelor's degree, with employers often preferring a background in public relations, journalism, communications, English, or business.

Online Degree #6 - Court Reporting

Do you like listening more than talking? Do your fingers work your computer keyboard with the acuity of a concert pianist? You could have the makings for pursuing an online associate's degree or certificate in court reporting. And it's a great degree option for adult students, too.

Why? One reason might be because it offers a direct path towards a career as a court reporter.

In fact, with a degree in court reporting, the College Board says "you'll learn to speak legalese and use the tools you'll need to serve as the court's official record-keeper." It adds that typical courses include real-time transcription, legal terminology, and English and editing for transcription.

Click to Find the Right Online Court Reporting Program Now.

And you could take these courses in a variety of programs, with the U.S. Department of Labor noting that "There are different programs for the different transcription methods." This includes certificate and associate's degree programs. Another thing to note is that many states require court reporters who work in legal settings to have a license.

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