Degrees that Busy Adults Can Earn Anytime


Check out these online degree programs that allow busy adults to go back to school - on their schedule.

By Amy Howell Hirt

Do you want to go back to school and earn a degree, but not sure how feasible it is with your full-time job and family responsibilities?

Don't let your busy schedule discourage you. Even if your days are jam-packed, earning a degree is possible thanks to online education.

In fact, many schools now offer degree programs that can be completed entirely online. And the largest undergraduate group consists of people who are probably a lot like you: adults over the age of 30, who have a spouse, dependents, or are employed full-time, according to the U.S. Department of Education's "Learning at a Distance" study, released in October 2011.

So, what's drawing adults to online education?

According to Robert Wagner, executive director of distance education at Utah State University, "Online programs are very convenient for the working professional because they don't have to disrupt their lifestyle to get a degree."

If you think online education is a right fit for you, consider these flexible degree programs.

Flexible Degree #1 - Business Administration

Do you want to one day move into a leadership role? An online bachelor's in business administration degree could help you prepare to pursue your goals.

In fact, business programs are often designed to teach the solid communication and leadership skills needed for running a business, according to the College Board, an association of colleges and universities that developed tests such as the SAT. Common courses include operations and financial management, business policy and strategy, economics, human resources management, and marketing.

Flex Factor for Adults: Online business programs allow busy adults to take classes and study when it's most convenient for their schedule.

Click to Find the Right Business Administration Program for You.

What's more, some business programs, like the one at Santa Barbara Business College in California, combine the convenience of online courses with an externship program that places students in an actual business setting to learn practical, real-world skills.

Potential Career: The U.S. Department of Labor says human resources managers usually need a bachelor's degree in business administration to oversee the company's work force. And if you're an adult student with experience, you'll probably enjoy this bit of news: "Some positions are also filled by experienced individuals with other backgrounds, including finance, business management, education, and information technology," adds the Department of Labor.

Flexible Degree #2 - Education

Do you want to prepare to pursue a career as teacher, but have a busy lifestyle that's holding you back? Good news: an online bachelor's in education could allow you to go back to school - even with a crazy schedule.

So, what are some things you'll pick up from an education program? To start, you'll likely develop the talents and skills that teachers need, from learning how to set up a classroom to designing lessons, notes the College Board. Classes may cover topics such as educational psychology, school health and safety issues, and planning classroom activities.

Flex Factor for Adults: Many online education programs are going above and beyond to provide a classroom-like setting for busy students who are unable to attend a traditional program.

Click to Find the Right Education Program for You.

At the University of Southern California, for example, education majors attend real-time lectures where they can press a button to ask questions, and can join user groups to interact with fellow students with similar goals.

Potential Career: Kindergarten and elementary school teachers must have a bachelor's degree in elementary education, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. If you want to teach at a public school, you must also have a license or certification.

Flexible Degree #3 - Health Services Administration

If you want to pursue an administrative career in the health care field - and you're already juggling one too many things - an online bachelor's in health services administration could be tailored to your schedule.

This program may provide a broad base of knowledge that's needed to oversee health care facilities and services. In addition to business-related courses, students could take classes like epidemiology and long-term care and aging, according to the College Board.

Flex Factor for Adults: This degree could be a great option for busy adults who may already be working odd hours in the health care field, and thus, don't have schedules that are conducive with traditional programs.

Click to Find the Right Health Services Administration Program for You.

The online health services administration program at the University of Central Florida, for example, consists of a variety of health care professionals like registered nurses, respiratory therapists, radiographers, and more.

Potential Career: Medical and health services managers have at least a bachelor's degree in health administration, although master's degrees in health services, long-term care administration, public health, public administration, or business administration also are common, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Flexible Degree #4 - Graphic Design

If you enjoy sketching and doodling, and you have your sights on eventually pursuing a career as a graphic designer, an online program could help develop the skills you need, when it's most convenient for your busy schedule, of course.

And when you do find the time to study, you'll likely "learn the basics of good design, which include the way type (style of lettering) and images are used to make visual statements," according to the College Board.

Flex Factor for Adults: Because creativity can strike at any hour of the day or night, students can utilize the flexibility of an online program to maximize their productivity.

Click to Find the Right Graphic Design Program for You.

What's more, an online graphic design degree allows busy students to earn their degree anytime, even if that means before work, during lunch, or after the kids have gone to bed.

Potential Career: A bachelor's degree in graphic design or a related field is usually required to prepare to pursue a career as a graphic designer, notes the U.S. Department of Labor. It adds that those with a bachelor's degree in another area could also enroll in a technical program to prep for the career.

Flexible Degree #5 - Computer Science

If you're a busy adult with hopes of pursuing a career in the tech field, an online degree program in computer science could be particularly beneficial.

Computer science majors might learn about the workings of computer processing and programming, as well as how humans interact with our digital counterparts, according to the College Board. Courses could teach you the various programming languages, the theories of software, and how to resolve computer-related problems.

Flex Factor for Adults: In addition to being able to study on your own schedule, an online computer science degree could allow busy adults to spend as much time as needed to understand a lesson.

Click to Find the Right Computer Science Program for You.

The computer science department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign echoes similar sentiments about flexibility, noting that online education programs enable "busy IT professionals to enhance their education and advance their careers."

Potential Career: Software developers usually have a bachelor's degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Some employers prefer a master's degree for some positions.

Flexible Degree #6 - Communications

With so much of our communication online nowadays, why not go digital when it comes to pursuing a bachelor's in communications? This is an especially good idea for busy professionals, who'll have the flexibility to earn this degree when it's most convenient for them.

As for what you'll learn, the College Board says that communications programs explore various fields and may cover specific topics like political rhetoric, the dynamics of group communication, persuasion, research methods, and communication across cultures.

Flex Factor for Adults: Many online communications courses take advantage of their web-based format - giving busy adults real-world experience with blogging, virtual conferencing, and solid media outlets.

Click to Find the Right Communications Program for You.

The best part about this type of program: Busy adults can pursue this degree whenever and wherever their schedule permits.

Potential Career:  Public relations specialists typically need a bachelor's degree, with employers preferring applicants who have studied public relations, journalism, communications, English, or business, notes the U.S. Department of Labor.

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