Degrees You Can Earn Anytime You Want


Check out these flexible online degrees that busy adults can earn on their own time.

By Jillian Blume

Can you identify with this scenario? You want to go back to school, but with long workdays, stressful commutes, or ferrying the kids to various activities, you barely have time to grab a bite to eat, let alone fit in classes.

Fortunately, there's a way busy professionals (like you) can further their education and still have an active life: online education.

While not a viable option for everyone - those with poor time management skills need not apply - the flexibility of online programs do provide the opportunity to balance school with work and other obligations.

Think that an online education could be a good fit for you? Read on to learn more about five flexible online degrees.

Online Degree #1 - Health Services Administration

Want to learn more about health care management, but aren't sure how to squeeze it into your hectic schedule? Consider earning an online bachelor's degree in health services administration.

According to the College Board, as a health services administration major, you could learn all the aspects of managing health care facilities, including the services provided. Common courses include subjects from accounting and health care law to epidemiology and human resources management.

Online benefits: On top of being a flexible educational route for busy individuals, this online degree has other perks, too. "It's an area where the knowledge base is rapidly evolving, and there's a technological component that will be incredibly important in the future," says Aneil Mishra, managing partner of Total Trust Coaching and Consulting.

In fact, "With the Affordable Care Act being implemented, there's going to be a great need for technological reporting and monitoring, so learning online is beneficial," adds Mishra, in reference to the act that is aimed at reducing the number of uninsured Americans and the overall cost of health care.

Click to Find the Right Online Health Care Administration Program.

Potential career: Most medical and health services managers need at least a bachelor's degree before entering the field, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In fact, prospective managers generally earn a bachelor's degree in health administration.

Other common credentials include master's degrees in health services, long-term care administration, public health, public administration, or business administration, adds the Department of Labor.

Online Degree #2 - Paralegal Studies

If you'd like to learn more about the law, but need some flexibility to make it happen, consider earning your associate's degree in paralegal studies online.

In a paralegal studies program, you could learn about what it takes to work under the supervision of a lawyer or court, according to the College Board. Typical courses like civil procedure, ethics, and litigation generally teach skills in legal research, investigation, and legal writing.

Online benefits: "A degree where you have to master a body of knowledge, like the law, makes perfect sense online," says Mishra. "People can learn at their own pace and revisit the materials as frequently as they need to."

Click to Find the Right Online Paralegal Studies Program.

Potential career: Paralegal is one career option for those with this degree. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, many have an associate's degree in paralegal studies or a bachelor's in another area paired with a paralegal certificate.

Online Degree #3 - Accounting

Do you enjoy tallying scores and figuring out percentages, whether it's for bowling or the racetrack? If you'd like to sharpen your number crunching skills, while still fitting in family time, consider earning an online bachelor's degree in accounting.

This major is focused on teaching students how to analyze, interpret, and explain financial performance and risks, says the College Board. Through common courses like tax accounting, business law, and accounting information systems, you may learn how to prepare tax forms, use accounting systems, and generate balance sheets.

Online benefits: Besides the convenience of studying on your own time, an online accounting degree may also give you a leg up when it comes to learning technology.

"For online students of accounting, the technology allows people to reinforce the information as much as they need to, much more easily than in a face-to-face environment where you'd have a physical person doing the tutoring," says Mishra.

Click to Find the Right Online Accounting Program.

Potential careers: With a bachelor's degree in accounting, you could prep to pursue a career as a public accountant, management accountant, government accountant, or internal auditor, says the U.S. Department of Labor. But some employers prefer candidates with a master's degree in accounting or in business administration with an accounting concentration.

Online Degree #4 - Criminal Justice

Do you tape episodes of "Law & Order"? Are you simply fascinated by crime, the law, and the justice system? Consider earning an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice when it's most convenient for you.

According to the College Board, criminal justice is an interdisciplinary major, meaning you might study everything from law to public administration to psychology and sociology. Courses could include criminology, policing society, and juvenile justice.

Online benefits: "For people looking to make a career change into criminal justice, online degrees help them manage their time, since they can learn the materials and complete assignments on their own schedules," says Julie Mann, CEO and president of JMann Consulting Group, a firm that offers HR administration services.

Click to Find the Right Online Criminal Justice Program.

Potential careers: To prepare to pursue a career as a probation officer or correctional treatment specialist, a bachelor's degree in criminal justice is one education option, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And if you are looking for more of an investigative role, prospective private detectives enter the profession with an associate's or bachelor's degree in criminal justice. 

Online Degree #5 - Computer Science

Are you a computer whiz who dreams of designing new software applications, but your busy schedule won't allow traveling to a classroom every day? An online bachelor's degree in computer science may be the answer to your dilemma.

What will you learn in a computer science program? According to the College Board, you might study computer systems as well as the human-computer interaction from a scientific viewpoint. Artificial intelligence, software engineering, and introduction to program design are among some of the common courses.

Online benefits: "Online education is an easily adaptable, highly popular way to teach computer science, especially the software side of it, whether it's coding or the human-machine interface," says Mishra.

"Students are going to be using that technology in the physical environment, so I think it would be relevant for an online teaching mode," adds Mishra.

Click to Find the Right Online Computer Science Program.

Potential careers: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a bachelor's in computer science can prepare you to pursue a career as a software developer. Other tech-related career options - for those with a bachelor's in computer science - could include a computer systems analyst or computer programmer.

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