Get Your Degree Without Setting Foot On Campus


You don't have to put off your crazy work schedule, kids, or domestic responsibilities to earn your degree.

By Andrea Argueta

With work, kids, dinner, laundry, and chores, going back to school may seem like a pie-in-the-sky dream. However, there is a way to fit your academic dreams into your day-to-day reality: online education.

Earning a degree online is convenient, says Richard Garrett, vice president of Eduventures, a research and consulting firm that specializes in higher education. Online education is for "people who don't have the time for the campus experience and may need to combine work with study, or may have family responsibilities," says Garrett.

Though we do have to warn you - just because you're studying online doesn't mean it'll be easy. But if you think you're ready to find a place for education in your busy schedule, consider earning one of these six degrees online.

Flexible Degree #1: Associate's in Paralegal Studies

Instead of watching "Judge Judy" after a long day of work, why not develop your own legal research skills at home with an online associate's degree in paralegal studies?

As a paralegal studies major, you could learn to do some of the same work that attorneys do, like writing legal documents and researching legal questions, says the College Board, an organization that promotes higher education. You could also learn to use online legal databases and study courses such as civil procedure and litigation.

Why Study Online? Online paralegal students could acquire skills that are useful in the workplace, in addition to doing homework around their schedule. In fact, "doing papers online would be quite similar to what they would do [as a paralegal when] developing supporting evidence for a case or to track down some piece of information," says Garrett. Plus, paralegal work tends to be somewhat behind the scenes and on your own, so the online environment is similar to the work environment, he adds.

Click to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Program.

Potential Careers*:

  • Paralegal
  • Legal assistant

Flexible Degree #2: Master's in Education Administration

Are you a school teacher who spends recess time thinking about new strategies to reach your school's goals? Then an online master's degree in education administration might be a great fit for you and your schedule.

In an education administration graduate program, you could study factors that impact education, like politics and economics, for example, says The Princeton Review, an organization that helps college and graduate-school bound students achieve their higher education goals. You also might learn the fundamentals of management and how to handle school finance and law.

Why Study Online? This degree is a good fit for those teachers who already have a license and bachelor's degree in education and are looking for professional development, says Garrett. And, it will allow you to keep your teaching job as you prepare for greater administrative responsibility, he says.

Click to Find the Right Education Leadership Program.

Potential Careers:

  • Elementary school principal
  • Middle school principal
  • High school principal

Flexible Degree #3: Bachelor's in Accounting

If you're great at balancing your checkbook and math was one of your favorite subjects in high school, consider earning your bachelor's degree in accounting online.

Why? As an accounting student, you'll not only learn to gather and record financial information, you'll also learn how to evaluate a company's efficiency and profitability, says the College Board. You can also expect to study tax law and learn to prepare tax filings.

Why Study Online? "Accounting is the kind of major where there's often no particular need to be involved face to face," says Garrett. He says there's a lot of working with figures in an online program, rather than necessarily having to be with people in a physical space - which is great if your schedule opens up at the office, at home, or just about anywhere else.

Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.

Potential Careers:

  • Auditor
  • Accountant
  • Personal financial advisor

Flexible Degree #4: Bachelor's in Human Resources Management

Do you love motivating people and helping them get ahead? You could earn your bachelor's in human resources management degree online in your free time - and prepare to pursue a career where you can put these talents to use.

In an HR management program, you could learn how to handle employment issues and what it takes to meet employees' needs, says the College Board. Reading up on hiring and firing laws and the history of labor unions might also be part of this program.

Why Study Online? HR management programs are typically discussion based, which to some extent includes mail or email. Both of these are often at the heart of office communication and HR, among other things, Garrett says. Today, communication plays an important role as well. "Many companies are increasingly virtual; people are working from home or at different branches, and different parts of the world, so the idea of having to manage or relate to other people virtually [like in an online program] isn't actually that different from being in an HR leadership role."

Click to Find the Right Human Resources Program.

Potential Careers:

  • Human resources specialist
  • Human resources manager
  • Training and development manager

Flexible Degree #5: Bachelor's in Computer Science

Wondering just how that computer game was created to be so realistic? You should think about enrolling in an online bachelor's degree in computer science - so you could figure out how to create the newest game instead of just playing it.

As a computer science major, you could learn about computer systems and programming languages, says the College Board. You can also expect to learn how to solve problems by translating a question into instructions a computer can follow.

Why Study Online? Talk about hands-on: studying computer science on a computer, online. And if that weren't enough, Garrett says, there are aspects of learning online that are similar to working in an IT role, such as managing IT across remote offices nationwide or internationally - which could be good practice for the workplace.

Click to Find the Right Computer Science Program.

Potential Careers:

  • Software developer
  • Computer systems analyst
  • Web developer

Flexible Degree #6: Master's in Health Care Administration

Already have a bachelor's and work in health care but want to move into a management position that is more hands-off when it comes to patients? Earning a master's degree in health care administration online might help you gain the credentials you need.

In this graduate program, you could learn how to make business decisions and consider how these could affect patients and the facility's bottom line, according to the Princeton Review. You also might learn about the nation's health care system and work on real-life management problems.

Why Study Online? This degree is geared toward people who have some experience in the field behind them and who tend to need a flexible degree program in order to advance, says Garrett. And because of the nature of the content of the program, which combines theory and case studies, this field can be studied entirely online, he adds.

Click to Find the Right Health Care Administration Program.

Potential Career:

  • Medical or health services manager

* All potential careers listed from the 2012-2013 U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook. The Department of Labor cites the associated degrees as common, required, preferred, or one of a number of degrees acceptable as preparation for the potential career. In some instances, candidates might require further schooling, professional certifications, or experience, before being qualified to pursue the career.

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