Five Great Degrees To Earn At Any Age


Feel like you're too old for school? Don't worry, these five degrees are ageless.

By Lia Sestric

We may grow wiser with age (so they say), but that doesn't mean you couldn't use a little educational wisdom. Sure, you're not 18 anymore, but that doesn't mean you can't rewrite the next page of your life. In fact, if you chose to enroll in college, you'd be surprised by just how many adult students are pursuing degrees.

Between 2010 and 2020, the percentage increase in the number of students age 25 and over enrolling in college has been larger than the percentage increase in the number of younger students who are under age 25, according to the National Center for Education Statistics' "Digest of Education Statistics: 2011." This isn't expected to be a passing fad either. The NCES forecasts a 20 percent increase in enrollment of students 25 and up through 2020, about double what is expected for younger students.

Why the uptick? "Once upon a time, the career you chose at the beginning of your professional life was the one you retired from - often the same company. That is not the case anymore," explains Dee Masiello, assistant dean of graduate faculty and academic affairs at Northeastern University. "People change careers often and a change of career requires the development of new skills and competencies which occurs later in life."

Are you ready to stop fussing about age and get down to learning? Keep reading to learn more about five degrees you could pursue at any age

Degree #1: Master's in Business Administration (MBA)

Have you paid your dues all these years but are still waiting in line to move up or even enter the corporate realm? A master's in business administration (MBA) could help promote you to the next level.

Why Adults May Benefit: MBA programs have intense curriculums, but adult students may be better prepared to handle this academic rigor. "Adult students have already challenged themselves and challenged all expectations," says Tara Morlando-Zurlo, director of academic success and retention programs at Montclair State University. "An MBA provides an opportunity to move boldly ahead and deepen their understanding, training, and mastery of a specific element of business today."

Next step: Click to Find the Right MBA Program.

What You May Learn: An MBA program may include courses in organizational behavior, decision sciences, management, and finance, says the Princeton Review. 

Career Options: While this distinguished degree could lead you down several career paths, one possibility could be a career as a financial analyst. Although these professionals typically must have a bachelor's degree, employers often require an MBA or a master's in finance, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Degree #2: Bachelor's in Accounting

Would you say your life has been very calculated, but the one thing you may have forgotten to factor in was that college degree? Why not rework your life's balance sheet by earning a bachelor's in accounting?

Why Adults May Benefit: "An accounting degree gives adult learners highly practical skills that open doors to numerous careers," says Murlando-Zurlo. These newly acquired analytical, organizational, and communication skills combined with previous work or life experiences could make an adult learner much more marketable in a competitive job market, she adds.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.

What You May Learn: Accounting majors learn how to gather, record, and interpret information about an organization's financial performance, according to the College Board, the organization that administers the SAT exam. Tax accounting, business law, and auditing are some of the courses you might take in this major.

Career Options: How does pursuing a career as an accountant sound? The U.S. Department of Labor says most need at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or related field. The Department of Labor also notes job prospects may increase if one receives certification within a specific field of accounting, such as a Certified Public Accountant license, which is a popular choice.

Degree #3: Bachelor's in Computer Science

Computers inevitably become obsolete, but your skill set should never start collecting dust. Why not keep up with the latest in computer technology by enrolling in a bachelor's program in computer science? It may even make you feel younger to be a part of this hip industry around which the world revolves today.

Why Adults May Benefit: "The major helps to develop and refine critical thinking skills and logical problem-solving," says David Richard, professor of psychology at Rollins College and dean of the Hamilton Holt School, which offers evening programs at the college. "As adults get older, these are abilities that sometimes decline. A major in computer science helps to keep the mind sharp."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Computer Science Program.

What You May Learn: The College Board says as a computer science student, you'll learn about how humans and computers interact from a scientific perspective. Some courses could include digital system design, artificial intelligence, and software engineering.

Career Options: How do you feel about writing computer codes for software programs? With a bachelor's in computer science, you could pursue a career as a computer programmer. The U.S. Department of Labor says most programmers get this degree or one in a related field. The Department does note, however, that while most have a bachelor's, some employers do hire at the associate's level.

Degree #4: Bachelor's in Psychology

Maybe you have a knack for reading people and interpreting their behavior. Or perhaps you feel comfortable talking to people from all different walks of life. You could build upon these natural talents by earning a bachelor's degree in psychology.

Why Adults May Benefit: Psychology is very research-based and covers topics that are immediately applicable to adults in the workplace, says Richard. "Psychology majors learn quantitative methods, research skills, how to function in small groups, and gain a better understanding of human behavior. These are important skills that complement the adult student's acquired wisdom."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Psychology Program.

What You May Learn: If you become a psych major, be prepared to write papers on current research in the field and perhaps even participate in a study yourself, says the College Board. Some courses may include cognitive psychology, perception and sensation, neuroscience, and developmental psychology.

Career Options: You've likely seen people through better and worse. How would you like to get others through difficult times? Well, this degree could prepare you for a career as a social worker, those professionals who help people solve and cope with their problems, says the U.S. Department of Labor. Although a bachelor's degree in social work is the most common requirement to qualify for this job, some employers may hire those with a bachelor's degree in a field related to social work, including psychology, notes the Department of Labor.

Degree #5: Master's in Health Care Administration

Why not pursue a degree that could lead you into a business-oriented field that is also booming? We're talking about health care, of course. A master's degree in health care administration may launch you into a budding career.

Why Adults May Benefit: "Adult learners often have had personal experience with the health care system, either for themselves or a loved one, and can bring a compassionate perspective to management and administration," says Richard. "Work experience, especially managerial experience, in other fields often is excellent preparation for a career in health care administration."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Health Care Administration Program.

What You May Learn: A master's in health care administration may teach you how our country's health care system works as well as the problems facing health care organizations, according to the Princeton Review. MHA degrees offered at business or public health schools have a narrower focus on training administrators of hospitals, clinics, and other health care organizations, whereas an MBA with a specialization in health care administration looks at health care from the perspective of a businessperson.

Career Options: Want to orchestrate a health care facility? This degree could set you up to pursue a career as a health care services manager. The U.S. Department of Labor says a bachelor's is typically needed, although master's degrees are also common. A master's degree in health services is one of them, adds the Department of Labor.

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