Five Online Degrees with Big Potential


Looking to advance your career or start a new one? See how an online education could provide the flexibility you need to work toward your goals.

By Tony Moton

Do you want to pursue a college degree online, but not sure how or if it will improve your future? We understand. You've got a busy life and there's no time to waste on something that won't pay off.

But consider these words by global and online learning expert, Meg Benke:

"The programs that are available through online learning have been designed with the needs of busy adults or young adults in mind," says Benke, provost at State University of New York (SUNY), Empire State College. "It allows learners to attend with more flexibility so they can earn credits."

In other words, if you already have a job or personal responsibilities - such as raising a family - an online degree program might offer the kind of flexible class schedules and study hours that can help you earn a degree with payoff potential.

Take a closer look at the following five flexible online programs and their career payoff potential.

Online Degree #1 - Bachelor's in Health Care Administration

Do you want to learn how to run a health care facility, but at the same time keep your home and work life running just as smoothly? You might consider earning an online bachelor's degree in health care administration.

Benke says that by using the advanced technologies that allow you to complete this online program in the comfort of your own home, this major could expose you to the kind of computer technology used by professionals in the field.

Click to Find the Right Health Care Administration Program.

About the program: With a bachelor's degree program in health care administration, you could pick up the knowledge and skills needed to learn how to operate a hospital, nursing home, rehabilitation center, or other health care organization, according to the College Board, an organization of colleges and universities that administers tests such as the SAT. Typical courses include health care ethics, health care finance, health information systems, and human resources management.

Potential career payoff: The U.S. Department of Labor says a health care administration bachelor's degree could help grads prepare to pursue a position as a medical and health services manager. If you want to aim higher, a master's degree in this field is also common.*

Online Degree #2 - Bachelor's in Business Administration

Can you see yourself one day running a business franchise or thriving in a corporate setting? Completing an online bachelor's degree in business administration could be the first step towards that dream.

Benke says an online program in business administration is ideal should you want to invest your free time in earning a degree to advance your career. "If students are already working, it's a way for them to advance in their current field or get into broader business areas," Benke says.

Click to Find the Right Business Administration Program.

About the program: As a business administration major, you'll likely learn about business policy and strategy and discover how to solve business challenges that face real companies, according to the College Board. Courses in business law, business statistics, and economics are among the commonly offered courses in this field.

Potential career payoff: An online degree program in business administration could prepare you to pursue a variety of potentially lucrative careers in the world of business and finance. The U.S. Department of Labor notes that financial analyst, budget analyst, and personal financial advisor are among the occupations that typically require a bachelor's degree.*

Online Degree #3 - Bachelor's in Accounting

For people looking to maximize their number skills while minimizing their scheduling conflicts, earning an online bachelor's degree in accounting could really add up.

Why? "It allows a person who's working to go to school and do that with flexibility," says Benke, who adds that it could help you keep your current career while you prepare to change it for something potentially better.

Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.

About the program: With a bachelor's in accounting, you can expect to discover how to analyze financial information, balance books, and evaluate investment risks, according to the College Board, which also notes that business law, auditing, and tax accounting are among the typical courses offered.

Potential career payoff: The U.S. Department of Labor says a bachelor's degree in accounting is generally a must-have for most entry-level accountant positions. It also notes that other related occupations you could prepare to pursue with this degree include budget analyst and financial analyst, among others.*

Online Degree #4 - Bachelor's in Psychology

Does a flexible degree that could allow you to keep your sanity as you balance work and school sound good? Earning a bachelor's degree in psychology online could be your answer.

"A distance learning program allows them the flexibility to do that," Benke says of psychology students who also have a busy home or work life.

Click to Find the Right Psychology Program.

About the program: Psychology majors study some of life's most fascinating mysteries. In fact, a psych major might study the relationship between mind and body, and our perception of the world, says the College Board. Typical courses include personality, social psychology, developmental psychology, and neuroscience.

Potential career payoff: "What I have seen from psychology majors is that they are interested in human services," Benke says. "They want degrees that will allow them to do something in social work, work in a profit or nonprofit agency setting, or advance into human services management."

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, occupational opportunities for psychology majors might include social worker and correctional treatment specialist.*

Online Degree #5 - Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice

In spite of what blockbuster movies indicate, fighting crime is not just for superheroes. And should you have the desire to start or advance your career in the field of criminal justice, earning an online bachelor's degree in this major could potentially pay off.

"If you're in the profession, you might be a police officer or fire service administrator who is seeking a degree for a promotion," Benke says. A related situation, particularly in larger cities, she adds, is that career advancement is hard without a degree.

Click to Find the Right Criminal Justice Program.

About the program: If you're bored in your out-of-school life, chances are you won't be bored as a criminal justice major. According to the College Board, they study a wide range of topics, like law, psychology, sociology, public administration, and even terrorism.

Potential career payoff: Studying online could potentially pay off with various kinds of crime-fighting and public service career opportunities. The U.S. Department of Labor says many agencies require police and detectives to have some college coursework or a college degree. Other possible career paths for bachelor's degree holders in criminal justice include probation officer and correctional treatment specialist.*

*All potential career information is from the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition.

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