Online Degrees to Fit Your Schedule

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These five online degrees could make fitting school into your schedule a cinch.

By John Loos    

Deadlines. To-do lists. Email.

In today's world, busy is the norm. For many, the prospect of putting life on hold to return to school seems impractical.

Online education may remedy this situation.

"Online education is recommended for anyone looking for a quality education with flexibility of taking classes that can fit into the student's schedule, but who is [also] looking for a challenge, wants to work hard and enjoys interactions in a virtual setting," says Jennifer Brady, associate vice president for business development and marketing at the University of Massachusetts Online.

Brady adds that online learning may also provide access to information otherwise unavailable to students, save them money on commuting and living costs, and allow interaction with students from around the world.

Whatever your area of interest, an online degree may be a good fit for your busy schedule.

Check out these five flexible online options now.

Online Degree #1 - Business Administration

If you want to earn your bachelor's in business administration, but need flexibility to make it happen, look into online programs.

In this program, you'll likely study the ins and outs of economics, business policy and strategy, marketing, and management. Online curriculum typically includes classes in accounting, business statistics, and human resources management, according to the College Board, an organization that administers academic aptitude tests like the SAT.

While rigorous, coursework may be flexible in terms of how many classes you schedule for yourself, and when you take them. "Scheduling flexibility could allow a student at some institutions to pass on a course and pick it up the next time it is offered," says Steve Parscale, director of accreditation for the Accreditation Council of Business Schools and Programs.

Click to Find the Right Online Business Administration Program.

Potential Career Paths: A bachelor's in business administration has the potential to serve as a starting point to pursue many different careers, including those in marketing, sales, or promotions management, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Marketing managers have an average annual salary of $112,800, sales managers average $98,530, and promotions managers average $83,890.*


Online Degree #2 - Computer & Information Technology (IT)

Fascinated by computers and data systems? A bachelor's in computer and IT is among the most sought-after online degrees, according to Eduventures, a research and consulting group of higher education.

An online IT program allows you to learn the newest technologies and software from the comfort of your home. Some IT programs may offer partial online and partial on-campus options for those wanting some classroom learning, according to UMassOnline. Coursework may include computer systems and architecture, C++ programming, database management, systems analysis and legal issues in the IT world, says the College Board.

Click to Find the Right Online IT & Information Systems Program.

Potential Career Paths: A bachelor's in IT & information systems can potentially be the first step to a career as a computer support specialist or computer systems analyst, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Computer support specialists have an average annual salary of $46,260, computer systems analysts average $77,740.*


Online Degree #3 - Health Care Administration

Interested in going into health care administration? It might be useful to study it online through a bachelor's in health care administration program. As health care financing and delivery systems move online, those in health care will need to stay up-to-date with the latest computer and software technology.

As you study health policy, regulation, financing, and health administration, your online program may also allow flexibility in terms of an area of specialization, according LA College. Coursework may also include health care law, accounting, anatomy and physiology, and statistics, according to the College Board.

Click to Find the Right Online Health Care Administration Program.

Potential Career Path: Earning a bachelor's in health care administration may prepare you to pursue opportunities in medical and health services management, according to the College Board. The average annual salary for such managers is $84,270.*


Online Degree #4 - Paralegal Studies

Want to study the fundamentals of law on your schedule? Consider earning your associate's in paralegal studies degree online.

The fundamentals of legal studies and research can be taught around your schedule, according to National Paralegal College. For example, students might have the option to take one or several courses at a time, depending on their personal timeline for finishing the degree. Programs may also offer open enrollment, meaning you can enroll at your convenience, according to The Paralegal Institute.

Studies may include legal research techniques, legal applications of computers, and regular academic subjects, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Click to Find the Right Online Paralegal Studies Program.

Potential Career Paths: A paralegal degree may be a smart start to pursuing paralegal opportunities. A majority of paralegals work in law firms, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Some, however, find jobs in corporate legal departments or government organizations. The average salary for a paralegal is $46,680.*


Online Degree #5 - Master's in Business Administration

Want to earn your master's in business administration (MBA), but need some flexibility to make it happen? Learn the nuances of business leadership and financial management from the comfort of your computer while studying online.

Online MBA programs may offer specializations such as accounting, finance and information technology. There are also part-time programs that may offer flexible learning options where coursework is accessible at any time of the week and there's no campus residency requirement.

A typical MBA program covers micro and macroeconomics, business policy and strategy, and contemporary issues such as innovation and e-commerce, according to MBA World, an accreditation association for MBA programs.

Click to Find the Right Online MBA Program.

Potential Career Paths: An MBA might be the starting point for a variety of careers, including executive and management positions in the finance, consulting, health services and real estate industries, according to The Wharton School's 2010 MBA employment report. The report also notes that median salaries in these fields range from $95,000 to $140,000.


*Unless otherwise noted, all salary data is from the U.S. Department of Labor, May 2010 statistics.


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