Five Hot Degrees for Busy People

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These hot online degree programs offer the flexibility to study what you want, when you want.

By Tony Moton

Students in pursuit of college degrees often face a considerable hurdle: time - or a lack thereof.

If this sounds like you, consider enrolling in an online program, which could give you the freedom to earn your degree from wherever there is an Internet connection.

"Online programs clearly are more convenient than the campus experience," says Richard Garrett, vice president and principal analyst for Eduventures, a Boston-based education research and consulting firm.

"Students can choose when to study if they are trying to combine family and study or work and study. It gives you that missing piece of flexibility."

Interested in learning more about online degrees? You're in luck. We took a look at Eduventures' 2011 annual report, "The Big Picture 2011," to get some insight into popular online bachelor's degrees. Keep reading to learn more.

Online Degree #1: Business

Have you been meaning to go back to school to work towards your bachelor's in business, but never thought it was doable with your busy schedule? Consider pursuing it online.

And you won't be alone if you choose to work towards a bachelor's in business online. In fact, business ranked number one on Eduventures' "Big Picture" list of most popular online bachelor's degrees with some 400,000 students enrolled in business programs in the fall of 2010.

Hot factor: The diversity in subject matter and the tangible nature of career preparation in the business world help make the program the most sought-after choice for students, says Garrett.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Business Administration Program Now.

What you might study: Courses typically offered in the business administration and management programs include business law, management, and economics, according to the College Board, the organization that manages the SAT testing program.

Related career: Earning a bachelor's degree in the popular field of business could prepare you to pursue a career as a personal financial advisor or financial analyst. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, personal financial advisors usually need a bachelor's degree, with business listed as good preparation. Analyst gigs, on the other hand, require a bachelor's in a field like accounting or business administration.

Online Degree #2: Computer and Information Technology

If you're looking for a way to fit learning more about computers and the latest technology into your busy life, you may want to consider getting your bachelor's degree in computer and information technology online.

This degree came in at #2 on Eduventures "Big Picture" list of hottest online bachelor's degree programs, with a reported 95,000 students enrolled in fall 2010.

Hot factor: The growth of computer-related careers could be part of the reason bachelor's degree programs in IT are the second-most popular of all online subjects, according to Garrett.

"There are a growing number of IT roles across the country, whether it's programming, coding, or networking," Garrett says.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Information Technology Program Now.

What you might study: Computer networking, database management systems, and systems analysis and design are typically among the course offerings in this program, according to the College Board, although it also notes topics like the social impact of information technology could be part of your curriculum.

Related career: This degree could prep you to pursue a career as a computer and information systems manager. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, these managers typically need a bachelor's in a computer- or information-science related field plus relevant work experience.

Online Degree #3: Criminal Justice

If you're interested in the realm of law and order, you might want to give an online bachelor's degree program in criminal justice some serious consideration.

It came in third place in the Eduventures study, with 90,000 students enrolled.

Hot factor: "This field really didn't have a degree focus in past years because it was more about police academy training," Garrett says. "There were not too many mandates for people to get degrees, but now degrees are often preferred or needed to help get promotions."

Employers in the criminal justice field are requiring more job candidates to have some type of formal education, so schools are beefing up their online offerings in this discipline, according to Garrett.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Criminal Justice Program Now.

What you might study: Law, psychology, and public administration are among the subject matter often covered in criminal justice programs, according to the College Board. It also adds that your typical course load might include statistics, criminology, and juvenile justice.

Related career: While a bachelor's degree might not be necessary for a career as a police officer, it couldn't hurt to have one. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, many agencies require some college coursework or a college degree.

Online Degree #4: Nursing

If you have a desire for a hands-on career in health care, consider earning an online bachelor's degree in nursing and study this hot discipline at your own pace.

Nursing ranked fourth on the Eduventures' "Big Picture" list of most popular online bachelor's degrees, with 80,000 students enrolled during the reported timeframe.

Hot factor: Garrett says nursing shortages and new job requirements are helping spur the trend of online nursing degree programs.

"[The field of] nursing is getting close to mandating the bachelor's degree as a mandate for entry level," Garrett says, referring to the registered nurse (RN) career field. "People are being encouraged to get degrees as the profession seems to grow in size."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Nursing Program Now.

What you might study: Courses such as chemistry, microbiology, and anatomy are generally part of a bachelor's degree program in this area, according to the College Board. The organization also notes that the program could help prepare students to take the National Council of Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Related career: A bachelor's in nursing is one path aspiring nurses may take in pursuit of a registered nursing career, though there are other options, like an associate's degree. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a bachelor's program usually includes more training in the physical and social sciences, leadership, and critical thinking - which are all gaining importance as nursing becomes complex.

Online Degree #5: Health Care

Are you interested in a field that could allow you to help others, but are not sure what exactly to study? Earning a bachelor's degree in one of the many areas in health care could help prepare you for a career in a variety of disciplines in this popular online field.

Coming in at number five on the Eduventures "Big Picture" list of popular online degrees for bachelor's students was health care, with 52,000 students enrolled.

Hot factor: The broad appeal of the health care field - which includes health care administration - is considered one of the main reasons it's popular among online bachelor's degree students, according to Garrett.

"Health care breaks into several fields, and some of these sub-professions are going through a change where you now need degrees to get hired due to regulations or recent federal rules," Garrett says. Schools are trying to keep up with the demand."

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

What you might study: Health care as a major has a number of specific disciplines under its umbrella, and health services administration is one of them, according to the College Board. Their coursework normally might include health care ethics, health care law, and human resources management.

Related career: This degree could help you get your foot in the door of a health services manager gig. In fact, "Prospective medical and health services managers have a bachelor's degree in health administration," says the U.S. Department of Labor.

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