Popular Online Degree Options for You

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See how earning these popular online degrees could help you move your career forward.

By Chris Kyle   

Thinking about earning your degree online? You have company.

Online enrollment grew 21 percent in 2009, the most recent year for which numbers are available, according to the Sloan Consortium, a non-profit leadership and educational organization.

To put that growth into context, nearly 6 million students took at least one online course in 2009, according to the Sloan Consortium, and those numbers are only expected to rise in the coming years.

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"One trend we are seeing increase dramatically is the number of students who start a program on campus, try an online course and never turn back and complete their program entirely online," says Scott Durand, director of graduate enrollment services at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).

Durand says that the transition from classroom learning to online education can be seamless because the learning objectives are identical."There is no distinction on the diploma," he says. "The degree is the same."

Selecting the right online degree is a personal choice, according to Jen Varney, an academic advisor at SNHU. "It really depends on what the student has already done and what they want to do," she says.

To help you decide which online degree may be right for you, we've spotlighted four popular online degrees. Keep reading to see why they might be worth pursuing.

#1 Online Program
Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology (IT)

"IT courses lend themselves very well to online learning," says Joan Mitchell, director of public relations at Western Governors University (WGU), an entirely online non-profit institution with 5,000 IT students.

The freedom to study when and where you want can be big advantages to just about any online degree program you may choose. This is particularly true of IT degrees since you'll likely be using modern technology to study the latest tech breakthroughs and industry trends.

Potential IT Career Paths & Average Earnings:*
Network and Computer Systems Administrator: $72,200
Database Administrator: $75,730
Computer Systems Analyst: $81,250

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#2 Online Program
Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration

The most popular bachelor's degree in the country is business administration, according to a 2011 survey by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce. Studying business administration online could allow you to work towards this popular degree without sacrificing your day job.

"Many of our students want to take their business career to the next level," says David Eby, director of undergraduate enrollment services at SNHU. "In a lot of cases they have reached a glass ceiling but they can't just stop working and providing for their family. Earning their degree online provides flexibility."

Potential Careers & Average Earnings:*
Training and Development Specialist: $57,280
Marketing Specialist: $66,850
Accountant: $68,960

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#3 Online Program
Bachelor's Degree in Psychology

Studying how humans make up their minds and behave can potentially benefit you in any number of careers, which is why earning a bachelor's in psychology could be so useful. By earning your psychology degree online, you might have the opportunity to study with professors and students who live all over the world. "We are not geographically constrained with our online faculty," says Eby regarding the practicing psychologists who teach at SNHU.

Psychologist and school counselor are two potential career paths for those who study psychology, but career opportunities in the business and legal worlds are also possible, whether it's in marketing or criminal justice.

Potential Career Paths & Average Earnings:*
Family Therapist: $47,530
School Psychologist: $72,540
Industrial-Organizational Psychologist: $114,040

Click to Find Online Psychology Degree Programs

#4 Online Program
Master's Degree in Business Administration (MBA)

One advantage of earning an MBA online is that your coursework is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Another advantage is that you could potentially apply what you learn online in your day job.

And while earning an online MBA could certainly help you in your current career, it could also help the way you market yourself to potential employers as well. "The vast majority of our MBA students choose a specialization," Durand says. "It makes them more marketable."

Specializations in online MBA programs are common at many schools and might often include: accounting, finance, health care management, marketing, and project management.

Potential Career Paths & Average Earnings:*
General Manager: $113,100
Sales Manager: $114,110
Financial Manager: $116,970

Click to Find the Right Online MBA Program for You

*All average earnings info comes from the U.S. Department of Labor using May 2010 national estimates.

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