Top Online Degrees for Switching Fields


Want to take your career in a new direction? See how earning a degree online could help.

By Tony Moton    

Are you looking to make a career change?

Going back to school online may be a good option for you.

In fact, online degrees are helping change the way people update their careers.

"One of the attractions to online (education) is that it's a lot more accessible to working adults who want to quit their jobs," says Pedram Mizani, president of Advanced Colleges of America.

To help you sift through your online degree options, we looked to a study by Eduventures, a leading educational research firm.

Based on their study, the most popular online programs for bachelor's degrees in the fall of 2010 were - in no particular order - business, nursing, technology, health care, and criminal justice.

Keep reading to find out how these online programs can help you change career directions.

Online Degree #1 - Bachelor's in Business

If you're counting the days to when you can finally change careers, why not put your counting skills to use in this popular online degree program? The online study of finance, economics, and commerce could give you an around-the-clock opportunity to learn what makes the business world tick.

"Business degrees have grown in number for decades now," says Marianne Koch, a professor of management and director of the executive MBA program at Golden Gate University. "That's why people from other backgrounds get them. It gets you versed in how to run a business and up to speed when you are changing careers."

Click to Find the Right Online Business Program.

Potential Career Change: Interested in business? You might find the position of marketing specialist a worthwhile target. Marketing specialists help companies improve their bottom lines by figuring out how well products will sell. Their potential average annual salary is $66,850, as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Online Degree #2 - Bachelor's in Nursing

People interested in nursing - or nurses who want to bolster their education to move up - are finding more opportunities to obtain their nursing degree online.

Schools are ramping up the number of online nursing courses and programs being offered to meet the growing demand for registered nurses (RNs). For example, in July of 2011, Northwest Missouri State University bestowed bachelor's degrees to the first graduates of the school's new online nursing program. This program in particular is designed for nurses who want a career change.

Click to Find the Right Online Nursing Program.

Potential Career Change: Registered nursing could be a great option for people looking to make a career change. Nearly 600,000 new registered nurses, who have an average annual salary of $67,720, will be hired in the decade from 2008-2018, the Department of Labor reports. Hiring is expected to be strong in every type of facility where RNs work, including hospitals, nursing homes, and physicians' offices.*

Online Degree #3 - Bachelor's in Computer and IT

An online computer and information technology (IT) degree program could offer a great opportunity for people who want to change careers, particularly if you already have some tech knowledge and experience.

An online IT degree program can work as something of a dress rehearsal for your new career, says Jeffrey Caplan, dean of strategic enrollment management for American Sentinel University. "Students in computer science, programming, and software development are already working on computers, so they are very comfortable with it when they get done," Caplan says.

Caplan also says the flexibility aspect of online education is perfectly suited for future IT professionals, who often require on-the-job flexibility in this field that operates 24-7.

Click to Find the Right Online Computer and IT Program.

Potential Career Change: If you have a knack for computer technology, one fast-growing career change option is computer systems analyst. Analysts, who have an average salary of $81,250, help design and develop new computer systems for companies. This position is projected to increase by 20 percent during the 10-year period from 2008-2018, says the Department of Labor.*

Online Degree #4 - Bachelor's in Health Care

Health care is considered full of opportunity for people seeking new opportunities.

The industry is noted for its lion's share of workers (14.3 million jobs were held in 2008) and its fast job growth (3.2 million new workers are projected to be hired in the 10 years through 2018), according to the Department of Labor.

"Health care is always in demand," says Mizani. "(Workers) feel secure because of the job stability and the vertical movement with being promoted."

For an idea of how much demand there is for health care, consider this: 10 of the 20 fastest-growing occupations are related to this field, according to the Department of Labor.

Click to Find the Right Online Health Care Program.

Potential Career Change: Entry-level medical and health services manager positions is one potential career change option for organized people. In this role, which has an average salary of $93,670, you would help manage health care delivery. Prospects for this career are projected to grow 16 percent from 2008-2018, says the Department of Labor.*

Online Degree #5 - Bachelor's in Criminal Justice

If the sleuth in you wants to solve crimes and haul away the bad guys, think about going after an online degree in criminal justice. This popular program could enable you to make the career switch to a number of challenging and rewarding professions.

Private detectives and investigators, as one example, typically have experience in other fields, says the U.S. Department of Labor.

With an online degree in criminal justice, it's possible for you to utilize your current skill set while transitioning to a new career. And in these times of increased security concerns, your opportunities for employment could potentially appear bright once you make the change.

Click to Find the Right Online Criminal Justice Program.

Potential Career Change: Increased security concerns in recent years have fueled a jump in hiring numbers for professionals in the criminal justice field. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, a career which often requires a bachelor's in an area like criminal justice, are projected to grow by 19 percent from 2008-2018, according to the Department of Labor. The average salary: $51,240.*

*All potential salaries are average annual figures as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2010.

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