Online Degrees to Fuel a Career Switch

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If you're revved up and ready to pursue a new career, check out these five online degrees.

By Terence Loose

Are you tired of being tired of your job? Earning a degree online might be the convenient key to energizing your future with a career switch.

Online education is becoming a popular option for people who want to earn a degree, but whose busy schedule makes it impossible to commit to the traditional in-person instruction.

In fact, it's estimated that 35 to 40 percent of college students over the age of 25 will be attending school online by 2014, according to "Hot Programs and Hot Markets," a study by the higher education research and consulting firm, Eduventures.

"Online classes allow students to fit it into their lives. If they're working and they've got a family, they can't come to class every Monday and Thursday at one p.m., but they can log onto the website at nine at night after the kids are in bed," says Velvet Miscione, a counselor with California's Coastline Community College.

If this flexibility sounds like a good fit for your future, check out these five online degrees that could help your career change.

Online Degree #1 - Master's in Business Administration (MBA)

Do you already have a strong professional resume but want to move up in your company or switch to a new, more exciting field? An online MBA degree might be just the fuel you need to help you get there.

Need proof? Consider a 2010 Forbes.com report, "Best Master's Degrees for Jobs," in which an MBA scored in the top 10 degrees employers looked for.

That's likely due to the advanced business education an MBA degree provides, which could be applied to almost any industry. Among other things, MBA grads study finance, marketing, and management.

Click to Find the Right MBA Program.

Possible Career, Average Earning Potential, and Job Growth Outlook from 2008 to 2018:*

  • Human Resources Manager: $108,600; 10 percent growth

Online Degree #2 - Associate's in Paralegal Studies

If you're curious about the legal field, earning an online associate's degree in paralegal studies could help you become more familiar with the justice system and prepare you to pursue a new career as a paralegal.

And for those who love reading, writing, and conducting research, a paralegal degree isn't just interesting to study; it could also offer the fuel you need to make a career change. Paralegal studies courses might include civil procedure, legal research and writing, and ethics.

The Department of Labor notes that paralegals will be in high demand in the future, with employers hiring paralegals to increase the availability and efficiency of legal services.

Click to Find the Right Paralegal Program.

Possible Career, Average Earning Potential, and Job Growth Outlook from 2008 to 2018:*

  • Paralegal/Legal Assistant: $49,640; 28 percent growth

Online Degree #3 - Bachelor's in Accounting

If you've truly got an itch for a career switch, and you love numbers, a recent "Best Jobs in America" report by Money Magazine and Salary.com is aimed squarely at you. It based its list on three criteria: total compensation, expected job growth, and personal fulfillment and challenge.

Public accountant came in at number four.

If your current job can't top that, it may be time to pursue an online bachelor's degree in accounting, which could offer you the skills and knowledge to help you pursue a career as an accountant.

With this online degree, you'll also have the convenience of taking courses like auditing, business law, and tax accounting, when and where you want.

The number four never looked so good.

Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.

Possible Career, Average Earning Potential, and Job Growth Outlook from 2008 to 2018:*

  • Accountant or Auditor: $68,960; 22 percent growth

Online Degree #4 - Associate's in Information Technology (IT)

If you enjoy problem-solving, critical thinking, and have good communication skills, an associate's in IT could be your portal to pursuing a new career.

With flexible online courses that might include computer networking, systems analysis and design, and web technologies, this degree could prepare you for a variety of tech-savvy careers.

What's more, the Department of Labor notes that the computer systems design and related services industry as a whole is projected to experience 45 percent job growth from 2008 to 2018, lending another attractive quality to an IT degree.

Click to Find the Right IT Program.

Possible Career, Average Earning Potential, and Job Growth Outlook from 2008 to 2018:*

  • Computer Support Specialist: $49,930; 14 percent growth

Online Degree #5 - Associate's in Medical Assisting

If your career goals include working in health care, an online associate's degree in medical assisting could be for you.

You could complete this online degree from home, with courses that teach you how to assist doctors in their care for patients. The coursework in this field is broad and can include everything from taking basic medical tests to keeping medical records.

What else makes this online degree a smart option for career changers?

Health care is a growing field. In fact, the Department of Labor notes it's expected to generate 3.2 million new wage and salary jobs between 2008 and 2018.

Click to Find the Right Medical Assisting Program.

Possible Career, Average Earning Potential, and Job Growth Outlook from 2008 to 2018:*

  • Medical Assistant: $29,760; 34 percent growth

*All possible career, average earning potential, and growth outlook information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor using 2010 salary data and the Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition.


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