Best Online Degrees for Growing Careers


See how these five flexible online degrees could prepare you to pursue in-demand careers.

By Tony Moton   

In medical terms, flexibility is defined as "the ability of a muscle or extremity to relax and yield to stretch and stress forces."

In educational terms, flexibility is the very thing online degree programs provide students.

Are you debating about going back to college and trying to figure out how school will affect your lifestyle? An online degree could help you feel more relaxed about being able to stretch your time.

"Having an online degree will allow learners to be prepared for their future opportunities while not stagnating in their current careers," says Dani Babb, a Los Angeles-based career counselor and online professor. "They can go to school, work, and meet family obligations simultaneously."

Is flexibility something you want from a degree program? See how you can flex your learning muscles with the following five online majors that could prepare you to pursue growing careers.

Online Degree #1 - Bachelor's in Business Administration

An online bachelor's degree in business administration might be considered the jack-of-all-degrees, according to Babb, who teaches online business courses.

"Business administration has such a wide appeal because it's useful in almost all trades or areas of specialization," Babb says.

The degree's appeal is evidenced by its ranking as the leading online field for bachelor's degree enrollment in the fall of 2009, according to "Hot Programs and Hot Markets," a report by the Boston-based education research and consulting firm, Eduventures.

Earning an online business administration degree could provide students the flexibility they need to help them maintain current personal or professional obligations. Common courses might include accounting, business ethics and law, business statistics, marketing, and economics.

Click to Find the Right Online Business Program for You.

Career growth: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, two of the fastest-growing occupations that generally require a bachelor's degree in business administration are personal financial advisors and survey researchers.

Personal financial advisors are expected to see 62,800 new hires between 2008 and 2018 while 7,100 new survey researchers are projected to join the work force during this time.

Online Degree #2 - Bachelor's in Education

Enjoy intellectual stimulation? Dream of sharing knowledge with others? An online bachelor's degree in education could prepare you to pursue a career in teaching.

"A bachelor's degree in education is a major area that grows during recessions as people wish to upgrade or add to their marketable skill set," Babb says.

The education major is considered a top online degree program, in part, due to the number of potential career opportunities that are available to bachelor's degree holders. Among the courses normally taken during a bachelor's degree program are teaching methods, educational psychology, and instructional technology.

Click to Find the Right Online Education Program for You.

Career growth: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, educational services was one of the largest industries as of 2008, with about 13.5 million jobs. Employment of kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers is expected to grow by 13 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the Department.

Online Degree #3 - Associate's in Medical Assisting

If you're interested in working in the growing health care field, an associate's degree in medical assisting could prepare you to pursue a rewarding career as a medical assistant.

Babb says a growing need for medical assistants makes this online degree a worthwhile option in today's market.

Medical assistants carry out administrative and clinical duties in doctor's offices, hospitals, and other health care facilities. As a medical assistant, you might greet patients, track medical records, or take vital signs.

Coursework in this flexible online program could include medical terminology, diagnostic procedures, and diseases of the human body.

Click to Find the Right Online Medical Assisting Program for You.

Career growth: Medical assisting positions are projected to increase by 34 percent between 2008 and 2018, reports the U.S. Department of Labor.

Online Degree #4 - Bachelor's in Network Administration

Earning an online bachelor's degree in network administration exposes you to the kind of technology, operating systems, and trouble-shooting practices companies rely on in today's computer-driven society.

This online degree could prepare you to pursue a career as a network administrator, who often helps businesses and companies keep their systems up and running.

"A network administrator is one of those jobs in IT that we will always need," Babb says. "Network administration means you can work in positions from help desk support to managing IT departments, and dozens of positions in between."

As a general field, computer and information technologies had the second highest number of online bachelor's degree students in the fall of 2009, according to Eduventures.

Click to Find the Right Online Network Administration Program for You.

Career growth: The U.S. Department of Labor notes that employment of network and computer systems administrators is expected to increase by 23 percent from 2008 and 2018.

Online Degree #5 - Associate's in Paralegal Studies

Flexibility is a staple of an online associate's degree in paralegal studies. This program could prepare you to pursue a career as a paralegal, when and where it's convenient for you.

An online associate's degree in paralegal studies can help broaden your knowledge of law and litigation. Common courses might include ethics, civil procedure, criminal law and procedure, and legal research and writing.

"Many smaller businesses today need attorneys or the assistance of law professionals, but they cannot afford them," Babb says. "Paralegals are an alternative for many businesses to handle daily legal activities, filing appropriate paperwork, documents, or disclosures."

Roughly 71 percent of paralegals work in law firms, according to the Department. However, a growing number of paralegals are finding work as independent contractors as firms farm out more of their legal work to save costs, Babb says.

Click to Find the Right Online Paralegal Studies Program for You.

Career growth: According to the Department, paralegals who specialize in areas such as real estate, bankruptcy, medical malpractice, and product liability are finding themselves in more demand.

Overall, 74,100 new paralegals are projected to be hired between 2008 and 2018.

Note: Online program courses and schedules will vary by school. All potential career path information is from the U.S. Department of Labor.

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