Best Career-Focused Online Degrees

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Want to earn your degree online? Staying career-minded could be the way to go...

By Chris Kyle    

Want to earn an online degree? Staying career-minded could be the way to go.

The most popular online programs prep students "for careers in high-demand areas like business, computer science, health care and criminal justice," according to a 2011 New York Times article "Online Enterprises Gain Foothold as Path to a College Degree."

Eduventures, a Boston-based research firm, found a similar career-minded trend when it tracked enrollment data for 2.14 million online students in 2009. That year's most popular online degrees included criminal justice, computer and information technology, health care, and business, in that order.

Whether you want to change careers or hone skills that will help you get ahead at work, we've put the spotlight on five online degrees to consider.

#1 Online Degree - Bachelor's in Business Administration

Welcome to the 21st century, where an online presence is a must for any successful business, and students can get a bachelor's in business administration online. All you need is a computer and internet connection to get started.

One of the benefits of the online format is that students can make sure that they are really absorbing the material, according to Jennifer Humber, an academic advisor at the University of Alabama.

"They can look at the assignments over and over again," Humber told the school newspaper in September 2011. "They can do it on their own time."

Click to Find the Right Online Business Administration Program.

An online business administration degree could help you prepare for careers in multiple industries, all on your own time. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor recommends studying business administration for a wide range of tracks, including human resources specialist (average salary: $57,830), marketing specialist ($66,850), and financial analyst ($86,040).*


#2 Online Degree - Bachelor's in Criminal Justice

Earning a criminal justice degree online is a popular trend. According to Eduventures, enrollment in online criminal justice programs jumped 41 percent in 2009.

At North Georgia College & State University, it's not unusual for online classes to fill up within seconds during registration, according to Ross Alexander, the school's criminal justice department head.

"With online, a student can log in anytime and work on classes," Alexander told the Gainesville Times.

Click to Find the Right Online Criminal Justice Program.

Maybe you've got your eye on a career in the private sector - as a security guard ($26,870) or private investigator ($47,830) - or perhaps you're more interested in pursuing work as a police officer ($55,620).* Studying criminal justice online could help you get ready for these careers - and more - without giving up your current one to do so.


#3 Online Degree - Bachelor's in Nursing

While it may surprise some to see an online bachelor's degree in nursing on our list, the simple fact is nursing is an in-demand profession. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 581,500 new registered nursing jobs are expected to be added between 2008 and 2018, and earning your bachelor's in nursing online can help already working or busy aspiring nurses to prepare for a role as a registered nurse.

Though individual online nursing programs vary, some help working nurses earn a bachelor's of science in nursing (BSN) online. With more employers requiring a BSN, online programs everywhere are seeing a bump in enrollment, according to Elizabeth Regan-Butts, director of marketing and recruitment at Rowan University in New Jersey, which offers a bachelor's degree in nursing that you can earn online.

"Nurses in the past only had to have an [associate's] degree," Regan-Butts told SouthJerseyBiz.net, a New Jersey-based website and magazine. "Now, most hospitals want a bachelor's of science."

Click to Find the Right Online Nursing Program.

If you want to pursue registered nurse opportunities, you'll most likely need to get a BSN, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Registered nurses have an average annual salary of $67,720.*


#4 Online Degree - Bachelor's in Information Technology (IT) & Information Systems

Some people call it the 21st century; others call it the information technology age. Whatever name you prefer, it's hard to imagine a more current degree you can earn online than IT and information systems. Among other things, you'll learn how digital technology is changing businesses and the way we live.

Your online coursework may include everything from network and database administration to cybersecurity, the latter of which is a global problem these days, according to a 2011 report by computer security firm Symantec.

"Cybercrime costs the world significantly more than the global black market in marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined," Symantec concluded.

Click to Find the Right Online IT & Information Systems Program.

Want to break into the technology sector? Studying IT online could help you get started. A bachelor's degree in information technology is one of the recommended courses of study for aspiring database administrators ($75,730), according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The Department adds that cyber-security specialists often go by more general job titles like database administrator or network and computer system administrator ($72,200).*


#5 Online Degree - Bachelor's in Health Care Administration

Looking for a career-focused degree? How about health care administration? According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 10 of the 20 fastest growing jobs in the country are in health care.

No matter where you live, all you need is a computer and an internet connection and you too can start studying up on an industry that exists in just about every single town and city on the map.

Click to Find the Right Online Health Care Administration Program.

Earning a health care administration degree online could help prep you for a career as a health care administrator ($93,670), according to the U.S. Department of Labor. While a master's degree may be preferred by some employers, a bachelor's degree could be enough to get you started, the Department says.*


*All salary info comes from the U.S. Department of Labor using May 2010 earnings data.

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