Which Online Degree is Right for You?


A career-focused approach to selecting an online degree could be the smart way to go.

By Chris Kyle    

Are you interested in attending school online but not sure which degree you want to pursue?

Knowing the career you're targeting could help you select your degree and avoid becoming dissatisfied with your pick further down the road, according to "Unfulfilled Expectations: Recent College Graduates Struggle in a Troubled Economy," a 2011 study by Rutgers University.

Although degree holders were overwhelmingly happy with their decision to attend college, 48 percent of respondents wished they had been more careful about their choice of major, according to the Rutgers report.

The good news: choosing the right online degree could be easy if you can link it to a career field you're interested in. An aspiring accountant, for example, needs very different preparation than that of a database professional.

To help, we've spotlighted six online degrees, along with some info on which exciting career fields can be linked to them. Keep reading to see if one of these online degrees is the right match for you...

#1 Online Degree - Bachelor's in Business Administration

Want to own your own business someday? Or are you content to climb the corporate ladder? Either way, studying business administration online could be a good way to start focusing on your career. All you need is a computer to get going.

When it comes to the most popular online degrees in terms of enrollment, business degree programs trail only computer science, according to "Learning at a Distance," a 2011 study by the National Center for Education Statistics.

This could be due to the fact that a business degree could help prepare you for careers in a variety of dynamic industries. Typical classes might include introduction to business, economics, finance, international trade, marketing, and management principles.

Click to Find the Right Online Business Administration Program.

Careers & Potential Earnings:
Advertising Sales Agent: $55,020*
Marketing Specialist: $66,850*
Financial Analyst: $86,040*

#2 Online Degree - Bachelor's in Accounting

Forget about English, Spanish, or even Mandarin. Accounting is the true international business language these days, spoken wherever business gets done, and you can learn all about it online.

By pursuing an online bachelor's in accounting, you'll be opening yourself up to the possibility of learning and working with students and professors from all over the globe.

Whether you want to balance the books in your own business or find work in the accounting or financial industries, a bachelor's in accounting could help you get started. You'll likely learn about the generally accepted accounting principles, known as GAAP, while also studying statistics, finance, and a whole host of financial and business-related courses like micro and macroeconomics.

Click to Find the Right Online Accounting Program.

Careers & Potential Earnings:
Accountant: $68,960*
Budget Analyst: $70,660*
Personal Financial Advisor: $91,220*

#3 Online Degree - Bachelor's in Criminal Justice

Do you want to pursue a career-focused degree that offers a practical, real-world curriculum - without giving up your day job to do so? If so, studying criminal justice online could be for you.

Earning an online bachelor's in criminal justice could help you prepare for a career in areas like security or law enforcement. Depending upon the online program that you choose, you may be able to design your own schedule, perhaps even working at your own pace as you move toward your career goals.

You'll likely take a wide variety of courses that offer interesting insight into criminal tendencies and computer-related ways of tracking and preventing crimes. These could include classes in the social and behavioral sciences as well as areas like counterterrorism, juvenile justice, and cybercrime.

Click to Find the Right Online Criminal Justice Program.

Careers & Potential Earnings:
Bailiff: $40,910*
Private Investigator: $47,830*
Police Officer: $55,620*

#4 Online Degree - Bachelor's in Database Technology

Looking to jumpstart your career in the Information Age? Why not learn how to program and manage the information? To do so, you may want to consider earning your online bachelor's in database technology.

Just think about it for a moment. From complex information (like rising ocean levels) to the simple (movie release dates and times), we rely upon database professionals to design, develop, and maintain databases full of numbers that we can summon with the simple click or two of a computer.

And with courses that cover information systems and data programming, modeling, mining, and security techniques and strategies, you could develop the skills you need to pursue a career in this exciting and dynamic industry.

Click to Find the Right Online Database Technology Program.

Careers & Potential Earnings:
Computer Systems Administrator: $72,200*
Computer Programmer: $74,900*
Database Administrator: $75,730*

#5 Online Degree - Associate's in Medical Assisting

Looking for a career-focused health care degree that doesn't require a four-year commitment? An online associate's degree in medical assisting might be the answer.

This online degree, which might include courses in diagnostic procedures, medical terminology, and diseases of the human body, could help prepare you for a growing career in the fast-paced health care industry, without giving up a big chunk of your life to do so.

More good news about this degree choice: the medical assisting field is hot, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, which notes that the pervasiveness of conditions like obesity and diabetes will increase the demand of medical assistants.

Click to Find the Right Online Medical Assisting Program.

Career & Potential Earnings:
Medical Assistant: $29,760*

#6 Online Degree - Associate's in Paralegal Studies

Looking to pursue a career in the legal industry without enduring the long-term commitment of law school? By earning your associate's degree in paralegal studies online, you could start preparing for a paralegal career from the comfort of your own home.

With courses in witness research, victim advocacy, and civil litigation, an online paralegal studies program could help cultivate the skills you need to thrive in the paralegal career, which generally involves helping lawyers prep for closings, hearings, trials, and client meetings.

What's more, earning this degree online may be a good way to move forward with your legal career plans without disrupting a good deal of your daily routine.

Click to Find the Right Online Paralegal Studies Program.

Career & Potential Earnings:
Paralegal: $49,640*

*Career outlook, education options, and average earning potential data are from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2010. Education completion times are averages and will vary by school, program, student's level of commitment, and other factors.

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