Degrees To Earn On Your Lunch Hour


Put your lunch hour back to work by earning a degree online.

By Amy Howell Hirt

Okay, so maybe you can't earn an entire degree during just your lunch hour. But if you often find yourself fantasizing about new opportunities as you scarf down your sandwich, pursuing a degree could be a more productive use of your spare time - whenever that may be.

"The advantage of an online degree is the convenience of learning whenever you're able to," says Angela Solic, an instructional design specialist and clinical assistant professor of education at the Center for Innovation and Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at Indiana University Northwest. "It's ideal for people who are looking to earn their degree but don't have time to come to campus on a regular basis."

It's so ideal, in fact, that the "ability to study anytime and anywhere" was the most popular feature among students enrolled in online programs, according to the "Online College Students 2012" study from The Learning House, Inc. and Aslanian Market Research.

And while the self-discipline and hard work required of online students might not be for everyone, it is a smart option for those who are time-starved and hungry for a new career opportunity.

If you think you have what it takes, keep reading to learn more about five online degree programs that might be particularly tempting.

Online Degree #1: Business Administration

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It's an "anytime, anywhere" business world today, Solic says, and using your spare time to pursue an online degree in business administration could provide a smart introduction to that world.

Why Earn It Online? Virtual, time-maximizing communication has become the norm in today's business world, Solic says, and online business students - who find spare moments to study - will likely be well-prepared for the online aspects of business. "The benefit of learning online is that a lot of business is going to be done through the computer, with meetings done virtually," says Solic.

Lunch and Learn: If you're ready to "use computers and work with numbers," a bachelor's program in business administration might include classes like management information systems and business policy and strategy, according to the College Board, an organization that promotes higher education.

Next Step: Click to Find the Right Business Administration Program.

Career Options: When it's time to put that degree to work, a career as a financial analyst could be one option. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, most financial analyst positions require a bachelor's degree in a field like business administration, finance, or accounting, to name a few. Employers may also require a master's in business administration.

Online Degree #2: Computer Science

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Does your downtime include dabbling in computer code? If you're looking for a new career opportunity, an online degree in computer science could be a smart use of your time.

Why Earn It Online? What degree could be more appropriate for an online format than a bachelor's in computer science? By learning online, you're also familiarizing yourself with the programs and systems that are at the heart of computer-related careers, Solic says.

Lunch and Learn: Common courses for a bachelor's degree in computer science might include software engineering, digital system design, and data structures and algorithms, according to the College Board.

Next Step: Click to Find the Right Computer Science Program.

Career Options: When it's time to stop dabbling and start earning, one career option is software developer. One degree these professionals usually have is a bachelor's degree in computer science, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and they are often responsible for developing applications for computers and other devices.

Online Degree #4: Accounting

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Yes, an online degree in accounting could help you save time you would otherwise spend commuting and parking, but that isn't its only advantage, Solic says.

Why Earn It Online? Earning a bachelor's in accounting online isn't easy, Solic says, especially when you're on your own. That could make for an impressive resume, and a quick job hunt.

Just what might this degree say to potential employers? "A student who gets a degree online in accounting and does well - without having a professor right there to explain things to you - is likely very smart and would be taken very seriously," Solic says.

Lunch and Learn: Did you know that "there is so much to learn in introductory accounting that it is sometimes offered over two semesters"? That's according to the College Board, which also notes that a bachelor's degree in accounting may include computer-based simulations and real-life accounting cases.

Next Step: Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.

Career Options: A bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field is required for most accountant positions, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. As an accountant, you might check financial statements for accuracy, prepare tax returns, or manage financial records, according to the Department of Labor.

Online Degree #5: Health Care Administration

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If you want to learn how to help the sick by managing a health care facility, a degree in health care administration might be right for you, especially, Solis says, if you're already working in health care.

Why Earn It Online? Many people pursuing a bachelor's degree in health care administration are already working in a health care field - where non-traditional and ever-shifting work hours often present roadblocks for regular college attendance, Solic says. But that's not the case for online students, who can hit the books whenever they have time. "A person can still work in health care but earn their degree online, in their spare time," Solic agrees.

Lunch and Learn: A bachelor's degree in health services administration could help you add business knowledge to your clinical know-how. Common courses include human resources management, accounting, and the economics of health care, according to the College Board.

Next Step: Click to Find the Right Health Care Administration Program.

Career Options: If you're interested in pursuing a career as a medical and health services manager, this could be the degree program for you. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, "Prospective medical and health services managers have a bachelor's degree in health administration. These programs prepare students for higher level management jobs than programs that graduate students with other degrees."

In this position, you might manage an entire health care facility, or a specific department within a larger medical organization, the Department of Labor reports.

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