Looking for a way to fit school into your busy schedule? Online degree programs might just save your day.
By Terence Loose
Is every college class you find interesting scheduled smack dab in the middle of your workday? Or maybe it's scheduled during your kid's soccer practice.
Yes, going back to school when you have a life can be tough...Or not.
In case you didn't get the email, online education is a viable option for today's busy student.
"[Busy students] find distance learning to be a suitable or desirable choice because it offers the flexibility of not having to be somewhere at a particular time and place, especially during their working hours or maybe even when they want to be on a soccer field with their kids," says Robert Nash, associate dean of distance learning and professional development at California's Coastline Community College. "They can fit in their learning whenever it best suits their time frame."
And make no mistake; more and more students - over age 25 - are taking advantage of online education. In fact, it's estimated that by 2014, 35 to 40 percent of the 25 and older headcount at degree-granting schools will be online students, according to "Online Higher Education Market Update," a 2010 study by the higher education research and consulting firm, Eduventures.
So keep the job, the soccer games, and even your dream to go back to school. But first, read on for some popular online degree choices that could have you earning your degree...and keeping your life.
Here's a great example of a health care degree that can be taught 100 percent online, says Nash. It's also a major that gives you the option of pursuing an associate's, bachelor's, or master's degree.
And if you're a busy person who signs up for an online course in this field, it'll likely be a good fit since it's all about management. In fact, according to the College Board, an organization of colleges and universities that administers tests such as the SAT, health services administration students are likely to study all facets of overseeing health care facilities such as nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and doctors' offices.
The College Board says that if you choose this path of study it helps to be a "strong organized leader who looks forward to working with others to solve problems." And here's the good news: those are some of the same attributes Nash says successful online students have. He says the best online students are goal-oriented with good time-management skills.
Potential Career: Most medical and health services managers are required to have at least a bachelor's degree, though a master's degree in health services, long-term care administration, public health, public administration, or business administration are also typical, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Want a versatile degree that can be earned in a versatile way? Business could be a great fit. The College Board says a business degree can offer "limitless opportunities," and could prepare you to pursue work in a variety of business settings.
As for its suitability to online instruction, Nash says it's a good match. "For instance, case study is a teaching strategy instructors use for business administration and that can be very effectively done online," he says.
According to the College Board, business administration and management majors might take courses in areas such as financial management, marketing, international management, accounting, and more.
Potential Career: A bachelor's degree in business administration is one option to look into if you're looking to prepare to pursue a career as a financial analyst. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, "many positions require a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as accounting, business administration, economics, finance, or statistics."
With a degree in information technology, you'll be using the latest technologies to study the ins and outs of the tech industry, making it a no brainer for being a good fit for online instruction. Talk about a degree that's appropriate for online learning.
"Anything that involves learning theory, terms and definitions, and describing processes, which covers a lot of what IT is, can be taught online pretty easily," Nash says.
Indeed, the College Board says you'll not only study computer science and acquire strong technical and communications skills, but you'll likely study business as well. You might also have the opportunity to specialize in an area you're interested in, such as web development.
They go on to say that this degree is offered both at the associate's and bachelor's levels, providing more flexible options depending on your career goals.
Potential Career: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a bachelor's degree in fields similar to computer or information science is most typical in a career as a network and computer systems administrator.
If you're under the impression that studying law has to be done in an oak-lined library filled with leather-bound books, you might want to reconsider that notion.
Paralegal studies associate's degree and certificate programs can be taught 100 percent online, says Nash.
According to the College Board, some typical courses in a paralegal studies program include civil procedure, ethics (yes, lawyers do have them), legal research and writing, and litigation.
And earning this degree online could be a great idea, with the legal field becoming increasingly tech-savvy.
"Law firms increasingly use technology and computer software for managing documents and preparing for trials," notes the U.S. Department of Labor. "Paralegals use computer software to draft and index documents and prepare presentations. In addition, paralegals must be familiar with electronic database management and be up to date on the latest software used for electronic discovery."
Potential Career: According to the Department of Labor, "most paralegals and legal assistants have an associate's degree in paralegal studies, or a bachelor's degree in another field and a certificate in paralegal studies."
What does every business in America have to do? Keep track of their money. Perhaps that's why Nash sees accounting as another versatile online degree option.
And while it's a bit more challenging to offer accounting courses online than it is to offer some other degrees, such as health care administration or business, Nash says that it is still very viable. "Using programs such as Excel and others, instructors have worked out a way to offer good feedback," he says.
According to the College Board, there's a lot more to discover in the world of accounting than bean counting. In addition to introductory and advanced accounting classes, they say you'll likely take commonly offered courses such as business law, government not-for-profit accounting, auditing, and tax accounting.
Potential Career: With a bachelor's degree in accounting, you could prepare to pursue a career as an accountant or auditor, notes the U.S. Department of Labor. In fact, they say most accountant positions require a bachelor's degree, while some employers may prefer a master's degree in accounting.
All potential career information is from the U.S. Department of Labor, May 2011 Occupational Employment Statistics.