Are you ready to try online education, but want to make sure it results in real world skills? Check out these five practical online degrees.By Terence Loose
Are you thinking of going back to school to gain skills for a new career, but don't feel ready to drop your current job to do it?
Here's some news you'll love: there are many flexible online degree programs that could help you develop the career-focused skills you're after.
And earning a college degree could be a good move for future employment, according to some studies. For instance, a 2010 Georgetown University on Education and the Workforce report named "Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018," found that by 2018, "about two-thirds of all employment will require some college education or better."
Of course, if you're still concerned that pursuing a degree is a lot to take on, good for you: it means you're taking it seriously. And the serious student is exactly who online and flexible education was designed for, says Robert Nash, Coastline Community College's (CCC) associate dean of distance learning and professional development.
"Many students 25 and older, who have jobs and families, are asking for more online and accelerated programs so they can get their degrees and into careers as soon as possible," he says of his experience at CCC.
But just what should you study? That's 100 percent up to you; there are literally hundreds of choices.
To help you decide, we identified a few popular online degree choices that could help you build bankable skills for specific careers.
Flexible Degree #1 - Health Care AdministrationDo you want to work in the health care field but have more manager than nurse in you? A flexible online degree in health care administration - which you could earn on your spare time - could help you hone your managerial skills.
The health care administration degree is often offered at the bachelor's degree level and tends to focus on everything from anatomy and physiology to health care law, according to College Board, a century-old organization of colleges and universities that administers tests such as the SAT.
Possible Skills Learned: While pursuing your health care administration degree, the College Board says you'll learn skills such as human resources management, how to keep up on changing health care industry laws and regulations, accounting, how to care for the aging, and much more. Sounds pretty relevant, don't you think?
Possible Career: If you're planning on pursuing a career as a health services manager, the U.S. Department of Labor says a bachelor's degree or a master's degree in this field is often required. Health services managers manage everything from clinics to doctors' offices, keep up to date on new laws and regulations, manage finances, create work schedules, organize records, and more.*
Flexible Degree #2 - AccountingIs your checkbook always balanced and your taxes perennially filed on time? You could have a jump-start on the skills needed to succeed in a flexible online accounting degree program.
By focusing on commonly offered courses such as accounting, business law, and tax accounting, an accounting major could learn how to gather, record, analyze, interpret, and communicate information about an individual's or company's finances, says the College Board.
Possible Skills Learned: The College Board says accounting majors gain valuable skills such as being able to evaluate a company's efficiency and profitability, and how to prepare tax filing. What's the best part? These skills could prove valuable in a variety of numbers-related careers.
Possible Career: A bachelor's degree in accounting could prepare you to pursue a career as an accountant or auditor, notes the U.S. Department of Labor. And rest-assured, accountants do more than just count beans. They also count money. Kidding; accountants also ensure that records are accurate and taxes are paid, as well as suggest ways for businesses to reduce costs, make recommendations to management, and assess risk.*
Flexible Degree #3 - Computer ScienceDoes Friday night at your house mean getting your computer geek, not your party freak, on? You could be a computer nerd, which is a great thing if you want to pursue an online degree in computer science. Another great thing? You could earn this degree when it's most convenient for you.
A computer science degree is often offered at the bachelor's degree level, according to the College Board, which also reports that you'll likely study such things as artificial intelligence, computer systems organization, and software engineering.
Possible Skills Learned: The College Board says you'll likely build teamwork skills while problem solving with other students, as well as learn how to design computer programs. And while designing computer programs may seem like the winning skill to learn, having teamwork skills could also be ideal if you're ever involved in any group projects at work.
Possible Career: If you want to pursue a career as a network or computer administrator, the U.S. Department of Labor says a bachelor's degree in fields related to computer or information science is most common. With this career, your computer geeky side should be in heaven daily. These are the guys who install all hardware and software for businesses, as well as perform maintenance, upgrades, and repairs.*
Flexible Degree #4 - MarketingAre your analytical skills outshone only by your creativity? If you said yes, you may want to work on some modesty. Kidding again. On a serious note, you may want to check into an online bachelor's degree in marketing, especially if you're looking for a degree that could work around your busy schedule.
A bachelor's degree in marketing could include relevant coursework in consumer behavior, market research, and sales, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Possible Skills Learned: This major, the College Board says, will develop your skills in advertising and promotion, marketing management, identifying consumer behavior, and marketing strategy and research. These skills could be ideal for a number of marketing and advertising careers as an understanding of consumer needs is vital in these industries.
Possible Career: With a bachelor's degree in marketing, you could pursue a possible career as a marketing manager, says the Department of Labor. In this creative and exciting career, your duties might include such things as planning advertising campaigns, negotiating advertising contracts, inspecting campaign layouts, developing pricing strategies for products, and more.*
Flexible Degree #5 - Paralegal StudiesDo you label what others call a heated debate as just good conversation? Perhaps you consider research as quality time with books? If so, you could have the skills that mesh well with a flexible online degree in paralegal studies, which is offered both at the certificate and associate's degree levels, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
In a paralegal studies program, the College Board says you'll study everything from civil and criminal law procedure to legal research and writing. And if you earn this degree online, you could study these topics from the comfort of your home.
Possible Skills Learned: The College Board says a paralegal studies degree could help you gain skills in legal research and writing, understanding litigation and civil and criminal law procedures, and more. What's so great about these skills? They could help provide you with the knowledge to excel in a variety of legal professions.
Possible Career: And just how will those skills be used in the real legal world? According to the Department of Labor, an associate's degree in paralegal studies could prepare you for a career as paralegal, who often assists lawyers by doing such things as investigating the facts of a case and getting affidavits and other formal statements that may be used as evidence in court.