As educational options continue to change and mold themselves to fit with this current decade, online degree programs continue to be more sought after both by first-time college students as well as by those who want to return to college to prepare for second careers. Although online degrees were once only available for a few tiny sectors, they have now opened up remarkably with nearly any major program being found online at one university or another. Top online colleges and universities are working with their students to create learning opportunities at home as well as to open up preceptorship programs to give students the hands-on skills that they would usually learn through on-campus programs.
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Online degree majors have many benefits especially for individuals who are trying to save money or who need to fit their college classes into unusual parts of their days. This style of learning has made it just as easy for those living in rural settings to get great college educations as it is for those living in bustling metropolises. Classes can often be accessed at any time during the day, work can be turned in online and students do not have to pay for on-campus housing.
While there are dozens of majors currently available for online degrees, the following ten options are among the most popular these days. Many of them are growing in popularity as new workplace needs arise and as world populations change. By choosing one of the following majors, individuals can be assured of good quantities of jobs with competitive salaries upon completion of their degrees.
1. Business Administration
Business administration has been the most popular online degree for years. Although it is currently beginning to fall to other degrees in the fields of technology and medicine, it remains a great option for individuals who want well-rounded classes to prepare them for a variety of fields. With a business administration degree, individuals can become business managers, owners, CEOs or analysts. Some work in advertising, healthcare or finance while others work in human resources or public relations upon graduation. Therefore, even as trends come and go and as needs in certain business sectors decline while others climb, students can continue to expect business administration to be a smart degree to prepare them for fulfilling, lifelong careers.
The type of degree one chooses will direct the ensuing career. For example, an associate’s degree will help individuals secure jobs in starting management positions or in administration. With a bachelor’s degree, one may be able to head into upper management, managing large departments or even entire stores. With a master’s degree, individuals will be prepared to lead entire companies and can become confident CEOs.
Yearly salaries depend on the actual degree and field chosen. However, median annual pay for those with master’s degrees in this field are usually well into the three-figure range. Those with bachelor’s degrees make around $85,000 per year and will see a growth rate of 8 percent in the next few years according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Related: Our ranking of the 50 Best Online MBA programs
2. Information Technology
As technology continues to take over the world, information technology degrees have climbed in popularity and in usefulness upon graduation. At the graduate level, IT degrees have risen by 15 percent in 2018 from just 9 percent in 2014, and they are rising, although a bit more slowly, at the undergraduate level as well.
An information technology degree focuses on a growing branch of engineering that uses computers, software and similar types of technology to collect, disseminate, store and use a wide array of information. Today, it is not just computers that are used for this, but rather laptops, tablets, smartphones and many other smart electronics that are integrated for information sharing. Students will learn about Website databases, coding, software engineering, programming language and much more depending on whether they are opting for an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree.
After completion of the degree, individuals can go on to many exciting fields, including IT management, IT architecture, systems management, database administration, information security analyzation and IT support. These people are paid quite well for their unique knowledge bases and their ability to work with sensitive information in secure manners. Many with bachelor’s or master’s degrees make median salaries from $80,000 to well over $100,000. The job outlook through 2026 is projected at 12 percent, which is well above average.
Psychology is another field that continues to grow in some specific areas, such as child psychology. Students trained in this field go on to help others with mental and emotional concerns. With this degree, one can work in a wide range of fields, from therapy and counseling to medical psychology in major hospital systems. Individuals could work in private practice or in research.
Part of the online program will include a residency to give students hands-on experience in working with professional psychologists. Students will usually be given the chance to choose a concentration, especially at the master’s level. This could include such options as neuropsychology or forensic psychology. Individuals who would be good at this career include those with great observational and interpersonal skills as well as those who are good at problem-solving.
This field is projected to grow by 19 percent through the next decade as increasing numbers of people feel the need for positive mental health. In particular, those working with children, such as in school counseling areas, are expected to see the most positive job outlook through 2026. The average wage for psychologists with master’s degrees is approximately $77,000.
The field of nursing sees the most turnover each year with new positions constantly being created and employees frequently shifting into new positions or areas of practice. While an associate’s degree in nursing lets an individual work as a licensed practical nurse, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in order to become a registered nurse is far more popular. Registered nurses can then go on to master’s and doctoral programs, which can also be taken online.
Nursing is incredibly popular because students love the focus on individual care and interpersonal skills. In addition, this is a growing field as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age. The job outlook through 2026 shows a 15 percent increase in jobs, and there are currently nearly three million nursing jobs in the United States.
Online nursing programs will provide a solid foundation of anatomy and physiology as well as disease processes followed by concentrations in certain areas of nursing, such as psychiatric and maternity nursing. Hands-on skills will be learned through preceptorships. Master’s courses will also include statistics and research classes. Upon completing a nursing degree, graduates can expect a starting wage of $66,000 on average, and those with advanced degrees can make over $100,000 annually.
5. Healthcare Administration
Nursing is not the only growing area of health care these days. Healthcare administration is a wonderful choice for students who do not want to be working “in the trenches” so to speak but would rather be on the business side of health care. With this degree, individuals will be able to work in hospitals, doctor’s offices and other health care settings where they will coordinate patient care, work with finances, manage staff or even work in human resources departments. These individuals help the entire health care practice operate smoothly.
This degree combines health care courses with a business administration aspect. In fact, some students enter this major from a prior business field. It is important that students have great analytical skills and be excellent communicators.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that this field should grow by 20 percent by 2026 with tens of thousands of new jobs projected to be added. Although the starting pay may only be $40,000 on average, those who have worked for several years can expect their pay scale to grow with them. With a master’s degree in healthcare administration, individuals may even be able to climb into the $90,000 range.
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6. Health Informatics
Health informatics is another degree that combines the rapidly growing field of health care with a subsidiary need. In this case, students will learn how information technology plays a major role in the field of health care. The need for increasing numbers of people in this field is huge because health care organizations face constant pressure to keep patient data safe and private. Therefore, individuals with this degree are tasked with managing the unending amounts of old and new patient data as well as with storing and analyzing it.
Students can expect to get well-rounded undergraduate teaching in medical terminology and basic disease processes so that they can understand medical records. However, they will also need to be detail-oriented and have superb technical skills. Upon graduation, students can readily find positions in hospitals, clinics, health care support centers and skilled nursing facilities.
While those starting in this field may only make an average salary of less than $40,000 per year, especially if they only have a bachelor’s degree and are working in medical records, those with advanced degrees who work in higher fields may make over $100,000 annually. This field is expected to continue growing at a rate of 13 percent by 2026 especially in the area of health technology. This is due to the rapidly aging population and the increased number of expected claims from health insurance companies. In addition, cancer registrars with this degree will be greatly needed in the upcoming years.
A degree in finance will prepare individuals to work in a wide array of markets as they help businesses manage their money. This degree is not the same as accounting in which students learn how to balance books and work with taxes. Instead, with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in finance, students will be prepared to invest money, analyze the economy, manage financial offices, work with loans and mortgages and work as brokers. Some of the many jobs that one can get with this degree include working as a financial analyst, loan officer or personal financial advisor.
Prospective students should definitely have a head for numbers and should be detail-oriented. They will need to prepare clear, concise and accurate financial accounts and statements and must be able to catch and correct errors quickly. In addition, students should have good organizational habits.
Most people with this degree make an average annual salary between $70,000 and $120,000 with financial managers generally making the most. The entire field of finance is expected to grow exponentially in the next decade as the rapidly increasing aging population needs investment help and as the number of small and large businesses continues to explode around the world. For example, financial analyst jobs are expected to increase by 11 percent while financial management jobs should increase by a massive 19 percent by 2026.
Engineering degrees cover a wide variety of fields with the most popular being mechanical and electrical engineering. However, students can also choose concentrations in nuclear, chemical, aerospace, computer and many other types of engineering with each concentration requiring a hands-on portion of learning for the online degree. One reason that students are drawn to this field is the massive starting pay, which can be close to $100,000 per year for some specialty concentrations. However, this degree is also a wise choice for students looking for job security.
Between 2016 and 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that there would be over 130,000 new engineering jobs added across all sectors with average annual salaries for all at $91,000. The highest paid engineers are petroleum engineers who can make well over $150,000 per year. Most new jobs will be going to civil engineers with mechanical engineers, industrial engineers and electrical engineers following closely.
A bachelor’s degree is required to start out in this field. In addition, most students must seek licensure with their states upon completion of their degree.
9. Human Resources
Human resources degrees prepare individuals to work with the people that are part of any organization. They must manage and administrate all employees, often working with paychecks, fairness and equality and financial benefits. They can work at nearly any level of a business with those just starting with a bachelor’s degree typically working in the lowest positions. However, with time and with the addition of a master’s degree in this field, individuals can be poised to work in even higher areas and may become human resources managers, development managers, and benefits managers.
The most important quality needed for students in this major is interpersonal skills. Students must be able to defuse tense situations, provide listening ears and speak up when necessary. Classes will include such subjects as psychology, conflict management and business management.
The field of human resource management continues to grow, and it offers many opportunities for workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this field is expected to grow by 9 percent by 2026. This online degree offers an opportunity for great paychecks with many managers making well over $100,000. However, the most rapidly growing concentration in this field is operations specialties management, which works in policy management, personnel and daily organizational operations.
While individuals with degrees in education may not make as much as those pursuing some of the other top online degrees do, they can rest easy knowing that they are in a career with a great future and that they are helping younger generations prepare for life. Elementary schools have been adding vast numbers of teaching positions in the past few years and are expected to continue doing so over the next decade. Other popular concentrations are special education and teaching English as a second language because these two areas are currently seeing high demand.
While a bachelor’s degree in education is the best starting point, most states and schools require individuals to have master’s degrees before teaching in the classroom. Master’s degrees typically focus on education leadership, administration or advanced instruction to give individuals ways to create their own curricula and manage schools.
Most teachers earn in a range from $50,000 to $65,000 depending on their specialty. However, post-secondary teachers can make over $70,000. School principals make over $90,000 on average. Most educational positions are growing at a rate of 8 percent, making this degree a smart choice for someone who wants to find a job quickly upon graduation.
Online degrees offer students the flexibility they need to meet familial demands and work part-time or full-time while attending school. Plus, students can attend amazing universities even if they do not live near that facility. With these 10 most popular online degrees, students will be ready for exciting careers in blossoming fields and can expect to be quickly hired at competitive salaries.
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