seniors ladies chatting

Best Online Degrees for Seniors Top Careers for Older Adults

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Managing Editor
Carrie Sealey-Morris has covered bootcamps, careers, and higher education for College Consensus since 2017. Carrie is a graduate of the University of New Mexico where she earned a B.A. in American Studies. 
Founder/Senior Editor
B.A., M.Div.
Jeremy Alder has spent over a decade researching and writing about higher education to provided students with the information they need to achieve their goals. He has significant personal experience with career transitions, working as a freelance writer and editor, non-profit director, community organizer, preacher, teacher, retail manager, and carpenter prior to founding College Consensus. Homeschooled from the second grade, Jeremy is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin (B.A., Philosophy) and Duke University Divinity School (M.Div.). He currently lives in North Carolina with his wife, five kids, and a Labradoodle named Hank.

Maintaining a lifelong love of learning is beneficial for everyone, especially for those who wish to explore the best degree after 50. Seniors who strive to be lifetime learners are the recipients of the many benefits education provides. For those considering changing careers at 50 without a degree, reach for an educational experience at one of the top online colleges that will prepare you for the best jobs to retrain for at 50.

Recommended Online Schools For Seniors

Explore our featured online programs to find the right match for you today.

Every year it seems there is a new inspiring story of a 70, 80, or even 90 or 100-year-old person who went back to school and earned the degree they always wish they had gotten. But by no means is it necessary to wait that long. The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines senior workers as those over 55, and college students in their 50s and older are one of the fastest-growing sets of nontraditional students. There are a lot of reasons – on the one hand, dwindling retirements and entitlement programs mean workers have to work longer out of necessity. But on the other hand, Baby Boomers never liked being still for very long. They don’t look at retirement as one foot in the grave – they see it as a new adventure.

Whatever the case, if you’re over 50 and giving thought to going back to school, don’t keep mulling it over. You only have one life, and there are so many benefits and opportunities for seniors going back to college that you’re missing out on.

The Benefits of Returning to College as a Senior

If you have asked yourself, while considered college at 50, “Am I too old?” don’t worry – you’re not. The AARP might be knocking at the door, but there are plenty of good reasons to go back to school to enhance the last years of your career, get a whole new degree, or just explore your options.

senior workforce

Boost Cognitive Functioning

Cognitive Skills are the traffic cop of the brain. Respectable cognitive proficiencies optimize memory function and critical thinking. Through extensive medical research, science has revealed that seniors who choose to read regularly and problem solve for fun, demonstrate elevated cognition and lessened risk of dementia. That’s why doctors recommends crossword puzzles as a form of mental gymnastics.

Well, guess what you do in college? Lots of reading and problem-solving – and this time, you have a whole lifetime of experience to draw on. For the most part, senior students run circles around their younger classmates when it comes to problem-solving and analysis. They’ve been doing it so much longer, after all.

Follow Your Interests

Many seniors were never given the opportunity to attend college. So, as they consider changing careers at 50 without a degree, it may be the time to make up for that loss. Some of the best degrees for older adults are simply earned to fulfill a lifelong objective.

Then there are those seniors who, as they contemplate retirement and have time on their hands, discover a previously unknown interest and wish to learn more. The retired accountant who loves gardening might just go back to school to get a degree in botany, or the former schoolteacher who discovers she loves to paint might go back to art school.

Increase Social Interaction

Social Researchers through comprehensive national studies have discovered just how important it is for people to avoid isolation. Human beings are social animals. When not experiencing social interaction, people tend to fall into a depression. This is especially true when workers retire, a move that deletes the socials aspects brought about by one’s employment.

As people age, they tend to withdraw and become more lonely. Combating loneliness is one of the best motivations to return to college. Even if you’re not thinking about new career choices over 50, consider the fun classes for seniors offers from universities for senior citizens.

Exchange Knowledge

If you are considering changing careers at 50 without a degree, taking online or on-campus class or coursework for a degree program enhances one’s learning experience. This is due to the exchange of ideas of those taking the class together. Everyone has a different background and lifetime of diverse experience. There is a lot you can learn from interacting with new people, but perhaps more importantly, you have a lot to give. Your experience and knowledge is a practical guide for your younger classmates.

The concepts of cognitive stimulus and social contact are important considerations for seniors and the elderly. Through simple, easily accessible and free university classes for seniors, one can begin to determine which career choices over 50 are the right fit.

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Why Online Degrees for Older Adults Make Sense

Online education has exploded across the country. These distant-learning platforms provide flexibility and convenience of a college course or degree program where there once was none. Seniors with mobility limitations are likely to appreciate the ease of accessibility that allows them to attain one of the best degrees for older adults, simply by logging on from their computer at home. Additionally, many seniors prefer not to drive at night, which makes online learning the perfect opportunity.

For senior students who want to attend on campus, it’s important to consider what kinds of accommodations the college provides for older students. Many seniors may have hearing impairments or visual impairments, which can make learning in a traditional on-campus environment challenging. The best colleges for older adults will take their particular needs into consideration. Check out our ranking of the best online colleges & universities to help find the program that is right for you.

A Word about Asynchronous Learning

Asynchronous Learning is an educational technique that is considered student-centric. In other words, students are able to take a class after the actual class has occurred. This is the generally accepted basis for online learning. Students appreciate the Asynchronous Learning method as it offers what is often the most important facet for older learners and seniors, the freedom to attend classes on their own schedule.

Colleges and their faculty appreciate the fact that Asynchronous Learning encourages self-study and student-student collaborations. Most online programs build this learning method into their online classes and degree coursework. It is noted, however, some types of classes do not lend themselves to this educational student-centered learning method.

Many older adults and seniors return to school looking to train for the best jobs to retrain for at 50. Some simply want to change careers due to reaching their career potential at the job they have been working at for decades. Women search for the best job for over 50 female, while men search for the best jobs to retrain for at 50 and older.

Labor Force Trends for Seniors

According to the federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), participation in the labor force is anticipated to grow fastest for the older segments of the United States population through 2034. In fact, the career outlook report from BLS for this time period specifically notes that the segments that will see the most growth are for:

  • People aged 65 – 74 years old
  • People aged 75 and over

The national workforce is changing and has been doing so for decades. As the BLS reveals, that baby boomer generation is shifting the workforce median age upwards. For example, consider the following projected growth for three segments of the national workforce population in the next decade:

  • Workers in the workforce aged 75+ – expected growth of 6.4%
  • Workers in the workforce aged 65 – 74 – expected growth of 4.5%
  • Workers in the workforce aged 55-64 – expected growth of 0.6%

The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines a senior worker as someone who is older than 55 years old. The BLS studies a wide variety of data points to determine future workforce predictions. When one considers the beneficial trends of a changing workforce for older adults and seniors, it is a great time to take advantage of scholarships for senior citizens or scholarships for 55 and older adult learners.

What are the Best Online Degrees for Seniors?

As noted above, online classes and degree programs often fit a senior’s scheduling. Remember, seniors often have life experience that can be translated into credit hours of a degree program. Seniors returning to school may possess a previously earned degree. For those without a degree who wish to earn the best degree after 50, one can begin with an associate degree.

According to the American Association of Community Colleges, the majority of colleges and universities offer degree programs and classes specifically designed for senior learners. In many cases, programs geared toward returning students and older adults will be housed in a division of their own; look for names like Metropolitan College, University College, Continuing Education, or Extension.

senior degrees

The Best Degrees for Older Adults – Online Associate’s Programs

An Associate’s Degree is a two-year degree and a great stepping-stone towards a bachelor’s degree if so desired. An Associates Degree typically requires the completion of 60 credit hours, about one-half of the credit hours required to complete a bachelor’s degree. Generally speaking, an associates degree falls into two categories, An Associates of Arts degree or An Associates of Science. Those vying for an associate’s degree typically choose from the following categories:

  • Accounting
  • Art
  • Child Development
  • Museums Technicians
  • Proofreader
  • Psychology
  • Real Estate Sales
  • Tax Preparers

Online associates degrees for seniors are quite extensive and likely to exceeding over 125 different subject areas and topics. These degrees offer a pathway to the best job for 50 female and/or males. Many schools seek to encourage seniors to choose an encore career by offering scholarships for 55 and older students.

Recommended Online Associate’s Degrees

Explore our featured online programs to find the right match for you today.

Further Your Learning with Online Bachelor Degrees for Older Adults

A Bachelor’s Degree is the next step for those who have already earned an Associates degree. The most popular Bachelor’s programs are designed for careers in:

  • Accounting
  • Business
  • Engineering
  • Medical Billing
  • Psychology

Some seniors graduate with a degree and choose a self-employment career path. A business degree might help anyone in an entrepreneurial career. These careers include:

  • Hair Stylists
  • Photographers
  • Street Vendors
  • Tailors
  • Veterinary Technicians or Trainers
  • Writers or Authors

Recommended Online Bachelor’s Degrees

Explore our featured online programs to find the right match for you today.

Online Master’s Degree Programs for Seniors

Bachelor’s degree holders looking for a secondary career later in life can return to graduate school pursue a more advanced degree in the field in which they hold an undergraduate degree. Some degrees you may choose to pursue later in life include:

Remember, there are many graduate degrees available that relate to the degree you currently hold. Be creative.

Recommended Online Master’s Degrees

Explore our featured online programs to find the right match for you today.

Online PhD Degree Programs for Older Adults

If you already have a master’s degree, or even a bachelor’s, you can purse a PhD online in many disciplines. Generally, doctoral candidates seek a refined specialty or pursue research. Many seniors are interested in a doctorate as a way to use their experience and knowledge in a non-profit or governmental position, or to make a positive impact on the world after a conventional career. Older adults may be interested in doctoral degrees in areas like:

  • Biology
  • Botany
  • Conservation
  • History
  • Law
  • Literature and Writing
  • Philosophy

Recommended Online Doctoral Programs

Explore our featured online programs to find the right match for you today.

Are There Free University Classes for Seniors Online?

Seniors wanting to change careers after 55, can test the waters in many subject areas. There are several ways to continue your lifelong learning goals for free. Consider the following:

Audit Classes at No Charge – If you’re is only interested in expanding your knowledge and experience without needing to earn course credits or a certificate of completion, most colleges allow students to attend lectures and complete projects voluntarily. Note, though, that if the degree course is full of ‘paying students’, you may have to wait until next term.

Ask for a Tuition Waiver for Seniors – There are colleges and universities that waive tuition costs for seniors who meet age requirements; including other restrictions. Schools encourage this due to the experience and wisdom a senior learner brings to class.

Find Scholarships for Senior Citizens – Colleges are eager to attract older adults – so eager that many have established scholarship programs. For others, senior organizations national, regional, and local often sponsor scholarship programs for their members.

Scholarships and free university classes for seniors will help you get the whole picture of the many opportunities and career choices over 50 that are available. It’s a new world of work in the 21st century, and you never have to slow down if you don’t want.

College at 50: Am I Too Old?

Never let your age impact your objectives and lifelong learning goals. Going back to school is a great way jumpstart an encore career or a great way to share your wisdom and knowledge with other lifelong learners.

You are never too old to change your life for the better!

Other Guides:

10 Best Degrees for 40 Year Olds

10 Best Degrees for 50 Year Olds

Most Popular Online Degree Majors

15 Best Degrees to Work From Home

Ready to start your journey?

Ready to start your journey?