Online degrees that are career-focused

Online degrees that are career-focused

One of these five bachelor’s programs could help prepare you for the workforce.

Want to earn an online degree? Staying career-minded could be the way to go. The most popular online programs prep students “for careers in high-demand areas like business, computer science, health care and criminal justice,” according to a 2011 New York Times article “Online Enterprises Gain Foothold as Path to a College Degree.”

Eduventures, a Boston-based research firm, found a similar career-minded trend when it tracked enrollment data for 2.14 million online students in 2009. That year’s most popular online degrees included criminal justice, computer and information technology, health care, and business, in that order. Whether you want to change careers or hone skills that will help you get ahead at work, we’ve put the spotlight on five online degrees to consider.

Bachelor’s in Business Administration

Welcome to the 21st century, where an online presence is a must for any successful business, and students can get a bachelor’s in business administration online. All you need is a computer and internet connection to get started.

One of the benefits of the online format is that students can make sure that they are really absorbing the material, according to Jennifer Humber, an academic advisor at the University of Alabama.

“They can look at the assignments over and over again,” Humber told the school newspaper in September 2011. “They can do it on their own time.”

An online business administration degree could help you prepare for careers in multiple industries, all on your own time. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor recommends studying business administration for a wide range of tracks, including human resources specialist (average salary: $57,830), marketing specialist ($66,850), and financial analyst ($86,040).*

Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice

Earning a criminal justice degree online is a popular trend. According to Eduventures, enrollment in online criminal justice programs jumped 41 percent in 2009.

At North Georgia College & State University, it’s not unusual for online classes to fill up within seconds during registration, according to Ross Alexander, the school’s criminal justice department head.

“With online, a student can log in anytime and work on classes,” Alexander told the Gainesville Times.

Maybe you’ve got your eye on a career in the private sector – as a security guard ($26,870) or private investigator ($47,830) – or perhaps you’re more interested in pursuing work as a police officer ($55,620).* Studying criminal justice online could help you get ready for these careers – and more – without giving up your current one to do so.

Bachelor’s in Nursing

While it may surprise some to see an online bachelor’s degree in nursing on our list, the simple fact is nursing is an in-demand profession. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 581,500 new registered nursing jobs are expected to be added between 2008 and 2018, and earning your bachelor’s in nursing online can help already working or busy aspiring nurses to prepare for a role as a registered nurse.

Though individual online nursing programs vary, some help working nurses earn a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) online. With more employers requiring a BSN, online programs everywhere are seeing a bump in enrollment, according to Elizabeth Regan-Butts, director of marketing and recruitment at Rowan University in New Jersey, which offers a bachelor’s degree in nursing that you can earn online.

“Nurses in the past only had to have an [associate’s] degree,” Regan-Butts told SouthJerseyBiz.net, a New Jersey-based website and magazine. “Now, most hospitals want a bachelor’s of science.”

If you want to pursue registered nurse opportunities, you’ll most likely need to get a BSN, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Registered nurses have an average annual salary of $67,720.*

Bachelor’s in Information Technology (IT) & Information Systems

Some people call it the 21st century; others call it the information technology age. Whatever name you prefer, it’s hard to imagine a more current degree you can earn online than IT and information systems. Among other things, you’ll learn how digital technology is changing businesses and the way we live.

Your online coursework may include everything from network and database administration to cybersecurity, the latter of which is a global problem these days, according to a 2011 report by computer security firm Symantec.

“Cybercrime costs the world significantly more than the global black market in marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined,” Symantec concluded.

Want to break into the technology sector? Studying IT online could help you get started. A bachelor’s degree in information technology is one of the recommended courses of study for aspiring database administrators ($75,730), according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The Department adds that cyber-security specialists often go by more general job titles like database administrator or network and computer system administrator ($72,200).*

Bachelor’s in Health Care Administration

Looking for a career-focused degree? How about health care administration? According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 10 of the 20 fastest growing jobs in the country are in health care.

No matter where you live, all you need is a computer and an internet connection and you too can start studying up on an industry that exists in just about every single town and city on the map.

Earning a health care administration degree online could help prep you for a career as a health care administrator ($93,670), according to the U.S. Department of Labor. While a master’s degree may be preferred by some employers, a bachelor’s degree could be enough to get you started, the Department says.*

Degrees that hiring managers want

Degrees that hiring managers want

Choosing the right course of study can lead to secure employment, these HR experts say.

Wondering which degrees can get you hired? Why not ask the people who do the hiring? We polled a half-dozen HR managers and experts throughout the country to see what college degrees they want to see on the resumes hitting their desks.

The HR professionals work with employees in all industries, from private-sector firms and public agencies to non-profits, and the consensus was simple: now more than ever, your degree does matter.

“Get this message out to the guidance counselors of America,” said Coy Renick, a Virginia-based HR professional. “It’s not about getting a degree. It’s about getting the right degree.”

#1 Degree – Health Care & Nursing

In a 2010 poll by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), 84 percent of HR specialists in the health care industry said they were currently hiring, leading all other sectors of the economy. Echoing that optimism, the U.S. Department of Labor says that 10 of the 20 fastest growing occupations through 2018 are health-related.

Tip #1: “Anything related to the aging population is hot,” said Roberta Matuson of Massachusetts-based Human Resource Solutions. “Whether it’s a nutritionist, nurse, or nursing assistant, many hospitals can’t afford to staff as many doctors, so they are bringing in people who can do a lot of the same things but at a lower cost.”

Tip #2:”Like it or not, outsourcing is a long-term trend so you have to ask yourself: What jobs can be outsourced and what cannot? Many medical jobs cannot,” said Steve Kane, an HR expert and former VP at a Fortune 50 global medical services company.

Degrees in Demand
Medical Assistant
Nursing Assistant
Registered Nurse
Health Care Administration

Careers & Salaries
Home Health Aides: $21,440
Medical Assistants: $28,300
Registered Nurses: $62,450
Health Care Managers: $80,240

#2 Degree – Business

When 100 HR professionals were asked what degree is most likely to get you hired in 2010, a business administration degree finished second, just behind health care, according to a poll by corporate consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Finance and accounting were popular choices too.

Tip #1: “A business degree is always going to have real value,” said Matuson, an HR pro who helps staff nonprofits and small-to large-sized businesses. Her clients include Best Buy and New York Life.

Tip #2: Renick believes specificity is key: “If you have a general business degree, you’re just one of many. But if you specialize in finance, accounting, or HR, it’s easier to find a job.”

Degrees in Demand
Accounting
Business Administration
Finance
Human Resources
MBA

Careers & Salaries
Employment Specialists: $45,470
Accountants: $59,430
Financial Managers: $99,330

#3 Degree – Information Technology (IT)
According to SHRM’s 2010 poll of HR professionals, 75 percent of high-tech companies are hiring. What makes an IT degree so valuable though is that it’s applicable in other industries too.

Tip #1: “The hottest industry for me is IT,” said Renick, who helps staff companies in western Virginia. “You can make 50 or 60 grand right out of school with a two-year degree and the right certification. If you have a bachelor’s or master’s, we’re talking six figures.”

Tip #2: “What’s almost always true and is still true today is that computer science majors are still in demand,” said Kane, a San Francisco-based HR pro. “It never seems to end.”

Degrees in Demand
IT and Information Systems
Networking Administration
Computer Science
Database Technology

Careers & Salaries
Network Administrators: $66,310
Database Administrators: $69,740
Computer Scientists: $97,970

#4 Degree – Education & Teaching

While demand for educators isn’t skyrocketing, employment for teachers and administrators is rising at a steady clip now and into the foreseeable future, according to the Department of Labor, which cites mathematics, science and bilingual education as the most promising fields.

Tip #1: Vivian Leonard, director of HR for the city of Boston, oversees 17,000 employees, including the local school department. “I’ll consider your college degree, internships and any prior work experience,” Leonard said. “You must demonstrate knowledge and a true interest.”

Tip #2: When it comes to jobs, Kane stresses location, location, location: “In cushy suburban locations, there is little demand for teachers. In rural areas, there’s an even supply, while in rough, urban locations they are desperate for teachers. Why? Supply and demand.”

Degrees in Demand
K-12 Education
Special Education
Teaching Certificate
Education Leadership

Careers & Salaries
Childcare Administrators: $39,940
Elementary School Teachers: $52,240
Middle School Teachers: $52,570
High School Teachers: $54,390
High school Principals: $97,486

#5 Degree – Culinary & Hospitality

There is a “substantial” demand for new hires in the culinary and hospitality industries that isn’t expected to let up anytime soon, according to the Department of Labor. They cite a predominately young workforce with a high turnover rate as the main reason for optimism.

Tip #1: “There are some real opportunities in hospitality, especially if you have a bright smile and a positive attitude,” Kane said. “You’ll probably start low and your pay will be low, but you can get promoted and move up the chain of command rapidly since turnover is high.”

Tip #2: Job opportunities for meeting and convention planners will grow by 16 percent between 2008 and 2018, reports the Department of Labor.

Degrees in Demand
Culinary Arts
Baking & Pastry
Marketing/Communications
Restaurant Management

Careers & Salaries
Travel Agents: $30,570
Chefs & Head Cooks: $38,770
Meeting & Convention Planners: $44,260
Lodging Managers: $45,800
Food Service Managers: $46,320