Going back to school online can be a savvy decision--you’re investing in yourself personally, professionally, and financially. But completing your degree online can also present some unique challenges. Not all schools, and not all majors, are created equal when it comes to online learning. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the best majors and colleges you should consider if you’re planning to start an online degree program.
What are the Best College Degrees to earn online
Before we dive into some of the best college degrees to earn online, let’s be clear: if you are majoring in an area you’re passionate about and are aware of the financial and professional implications of that decision, there is no such thing as a “bad” online major. But if you’re unsure of what you’d like to pursue and are hoping for some advice about what majors tend to be good picks for those going back to school online, consider the following options:
- Nursing or Health Sciences. Nursing and health sciences have become incredibly popular online majors, and with good reason. You can earn a variety of nursing-related degrees (e.g., ASN, BSN, or MSN) online in a way that may be more flexible and less expensive than taking classes at your local college. Be aware, though, that while you can take many of your classes virtually, you’ll need to complete any clinical assignments in-person at a local healthcare facility, so make sure that your online school partners with nearby sites.
- Computer Science or Information Technology. If you’ve already got some tech skills and an interest in working with computers, you might do well in an online computer science or IT program. Plenty of jobs in these fields are done remotely, so taking courses online will help you get more comfortable with interacting virtually and may allow you to simulate a working environment similar to the one you’d encounter on the job. And the job market for computer science careers is hot right now: jobs in this area are expected to increase 14% between 2019 and 2029.
- Cybersecurity. If you’ve got a knack for problem-solving and an interest in technology, you might consider a career in cybersecurity. Online cybersecurity program offerings are growing quickly as demand for cybersecurity specialists increases. Cybersecurity degrees are also popular because they offer an incredible return on investment--the median salary for someone working in cybersecurity is $98,000.
- Business Administration. If you decide to complete an online degree in business administration, you’ll be in good company. A report found that business majors accounted for more than a quarter of all online degrees, so you’ll have a wide variety of programs to choose from. Salaries vary widely in this field, so before you begin, try to better narrow your prospective career focus so that you can get a sense of what your job prospects will look like after graduation.
- Education. Yes, you can earn your degree in education (mostly) online! Like nursing, you’ll take the majority of your courses virtually, but you’ll likely need to complete on-site teaching assignments at a local school, so talk with your institution about their placement procedures before applying. Curious about if there’s a need for teachers in your area? Check out this state-by-state teacher shortage guide to learn more about the need for educators in your area.
What is the best college to earn your associate degree online
Once you’ve selected a major, you’ll want to start exploring schools that offer programs in your field of choice. Pursuing an associate’s degree is an excellent option that can help you move towards a chosen career in less time than a traditional four-year degree. While some schools, like community colleges, tend to only offer associate’s degrees, many four-year institutions also offer them--they may just not advertise it, so be sure to ask. In general, you’ll need to earn 60 credits (a mix of general education and courses in a specific area) in order to receive your associate’s degree. If you’re returning to school to complete a degree, talk with an advisor at your prospective institutions to find out how many of your credits will transfer. Selecting a college that accepts a lot of your prior credits can help you cut down on the cost of earning your degree significantly. In fact, transferring credits is a great way to decrease the time it takes to earn your degree. Taking some courses from an alternative credit provider like StraighterLine and transferring those credits to your target school will save you both time and money. StraighterLine’s course equivalency guide will help you understand exactly which courses are guaranteed to transfer to one of StraighterLine’s many accredited partner colleges that offer associate’s degrees, including American Public University, University of Maryland Global Campus, and Purdue University Global.
What is the best college to earn your bachelor’s degree online
If you’ve decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree, transferring credits can really be a game changer in the amount of time it takes you to earn your degree. The US News and World Report has compiled a list of its most highly recommended accredited online programs, including Colorado State University Global, and Berkeley College--all of which have the distinction of being StraighterLine partner schools. And if flexibility is a major concern for you, then try a competency-based program like those offered at Western Governor’s University. By paying a flat tuition fee and taking as many classes as you’re comfortable with at your own pace, you can reduce both the cost of your education as well as the time it takes to earn your degree. With all the choices to make about majors and schools, it can feel overwhelming to think about getting an online degree. But by choosing a major that fits your goals, a degree that fits your needs, and a school that offers the support and resources you need to succeed, you’ll be on your way to earning your degree and changing your life. Anissa Sorokin, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of English and Writing Program Administrator at Stevenson University near Baltimore, Maryland. Anissa’s interdisciplinary background and extensive experience teaching research, writing, and study skills help her demystify college expectations for students online and in her classroom. Looking for study tips for succeeding in online college courses? Check out this great article: Tips for Effective Online Learning