Check out these online degrees that could provide the flexibility you need to prepare to pursue your dream career.
Ready to pursue your dream career, but don't think you have the time to go back to school and prepare for it? Good news: with the flexibility offered by an online degree program, you could go back to school without quitting your day job.
That's right. With an online program, you could study whenever and wherever it's most convenient for you. But that's not the only perk of online education.
"[Students] are exposed to a contemporary technological environment, and that experience transfers to a work environment," says Tom Mackey, dean of the Center for Distance Learning at State University of New York (SUNY), Empire State College.
Mackey, who has taught with web-based technologies for several years, has also seen how online degree programs have the potential to sharpen the skills that could eventually be used in students' dream careers.
"Besides learning the content in the courses they take, students are learning to work with other students in an online community," Mackey says. "Those skills make them stronger candidates in the workplace because we have seen how important technology is in so many fields."
If you're ready to go after your dream career - with the help of an online education - check out these five flexible degree programs.
Dream Career Path: Medical and Health Services Manager*
Does your dream career involve working in a management position where you could help others in need? An online bachelor's degree in health care administration could help you sharpen your managerial skills on your own time.
A bachelor's in health administration is generally needed to prepare to pursue most medical and health services manager positions, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, which notes that master's degrees in fields like health services, public health, and business administration are also common paths. Courses like health information systems, accounting and budgeting, and human resources administration can help you gain the needed skills to prepare to manage a health facility, adds the Department of Labor.
Why Online? With an online degree in health care administration, you could improve certain web-based skills needed in an occupation that increasingly utilizes information technology, according to Mackey.
"It's really important that (workers) know how to use technology and critical-thinking skills in health care administration," Mackey says. "An online course on health informatics is good for anyone who has to learn how to gain access to health information through the web."
Dream Career Path: Budget Analyst*
Are you pressed for time but really want a chance to pursue a career in the world of business? With an online bachelor's degree program in business administration, you could prepare to pursue your dream business job when it's most convenient for you.
If your dream business career includes working with finances and creating budget reports, consider a career as a budget analyst, which typically requires candidates to have at least a bachelor's degree, and in some cases, a master's, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Common courses in business administration include accounting, economics, and marketing, according to the College Board, a century-old organization of colleges and universities that administers tests such as the SAT.
Why Online? Today's business professionals are on the go and need a keen sense of how to use mobile technology to get their work done, according to Mackey.
"Working on laptops, mobile devices, and websites is incredibly important for (online) business students," Mackey says, noting how online programs can help prepare students for today's high-tech business practices. "And it's important that students can say (to employers) that they learned how to use technology."
Dream Career Path: Social Worker*
If you want to learn more about helping people cope with problems in their daily lives, you could take classes at home or on the road with an online bachelor's degree in psychology.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a bachelor's degree in psychology is an option of study to prepare to pursue a career as a social worker, where you could help people deal with challenging life events like divorce or unemployment. Common courses might include social psychology, personality, and perception and sensation, says the College Board.
Why Online? Having the ability to interact with fellow students while online opens a 24-hour window of discussion about the subject of psychology.
"Psychology has always been popular with students," Mackey says, "but in an online program, students can explore cases with current technologies that are highly interactive and flexible."
Dream Career Path: Software Developer*
You might not need to put your computer-related career dreams on hold if you consider earning an online bachelor's degree in computer science. You could learn more about the tech world while having access to your schoolwork, classmates, and professors around the clock.
And there's more good news: With instruction on building computer software, a bachelor's degree in computer science is the usual prerequisite to preparing to pursue a career as a software developer, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Some common courses could include computer system organization, software engineering, and introduction to program design, says the College Board.
Why Online? "If students are interested in computer science and information technology, an online program allows them to take [their interest] to the next level and improve their skills," Mackey says. "They gain new insights [about technology] by talking to their peers through online discussions and working on projects in an online environment."
Dream Career Path: Graphic Designer*
For creative people who are ready to take their career from the drawing board to reality, earning an online bachelor's degree in graphic design from home could be a great first step.
In fact, a bachelor's in graphic design is often needed to help you prep to pursue a career as a graphic designer, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. You can expect to take courses that will sharpen your design skills, including production design, graphic design techniques, and Photoshop for designers, says the College Board.
Why Online? Mackey says studying graphic design in a flexible online program is a tremendous way to sharpen your creative skills at any time of day.
"There is so much potential there," Mackey says. "The online environment is very visual, and online students can gain easy access to the web and learn about contemporary digital design tools. It also encourages students to be active producers of their own work and share it with other students."
*Potential career information is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/home.htm (visited May 25, 2012).
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