Find out how you can go to school and still hold down a job with these online degree programs.
You know the expression, "You can't have your cake and eat it too?" Well, when it comes to choosing between continuing your education and keeping your current job, online education is turning that old adage on its head.
Online education, with its flexible teaching format, is making college dreams accessible for people who can't afford to stop working, but still want to earn a degree. And there are a lot of people who fall into this crowd.
"A large number of our students are working professionals," explains Kimberly Vergez, program coordinator for the online learning program at UC Berkeley's extension center. She says working professionals see the online education option as a way to help advance their careers.
Think an online degree is right for you? Check out these five flexible online degree options.
Are you always on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest? If so, you can take your love of social media and use it to pursue an online bachelor's degree in communications - all without leaving your day job.
Through a business communications program, for example, you'll likely "learn how to communicate with those outside the organization, handling everything from ad campaigns to public-relations crises," says the College Board, a nonprofit research organization that promotes higher education. Commonly offered courses include media analysis and criticism, intercultural communication, and public relations writing.
Online Perk: When you get off of work, you don't have to worry about driving far to get to class. As long as you have an Internet connection, you can access the online communications program of your choice. "We have students in villages in Ghana and Kazakhstan. A lot of deployed military personnel in the Middle East also take courses with us," says Vergez. "People aren't bound by geography in an online program."
Potential Career: Public relations specialists, who take care of an organization's communication with the public, commonly have a bachelor's degree, with employers often preferring candidates who have studied public relations, journalism, communications, English, or business, says the U.S. Department of Labor.
Do you manage all your money - from paying bills to doing your taxes - online? If you have a knack for numbers, and enjoy the convenience of technology, then getting your online bachelor's degree in accounting could be a great way to further your education - without having to kiss your paycheck goodbye.
According to the College Board, "Accounting majors learn how to gather, record, analyze, interpret, and communicate information about an individual's or organization's financial performance and risks." Some of the classes you might take include accounting information systems, auditing, and business law, it adds.
Online Perk: If your personality ventures more on the shy side, an online degree could also be more in your comfort zone than a traditional on-campus classroom. "Teachers who have taught hybrid classes - half online and half in the classroom - have noticed that people who are very quiet and disengaged in the classroom can be very dominant and vocal in the class's online discussions," says Vergez.
Potential Career: Every company needs someone who can balance the books and make sure the financial records are in order for tax season. And when most employers look for that person - an accountant or auditor - they require a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field, says the U.S. Department of Labor.
If you're interested in learning about the inner workings of a computer, then an online bachelor's in computer science could be a good way to build your knowledge while continuing to work.
And if you want to take cool classes like artificial intelligence and digital system design, you're in luck. These are just a few of the typical classes of a computer science major, says the College Board. It adds that "Computer science majors learn about computer systems and the way humans and computers interact from a scientific perspective."
Online Perk: Deadlines are common in both online and traditional classrooms, but with an online computer science program, you don't necessarily have to rush home from work to fit in your study time. "For example, a professor can post an assignment online and give you one week to complete it," says Vergez. "But within that time frame, you can decide to work on the assignment whenever works best for you."
Potential Career: Does writing the code to develop new and more effective computer programs and software sound interesting? That's the work of a computer programmer, most of whom have bachelor's degrees in computer science or a related subject, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Do you enjoy sitting down in front of the TV to watch your favorite courtroom drama? If you have an interest in the legal system, why not take time during your off-hours to complete an online associate's degree in paralegal studies?
If you did, you might learn what it takes to help attorneys prepare a case for court: researching related laws and cases, writing up reports, and conducting investigations. In fact, a paralegal studies program might include classes like legal research, civil and criminal law, litigation, and law office management, according to the College Board.
Online Perk: Whether you work a regular 9-to-5 gig or the graveyard shift, an online degree in paralegal studies has you covered. "The great thing about online degrees is having the freedom to study during your optimal learning time," says Vergez. "For some people that time is the middle of the night, so you can come home from work, take a nap, and then hit the books."
Potential Career: Most paralegals, who help lawyers research and investigate the facts of a case, have either an associate's degree in paralegal studies or a bachelor's degree in any subject, paired with a certificate in paralegal studies, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Do you love keeping up with the latest gadgets and innovations? If you can easily navigate the world of technology and want a more tech-centric career, an online bachelor's degree in network administration could connect you to the knowledge you need, without forcing you to give up your current job.
What's more, a network and system administration program can help you learn to look at technology with the eye of an architect: figuring out how to piece all the hardware and software together to make a computer network that meets people's needs, according to the College Board. Classes might cover core hardware technologies, database management, and network security.
Online Perk: If you're not a fan of traffic, driving, or parking, then you'll probably be happy to hear this: "Not having to commute to and from the classroom is a definite advantage of online learning," says Vergez.
Potential Career: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, "A bachelor's degree in fields related to computer or information science is most common" for network and computer systems administrators. These professionals are often in charge of the daily operations of a computer network.
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