Six Flexible Degrees You Could Earn In Two Years

Flexible Degrees in 2 Years

Is your schedule so overbooked that you don't have any wiggle room to run to classes? Online education could be your best bet.

By Lia Sestric

Why fret about making time to go to school on campus when you don't have to? Remember it is 2013, and everything is about convenience and getting what you want as soon as possible. An online degree can offer you those perks. And when we talk about cutting down on time, we don't just mean the commute. The degrees listed below could be earned in as little as two years.

While online learning may not be the traditional route, it doesn't mean you're short-changing yourself, says Bob Nash, associate dean of distance learning and professional development at Coastline Community College. "When delivered appropriately by people who know how to do it, it is equivalent to classroom instruction."

In fact, 77 percent of academic leaders rated the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face, according to a 2012 report titled "Changing Course: 10 Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States," published by the College Board, a nonprofit organization that promotes higher education, and the Babson Survey Research Group, an organization that has been conducting national studies of online learning in higher education since 2003.

It wouldn't be fair, however, to say that online learning is for everyone; it takes a lot of hard work and self-discipline to stay on top of your studies. But if you feel you have what it takes, keep reading for six hot online degrees you could earn in as few as two years.

Online Degree #1 - Associate's in Health Information Technology

Do you feel the heat? You should - the health care industry is smoking hot right now. If you don't want to get burned by a traditional program, why not consider an online associate's degree in health information technology? It may only take half the time and could light up a career path for you.

Online Bonus: Students earning this degree online "benefit from being able to repeatedly use medical terminology and code diagnoses and procedures so that the terms and classifications become second nature," says Stephanie Burak Fehlenberg, the instructional design specialist for Harper College, where she teaches instructors how to teach online courses.

"There are activities, interactive games, and assessments that many instructors incorporate into their courses, which allow students to painlessly memorize, apply, and interpret diagnoses, procedures, and terms," she adds.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Online Health Information Technology Program.

Program Overview: In this degree program, you could learn how to prepare and maintain medical records and use the latest medical records software, says the College Board. Typical classes include medical terminology, health care statistics, introduction to coding, and computers in health care.

Potential Career*: Medical records and health information technician

Online Degree #2 - Associate's in Graphic Design

Do you doodle secretly at work but sincerely want to embrace your creative side as a full-blown career? An online associate's degree in graphic design could help you to fulfill your dream - in as few as two years.

Online Bonus: Why head to a classroom when you have all you need at your fingertips? Melissa Assael, founder of Admission Ambition, a higher education consulting firm, says studying this degree online is a great way to get ahead and learn the latest software programs.

"As many graphic designers work freelance, it is not necessary for those interested in pursuing this career path to quit their day job as they build their design business. Online degree and certificate programs offer budding designers the opportunity to develop skills and credentials at their own pace and time schedule."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Online Graphic Design Program.

Program Overview: In this program, you could learn about the principles of good design, says the College Board. You might also get to work on real-world projects, such as websites and corporate logos. Courses might include Photoshop for designers, history of graphic design, and typography.

Potential Career*: Graphic designer

Online Degree #3 - Associate's in Accounting

You can't deny it. You love keeping tabs on every penny spent and you're proud of it. But when it comes to adding a four-year accounting degree program to your already hectic life, the numbers don't crunch. An online associate's degree in accounting could be a great option that cuts down on time.

Online Bonus: This program "gives the student a leg up in completing the class successfully because you can do it 24 hours a day, seven days a week," says Eric Ichon, director of distance learning at West Los Angeles College.

And because accounting is about accuracy, Ichon says it's helpful that you can access the information anytime you need it, including "course lectures, notes, presentations, videos, audio files, and more on their timetable." He also adds that "content related to difficult concepts can be reviewed as many times as needed, and students can progress more quickly with topics they more easily comprehend."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Online Accounting Program.

Program Overview: An associate's degree in accounting could teach you how to gather financial information, prepare tax filings, and create balance sheets, says the College Board. You might take classes in accounting information systems, auditing, business law, and cost accounting.

Potential Career*: Bookkeeping clerk

Online Degree #4 - Master's in Psychology

Do you have a bachelor's in psychology and would like to further your education in the field but can't find the time? Why not pursue a master's degree in psychology online? You can engage in lectures from anywhere, and it may be doable within two years.

Online Bonus: This degree prepares you for the shape of the psychology profession to come. "If you are learning psychology online through videoconferencing, where eventually you'll be delivering therapy through videoconferencing, you are developing another skill set in terms of how to interact with people, certainly the younger generation," says Denise Daniels, director of master's programs at Palo Alto University.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Online Psychology Program.

Program Overview: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a master's degree program in psychology might include courses like statistics, research design, and industrial-organizational psychology.

Potential Career*: Industrial-organizational psychologist

Online Degree #5 - Master's in Business Administration (MBA)

Are you ready to move up the ranks at work but need to find time to gain the qualifications for that new leadership role? An MBA could be the golden ticket to your professional success - all in as few as two years. And earning this degree virtually could help you keep up the good work at the office.

Online Bonus: "An online program allows you to choose the program that suits you best, not just the program that is close to where you live or where you can afford to live," says Susan Luck, an MBA professor for Pfeiffer University.

She also adds that online MBA programs allow for a more diverse class experience: "An online MBA also attracts a much wider composition of students than a traditional MBA program does. In an online program, your classmates can be from all over the country and bring all sorts of backgrounds and experiences to the course."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Online MBA Program.

Program Overview: What can you expect to study in your MBA program? The Princeton Review, an organization that offers admission test preparation services says courses could include management and accounting, organizational behavior, finance, and economics.

Potential Careers*: Financial analyst, management analyst

Online Degree #6 - Master's in Education

As an educator, you likely spend all day in the classroom - and still take your work home with you. Lesson plans and grading papers, right? If you love what you do and want to advance in your profession but can't find the time to physically go to class, why not pursue a master's in education online, which might be completed in as little as two years?

Online Bonus: Earning this degree online provides a richer learning environment, says Ida Malian, professor and interim division director of educational leadership and innovation at Arizona State University's Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

"Students can log-on at any time, at any place in the world, and converse with their peers and professors," explains Malian. "When problems or questions arise in the classrooms they teach in, they can share with their classmates and apply insight to their classrooms in real time."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Online Education Program.

Program Overview: Core coursework may include teaching methods, instructional technology, and education of the exceptional child, notes the College Board.

Potential Career*: Kindergarten, elementary, or middle school teacher

*Career options are from the Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-2013 edition. Each degree listed is either named as common, required, or preferred for each potential career. In some instances, the degree may not be the only educational or professional requirement for the career.

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