Best Degrees for Adults Returning to College

Best Degrees for Adults Returning to College

The need to have a degree is stressed now more than ever. More employers are stating they prefer to hire candidates with a degree of some sort. Unlike in the past when college-aged students were the most often seen in college, today many adults are pursuing a degree. Returning to college may not be easy for everyone. One person might have young children at home, while another may not be able to quit his or her job to attend college.

Online degrees are a true blessing because they make it easier for an adult to return to college. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone told you the best degrees for adults returning to college? The good news is that this is exactly what this article will do for you. Below you will find what we consider to be the best degrees for adults returning to college as well as some information on each one. Unless otherwise noted, all wage information comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

15 Best Degrees for Adults Returning to College

1. Accounting

Accounting is a field that offers many career opportunities from becoming an accounting assistant to being a certified public accountant (CPA).

An online accounting program prepares students to work in any setting where there are numbers or financing terms. Online accounting degrees are offered at associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. The master’s degree is quite popular because it can lead to working as a CPA. Students can typically complete an online accounting degree in two to six years depending on the degree level.

Why It’s the Best – Students can earn the degree online, which allows them to continue working or meeting other obligations. Tuition and admission requirements are less than on-campus programs. Upon graduation, you don’t need to work as an accountant but can work in various office positions requiring knowledge of accounting principles. Accountants earn an average wage of $77,250 according to a 2021 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

2. Business

Business is a field that can be used in almost every area of our lives. Earning a business degree prepares students for various positions in many industries. Graduates may work in sales, human resources, and finance.

Online business degrees are offered at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree levels. A bachelor’s degree is ideal for many jobs, while an MBA is also a popular choice. The average annual wage for business and finance jobs was $76,570 according to the BLS.

Why It’s the Best – Business degrees offer various concentrations, which allow students to choose what best aligns with their career goals. The programs are 100 percent online, and many offer multiple start dates and reasonable tuition.

3. Communication

Communication is an important part of our daily lives, and a degree in communication can improve all areas of your life, including reaching your career goals. In terms of jobs, this may be one of the best degrees for adults returning to college.

Online communication programs come in various degree levels. These programs not only prepare students for different jobs in this field but also help them develop good writing, reading, and communication skills. This is a popular degree for those interested in television, media, journalism, and digital media.

Why It’s the Best – Students can choose from different concentrations like business communication or media, among others. There are many online communication programs. Tuition is quite affordable at many colleges. The BLS states that people in media and communication jobs earn an average annual wage of $62,340.

4. Criminal Justice

Criminal justice is a vast field that offers many jobs, including police, detectives, patrol officers, probation officers, social workers, and more.

Online criminal justice programs include courses in forensic investigations, the court system, criminology, policing, and sentencing. Depending on the degree chosen, these programs can be completed in 18 months to six or seven years. Although these programs are online, many may require completing a training program at a police academy.

Why It’s the Best – The cost of an online criminal justice program is cheaper than one offered on campus. These programs also offer several areas of specialization. Police and detectives earned an average annual wage of $66,020; correction officers earned $47,920; and probation officers earned $60,250.

5. Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is a field that involves helping a business or company keep their system safe and secure from cyber-attacks, such as viruses, Trojans, and similar security and internet breaches.

Although online cyber security programs are offered at various degree levels, most positions require a bachelor’s degree and one to three years of experience working in this capacity. Students learn about computer risk factors, how to identify internet invasions, and what measures are necessary to prevent future attacks.

Why It’s the Best – Cybersecurity online programs can be completed 100 percent online. Tuition is affordable, and graduates can choose from many career options. Information security analysts earned an average of about $102,600 in 2021.

6. Data Analytics

Data Analytics is a field that can be found in almost any business because data is used everywhere. It’s also a field that offers many career opportunities. Online data analytics programs can prepare students for entry-level jobs as well as high-paying jobs.

Online data analytic programs are offered for associate, bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees. Data entry positions can be obtained with an associate degree, while data scientists should have a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Why It’s the Best – Online data analytics programs can be completed online. Most of these programs offer affordable tuition. It’s a great program for individuals who enjoy mathematics. Data entry keyers earned an average annual wage of $35,940, while data scientists earned about $100,910 in 2021.

7. Education

Education is a vast field that spans through so many occupations. Graduates of education programs may go on to be elementary, middle school, or high school teachers. They may also find work in library and training positions.

An online education degree will prepare the student for a wide range of positions that involve more than just teaching. The online programs are typically 100 percent online, although teaching positions may require in-classroom internships.

Why It’s the Best – Online education programs may be used to earn a degree for job positions or for the purpose of certification to move to a higher position. It’s a very versatile degree. People working in education, training, and library positions earn an average wage of about $57,220.

8. Finance

Finance is a field often chosen by people who enjoy working with money but don’t want to become accountants. Finance is also a field that offers jobs in various industries.

Online finance programs may be found at the associate degree level but are most common in bachelor’s and master’s degrees. These programs also link to management programs, which increase the potential for better jobs and pay. Students learn how to create difficult financial systems, write appropriate reports, and understand the current market. Finance programs can take from two to six years to complete.

Why It’s the Best – It offers various concentrations, and the programs can be completed 100 percent online. Financial analysts and financial managers earned average annual wages of $95,570 and $131,710 respectively.

9. Healthcare Administration

Healthcare administration is very important in a medical or healthcare setting because it’s what makes the facility work efficiently. It’s also a field that offers many career opportunities besides just being an administrator.

An online healthcare administration program teaches students how to work in a healthcare setting and provide good leadership. Most online healthcare administration programs are for bachelor’s or master’s degree programs. Students learn about both the administrative and the medical side of healthcare.

Why It’s the Best – Most of the online healthcare administration programs are 100 percent online. This field offers good job security and the possibility of very good wages. Healthcare practitioners like RNs, dental hygienists, doctors, and surgeons earned an average yearly wage of $75,040, while medical and health services managers earned about $101,340 on average.

10. Human Resources

Human resources (HR) is a very popular field and also one that can be found in any business from the tiniest company to a large organization. Online human resource programs can be found at many colleges.

Online human resources programs are offered at the associate, bachelor, and master’s degree levels. Graduates can pursue positions as HR assistants, HR specialists, and HR managers. Students learn about communication, management, employment laws, payroll, and more. Students may be required to complete an internship depending on the program.

Why It’s the Best – Online human recourses programs are very good online programs that can lead to good jobs. The courses in the program can be useful in jobs other than just HR. Human resource assistants earned an average yearly wage of $45,630; HR specialists earned $62,29; and HR managers earned about $126,230 in 2021.

11. Information Technology

With computers and the internet such an important part of our lives, information technology is everywhere. Information technology degree programs offer various career opportunities.

Online information technology programs are offered at all degree levels. It’s also a program that prepares students for many careers. Students learn about computer programming, computer security, operating systems, and networking. Upon completion of these programs, graduates can earn various industry certifications.

Why It’s the Best – Online IT programs are generally flexible programs that can be completed online. People working in computer and information technology jobs earned about $97,430, while those working as computer and information systems managers earned about $159,010 according to a May 2021 BLS report.

12. Management

Management is a field that offers many career opportunities because there is some sort of management in every business regardless of the size of the business. Online management programs are also offered at various degree levels.

A bachelor’s degree is the most popular degree level in online management programs. Students may take courses in organizational leadership, project management, hiring practices, and business analytics. Many of the programs offer areas of specialization so students can choose courses that meet their career goals.

Why It’s the Best – Management programs are almost 100 percent online. Students may also get credits for work performed in this area. These online programs generally offer affordable tuition. The BLS indicates that people working in management occupations earned $102,450 annually on average.

13. Marketing

Marketing is needed in almost every area of our lives because it involves making consumers buy certain products. The difference in why a consumer will buy one product over another is often due to marketing.

Online marketing is a very popular online program because it offers so many job opportunities and it’s one of the easier programs to complete. Students take courses like communication methods, advertising, consumer behavior, and marketing. Online marketing programs are offered at various levels, but a bachelor’s degree is the most common for aspiring market managers.

Why It’s the Best – With the high rate of online shopping, marketing is more widely used than ever before. Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers earned an average of $133,380 in 2021. Online marketing programs are affordable programs that can be completed online.

14. Nursing

Nursing is a very much in-demand field that offers students the choice of working as an LPN, RN, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, or nurse educator.

Online nursing programs are offered at all degree levels, and students typically choose the degree level for the career they wish to have. Although students can complete most of the work online, they are also usually required to complete an internship in a healthcare setting at the end of the program.

Why It’s the Best – Healthcare is a very important industry and one that requires many qualified people. Individuals with nursing degrees are very much in demand. Online nursing programs offer many different types of programs. As of May 2021, LPNs earned an average annual wage of $48,070; RNs earned $77,600; and APRNs earned 123,780.

15. Computer Science

Computer science is a field that offers many job opportunities and degree options from associate degrees and masters in computer science through doctoral degrees. Graduates of computer science programs may find work as computer programmers, software engineers, and information technology specialists.

An online computer science program not only prepares students to work with computers but also to work in specialized areas such as cyber security, programming, computer systems analysis, and more.

Why It’s the Best – It prepares students for jobs that are very much in demand. Many of these computer programs are 100 percent online. They are also flexible programs designed to make education convenient. Employees working in computer and information technology jobs earned an average yearly wage of $97,430 as of May 2021.

Why Online Degrees Are a Good Option for Working Adults

Earning a degree may not be the easiest thing for a working adult, but it’s a lot easier and convenient when it’s done online. Many people like the prospect of earning a degree because it can improve their job opportunities and increase their earning potential.

However, with working full time and taking care of their families, the idea of going to college seems almost impossible. This is where online degrees come in so handy. They are a great option for working adults for several reasons.

  • Lower cost – Online students don’t often realize how much cheaper it is to earn a degree online not just in tuition but school fees, transportation, and other incidentals that are often forgotten.
  • Flexibility – Online programs offer students the flexibility of choosing when to do the assignments so they’re not interfering with family and work obligations.
  • More free time – Unlike colleges that can utilize up to eight hours of your day, online classes can be done quicker and at a time that’s convenient to the student thus saving time.
  • No commuting – If you’re a full-time student living in a large city, you can be spending two hours or more driving to and from school. This is not only time-consuming but costly as well. As an online student, you’ll typically not be required to do any traveling.

Admissions Requirements

Admission requirements for online degree programs are not quite as strict as for on-campus programs, but they do still have requirements. They typically depend on the degree level. A student pursuing an associate degree may only have to show proof of a high school diploma and a transcript. They may also need to complete any prerequisite courses the program may require.

Individuals pursuing a bachelor’s degree may need to provide the following.

  • Completed application
  • High school transcript
  • GPA from high school or any college he or may have attended
  • An essay
  • SAT or ACT scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Portfolio
  • Interview

Students pursuing a graduate degree will need to meet the same admission requirements as students pursuing a bachelor’s degree. The main difference is this applicant will need to have a bachelor’s degree and provide the GPA from that degree program.

Other Ways to Earn College Credits as an Adult

The one thing that online programs have in common with on-campus programs is that they both require the completion of a certain number of credits. While these credits can be earned by completing all the requirements for that program, there are also other ways these adult students can earn college credits.

Some programs will give you credits for work experience in that area. An individual who is pursuing a nursing degree may get credits if he or she has been working in a healthcare setting. This is one example. Another way an adult student may earn credits is by taking exams prior to starting the program.

For instance, students in the state of Wisconsin can take programs like College Level Exam Program, International Baccalaureate Program, or the Advanced Placement Program. These programs may allow students to test out of required courses. Adult students may also gain credits from certain life experiences.

How to Pay for School as an Adult

Cost is usually the largest factor for adults pursuing an online degree. Fortunately for them, there are several options available to them.

  • Student Loans
  • Private Loans
  • Tuition Reimbursement Programs
  • Scholarships
  • Grants
  • Prior Learning Assessment
  • Employer Tuition Assessment Programs

Getting Started

As an adult returning to college, you’ll have to balance more than you may have at 18 years old. But never fear – you are not alone, and you have a lot of resources on this site to help you.