The Best Degree for Adults Returning to College

An image of a potential college student for our list of 30 Great Degree Programs for Working Adults

There are many reasons to get a degree later in life. You might feel it’s time for a career change or you’ve developed new interests. Have you reached an impasse in earnings potential? Want to improve your current salary?

Many adults return to school to earn a degree. It’s never too late. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics reports over 40% of postsecondary learners are working adults. But what degree should you get?

30 Best Degrees for Adults Returning to College

There are many different degrees for working adults. There are degrees for adults over 40 and degrees for older adults. But for this list, we chose the top 30 bachelor degree programs for working adults. We selected degree programs based on:

  • Career prospects
  • Degree completion time
  • Fast track and accelerated completion options
  • Flexibility of the degree
  • Possibility of trading life experiences for degree credit

Read on for more information on the best degree for adults returning to college.

Accounting

Do you enjoy math and are good with numbers? If so, a good degree for working adults is accounting.

With an accounting degree, you can work as an:

  • Accounting technician
  • Actuarial analyst
  • Certified accountant

You can also find jobs in business, education, and law. In fact, an accounting degree can open doors to endless career path options.

Since accounting is a popular degree for working adults, you find them at accredited colleges and universities. Flexible online degree programs in accounting offer accelerated completion options. This means you can earn your degree in 36 months or less. 

If you have a high school diploma and enroll in an accounting program, plan on taking online courses such as:

  • Applied microeconomics for business
  • Business law and ethics
  • Principles of accounting

Business Administration

Are looking to advance in your existing career? Want one of the best working degrees that will help you land a job in any industry? Degree programs for working adults include business. Business administration can prepare you for any job in the business world. But it can also lead to jobs in other industries.

Your online classes cover a broad range of business-related topics such as:

  • Accounting
  • Business administration
  • Financial management
  • Marketing
  • Strategic marketing

You find online business degrees at most accredited colleges and universities. Accelerated BBA programs are also available. These fast-paced online programs take 24-36 months to complete. The shortened completion time makes them one of the best degrees for older students.

Communication

Communication is the study of how people communicate as a society. It is also how information reaches people through:

  • Education
  • Mass media
  • Politics
  • Television
  • The internet

This wide-reaching major is one of the best degrees to get while working full-time because there are many online degree programs. You can work at your own pace and enjoy the flexibility that this online degree offers.

Online courses cover different topics such as:

  • Digital communication
  • Media law
  • Research methods
  • Theory and ethics

A working adult can also earn a specialization in an area of interest. Specializations let you take classes in a specific subject area. Popular specializations in the job market include:

  • Film and video production
  • Graphic communication
  • International business
  • Public relations
An image of computer science students for our list on 30 Great Degree Programs for Working Adults

Computer Technology

A best degree to get in your 30s is computer technology. It is flexible and online. With its many accelerated programs, you can earn your degree in less than three years.

A bachelor’s degree in computer technology teaches you about:

  • Computer networking
  • Database management systems
  • Systems analysis

You learn how computers function. You also learn how businesses use technology to improve processes and systems. With a high school diploma and passion for computers, adult students can explore a flexible career path when they earn this degree.

Most online schools also offer competitive financial aid packages that help you afford going back to school.

Creative Writing

Creative writing isn’t a major for everyone. But it might be perfect for a working adult in search of a flexible, fun, and interesting degree program.

If you’re searching for a career change and are passionate about writing, this bachelor’s degree can open doors to jobs in:

  • Advertising
  • Information technology
  • Journalism
  • Media
  • Publishing

You can also get a creative writing degree because you love to write. As one of the best degrees for older adults, creative writing programs help you improve your writing ability. You study different themes and genres. You also learn about storytelling techniques.

Criminal Justice

A Criminal Justice degree is a best degree for working adults.

Many non traditional students return to school for a criminal justice degree. Most schools offer accelerated completion options. Online degree programs in this field prepare you for jobs as a:

  • Correctional officer
  • Paralegal
  • Police officer
  • Probation officer

Your online classes cover topics in law and psychology. You also study criminology and how the U.S. justice system works. Adult students can also specialize in an area of interest. Specializations give you an opportunity to take more online classes in a niche area of criminal justice. Adults returning to college can specialize in:

  • Homeland security
  • Human services
  • Legal advocacy

Cyber Security

An online degree program in cybersecurity is for adult learners with a passion for computers. This computer science degree teaches you valuable skills you can use in business, education, and healthcare. In fact, you can use this degree in any industry.

This online degree teaches you how to prevent network attacks. You learn about network outages and how to block hacker attacks. A growing need in the industry means job security for adult learners with this degree.

You can also add to your security by earning a concentration in a related field such as:

  • Criminal justice
  • Network administration

If you enjoy computers and coding, cyber security is a good degree to get.

Data Science

Data science is a growing field. It offers high wages and excellent job security. But to land a job in the industry, you need a degree and very specific skills.

You should know how to analyze, organize, and store information and data sets. You learn how to do this in your online courses. Data science programs for working adults let you combine studies with other subjects. Popular specializations include:

  • Business
  • Economics
  • Engineering
  • Mathematics

Since data science focuses on technology, it is one of the top adult degree programs for non traditional students. High school graduates with a passion for computers do well in this online learning program. You can also enroll with an associate degree.

An image of a student teacher for our FAQ on 30 Great Degree Programs for Working Adults

Education

Many online schools offer education degrees for the adult learner. From elementary education to administration, you can find accelerated degree programs online.

Education is one of the most popular online programs offered by accredited colleges and universities.  With flexible learning options, it is a best degree for adults returning to college.

While most classes are online, adult learners complete “fieldwork” in their geographical area. Fieldwork includes gaining experience in the classroom. Student teaching experiences can lead to permanent work.

Most undergraduate online degrees in education begin with liberal arts courses. Major-driven topics ramp up during the third and fourth year of study. Online classes cover topics such as:

  • Child psychology
  • Development and technology in teaching
  • School policy

Engineering

In the past, engineering degrees were only offered in a traditional classroom. But now online degrees are available. Online degree programs include bachelor’s and master’s degree options.

If engineering is your goal as an adult learner, you can specialize in a specific area of the field. Popular specializations include:

  • Civil engineering
  • Computer engineering
  • Electrical engineering
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Software engineering

Once you’ve completed your online degree program, you can find work in many different fields. These include:

  • Architecture
  • Computer systems design
  • Government
  • Telecommunications

Adult learners pursue engineering because of its strong job outlook and good earnings potential.

Finance

Adults with good math skills find finance a good major to pursue. Many schools offer finance degrees online. Accelerated degree programs help you get your higher education in three to four years.

A finance degree teaches you many different business topics. You learn about:

  • Analysis of financial statements
  • Business administration
  • Financial management
  • Financial markets and institution regulations

Finance degrees also give you a good return on investment. Entry-level careers in this field have above-average salaries. Common jobs include work as a financial analyst.

Health Sciences

Health Science is a great degree for working adults.

In search of a health degree that can prepare you for jobs in healthcare? Health sciences a good choice for working adults. Online classes teach you about the ways humans age and care for themselves. They also cover exercise science and public health.

The major demands a strong background in basic sciences. You should plan to take online courses in biology, chemistry, and physics.

Graduates of health sciences programs can find work as:

  • Community health workers
  • Health educators
  • Patient care advocates
  • Public health workers

Healthcare Administration

Healthcare administration is an in-demand career. Because of the jobs available, adults returning to college study this subject. They find work in hospitals and medical centers.

You can earn this online degree program at accredited schools. These programs have accelerated options. This helps working students balance school and full-time employment.

You need a high school diploma or an associate degree to enter bachelor degree programs in healthcare administration. But once enrolled, you take online courses in:

  • Business
  • Healthcare management
  • Health labor statistics
  • Project management
  • Other health-related courses

Homeland Security

Are you passionate about national security and combatting domestic terrorism? If so, you can go back to school for a degree in homeland security.

Homeland security gives you leadership and management skills. You use these skills as you respond to disasters. Your online coursework teaches you how to:

  • Assess risks
  • Identify weapons of mass destruction
  • Organize emergency plans

With the growing number of programs, there are many online college options available.

An image of a human resource specialist for our list of 30 Great Degree Programs for Working Adults

Human Resources Management

A bachelor’s degree in human resources management can lead to many different careers. Possible HR management jobs include:

  • Human resources manager
  • Labor relations manager
  • Rehabilitation counselor
  • Safety specialist

You can earn an online degree in HRM. Online courses teach you how to handle employment issues. They also teach you how to:

  • Ensure workplace safety
  • Organize pay and schedules
  • Train staff
  • Understand labor statistics

Because of the many online options, HRM is one of the top programs for working adults.

Information Technology

Computer and technology industries are booming, and growth shouldn’t slow any time soon. Because of job growth, you can find many information technology degree programs at accredited schools.

Online IT degree programs are for working adults wanting to attend an online college. While traditional degree programs are out there, they are less popular among busy and working adults. Online colleges offer financial aid packages that include federal aid scholarships.

IT programs help you gain good technical skills. They also teach you communication skills that you can use in any field. The degree is flexible. Some college students combine their studies with other disciplines such as:

  • Business administration
  • Computer science
  • Healthcare administration

Liberal Arts

A liberal arts degree is a flexible degree choice. It consists of a major in:

  • Creative arts
  • History
  • Literature
  • Philosophy
  • Writing

Some schools offer liberal arts as a standalone degree or as part of a lifelong learner program. Because of its broad reach, it is ideal for working adults who love to learn. Graduates of liberal arts programs find jobs in many different fields. These include:

  • Communications
  • Journalism
  • Sociology

You can go to work as a health educator or a historian. You can also find a job as a technical writer or work in criminal justice.

Management & Leadership

Want to advance in your current career? Earning a management and leadership degree is a good choice for working adults.

Bachelor’s degrees in this discipline give you timeless and valuable skills. You learn how to:

  • Analyze labor statistics
  • Become a leader
  • Develop teams that last
  • Mediate workplace disputes

You also dive into business topics that cover financial principles and effective communication. Some online degrees offer management and leadership in the form of a concentration. That is, you earn a BBA while getting college credit in leadership.

Management Information Systems

Management information systems (MIS) focuses on computing methods and software used in business. MIS degree options include an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree program, master’s, or doctoral degree.

Most undergraduate degrees for adults returning to school are online. These flexible bachelor’s degree programs can lead to computer science jobs. In fact, graduates can get jobs as:

  • Information technology specialists
  • Market research analyst personnel
  • Network supervisors

Marketing

The field of marketing requires an interest in both creativity and analysis. But blending the two gives you a degree where you can brand and sell products.

Marketing programs are good for adult students because they teach you about yourself. They also teach you about:

  • Advertising and promotion
  • Consumer behavior
  • Marketing research and strategy

Marketing is a popular online college major. There are plenty of accelerated options that allow you to earn your bachelor’s degree in less than four years.

Mechanical Engineering

Like many engineering programs, mechanical engineering combines mathematical and scientific knowledge. If you’re STEM-bent and have a passion for engineering, this degree can help you advance your career.

Mechanical engineering programs have heavy math and science courses. Online courses cover topics such as:

  • Engineering mechanics
  • Machine design
  • Thermodynamics

Traditional ME programs take four years or eight semesters of full-time study. But you can find accelerated programs that reduce the time. These programs allow college students to earn a degree in less than four years. You can also earn a master’s degree alongside a bachelor’s degree.

An image of a nursing student for our list of 30 Great Degree Programs for Working Adults

Nursing

Nursing remains one of the most in-demand professions. It’s never too late to pursue a degree in this growing healthcare field. Working adults can go back to school and enter the job market as a registered nurse.

According to The Occupational Outlook Handbook, nursing jobs are for those with:

  • A bachelor’s of science degree in nursing
  • An associate’s degree in nursing
  • A diploma from an approved nursing program

Since there are many degree types that qualify you for work, this is a popular field for working adults. And with online options available, you can earn your college credit as a working adult.

Paralegal Studies

If you’re a detail-oriented person with an interest in criminal justice, you can get a degree in paralegal studies.

Most paralegal jobs want a certificate or a bachelor’s degree. You find both at accredited colleges and universities.

Working adults with an associate degree can return to school to complete a bachelor’s degree. You can earn your degree online, and fast. Accelerated degree program options are available and take less than three years to complete.

Becoming a paralegal takes less time than it does to complete law school. This makes it one of the top degree programs for working adults interested in law.

Psychology

Psychology is the scientific study of behavior and the mind. If you’re fascinated by how the mind works, a degree in psychology can be a good fit.

Psychology degree programs for working adults cover topics such as:

  • Abnormal psychology
  • Perception and sensation
  • Personality
  • Research methods

You learn what motivates behavior and why people think what they do. Psychology majors also teach you how to write and communicate. These are skills you can take into any workplace.

Because of the many online degree options, psychology is a popular major for those uncertain what to major in. And you won’t have to step on a college campus to get it. Psychology online degrees are also affordable thanks to financial aid programs at most schools.

Public Administration

Public administration degrees for adults returning to college can get you work in different fields. You can find jobs with:

  • Civil service institutions
  • Government agencies
  • Nonprofits
  • Other social service organizations

A public administration program teaches you how to better yourself and your community. You learn about economic development and public policy. You also learn how to write grants and advocate for underprivileged people and communities.

You find public administration programs at most colleges. Bachelor’s degree programs are also available online. With a bachelor’s degree, you can also qualify for online master’s degree programs.

Sociology

There are many career options with a degree in sociology. The broad, expansive curriculum focuses on the study of people and the roles they play in society. A bachelor’s degree in sociology teaches you about today’s culture. If this interests you as a working adult, read on.

You find sociology degrees online at most colleges. It is a flexible program designed for working adults.  It can open doors to different careers such as:

  • Community organizers
  • Probation officers
  • Public interest advocates

With a sociology degree, you can also go to work in other fields. Graduates find jobs in business, education, and public policy.

And thanks to financial aid programs, your sociology degree program doesn’t have to break your budget.

Software Engineering

Software engineering is a good major for working adults interested in computers. The online programs focus on software and technology.

In this program, you learn about the different aspects of software systems. You also take many online classes in computer science. Your studies prepare you for work with a software company. Some programs offer internships that help you land a job after you graduate.

You find online bachelor’s degree in software engineering programs at many accredited schools. These schools offer flexible learning and accelerated completion plans.

Sports Management

Life is too short to be doing what you don’t like. If you love sports, you can follow an interesting career path by enrolling in a sports management degree program. In this degree program, you learn how to:

  • Build and manage collegiate athletic programs
  • Land a job in an area of sports
  • Represent professional athletes
  • Work for your favorite football team

You find a degree program in sports management at most accredited schools. You can complete the program online and in an accelerated format. Financial aid for working students helps cut costs and make the program affordable.

In this degree program, you learn how to apply legal and business principles to the world of sports and fitness. You take online courses that cover business management and agenting in the sports arena.

Web and Digital Design

A degree program in web design is ideal for working adults because of the many online programs available. Most schools offer this type of program to keep up with the discipline’s popularity.

Over the course of earning your degree, you learn how to:

  • Create, design, edit, and launch websites
  • Gain a working knowledge of things like:
    • E-commerce
    • Internet policies
    • Web languages

Zoology

If you love animals and want to work with them, a degree in zoology might be a good fit. Online options are available from accredited schools. This flexibility makes the degree a convenient one for working adults to get.

With this degree, you can qualify for jobs as:

  • Biology teachers
  • Laboratory technicians
  • Park rangers
  • Wildlife biologists
  • Wildlife managers

You find zoologists working in conservation parks and marine facilities. They also work in zoos and animal parks. But if you want a more scientific role, research universities also hire zoologists.

Other Online Degrees for Adults Returning to College

Ever asked yourself the question: What to major in when my interests aren’t viable? As you can see from the above list, there are many different options. You don’t have to choose a niche major.

Working adults return to school to study broad subjects. These majors are flexible with their studies. They help you qualify for jobs in many different industries. Besides the above-listed majors, consider the following:

Early Childhood Education

As an older adult, you can appreciate the youth. Going back to school for this degree can land you a job in a growing industry.

English

Learn good communication skills that you can take with you into any job.

Humanities

This broad major gives you the flexibility you need to study many different subjects.

BDP Staff
October 2022

Related Resources:

20 Best Online Bachelor’s in Computer Science
30 Best Online Bachelor’s in Accounting
30 Best Bachelor’s in Sociology Online Degrees
30 Best Online Bachelor’s in Sport Management
30 Most Affordable Bachelor’s in Communications Degrees Online: Small Private Colleges

This concludes our article on the 30 great degree programs for working adults.

Brenda Rufener
Author

Julie McCaulley
Expert

Carrie Sealey-Morris
Editor-in-Chief